West to Bourke

posted in: Travel | 0

From Goondiwindi we headed south-west for Bourke, a town on the Darling River which we’d visited before. Instead of taking Google Map’s obvious route we went for another option, using roads we hadn’t been on before.

All was well until we realised that some of the road would be dirt. We didn’t want to do that. Out here it doesn’t take long to be isolated. Phone reception ends about 5km out of town and radio reception isn’t much better. If you break down you have to hope somebody passes by. So we backtracked a little. Still, we stopped at a few interesting places we’d not seen before. One stop was at a tiny town’s sports oval to use their toilets. While Peter was busy I tried to get some good pictures of the local pink-and-greys. They were a bit camera shy.

The weather had warmed, with temps in the high thirties and the plains looked like they could use a drink. It must have been an area that missed out on the recent deluge. We stopped for a break at a tiny town huddled around an intersection. The local bakery had been taken over by a Russian family, who had set up a display of Russian dolls. They also offered Russian bakery goods. I can’t imagine a more different place for this family to be living and I wondered how they’d ended up out here. It’s not easy to immigrate to Australia legally. Maybe one of them was the local doctor?

We bought coffee and an assortment of home-made biscuits, then took them outside to a little gazebo. I’d love to be able to tell you the coffee was great and the biscuits scrumptious but they weren’t. Neither of us swallowed more than two sips of coffee and the biscuits tasted burnt. We tipped out the coffee and left the biscuits for the birds – or the people – and hit the road hoping for a better coffee experience at some other tiny town.

Tiny towns are having a hard time of late. It’s common to see empty shops or closed down pubs and in many places the local bank which used to be the heart of the town has been converted to a café or shop. One such place used the bank’s vault as a feature. That’s where we stopped for a good coffee.

We were a little late arriving at our Bourke motel because of our detour. I’m not sure if Mine Host was pissed off because of that or that he was just Mister Grumpy. I suspect the latter. The motel is an old, historic place near what’s left of the Darling River wharf and we really enjoyed our stay there seven or eight years ago. But that was before covid and with a much nicer owner who made us feel very welcome.

The local black cockatoos were busy in the trees around the back of the motel and I managed to get a good photo of one flying, displaying that wonderful tail.

Since we were right next to the river, I went down to the wharf to see what sort of bird life was around. These inland rivers are the lifeblood for any animals in the surrounding area but since there had been recent rain farther north, they weren’t so dependent on this location. Still, I managed to get a few nice pictures.

A couple of cormorants and a heron no doubt looking for dinner
The galah stopped for a drink before it flew off with the sun on its wings

We walked over to the Riverside Hotel for dinner that night where we were greeted by a lovely lady who made up for Mister Grumpy. She told us the pub wasn’t busy on Friday night – the locals go to the bowls club where they run raffles and the like. She was on a sort of working holiday and she would be in Birdsville when the famous Birdsville Races were held. We shared a few stories with her, extolling the virtues of the half-hour bus tour of Birdsville (another very tiny town) we’d enjoyed a few years before. Here’s the link to that story.

Next morning we would be on our way to Hay.

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