Monday, September 27, 2010

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. 

No comments: