We hit the road after breakfast in a Bourke café, going south east through arid country towards Cobar.
This area was where we started seeing lots of goats. These feral animals do well on the tough plants of the plains and they’re smart. You don’t often see a goat killed by traffic. They seem to know they’ll be fine if they keep off the black stuff.
Mind you, the roos and emus are still around. We were lucky this large kangaroo was heading away from the road. Cars will kill them but they make a mess of the car while it’s happening. Mum and bub followed the buck.
Emus are even sillier than kangaroos. They’ll do stupid things like cross the road ahead of the car, then decide they want to go back to the other side. Fortunately, the fence was in the way. Out here the farmers are graziers, stocking cattle and sheep, and the fencing can be erratic. If hitting a roo at 100kph makes a mess, imagine what hitting a cow could do.
We passed through Cobar after a brief toilet stop. We’d been forced to stay there overnight some years ago. We were planning to stay at Bourke but the whole town was full of people who had intended to go to the Birdsville races but couldn’t because of flooding, which is vanishingly rare out here (honest). We’d had to go on to Cobar at dusk – not a good idea on country roads when the wildlife starts to move. We arrived after dark and booked in to the first available motel. It’s up there as one of the worst places we’ve ever stayed. Here’s a quote from my post on that trip in 2016.
“Cobar receives the gold star for worst motel on the trip. We came into town just after dark and decided the place on the corner opposite the RSL and a few metres from the main street would do. The room was tiny, wide enough for the bed and not much else. The bathroom was a narrow lane at the end of the room, just wide enough for a toilet, sink, and shower, for skinny people only. The sliding door was opposite the sink and it snuggled up to your butt while you brushed your teeth.” [source]
From Cobar we drove on to Hillston. As the road starts, there’s a sign saying there’s no petrol for 245km. There also isn’t a toilet. That wasn’t an issue on this trip, but it was when we drove this road before.
Here’s the story from 2016. “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.” [source]
Back to 2023, we arrived comfortably at Hillston, a tiny town on the banks of the Lachlan River and of course it’s subject to flooding and of course it has seen better days. The local bank is gone and many shops are empty. We had lunch in the same café where we’d stopped in 2016, leaving a few dollars in the local community, then aimed the car at Hay.
The further south we went, the drier and flatter it became. We saw a number of these twisters, testament to the dryness.
We arrived at Hay late on a Saturday afternoon so pretty well everywhere but the pub was closed. As it happened, our ‘motel’ was part of a magnificent old hotel/pub that was being renovated. They hadn’t gotten around to the bar, though, so it was a Pub With No Beer. (haha) We weren’t too impressed with the accommodation but it would do for one night. To our surprise the tariff included a Continental breakfast – self serve selection of cereal with milk, coffee, tea, and toast with various spreads, available in one of the renovated front rooms.
Hay, we discovered, was a pretty place with a number of well-preserved colonial buildings. We wandered up the main street in the late afternoon sunshine and Peter messed around on some statues of sheep before we had dinner in a very popular bistro attached to a hotel.
When we went to the hotel for a drink before dinner I noticed a poster hung on a wall. I mentioned Gunsynd in an earlier article but this poster was of (arguably) the greatest racehorse certainly in Australasia, and among the best in the world. It’s a crummy photo because of the light reflecting on the glass but bear with me. That’s Phar Lap winning 4 races in one week in November, 1930. Running a horse 4 times in a week wouldn’t be allowed today. The races are the Melbourne Stakes (1.5 miles) The Melbourne Cup (2 miles) the Linlithgow Stakes (1 mile) and the C.B. Fisher Plate (1.5 miles). For each win daylight came second.
Mrs McGrath is a legend in Hay. The town is on the Murrumbidgee River and she famously used her pet sheep to lead mobs of sheep across the bridge. She carried stale bread to keep her pet interested. It crossed the bridge behind her and the mobs followed like (er) a flock of sheep.
“During the 1920s and 30s, Mrs McGrath regularly charged drovers a small fee for her, and her pet sheep’s service to lead their mobs of Merinos across the bridge. When the large mobs of sheep came through Hay, drovers had difficulty getting them over the bridge, so Mrs McGrath used a pet sheep to lead the mob onto the bridge, from where they happily followed her into Lachlan Street.” Read the full story of the sculpture here.
In the photo Peter is pointing at her hand which is supposed to be holding stale bread – but someone has put a model of a mouse there instead.
Before we left the next morning we found the town’s magnificent silo art.
And then we set off for Echuca.
Since we’ve come home I’ve read a book which some of you might find interesting.
The first time I died, I didn’t come back alone.
When Garnet McGee returns to her small Vermont hometown for the holidays, she vows to solve the mystery of the murder which shattered her life ten years ago. Then she dies.
After she’s resuscitated, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing strange sensations. Are these merely symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and an over-active imagination, or is she getting messages from a paranormal presence?
Garnet has always prided herself on being logical and rational, but trying to catch a killer without embracing her shadow self is getting increasingly difficult. And dangerous, because in a town full of secrets, it seems like everybody has a motive for murder.
Written in first person, the story goes between events ten years ago to current times, giving a vivid picture of what happened back then culminating in the murder that shattered her life. It took a few chapters for me to really get interested but from there I was sucked in. It’s a good story, with unexpected twists. Well worth my time. Here’s the Amazon link.