Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 6 - the Ridge to Bourke via Bree

Wednesday 22nd September – Lightning Ridge to Bourke via Brewarrina)
We are packed up and ready to go by 8:30 which is a pretty good time to be getting away.  Well, we’re ready … almost. We need to return our keys and just buy one or two little things in Margie’s Little Shop.Hahaha
Margie, unfortunately has a very similar set of interests to us. She has an outstanding collection of books for sale. There’s the Idriess shelves of course, and some of my inheritance is spent there. Mum and daughter decide to also get my chrissy presents from that part of the store. Plenty to read before I get up into the Kimberley.  Then there’s a fascinating shelf of stuff on aboriginal culture and issues.  I find a very fascinating, though probably a bit depressing and anger inducing title called Adam and the Atom.  This about the events surrounding the nuclear testing at Maralinga.  Authored in 1957 it’s clear that someone was trying to tell the public what was happening to the indigenous people. The excuses just got fewer.
Oh there’s an almost never ending list of books I acquire, so we won’t list them all, but boy, what a fascinating collection.
It’s 10 oclock by the time we drag ourselves away from browsing the store and chatting with Margie, but we finally hit the road. It’s another glorious morning with blue skies and clear air. Lovely temperature. We have a very half hearted go at getting out to bird site 4, but decide to give it a miss and just get on our way to Brewarrina.  With the conditions of some of the dirt roads around the place we’ve opted to stick to the black top this time.  The route via Goodooga would be interesting, but the last thing we need is to get halfway and find ourselves blocked by a bog., Two active days in the Ridge and there is still plenty left to do next time.
Retracing our steps to Walgett we fill up at a local servo and daughter snaps a photo of a great mural that has recently been painted on a nearby wall.

We don’t linger in town and head out on our way. It’s a lovely open and easy drive. The clouds are doing interesting things with wisps and trails across a beautiful blue sky. The scenery is fairly unchanging, but we find it pleasant and interesting. Every now and again the cry goes up: “Emus!”  A few times followed by “And chicks!”  We saw a lot of emus and we never get tired of spotting another one or dozen.
Some crops in rich green, and some lovely grassy woodland with a beautiful khaki understorey.  In some spots there is some low shrubby understorey too.  As we found also heading up to the ridge from Dubbo there is a lot of apparently wild yellow flowers of some sort of crop, maybe canola which has escaped.

there is also an increasing abundance of white daisies, softly asserting themselves in the landscape.

About 93 km from Bree the road sign updating distances to the various centres announces “Welcome to Outback NSW”.  We cross a couple of un-named water courses which seem to have ample water in them at the moment.  The countryside is mainly grazing country with beautiful, apparently native, grasses providing an understorey to the low native trees. The country appears to still be largely de-stocked as it has been during the drought.

It's been a pleasant drive and eventually we are arriving in Brewarrina. We find that locals pronounce the name of their town Bree-wo –rin-a. rather than the Br-wor-in-a that most people apply.  Makes sense since it’s shortened to Bree doesn’t it. We know the local info centre will be closed for lunch and we’re all pretty hungry.  Before we park Daughter requests a bit of a drive around the nearby streets and past the hospital.  This done we head back to the main drag.  We note a number of possible choices but the Muddy Waters Café is an easy winner. 
There are a couple of indigenous children riding bikes in the main street as we pull up.  We smile and head on in to Muddy Waters and order at the counter and sit down one of the larger tables.  The décor is that rustic country Australia look, generous with old recycled corrugated iron and old bric a brac from around the place.  An old dinky, hanging from the ceiling is an old very rusty pedal car..old metal advertising signs and so on. Floors are bare unpolished boards, the ceiling is lovely, apparently original, pressed tin.  Quite a pleasant ambience.  The ceiling fans are going and theres a really pleasant cool breeze resulting. It’s quite warm in Bree today but by no means hot.  Daughter and Gma have opted for a Culgoa Chicken Burger. Though tempted by the warm beef thai salad, and also for the Chicken Parmy (I love it that they just call it chicken parmy and don’t worry about the “proper” name) I end up deciding to go for the Spicy Steak Sanga.  The young man preparing the food tells the girl on counter they’re out of steak.  No problem pipes up a third, I’ll duck out and get some steak, won’t be long.  Now that’s service… and indeed she wasn’t long at all, I would never have known there was any kind of delay.  Muddy waters is being operated today at least, by a group of young enthusiastic people.  They certainly give the air of having a stake in the place, so it’s either their own initiative or boy, the employers are lucky!
To go with our meals I have gone for a caramel milkshake, daughter has opted for a rockmelon smoothie.  These arrive first and both are delicious served in soda glasses.   In quite a brief time our meals arrive.  The burgers are humungous. I mean seriously large.  The chicken is cooked beautifully and the whole thing is very nice.  Very good value for $12.50.

I am relieved to see my steak sanga is a little smaller, but still a very satisfying meal and still very large.  The sanga rests between two very thick and soft slices of toast and is accompanied by some very nice bacon, salad and tomato relish.
As we eat we watch a veritable flood of people coming in to have their lunch.  Lots of shirts and ties and professional looking people.  There is also a sitting area out the back which looks pleasant and is full of people.  This place is really humming.  In the cabinet there are slices of delicious looking quiche and several sweet options.  Lamingtons, cheesecake and others. Certainly as long as the Muddy Waters café is alive and well, you need have no hesitation in eating a meal in Bree.  You wouldn’t find a better café anywhere and we think you’d go a long way to find one that is such good value. 
Our lunch concluded it is still a little while before the info centre opens so we move the car over to their parking lot and admire the fish sculpture there.  Mum jumps on the nebulizer ready for the tour and I catch up on a very few moments of journaling.  At 2pm the staff arrive back and a few tourists make their way in. We’re all after the tour of the fish traps so that’s very convenient.  First up after paying your $7 per person, they sit you down to watch a short video about the traps.  This is a local elder telling a group of kids the origins of the river and the traps which are called Baiame’s Ngunnhu. Turns out this lady is a relative of a friend of mum's.
This completed our guide, Veronica, introduces herself and we walk slowly out the back gate and across to the river.  The river is running very high at the moment and the fish traps cannot be seen.  Apparently this is the fourth rise in the river recently and the fishing is very good at the moment. We watch as a couple of young boys use net tree guards to catch fish in the river.  They plunge the square tree guard down into the water no success while we’re watching, but it does look like fun.

Veronica points out the fish ladders and tells of plans to put bigger ones into the weir, and efforts to controls several little islands that have sprung up since construction of the weir.  We see moon rock and king and queen rock and hear reports of the usefulness of king rock. Then we move into the Museum in the Mounds.  This is still in the process of setting up and a reopening is planned.  The museum is in one mound and the other mound will hold a gift shop. Over the mounds earth is piled and native plants have been planted. Some red flowering emu bush is visible. The concept is interesting and unique. 

We head inside and admire some beautiful old implements and displays, a small model of a gunyah with a beautiful intricate arrangement of branches forming the structure for the shelter.  In the old days of course they used larger trees and families as large as 17 persons could live in one gunyah.  There is a canoe tree and canoe. A one person canoe, they have some pretty impressive things for us to see.  There is also a model of the fish traps with running water so we can see how they are arrayed down the river.  There are plans for an outdoor amphitheatre, and there is an indoor amphitheatre for performances and story telling.  Plenty of potential here that is clear.
Our tour concluded we take our leave and I head up to get the car and save mum the walk back to the info centre. I want to head back there as they had some pretty cool stuff I want to look at further and at a couple of things I’d like to buy.
Yes, of course, we pick up a book or three. One is a short little book by a now deceased Bree local telling of his experiences in WW2.  He reinforced the 2/1 infantry brigade and was left behind on crete to become a prisoner of the Germans for four years.
Another book – Angels of Augustus - tells the story of a couple of Methodist sisters who took themselves outback in the 1940s pioneering services in a region without roads.  There’s also a children’s picture book story called Bogged and Bothered at the Narran by the same author based on real events.  That’s got to be a must for the granny shelf.
There is a beautiful photographic triptych of a leopardwood tree, and others of other local trees and scenes.  $150 but I resist.  Very tempting though. I opt for a lovely mounted photograph of local indigenous kids dancing, a reminder for my city wall, so far removed, that we have some very big problems to solve to help these beautiful kids. To help them preserve their culture but also improve their choices in life. Its no small challenge.
Daughter finds a CD of local music for $2. Called “Our Dreams” by The tribes of Bree.  Surely worth a listen.
Mum can’t resist a book of bush poetry titled Up the Creek, by The Barwon Bard Max Overton.  She’s had a flick through as says it’s got some funny poems in it.
We take our selection to the counter to the lovely and friendly young lady.  Before she gets going with ringing things up she checks we are aware they take cash only.  She points out to us that the Angels of Augustus is signed by both the author and one of the angels themselves before she passed away.  She goes on to tell that the two ladies the books are about where really really lovely ladies and well loved by the community.  Others followed she said but none were as good as these two originals.
We have enjoyed our time in Bree very much. Now about 3pm it’s time to move on. We had planned to stay in the area, but were a bit nervous about the rain that's been about, so have deferred a farm stay for drier times.
The scenery  heading on to Bourke continues in a similar vein as it has since Walgett.  The clouds are building and looking threatening and form a beautiful back drop to the landscape.
The major hazard is lizards.  They sun themselves on the roads and there’s a saddening amount of road kill.  Daughter thinks she hit one. Horrified we drop back about 20kph.  At 90 you’ve got better chance of spotting them and slowing down and going around them.  Not much traffic at all so this is a realistic option here.  The emu sightings continue, much to our delight.
Along the way there are some patches of white wildflowers. Looks like erigeron or something very similar.  About 15 kms out of Bourke wildflowers start en masse. Mainly in white and yellow daisy style flowers. There are also some purple daisy and pea type flowers but these are not in sufficient quantity to really notice driving by.  At one spot on one side of the road it seems to be expanses of the yellow crop flower on the northern side of the highway away to the distance it is the wild daisies.   We are looking forward to exploring out to the national parks.
Speaking of national parks, about halfway between Bree and Bourke daughter calls attention to a large rock formation that rises, Uluru like from the flat plains.  This we conclude must be Mount Oxley.  We’re planning to come back with a key to get into the park there.
It’s only 5pm when we’re arriving at the Bourke Riverside. The bloke there seems very pleased to see us. He has apparently left us voicemail.  Won’t do much good of course. We’re on Vodafone and they have no coverage out here.  Apparently bourke is full and the Riverside is fielding requests for accommodation so the owners were getting a bit nervous knocking back business when we haven’t yet arrived.  Gees, it’s only 5pm! Glad we weren’t late arriving as that could have been ugly. Note to self. Get into the habit of ringing ahead and confirming accommodation in future.
We settle in and briefly explore the beautiful gardens. There will be a wonderful display of roses in the not too distant future and as it is there is all manner of spring flowers. Snap dragons, ranunculus and so forth. The air is full of perfume and we conclude that this must be coming from an orange tree that is in abundant bloom next door and visible through the fence.  There is a gate out to the river reserve, but this is padlocked.
Daughter and I wander across to the next block and find the local Khan’s Super IGA to pick up some perishable supplies.  Some local kids are playing and riding their bikes in the streets. One little guy is riding a bike a bit bigger than himself.  He looks pretty able. All look like they’re having fun.
Back in our suite, named for Nancy Bird Walton, we settle down to watch the news and a video about an indigenous lady of Bree.. another of our purchases at the info centre.  The sitting room in our suite is well equipped with bar fridge and good value mini bar.  There is a sofa too, but on the whole I think this room could do with more sofa space and less furniture that is not useful to guests.  There’s space in this suite for two couples, but not enough room in the sitting room if everyone wanted to sit down and watch together.  Overall though the rooms are beautiful.  The bedding particularly comfy, warm and luxurious.  We settle down for a light snack for dinner. Who needs more after a very large lunch

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