Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 11 - Homeward Bound - Forbes - Grenfell - Macarthur

Monday 27th September 2010
OK, so the argument this morning is whether the Manly Sea Eagles mascot is modeled on the bird currently known as a white bellied sea eagle, or whether it was modeled on a Brahminy Kite which used to be known as a sea eagle.  We end up agreeing that the brahminy kite is the winner..
We’ve been down to Gum swamp and there’s a few good things around, babblers, pink eared ducks, a huge troupe of white winged choughs among others.  Numbers are down as more breeding areas are on the go this year with all the water we’ve had.
We have rationed ourselves to only about an hour and are have enjoyed a very nice cooked brekky – only about $7 or something, so continued excellent good value -  and on the road by about 8:20-25.  We’re heading for Grenfell. 
Last time we drove from Forbes to Grenfell we went down Henry Lawson Way.  This time we decide to try the New Grenfell Road.  We suspect it may have been the “new” Grenfell Rd for quite some time, but it’s a lovely route and very quiet.
In one section Patterson’s curse lines the roadway in vibrant purple with the yellow cassia behind. It makes for a very pleasant drive.

A long neck tortoise crosses the road. We’re worried about him, but he doesn’t need our patronage, he’s across in now time, just a brief pulling in of the head when the one car we see along here drives over him.
All of a sudden the countryside seems to have made a transition from cassia bushes to wattle.  In this area the wattle is still in full display.  We pull over to admire its light fragrance and glorious fluffy blossoms.

Continuing on the landscape makes another change and we hit dense callitris forest around Warraderry. State Forest.  It is extremely easy to get lost in callitris forest.  Warraderry State Forest is also one of a few cooperative banding sites, or was last I heard.  It’s illegal to band birds unless you have an approved study unless you do the banding at one of these cooperative sites, where presumably it has been determined that long term data will be useful, and I guess these sites provide a place where banders can get the required training to get their licence. I have heard much about Warraderry and adventures there, but not been through here before so this is particularly interesting for me.
Finally in Grenfell I stop at the servo for some ice and we head directly for our favourite butcher.  We regret not having brought our camera in from the car today.  The butcher has several sheep carcasses hanging up.  We order some scotch fillet $23 ish per kg, then a couple of racks worth of lamb cutlets $25 per kg and finally a leg of lamb which is between $8 and $9 per kilo. The scotch is sliced to our specifications as we watch, lamb racks trimmed up and prepared.  Meanwhile we chat with the butcher and other customers as they come into the store.  This is how meat buying should be. Wonderful.
Nothing to delay our departure and we enjoy a lovely scenic drive through undulating hills, through crops and pasture and the occasional spring blossom tree.  We stop at a spot along the way that we strongly suspect we have stopped before. I don’t think we are alone as they have built a layby at the crest of this hill.  We open the windows and the fragrance off the field of flowering canola is strong and beautiful. It is most picturesque.

Another stop at a roadside stall, this time for some free range eggs for $4 per dozen.

Bells Line of Road home. All very uneventful.  Having had such a wonderful adventure, we’re now pretty intent on arriving, but not so much that daughter resists an urge to wander up to Mt Wilson for our picnic of Forbes bread and vegemite. Mmm. Daffodils are making a lovely show. Mt Wilson is lovely but we’ve not got time to go in to any of the open gardens today. We're home by 4pm. It's been a wonderful wonderful adventure.

The Washup.
Well, what more can one say. We’ve been home a day our two and so far have enjoyed a feast of lamb cutlets and last night we ate that leg of lamb. I had forgotten leg of lamb could be that good. So incredibly tender. Full shank in place. I don’t know what the city butchers do to their shanks these days but they don’t crisp up properly like they should and the meat from the city butchers is not even half as good. Daughter 1 – who being pregnant gets all the treats these days – devours that shank with great relish. Oh, we are definitely going to have to head out to Grenfell more often!  Tonight we’ll have a Barbie with Grenfell steak.  Mmmm.. our holiday delights will continue for a while yet. :o)

Day 10 - Bourke to Forbes

Sunday 26th September
We check out of our accommodation at approx 8:45.  We head to the bakery for a mobile brekky.  The bakery is not yet open. The sign on door says they open at 9 am .  This communicates very effectively to me that they don’t bake on Sundays. We’re keen to get away so we head for the IGA. We’re developing a serious fondness for Khans’ Super IGA.
We forget fuel. Clever. We double back to the depot and utilise the 24 hr card service and we are on our way once again. Plentyiful wildflowers heading down on the Mitchell Hwy.  Daughter stops to photograph a dilapidated old building visible from the road. It is large and industrial looking but beyond that we have no clue what it may have been.

The wildflowers are about in abundance for the first say 20 kms or so down the Mitchell hwy.  Its not too long before we come to a spate of road kill. As many would know we’ve always been bizarrely fond of roadkill in our family, but after our joey experience yesterday this interest has clearly become an obsession.  Daughter is driving and pulls over. From a distance I think this roo looks like a male, but only a crazy person would take my word on that guess, and in an case the carcass needs to be moved off the highway for decency’s sake.  Its really aweful seeing the road kill that people have just kept running over and mangling.  Daughter retrieves the rubber gloves from the boot and dons her PPE.
The roo is indeed a male. Mum and I are sitting in the car and daughter is dragging the corpse to the verge before we suddenly twig.. Hang on we should be videoing this.  We reach for our cameras with the enthusiasm of wild west gunfighters, but we are too late.  “Put it back and do it again we say”…. But we are no doubt unintelligible due to laughter and daughter looks at us with a puzzled expression accentuated by gestures from her pink gloved hands.   Ah, simple country pleasures.

We’ve hardly gone any distance before daughter is pulling up again. Roo number two another male.  We keep on in this fashion and by the time we’re pulling up for roo number three, daughter is concluding that perhaps she shouldn’t bother putting the gloves away.  By this stage I’m getting more efficient at the film crew caper.  I’ve moved my box of books out of my way and I’m shooting open the sliding door and getting the zoom in about right for the next scene before daughter has the first glove on. 
I don’t like to brag, but I have to say for roo number three we got a quite satisfactory video… 12th man eat your heart out.  
At 66 kms we’re back into country that has lots of what I guess are budda trees.  They look similar to the threes we saw around the Ridge at any rate.
I glance out the window to a dam and see several camels taking a drink. . The car speeds on. Looking across the red soil into a nearby paddock there is no shortage of carpeting wildflowers . Yellow is the overall effect.  The road side for mile after mile is bordered with green and the gold of the yellow daisies.  Where they drop off the cassia picks up.
Throughout our drives there has been a consistent theme and this has been brought home to me by the artist Jenny Greentree.  This is the real value of art. It helps you see your world more clearly.  One of the original pastel works I bought from Ms Greentree is of this very scene, albeit on a dirt road.  The grey green of the general vegetation highlighted by the flowering cassia.  She named the piece “Green and Gold”.  Driving down the highways, byways and tracks: green and gold. Other colours come in here and there, but always this constant. Green and Gold. Our national colours and I have gained a greater appreciation of them on this trip.
Our trip meter reset at Bourke is on 56.8 when we exclaim at a particularly nice stretch of roadway.  Worthy of a tapestry… or an embroidered landscape scene by Judy Wilford.
We arrive at Byrock, which is a featured stop on one of the mud map tours of the Bourke district.  I am intrigued by the promised gilgai swimming hole which is reported as being a 10 min walk from the Mulga  Creek Motel, but resist the temptation. We have a long way to go and potentially a lot of road kill to interfere with.  
The Mulga Creek Hotel looks really nice. We take a brief comfort stop.  The grounds are very attractive and clearly very well tended.  I would certainly be inclined to give staying here a go.  
Heading out of “town” once more, a discarded rag assumes the posture of a deformed macropod in our imaginations, before laughing at us as we pass.  
About 50- 60 kms out from Nyngan, the vegetation changes from Mulga to taller woodland dominated by eucalypt trees. No end to the flowering yellow shrubs. 
Girilimbone pop 66 signage says they have an RSL open 5pm. Good effort for a town of 66 people.
Back in cropping areas. We pass a crop that covers a vast area, but it doesn’t look to be doing too well.  Very short but seed heads visible and it looks like it's browning off in places. Unlike the pattersons curse lining the roads which is looking a treat.  Still the yellow cassia bushes keep on keeping on.  They must be tough and seem to live happily pretty much everywhere we’ve been.
As we head steadily south east, the vegetation changes.  Trees are taller and eucalypts dominate.  I’m taking a turn in the back having noted the change, mum pipes up:.  “I like the mulga”.  Daughter replies. “Yes, I like the mulga too.”  Mum loves the tropics and rainforests a lot so her professed preference for the mulga surprises me.
We pass down through numerous little communities. Coolibah, seems a fairly run down sort of place, quite unusual as most of even the tiniest little places we’ve passed through have been neat and evident of considerable civic pride.

Nyngan appears to be a nice town. Bigger than I expected. Part of the parking area at the local reserve is under water. There's a market on so we drive in for a closer look. It looks like it's gearing up for some sort of event with stages and things. A few stalls but they look like stuff for people with properties, and time is precious so we give it a miss. We stop to photograph a sculpture installation in one of the small parks of a flock of sheep and a bloke with his sheepdog working them. While here mum spots a pink cockatoo in a tree next to the car and gets some brilliant photos. The wagons roll.               
Trangie.  Narromine. No time to explore.  We take a turn down to Parkes from Narromine and we are now in that area of NSW that is quite possibly my favourite of any... well aside from the Capertee Valley of course.  I do love the beautiful rolling hills and the swathes of brightest yellow and rich purple interspersed with deep green that clothe the hills.  Majestic gums provide texture and interest.  Having sussed out options in Narromine for lunch and finding that the local community actually expects to rest on Sunday after 1pm (good on them) we head on and turn down a quiet dirt side road and pull up in the shade of some mature gums.  We sup on some soft cheese and crackers and not finding that terribly satisfying, decide that we will change tack and finish off with a feast of vegemite saos.  Knew those saos would come in handy! As we munch we watch the antics of a pied butcherbird and a couple of magpies that are prowling about down near some standing water that lines the road.  Everywhere we’ve been, there has been water lying about. What a year its been!
Hunger satisfied we head back onto the main road.  Paused for some reason we notice the paddock nearby is crowded with all sorts of coloured sheep, all with their tails intact. That is not a sight you see every day.
We’re travelling through heartland NSW now. It is gorgeous. I don’t think I will ever tire of driving through this part of the country at this time of year.
As we approach Peak Hill we are welcomed to part of Wiradjuri Country.  Entering the town we take a spin up a side street heading for a quick squiz at the Open Cut Experience.  Bonus! They have that beautiful flowering gum we have been admiring all through our trip.  We pull over for a photo opportunity.
The Open Cut experience looks quite extensive and is more than we have the energy to do today, but there’s always next time.
Heading down to Parks we pass the Dish and are again amazed at how beautiful this stretch of highway is.  We wonder what the hills visible in the distance are.  A quick stop for fuel and before you can say Jack Robinson.. or Will Robinson either, we are making the turn to check out the statue of Ben Hall at the Railway Visitor Info Centre.  We climb out of the car and are attracted to an open door with gear in it relating to Ben Hall.  Is this the Ben Hall experience they are spruiking?  We pass through onto the station platform. Passing through some… shall we say, displays.  Daughter and I look at eachother and laugh.  No words required.  It’s essentially a junk shed with some hessian strung up, which is fine.  Then to the hessian they’ve pinned brochures and the odd photo of Ben Hall. Daughter says she also recalls an old dust pan with some grass poking out of it. … we’d say it was daylight robbery and that was the bush ranger experience, but there was no charge.  Clearly the Ben Hall Experience is located elsewhere on site..
We move into the arts and crafts area.  They have some nice hand made things. Daughter acquires a really cute baby singlet with tiny black ants embroidered on it.  Another with grub stitch frogs. Both are really lovely.. Naturally, being short of reading material and overendowed with reading time, I have made a b line to the books.  One that is the life story of some old local person involved in the Ben Hall events, by a descendant after many hours of interviews.  And the other… drum roll.. the Judas Covenant, author signed about Ben Hall penned 2006.  Looks good, introduction is interesting. Irresistable subject matter.  It’s a deal.
Before doing the payment transaction, we wander into the Ben Hall room. I’m wondering if the artifacts from the Albion Hotel we saw last time we were here have been moved to this location as I cannot find any references to suggest the Albion Hotel display is still open.  Turns out the answer to that question is no, no they haven’t.  They have a few other things a few of which are of dubious interest.  Probably the pick of them were some old coins found on the creek where Ben Hall and gang hid out, and a replica pistol of the type that would have been used at the time.  Some bullets too.  You can ask to have a DVD played for you, but we didn’t do that. 
We are all most disappointed to think that the Albion Hotel displays may have been closed. We really enjoyed that when we were here last time.  Yeah, it was seriously dusty, but overwhelmingly the thing was of great interest to us all… three generations worth too and we all enjoyed it, so not just to us old fogeys.
Anyway, we head out of the Ben Hall room, and start our transaction with the two elderly ladies manning the info centre this afternoon.  Both are characters. One lady is into harness racing and loves to chat.  We collectively try to figure out how to work the card machine for visa payment. No joy there. We pay cash.  Both ladies are very friendly and we have a lovely time dealing with them, then it’s off to the Lake Forbes Motel which we find just as clean and comfortable as our last visit. Service as friendly too.  Love this place. It even has free wireless broadband.  We order dinner for them to deliver to our rooms. Home cooked meals. Daughter and mum order the steak and report it very nice and cooked as ordered.  I go for the lamb cutlets and find that they also are nicely cooked. You just can't beat the Lake Forbes Motel. No longer a Country Haven affiliate, now their with some other mob, but it doesn't matter they are still the same good value.

Day 9 - In which we have an adventure on the Wildflower mud map route

Saturday 25 September
Mum is all abuzz when I stop by her room at 6:15.  “Guess what was outside” she says with eyes bright with excitement.  “Something good, I heard them calling close by but didn’t rush out to look.” I reply.  “Not these” mum says her tone suggesting she has scooped the pool. I wait with anticipation until she finally breaks the suspense “Two Bourke’s Parrots!!! Flew into the tree just out there a little while ago!! ”  She continues organizing her chemical cocktail ie regime of medications clearly anticipating an early departure.
“What’s happening?” she asks.  I say “well at the very least we’re heading up to Ledknapper.  “Aren’t we going to Eulo? I’ve told all my friends I’m going to see the monument to Destructo.”  I’m impressed. It’s not often mum shows that much overt enthusiasm for any particular activity.  Good ol’ Destructo the Racing Cockroach has really captured our imaginations.
I’m a bit torn today. I really fancy having a campfire and jaffles by a billabong under a coolabah tree here near Bourke too, but Lednapper and the wildflowers mud map route is a must do for this trip with the drought breaking and all. Daughter has decided she’ll need to opt out today so she can study. She hasn’t got as much study in day by day as she had planned, and that clinical exam is coming up all too soon. This leaves me without a back up driver and I’m feeling pretty tired, so I’m not sure I can commit to such a long day as Lednapper and Eulo together, but we'll see how we go.
Mum and I make a reasonable get away, similar to yesterday at about 6:45 am.  I even remember to fill the car with juice.  We muck about doing a reccie down by the river and the billabongs nearby, looking for a handy coolabah tree.  We can see coolabahs by billabongs. Nothing doing though.  The road on the southern side of the bridge comes to a deadend and the billabongs seem to be on fenced private land.  On the northern side of the road, around what the locals call North Bondi, the roads are pretty mangled and I soon lose interest in exploring further for fear of getting stuck.  So there will be no camping under a coolabah tree by a billabong for us afterall.  Sigh. Seems to me someone is missing out on a wonderful business opportunity.  I would cheerfully pay a site usage fee for a suitable venue to indulge this dearly loved cliché.  I’m a bit surprised no one has thought to take advantage of…oops I mean assist… city folk such as ourselves in this way.
Time is a tickin’ away…Back to the business of our day.. its straight up the Mitchell Highway (aka the Kidman Way) for about 50 kms, then we turn towards Lednapper Crossing. Now on the dirt. Our mud map guide tells us that until the crossing its stone country but after that you get to red sand hill country.  I’m wondering if this “crossing” involved water and what sort of bottom it might be. At any rate we’ve got 30 kms on a fairly stony but well graded dirt road before that becomes an issue.  

I pull over to record a visual reminder of this part of the journey. It’s still cool outside and on opening the windows I am hit again with a powerful fragrance emanating from the bushland. It is a fabulous aroma and I breathe deep and sigh with pleasure.  Mum’s window is down too.  “Hmmm” she says. “Maned wolf country”.  Perhaps its relevant to note, mum doesn’t like that smell that I absolutely love.. LOL

By a little after 8 am we are passing little bushes smothered in informal white daisies. Cassia bushes with their yellow cup shaped blossoms have been a consistent feature for some time and are well represented also. 

Hiding slightly behind the roadside plants is a subtle little tea tree with tiny white flowers with richer burgundy centres giving an overall effect to the bush of blush pink.  Pretty pale pink eremophila style flowers resist having their close up taken, but the shrub is pretty.
It is slow going as we keep having to stop for a closer look at things.  Having come all this way why wizz past.  Australian wildflowers are generally delicate things and best appreciated up close.
We’re still not at the crossing when we spot the first of the inland bearded dragons that have appropriated the road and its environs for a bit of pleasant basking or displaying.  We stop and take a portrait and this lizard isn’t the slightest bit bothered by us being here up close and personal.  They are quite impressive when they get concerned.  They flatten out so their body is like a hand drill’s wheel and they turn black and puff out their beard.. not this guy though. This one is completely relaxed.
Moving on there’s a kangaroo lying in the road. I slow down and pass by.  Then something clicks in my mind and says… was that legs sticking out of a pouch on that roo?  Now where I have lived we have been well schooled that if you see a roadkill marsupial, you should be sure to check its pouch for young.  You are even encouraged to carry a can of fluorescent spray paint to mark the carcass with a big X after you’ve check it so other people are spared the potentially unpleasant job of fossicking around in the pouch. I can do nothing else but go back and check.  Notwithstanding that I have no clue what I’m going to do with a joey if one should be there. At home its fairly simple if found they should be passed on to WIRES (the Wildlife Information Education and Rescue Service).  I have no idea if WIRES have carers out here.
I park the car and hop out to walk back to the deceased roo.  I haven’t gone very far before I see the pouch is clearly moving. There is definitely a live joey in there.  What to do now?  I will need something to put it in.  Mum suggests a shopping bag.  Good thinking 99.  I believe I have a calico shopping bag in the soft esky, that would make a handy substitute pouch.  We know that Joeys are most reassured by being in a bag rather than a box. Makes sense doesn’t it seeing they like in a pouch.  
I approach the carcass. First things first. Evidence of how I came by this protected baby animal.  Photograph of legs protruding from dead roo.  Now, how does one go about extracting a frightened joey from it’s dead mother’s pouch?  I push on the back of the pouch.  Hmmm. I have a bit of a go of seeing where the various bits of this baby are. It is all legs. My god joeys this age have huge huge legs compared to the rest of it.  Luckily on prodding from behind this little guy gets its head and shoulders out near the pouch opening and I manage to drag it out.  A quick inspection for injuries. No apparent injuries to anywhere other than some slight damage to the tail. I quickly pop young joey in the bag.  It seems instantly at home.  We take some more photos for the record.

I feel the cute little guy’s paws. They are cool.  I prod the carcass. Getting quite stiff but not completely rigid. We head back to the car. Well. We are acquainted with a family who care for baby joeys from time to time and we are aware that joeys need to be fed every four hours round the clock. This guy seems pretty lively and in good nick.  We resolve to continue our loop and head back to Bourke and find out what to do with this roo.  Again my trusty off sider comes to the rescue. “Better put something under the bag in case it pees everywhere”.  Good thinking 99. Here sit the bag on this weatherproof jacket, that’ll do the trick. We’re just about to drive away. Hang on, joey is in the sun.  Joey duly relocated to shady side of car.  We figure joey won’t prefer to be held by smelly scary humans all the while, so bag is sitting on the back seat. On we go.
It’s only a short while until we come to Lednapper Crossing.  Sealed road down through a dip where the creek crosses the road.  The creek has standing water on one side of the road and is dry on the other.  Creek environs fairly uninspiring, but there is no shortage of birdsong around. 

Within about 10 mins we come to a red sand hill section and beautiful yellow grevillea are flowering.  It is a striking grevillea, very beautiful.  Here my fairly comprehensive ignorance of the wildflowers here is going to show quite clearly.  There were shrubs with abundant rich blue flowers, a sort of hop bush type plant, clearly growing in large numbers and all of them heavily weighed down with the colourful seed pods.  A pinky mauve bush too, covered in flowers. Many individual beauties.

A bit further along and a stop is dictated by a massive clump of the blue flowered plant.  It’s sandier here, but I pull up on a firm area of ground.  Out of the car I unthinkingly start clod hoppering about and then notice, the sand is covered in tracks. Closest to my own are an emu. Cool. I follow the tracks where the emu has crossed the road.  I return to task and photograph the flowers.  Heading back to the car.. more tracks.. this would be a lizard I reckon.  Two bars together.. I think that’s a roo.  This sandy country is pretty nifty really.

Ten past ten we finally make it into Lednapper Nature Reserve.  More of the same flowers at first. Then we are rewarded by an extraordinary beauty, the subtlety of which would be completely lost if you stay in your car.  This one is really special.

Our next landscape of note is heavily endowed with lovely spinifex.  Well, I guess it’s easy to call it lovely spinifex when you don’t have to walk amongst it.  Spinifex is nicely spikey and irritating. 

The scene changes and we hit a very pretty stretch that is decked out in soft grey green as the road sweeps around a corner.  Along the course of this mud map route we pass through a range of different vegetation types reflecting the changes to the soil below. The changes are quite marked and sudden.  There is nothing monotonous about this drive.

Now along the course of the day we see a LOT of lizards. It is spring. Inland Bearded Dragons breed during this time and roads are a wonderful purpose build lizard courting performance environment. Our second dragon for the day was perched at the top of a dead shrub.  Others are spotted on the road bobbing their heads up and down. One or two are even observed waving their arms at someone indicating, “come on over big boy”.. but here, here we have a lizard that is going all out.  Lizard gymnastics. Nadia Comaneci eat your heart out.

We move from the reserve out along the road to Enngonia into a more open environment of pastureland.  Grazing country by the look of it.  here there are gentle strokes of purple darling pea, and daubs of yellow. 
Daisies we presume in the main. 

Occassionally there is something new. Sweet little climps of of soft pink flowers. 

More emus of course. Of course. Emus are everywhere and we never get tired of spotting them.  They run across the road. The stalk in stately ceremony across fields, they duck manically behind shrubs. Emus are awesome.  We even see a few roos in the open country too, though we can’t remember whether it’s the western greys or the red roos that have the white flags on their ears.
Along the road to Enngonia there are regular poles. Some with insulator fixtures and some with wires hanging off in obviousl dilapidation.  These poles are rough. Like trees just trimmed up a bit and planted in the ground. They seem to us like they must be original telegraph poles. Cool.  Its not long at all admiring these poles before we find that Nadia the lizard has some stiff competition.  Pole vaulters in the making, these athletes have made themselves at home at the top of the telegraph pole.

You would think that a bird of prey would pick them off wouldn’t you.  Ah, speaking of birds of prey, a brown falcon lands atop one of the poles.  Ironically it’s nearby an area where there is standing water and not much in the way of lizards.
Up ahead we spot three brolgas, pretty much as soon as we see them, the brolgas take flight.  We follow them around until they vanish off in the distance.  The birding along the way has been pretty awesome actually.  Our first excitement was another pink cockatoo.  Then I spotted a random bird sitting in a roadside tree. I’ve been pretty lazy on the birding front, but for some reason I decide to reverse for this one. It hops down into a clump of foliage. I can no longer see it with the naked eye, but I raise my binoculars and … surley not… good lord, it’s a crested bellbird! That black stripe down it’s head is unmistakeable.  Cool.  My first wild crested bellbird. Awesome.
And then there was the feral pig and piglets that ran quickly across the road and for cover. All in all it has been a very entertaining morning.  We are forewarned of our immenent arrival in Enngonia by a sign that asks us to drop our dust before entering town. However we’re not entirely sure what that requires us to actually do. We have been keeping a close eye on our bouncy friend its pretty lively but we figure a speedy return to town is called for.  The black top is a smooth quick ride and the scenery is still nice and in some sections lovely.

Back in Bourke we drop by the motel to get daughter. She’ll want to see the joey and then when the joey is taken care of we’ll need some lunch.  We’re on our way to the info centre when daughter spots a local vet.  We decide to try the vet first.  We note the phone number and ring from the pay phone at the info centre, we get enough time to confirm that the usual procedure is to hand the joey over to national parks staff in Bourke but she doesn’t have the phone number to give us.  Money in the phone runs out. I go in to the info centre.  The lady serving fixes us up.  She rings the parks office and fortunately there is someone working there today and they can take control of the roo.  They have some “stuff” out the back they can give her (we noticed when showing her to daughter that she has a pouch) and they have wires carers in the area.  Turns out there are a range of points of view re roos in the district. Some people would happily just put a bullet through joey’s head. Others would go to some lengths to raise her.  We figure, either way, be it the bullet or the teat, its got to be better than a slow death by the roadside.
So, joey is taken care of. Now for lunch. Quick survey. We’ll head back to Grubby Micks at the Exhibition Centre. No time to waste since it’s now already almost 2pm.  As we walk up to the entrance the staff seem to be packing away tables.  Fortunately they only look like they are closing.  Apparently there is a big function on there tonight.  The 300 person conference kicks off tonight apparently.
We sit inside this time. I back up on the caramel milkshake and a beef burger. The burger is excellent. As good as home made no worries. Milkshake good, but nowhere near as good as yesterday.  Daughter backed up on the spinach quiche and rounded that off with an iced coffee she reported as being excellent.  Mum had a steak sanga and she also reported that to be very good.  Eating at Grubby Mick’s seems like a pretty reliable option.  I’d happily recommend it.
Well, we’re pretty &%#@ed by now#. I can hardly wait for a shower to wash the dust off and a rest. ….but first, we still haven’t seen the replica Port of Bourke.  The Port of Bourke centre has been shut for the whole time we’ve been here.  The crossley engine looks well cared for. It’s pretty cool actually.  We explore the wharf, which is identical to the three wharves originally used for the river trade.  This last tick in the box its time to adjourn to the hotel.

Quick shower, unload the car and wipe out as much of the red dust as we can. Then…then I’m back to spend some dollars at the Back O Bourke Gallery.  Gale was right. I do love Jenny Greentrees work. She captures the landscape around Bourke perfectly.
..and that, as porky pig would say… is all folks.. at least for today. We shall follow by now established practice in Bourke, big lunch light tea.
We have loved the people of Bourke, we have loved the scenery and the Australiana. We have been privileged to make a new friend in Olga. We have much more we’d like to do here. Three days was really not enough to be ready to move on. We will be back and that, quite literally, is a promise.

#insert Aussie expletive of choice meaning extremely tired/beyond serviceable ie unable to continue.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 8 - Gundabooka NP; Exhibition Centre; Para Garden; Campfire Night at Kidman's Camp

Friday 24 September.
So much to try to cover today. Mum and I make an early departure to head down to Gundabooka National Park.  We’re on the road by 6:45 am.  I am a bit surprised to find the Kidman way down to Gundabooka is really very scenic. We’ve got 50 kms to go before we turn off the highway. About 20 kms out the road becomes really beautiful with bright red patches of soil and wildflowers and grasses lining the way.  Virtually no traffic.  I pull over to get a photograph and lower the car window.  I am hit by such a powerful fragrance coming from the bushland. It is a wonderful smell that I really really love and I exclaim with the pleasure of it.  Mum opens her window and takes a sniff.   “hmmm”  she says.  “cross between Maned wolf and coffee.”  Hahaha.  Reluctantly I start up the engine and recommence our journey.

Right bang on schedule we come to the turn to the national park and head in off the sealed road and onto the dirt. Red dirt. Shining red dirt.  It is beautiful. Cassia bushes abound. It’s very beautiful. 

We have 20 kms to go to the art site, but first we travel about 4 kms to the turn we need to make. 
When we get into the national park proper, we make a stop at the information boards. I have learned from experience this is a stop you should always make when entering a national park you are not already familiar with.  Now as some may recall, I have a passionate love of grasses.  It’s hard to beat gently swaying clumps with seed heads in subtle tones catching the early morning or afternoon sunlight.  Or that gentle fuzz of last years stalks softening highway verges.   As I gaze out into the bushland around the boards the early morning light is settling in bright luminance on soft swaying grass heads.  Dainty daisies poke their heads cheerily in between.  I snap away, but find the detail is too fine for wide shots and close ups just seem like a ratty tangle that does nothing to communicate the beauty of this place or the aroma of the bushland on the air.

Having enjoyed this beautiful little spot for a while we hop back in the car and move on.  When we make the turn the speed limit posted is 40 kph, but why would you want to go faster? There are heaps of wildflowers. Purple patches where a carpeting plant raises it’s purple cups skyward, Purple peas, more yellow cassia flowers of course, daisies in yellow white and purple, richer purple vetches and peas.  It is very lovely.  We pass an occasional roo also.  They waste no time and bound off into the woodland.
In an area thick with a tree we assume is mulga the understory is thick with deep violet emu bush.  Worthy of any garden they make a beautiful picture this whole section being dominated by soft greys and the complementary shades of violet and purple, contrasted but not clashing with the rich red soil. 

Some may recall my musings when wandering about in New Zealand as to the apparent intelligence in nature in respect to ensuring you never get inappropriate colour clashes in the environment.  All colours seem right even in combinations you would perhaps hesitate to use at home. It is the same here. Red soil and rich purples are brought into aesthetic respectability by the muted tones of the foliage.

A number of well sign posted intersections along the way but we finally arrive at the parking area for the rock art and make a stop.  I have packed my breaky in the interests of a quick get away and so I muck about preparing and consuming that.  It’s a cool morning.  Mum makes a start on the walk, as she’ll have to take it pretty slow.  

The path leads enticingly to a rocky area and it’s not long before I’m setting off to catch up.
Like people, there are some landscapes which are photogenic and appear to advantage in still images. Other often beautiful spots somehow seem underwhelming through the camera lens. I am sorry to report that the Mulgowan Aboriginal Heritage walk turns out to be one of them.  Pulling up, the sole car in the parking lot, we are struck by the beauty of the place.  In front of us a red path leading past a lovely flowering gum into a pretty, rocky area replete with mystery and promise.  Looking at the photos of the walk, I wonder if I should share them as I would not want someone to see these images, devoid of spirit and life, and think they give an accurate depiction of this lovely place.   
We are welcomed to country by the local people via signage at the start of the path.  First, and appropriately a greeting in language, followed by the English translation, of which the following is only part
Karra mayingkalkaa, Paliira yuku ithu. Welcome to our country.
The unmistakable aboriginal voice in the information provided and safety reminder underlines the ongoing relationship between indigenous people and their country.  It creates a sense of mystery and anticipation that sits well with the landscape around and prepares you for what is to be seen and experienced here.  It places my mind back in time and I imagine the “old people” as well as current indignenous people heading up from the grassland into the stone country to these special sites.
Where the red sand path meets the rocks I pause to admire the flowering gum. It is a  profusion of bright yellow buds that simply shine in the morning sunshine.  Just a few have shed their caps to provide a carpet of little cones beneath the tree, unsheathing fluffy coronets of fresh blossom and many many more to come. 
Climbing up into the rocks I finally catch up with mum.  The path is indicated by little metal way markers and you need to get to a market and stop and look for the next one before moving on.  Like following a rail of crumbs we are lead through the most advantageous vistas along the way. As we rise higher there are expansive views across the void to other hills in the distance.  As we admire the views a black faced cuckoo shrike lands on a bare branch nearby.  We hear birdsong all around but it is unfamiliar and the owners of the voices are keeping their distance. I am happy enjoying what is easily seen without stressing about what is not being shown to me.
Having crossed the first ridge, we start to descent through a gully.  The path is fabulously well done. Either Baiame really intended everyone to walk this way, or someone has gone to enormous trouble to place natural rocks in apparently natural step formations!  Even where these apparently natural boulders are not quite continuous for the path, natural stone paving has been used to continue the sensation of walking through the stone country.  This seems respectful to the spirit of this place and this is so important.
Mum takes her time. Looking down she comments. “if Grand-daughter 1 was here, she’d take a photo of that.  She bends double to take a macro zoom shot.  It’s wonderful travelling with loved ones isn’t it, whether they are friends or family. It is always useful to be able to see something through an alternate vision.  Having wandered in NZ with daughter 1, I am sure mum and I have been permanently influenced in our ability to identify things to examine and photograph closely.
We come to another sign that talks to us about the route that Baiame took through the country in the creation period. It talks also of the continued importance of this place though modes of transport today are different.  The tone to the panel is inclusive.
Lovely vibrant green bushes. Dense with foliage they sparkle with occasional bright red leaves that shine out like jewels.  It reminds me of the similar effect of pohutukawa leaves fallen in a carpet on the sand. So lovely.  Man’s attempts at beauty pale into insignificance when compared to what nature provides us.
Descending into the gully, a gorgeous new variety of grass arrays it’s pretty seed heads in aesthetic perfection against the rocks.

Water trickles cheerfully. Gums and boulders and beautifully placed vegetation provide a lovely contrast to the surrounding plains.

The path requires us to take steps across the boulders strewn across the trickling water.  I hang about to provide mum with a steadying hand.  We are overtaken by another, elderly, couple who head up the slop to the rock art site which is visible enshrouded with metal barriers to prevent access.
We likewise ascend the rock steps and take our place on the metal mesh platform.  The rock overhang in which the artwork sits is quite low.  The other couple are sitting down looking up at the art work most of which is bold in white depicting fairly simple shapes of “shake leg” dance, animals and implements.  Looking closely layers of older artwork are visible.  A few hand prints. 
All around the rock ledge a silicone drip line is placed.  I find intrusions such as this disturbing.  I am still pretty angry about what I learned in respect of the national parks attitude to maintenance of the rock engravings in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP. And the well meaning vandalism of white overlords who think they know best how to preserve these ancient treasures.  The damage that was done at the echidna engraving site in Ku-ring-gai as a result of these well meaning but misguided efforts is inexcusable. I wonder if the traditional owners of this place in Gundabooka really have the access they want or require.  I wonder, have they managed to maintain the knowledge required to maintain these sites in the traditional manner.  All indigenous people across NSW have suffered pretty intensive impact from white settlement:  stolen generations, removal from and denial of access to country and practice of ceremony. This art site is locked up like Fort Knox. I can’t see anyone of any description easily getting in behind these barriers.  I wonder if this site is one of lesser importance to the traditional owners that may have been sacrificed to satisfy non-indigenous people with other sites still active and maintained elsewhere and kept private within the indigenous community.  I hope so. I really hope so.

The other tourists depart and we are left here in solitude for a while. Then we start to make our way back along the path.  As we descend towards a gully a splendid fairy wren flits past. A male in glorious shining metallic blue. He most certainly is a splendid fairy wren, they got that right.
We clamber across the stream once again and as we make our way up around the boulders lining the path, mum notices a dainty beauty.  Clusters of tiny.. fruits?  Flowers? On a tiny little plant.  The are soft but sort of spongy, white with tiny velvety purple hairs.  We’ve got no clue what sort of plant this might be.

Regaining the higher flatter area of rock, a family of feral goats has taken up residence and it give me no pleasure to see them. But hey, we’re tourists so we take their portrait.  They seem to be having a happy life, Billy, Nanny and the kids.
We pause for breath and macro photography, I find and diagnose a problem with my camera after finding mum getting radically different with her, identical, camera. Encouraged I stop here and there on the way to the car to have another go at some images that weren’t working for me before. Ah, that's better.

 I drive mum over to the nearby facilities for a comfort stop and we head off back down the track to where we came from.  Along the way a bird flies across in front of the car, resplendent in black and white.  Many a bird has flown in front of the car, but for this one I stop and back up. It’s landed in the bushes there somewhere.  And there he is, a red capped robin. Sitting large as life on a branch. Perched with wings folded the black and white is less obvious the red is more so.  We’ve seen red caps before, but they are always special. 
We take our time on the road out, stopping here and there to capture the floral beauties along the way. Swathes of yellow among green, puddles of violet provide mock reflections of the sky, daubes of violet trumpets on silver grey.

When we reach the intersection we must finally stop procrastinating about the route we will take home.  We can do the loop suggested on the mud map, or head back up the highway quickly and have more time for other things, among which must be the exhibition centre, as our ticket for that is valid today but not later.  Mum seems to want to head further into the park so we do that for a while.  It’s similar to what we’ve seen.  Along the way a father emu comes out onto the road with his young chicks.  They loiter just long enough for a portrait then retreat to the safety of the bush.

Not finding much material benefit to this new route so far, after about 20 mins or so we decide to turn back and head in to Bourke the quick way.
We arrive home at about 11:45 am. Pick up daughter, who has been studying this morning and head over to the Exhibition Centre for lunch and a quick look.  We have something else we want to do at 2pm, so we need to make it pretty business like.  At Grubby Micks café we each order quiche, which is served with salad and chips.  I get a milkshake, mum and daughter sample the water.
Time is pressin g this morning writing this up.  Suffice to say, Grubby Micks café was great. The quiche was tasty and I suspect replete with real cream if texture is anything to go by.  The chips and salad were excellent as well.  Having gobbled our meals we head into the show and the following displays. The video presentation starts promisingly with the natural beginning of Baiame and the indigenous creation story for the area. Then, aside from acknowledging that an activist campaign in 1938 failed to gain voting rights for indigenous people, the traditional owners of the country seem to slip back into the shadows from whence they apparently came.
The Back O Bourke centre is great. It is full of interesting Australiana.  I am seriously into Australiana and enjoy that aspect of the centre enormously. It is very well done. I am gratified to find at least some references to indigenous things sprinkled in amongst the explorer material and the obsession with a great inland sea and anticipate and fervently hope, that there is more coverage of indigenous history to come in the next building.. as so far indigenous content has seemed, well, I have to say it has seemed tokenistic.  

Unfortunately, as we move along, now and later in the day when we return to finish what we missed,  we find that there is a serious omission from the displays.  Indigenous history since European settlement of the country is not included. Apart from one story about an indigenous man who was forced to effectively renounce his culture, heritage and language, in order to have his job as a "human bloodhound" ie police tracker, we fail to find a single reference to indigenous people, what they’ve been through, what is the mix of experiences and context, leaders etc that have informed their modern culture?  This is a very serious omission and it takes the enjoyment out of reading the other material. 

As we wander through this third building another visitor and daughter have sparked up a conversation.  This lady is here with her husband and kids. This lady has also just come through Bree and taken the tour of the fish traps.  She is also disturbed by the lack of content on indigenous Australians.   The Back O Bourke centre has enormous potential.  For visitors coming from anywhere whether elsewhere in Australia or from overseas, it can provide a great insight into the country about the origins of our commitment to the fair go. Henry Lawson, and all sorts of things and people from times past. Unfortunately at the moment it also gives some insight into why we have such intractable problems in respect to equity between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.  Indigenous people are comparatively invisible. We are making some progress, but boy, the Back O Bourke centre provides a symbolic underline in respect to just how far we still have to go.  As if the statistics aren’t enough.

However, on a happier note we’re off to another Bourke attraction, the flyer for which we have come across at the information centres.  Para native garden.  Olga, is a muruwari woman. She and her husband have established a wonderful garden in the backyard of their home in Sturt St.  The garden is a tribute to Olga's parents and serves multiple purposes.  It provides a tangible connection to Olga’s family’s experiences and struggles, an acknowledgement of what they have achieved under the most difficult of circumstances. It is a mourning as well as a celebration - or so it seems to me as we contemplate the events of this family's lives.  The garden is a triumphant achievement that is overflowing with creativity and optimism.  You can really feel the spirit and presence of Olga's mum and dad as we contemplate the garden. It is quite simply inspiring on a whole lot of levels.
Using local indigenous plants and trees, the garden includes things salvaged from the site of Olga’s family’s bush camp of many years ago, where their only water was from the bore drain, and their shelter an open arrangement of corrugated iron and tenting.  Around the garden these things, “as old as the hills”are assembled  to show what the family had and used, and act as tangible testimony to the story being told.  As we wander around listening to Olga's vision for the garden I think to myself that this garden should be on TV. Now while the garden is still very young, and again in a few years as it matures. There was a series made a while back about great gardens of the world. I think that this garden Olga is making is exactly the sort of garden that the makers of that program were looking for. A new Australian garden aesthetic, a truly unique and spiritual approach to gardening using indigenous plants.  Or maybe Better Homes and Gardens would be interested. I say as much to Olga and she doesn't hesitate to recruit me to help her make that happen! Lord knows how one does that, but as Gale Collins says, when you've got no idea what you're doing - then wing it! Suggestions gratefully accepted.

We find we get along with Olga really well.  We discuss indigenous issues and when I comment that as a white city dweller I find it very difficult to get information about what's going on, Olga and Alan provide some recent copies of indigenous newspapers and magazines, both of which have websites.  We have the National Indigenous Times which has a very interesting and informative website.  I like the subtitle: Creating a Bridge Between Australia's Black and White Communities. Then there is the Koori Mail.  Great to have more than one source and one editorial perspective to have a look at.

I do believe I get more radical on indigenous issues with every day that passes.  For this, I believe I actually have travel planning to thank.  In the course of planning our road trip through the American west I have done some trip pre-reading. Amongst these has been several titles relevant to Native Americans. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed me materially.  I had thought I was open minded, interested and sympathetic to indigenous matters at home.  What did I know. My heart was not aligned to my intellect, but Bury My Heat at Wounded Knee, and more recently The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper, have resulted in something of an epiphany for me and I highly recommend both these books. 

Anyway, Olga has a positive story to impart through her marvelous garden.  She cheerfully tells us that Brewarrina High School last year had ooooh was it about half a dozen or so indigenous students heading off to university.  They are studying medicine, law, engineering. Among them is her nephew and we find that he attends the same medical school campus as daughter! These young people have not had to leave their communities. They have not had to try to learn to read and write over the campfire as Olga did. They are not denied an education as Olga's parents where.  Olga has more to tell and exhibit in respect to indigenous success stories. Her daughter is a high achieving businesswoman and university graduate, like Olga herself.  

I see a congruence with Gale’s stories at the Black Queen. These are two strong women whose struggles and childhood disadvantage have motivated high achievement. Inspiring, empowering stories both have to tell. I was feeling pretty ragged and worn down when I headed off on this trip. I was in need of new inspiration and motivation. I was in need of empowerment.  In Gale and Olga's stories and open hearted hospitality, I have certainly found it. 

We have opted for the full package today at Para and so we are treated to some Quandong tarts.  Yuuum.  Apparently there is a quandong orchard around Broken Hill.. An email address is on the label of the Quandong jam and sauce Olga sells alongside various other indigenous related products.  We resolve to get in touch with them and see if we can order some quandongs.  There is a real sense of strong community in Olga’s enterprise. I particularly like a sign which Olga has had made up, based on a message stick made by a family member for the opening of her garden. The message stick and its interpretation are awesome and inclusive. I am truly humbled by this experience of sharing and Olga's open hearted and practical approach. Her years of professional experience that underpin her consultancy - Culgoa Dreaming - are well in evidence.

Well, we have said our farewells to Olga, with promises to keep in touch. We really want to check out the rest of the Exhibition centre as described above and have a chance to leave some comments in the visitors book.  Now we have a very short break to chill (1/2 hour) before we head off to the camp fire and bush poetry at Kidman’s Camp.

We rock up with our chairs and our picnic set and settle in for a fabulous night.  A local farmer, whose family have been on the land here for 5 generations does the honours.  He has assembled a wonderful collection of humourous verse and recites them well to applause and laughter from the sizeable throng assembled.  All proceeds go to local charitable causes, the hospital for example, or some for the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service).  It’s truly a most enjoyable night.  Dinner is tasty and filling. A smallish piece of steak, a sausage, veges, a mountain of mash and bread.  Dessert is pikelets cooked on the barbie with either jam or lemon butter and cream, with billy tea, the billies have been heating over the fire during the evening. 

The fire pit is situated with a wind guard which is fashioned from a large curve of corrugated iron. It looks like a small water tank round, split and pegged open by two sturdy poles. Across it a bar is suspended from what I think was a couple of things like star pickets. It's beautiful. A flash of inspiration as I imagine just such a fire pit in my backyard.. tie in nicely with my original 1950s corrugated iron and hardwood chook shed that I am determined to keep and make a feature of.. hmmm.  The outback and its people truly do remain an enduring source of inspiration. 

The campfire night is another Bourke must do for sure and we leave with our clothes reeking of smoke, as is only proper! 

Day 7 - Bourke: Mt Oxley, PV Jandra, Back O Bourke Gallery, North Bourke Historic Bridge

Thursday 23 September
Early journaling and it’s 9 am before we’re really making an effort to get moving. Mucking about then we go to information centre. It’s $10 each for access to Mt Oxley plus $25 deposit on the key. Then a couple more errands (servo and chemist) before we can get down to the business side of the trip… having some fun.
It’s not long before we spot another shingleback on the road.  Mum has been reading the tourist brochures and announces there’s somewhere in the area is holding “bogeye” races on the long weekend. There’s a picture of a shingleback with the announcement, so we interpret “bogeye” as the name applied locally to this lizard. 
The wildflowers more visible today in brighter light. There is a fairly consistent carpet of small flowers in a range of colours, more visible the slower you go of course.  Barrelling along at 110 doesn’t really lend itself to appreciation of the micro beauties. Nothing could dull the dazzle of the expanse of golden yellow daisies though.
Exactly 28 kms as the mud map said, the turn to Tarcoona appears. We follow the directions provided on the mud map booklet easily.  The dirt road is pretty good.  Fairly rocky. The cry goes up. Emus run across the road in group of 3, their heavy rumps bobbing rhythmically… and as we all know old man emu can run the pants of a kangaroo.
We pull over and let a car with trailer pass.  As we pass through a number of gates and cattle grids, flowering shrubs and trees and in the earlier sections some delicate flowers across the plain. We finally come to the final section tucked up against the mountain.  One gets the impression that the stock have been kept out of this area.  There are wildflowers everywhwere. The further in the density of wildflowers increases, every tree, every bush seems to be putting on a floral display.
The dirt turns from grey to red and fairly rocky. I spot two pink cockatoos on the road up ahead. You hoo! Major Mitchell Cockatoos! It is always special to see these elegant cockatoos as they are not common. They fly up into tree with pink striped crests raised. Simply beautiful!
We head on and the road becomes sealed, though fairly old. It’s also narrow and there are no barriers protecting you from a precipitous drop.  This seems even more hair raising than driving up the mountain in Mt Kaputar National Park to me, but daughter and Gma assure me it is not.  I’m still not convinced.  It seems like an age slowly and carefully climbing to the summit. We round a final corner and find a 4WD heading down the mountain toward me. There’s nowhere I can go. Nowhere at all. Fortunately the other car is still close up by a spot where there is a potential turn and the driver reverses OK.  She winds down her window and comments, “that was good timing! I’m glad I didn’t have to reverse any further than that!”  Good grief yes. Meeting someone half way just doesn’t bear thinking about.  As it happens a third vehicle is waiting an opportunity to head down the mountain also.  This is the property owner and he asks us if we have a key as he is heading out and locking the gate after himself.  The gate was open on our way in.  We give our assurance and we are left more or less to ourselves here at the top of the mountain.  Aside from a large telecommunications tower the mountain top is lovely.  Nicely arranged rocks. Flowering trees and shrubs and abundant pretty star shaped wildflowers scattered amongst beautiful clumps of grasses, just running up to attractive seed heads.  The whole scene, which is set against a backdrop of 360 degree views to the horizon, is simply enchanting.  The curvature of the earth is clearly visible.

We wander about carefully so we can admire the view from various directions.  The rocky ground takes care to walk through.  We take our time, and finally decide its time to move along.  Daughter and Gma are keen to explore the second road, just a brief pause to photograph some lovely flowers.

Its a good track through an open area then through some attractive mulga with grassy understorey and finally arrive at a picnic area at which a pretty respectable picnic area and facilities has been established.  It’s pretty impressive.  Clean flushing toilet, gas Barbie, sink, shelter with plentiful tables and seats.  A fire pit area and fire drums. All this with views to the horizon.  It would be a wonderful spot to watch the sunset, having extensive views across to the west from this area.    We decide that the entry fee for the station holder is fair enough. We’re pretty impressed with the set up here. This is Mt Oxley, part of the Outback Beds properties.

All good things must come to an end and conscious that we want to take a 3pm PV Jandra cruise today we head back down the mountain.  We are taking our time and I request a photo of a new view when daughter notes in alarm that someone is coming.  Uh oh.  Where? Their dust cloud is rising there on the road below.  Thinking we have ages to go to get down and we REALLY don’t want to meet on the scary bit, we drive purposefully down to the flat. Phew.  It’s a minute or so before the oncoming vehicle reaches us.  A large 4WD with rather wide caravan behind it.  We don’t hear any crashes as we slowly move on along the road among the wildflowers, so we presume that these people managed to get their caravan to the top OK.  Can’t say that’s something that tempts me, but there you go.
We take our time stopping every so often to have a better look at some flower or another.  It’s all very pretty, and best enjoyed up close. 

At the end of this section rather than head down the circle as described on the mud map, we head back to Bourke the way we came.  Along the way a flock of emus is enjoying a stroll across the plain of yellow daisies. Got to get a shot of that!

First things first, back to the info centre.  We already have discovered that the Mateship Tours are fully booked today and then won’t run again for a week due to other commitments.  These tours take you round and show you some farms and tell you about the district. We are disappointed that we won’t be able to do that.   However, PV Jandra is operating so we claim our key deposit and head off to the Back O Bourke exhibition centre (which owns the PV Jandra) to buy our tickets there.
If you’re going to the exhibition centre there is a package deal that gives you unlimited entry to the centre over two days as well as the PV Jandra cruise.  The Exhibition centre is more extensive than we gathered from the website.  There’s a cluster of buildings with nice gardens and some outdoor exhibits and a café. Daughter wants to try the bakery in town so we decide to leave the café at the Exhibition Centre for another day.

Back at the bakery I go for a lamb pie.. I think it was Back o bourke Lamb or something like that.  Mum went for steak bacon and cheese and daughter for a chicken pastie.  Daughter and I decide to share a raspberry muffin. Mum bought some cheesecakey slice thing with macadamia nuts in it.  We decide we’ll eat by the river in position for the Jandra.  As if made to order there is a large picnic table just near the boarding spot.  It’s huge. Giants made this table it seems. We daintily spread our tablecloth.  The table is a bit dirty what with being under the flood waters not so long ago.  We do a quick risk assessment re eating under a river red gum. Mum's a bit dubious about the idea,  they can make you sick if you ingest some thing or other than they drop..I figure many people ate under river red gums before they found someone who got sick and tracked down the cause. Anyway, it’s not like eating a pie each is going to take an age so we go ahead.  

We each enjoyed our pies. Mum couldn’t detect much in the way of cheese or bacon, but as a plain steak pie, hers was pretty good. My lamb pie was very minty. Unusual and quite tasty.  Daughter reports her chicken pastie also very nice.  Both the sweet options, well, to be frank. We didn’t like them.  I recall on TripAdvisor some while ago someone (was it Fawltytowerswatch?) saying that blueberry muffins should be banned.  I agree, and this raspberry one is horrible in the same way.  Sort of packet cakey.  Yuk. I think mum tossed the cheesecakey slice thing.

Anyway, to the cruise.  The PV Jandra heads up stream for a while, turns around and heads downstream then turns around again and heads back to the jetty.  All the while, the captain keeps up a fascinating commentary.  Just about anything we could be wondering, he pipes up and lets us know about the matter. The river is lined with river red gums, then behind them there are a whole stack of Coolibah Trees.  The coolibah trees are the ones with grey foliage, and are old and twisted and gnarled in their trunks and branches.

As we round a bend in the river some people are scooting about in their tinny.  We get a run down on the meaning of nautical whistles, use of which is mandatory and some colour is added via a discussion of the idiotic behaviour of usually unlicenced boat owners as this bloke in the tinny breaks all the rules and gets between the Jandra and the closest river bank. Over to the left our attention is drawn to a popular local swimming spot with a sandy beach that is known as North Bondi.. typical Australian humour. LOL

See those roots on the coolabahs, that’s not erosion… those coolabahs have been like that for a long long time.  Old timers years ago told that they were like that when they were little kids in the district and they would put their clothes on the tree and swim, and play among those roots, so it’s likely they’ve been like that for at least a hundred years.  River red gums and Coolibahs live for up to 1000 years, so it’s impossible to say how old any of those trees are”. 

We see echidna holes in the bank, not foxes as the locals had assumed, they only recently found out they are echidna holes when they observed an echidna digging another one!  Whistling kit nests in view we hear about the breeding habits of the kites.  The river trade too, the specs of this vessel, the survey requirements for it. How they achieve getting an out of water survey, the symbolism of the murray darling flag… heaps and heaps of interesting stuff.
It's a lovely view of the river on the way back to the jetty.

It’s only $16 for this trip pp. Fantastic value.  Definitely a must do.  We heard from another tourist that the same guy does the Crossley Engine and he is great at that too. We missed the Crossley Engine but I reckon if this same guy is your guide, don't miss that either.

Before we leave Kidman’s Camp we make a quick stop to add our names to the board out the front of reception for the campfire and bush poetry night tomorrow night.
We’re getting pretty tired by now.  It’s about 4pm or a bit after by the time we get in the car.  We don’t really have time to head to the exhibition centre now and are a bit too tired to do it justice anyway.  We are passing the Back o Bourke Gallery of Jenny Greentree, so decide to tick that one off the list.  We park and wander in.  pretty much every picture is a wonderful representation of the outback.  Daughter and I are really taken with one called A Morning Stroll. I check that they can ship to Sydney. I have a rule that I cannot buy any more pictures without knowing exactly where I plan to hang it. I’m thinking dining room for this one, but I’ll need to assess the size for the wall I have in mind.

We head on and begin to cross the new concrete bridge at north Bourke. It runs parallel to the old bridge.  We turn around, I really have to get a photo of the curve of the bridge.  I'm not going to share why, just that there is a really funny story about that and they will tell you on the Jandra.

Daughter and I admire the lovely North Bourke Hotel which now offers accommodation and dining according to the sign. It looks really lovely, so we decide to wander around and see if we can have dinner there.  Turns out they don’t do evening meals any more, only brekkie for guests and functions. Looks like a nice place to stay, but as we walk in a large truck rumbles past, so we wondered whether truck noise might be a problem staying there. Not a busy road, so perhaps it's not a drama.  We have a nice chat with the owner/manager before we head off.  There’s just no end to the lovely friendly people we meet outback. 
We’re pretty wrecked now. Hot and tired, so it’s a quick stop for daughter to post her postcard and back to the Riverside to chill, shower and generally freshen up.  An informal dinner and journaling, and still hopes of an early night.
We’re loving it Outback.