3 – You gotta have Hope

Heading for Hillston

Heading for Hillston

We agreed to look for breakfast on the road and headed off from Cobar on a secondary road which would take us to Hillston and then on to Hay. I forgot to take a picture of the sign saying “no petrol for 245km”. Imagine that in Europe.

It’s cattle country out here, without the swathes of feral canola we’d seen along the road to Bourke. But we did encounter some of the locals. Emus, as I’ve mentioned, wouldn’t win University Challenge in the bird world. This father was escorting his chicks across the road. We slowed right down, because emus have a tendency to get nearly to the other side, then panic and run back to where they came from. In this case I think daddy thought we were a threat to his babies, because he came back to confront us. We slipped past with no injury to us or them.

Dad escorting his brood across the road

Dad escorting his brood across the road

Are you asking, “where was Mum?” Probably off living it up with some other male. She lays the enormous eggs, but after that she leaves, it’s up to dad, who incubates and rears the chicks. See here for more information. See? Not just sea horses.

Not long after that the driver started to need access to a restroom. (Remember that sign? 245km?) Fortunately, a place called Mt Hope (how singularly appropriate) appeared on the map. And just as things were getting desperate there it was! A pub/general store and a large community shed – with a toilet block behind it. We arrived just in time. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.

The relief was palpable as we drove into Hillston, which, like so many country towns, is in desperate straits. Many shops had papered windows. I hoped the recent rains will bring some relief to the local farmers, but when we went into the local bakery for brunch, we discovered the town had already experienced some flooding. The Lachlan river flows close by. After we’d eaten we took a look at the map and noticed a road which offered a shortcut to Hay. When in doubt, ask the locals. They told us it was unsealed, and in bad condition since the last rain a week or so ago. Besides, more rain was on its way. The man put down his coffee cup. “It’ll be raining this afternoon,” he added, nodding sagely.

It's raining on the plains

It’s raining on the plains

He was right. The rain started almost immediately after we left Hillston and carried on pretty well constantly until we reached Mildura. No, don’t panic. Mildura. We decided that neither Hay nor Balranald offered much to these two tourists. To quote from the Aussie Towns website, “Every famous person who has visited or stayed has commented on the flatness of the surrounding land.” Yep. Dead right.

However, we did come across another bunch of drovers moving cattle. It’s quite interesting slipping your car through a mass of bodies with large bulk and (sometimes) formidable horns.

Drovers moving stock

Drovers moving stock

Mildura is in Victoria on the banks of the Murray. For overseas readers, the Murray is Australia’s largest permanent waterway, and forms most of the boundary between New South Wales and Victoria. Crossing the bridge from NSW into Vic, the river looked like a pair of trousers after a too-large Christmas dinner. We went to the town’s information centre and a nice young lady booked us a room in a nearby motel. Tomorrow we’d be in Adelaide.