Day 4 Sunday 24 April.
I slept reasonably well. The bed is a bit hard. By about 4 oclock mum is snoring and I’m rested enough that I’m not going to get back to sleep, so I decide to complete yesterday’s journal. Journalling is a time consuming business. I am pleased that mum seems to be getting a better night’s sleep than last night. We’ve got our cruise on Menindee Lakes today.
First stop is to get some brekky. We couldn’t find Macca’s which was Mum's first choice (she loves their pancakes and hash browns) so we went to Charlotte’s Café in the main street which seems to be the only thing open. They had a sign up saying they have smart choice meals and to ask about them and support this healthy eating program. I ask the lady serving but she has no idea what I’m talking about and suggests that it’s just their normal breakfast menu. So we make our choice. Raisin Toast and scones. The scones are HUGE HUGE in fact ridiculously huge, but come with a very small amount of jam and cream, less than one would usually be given for a couple of normal sized scones. Very strange, but the scones were very good. We save one for Ron. Mum’s raisin toast came with three slices and sides of margarine, jam and mamalade. She also got a cappuccino which came with an everest of froth (not how its supposed to be). She said it was pretty aweful coffee ... by Sydney standards at any rate. It was just as well we went in early. As we ate the place filled to bursting. We read some of the heritage signs along the main road near where we’ve parked and then go looking for petrol.
We fill up, buy some milk and ice which we stow in the esky. Now we’re off to Menindee lakes.
It is a pleasant drive through a range of low hills when you first get out of town, then the landscape becomes very flat. Good ground cover everywhere and aside from the road verge not much in the way of red soil to be seen. After a while we spot a large flock of emus just next to the road, but it was a pretty uneventful journey until we come to Stephens creek. It would have been nice to stop there as it was the typical red soil dry riverbed with trees growing in it. Very lovely, but we head on.
I had originally planned to sus out Kinchega NP and the historic woolshed before the cruise time, but we go in to where our directions indicate to do a reccie and make sure we know where we need to be. As we drive along the dirt road dust rises up and drifts across with the wind. It passes across rows of campers perched by the water and I cannot help but think that these folk have chosen an aweful place to set up camp. Having checked out where our directions says we meet the cruise, we park by the water near the Bourke and Wills campsite and watch the waterbirds for a while. Terns, pacific herons – plenty of young birds. Lots of white egrets. Mum says intermediate egrets. Peewees. Galahs, white ibis. Most interesting was the black fronted plovers, but as well there were silver gulls and willy wagtails. Scenically we thought it was pretty ugly (sorry) and the whole area is crowded with campers. Looking over the photos I find neither of us were moved to take any pictures.
Before we take off we stop briefly among the campers to check out the Burke and Wills campsite. Ho hum. Best thing about the campsite is the beautiful tree there. The area all around the lakes is crammed with Easter campers. The environment nearby the Bourke and Wills site is smelly from rotting carp which people catch and leave to die on the banks and overall it’s a bit yuck really. Certainly I’ve seen more tempting camping spots.
As time approaches for the cruise we move on up to the main weir, take a toilet stop and park up near where we expect to join the cruise. We admire the rushing torrents of water flowing over the spillway.
No sign of the River Lady sign that is predicted. As I look at the weir I see the boat on the opposite side. We are in the wrong position. I check and double check the map we were sent. Yep, we are where they told us to go. Just as we’re figuring it’s a lost cause Tri State Tours rocks up and their guide helps us out getting the attention of the river lady. They check out if they can pick us up and say they left voicemail for us but obviously we didn’t get it. Later when I check, they have left the voicemail on my mobile only about half an hour before departure time. Pointless when I had told them I don’t have reception out here and obviously we have to have been en route at that time. Major stuff up.
At any rate they said they would wait for us to drive round to where they are. We make our way back into via Menindee and along the Wilcannia / Ivanhoe road without incident and we arrive at the departure point just as they are about to leave without us afterall. We board the boat and settle in and head off. An irritating mishap, but all over now.
The cruise takes the course of the Darling as it was before the lake was made by installing the weir. The banks of the original watercourse that are still intact are pretty. Overall there are a lot of dead trees, drowned by the creation of the lake. I always find dead trees rather upsetting and depressing. The scenery as you go deeper into the lake system is fairly unchanging. It would be very easy to get lost on the lake without a guide.
There are plenty of nests of whistling kites here and there, but not many actual kites in evidence. On the whole, we see very little bird life. Such a big wet the birds can go anywhere they like these days, so no doubt many are on holiday. A darter on a dead branch relaxes and dries its wings as we pass by.
The commentary starts out well but tapers off allowing passengers to enjoy the quiet on the water and relax. With the floods in Roma they are busy letting water out of the Menindee Lakes. It will take a couple of months for the flood water to come down from Qld but they get a surge well in advance of that. Water level has dropped a couple of feet in the last few days apparently, and is changing up and down all the time. We note the lignum growing around the lake that Aboriginal women would use for weaving dilly bags. As we cruise, complimentary tea or coffee and biccies and fruit cake are offered around. The cruise is a pleasant change of pace and scenery to our driving through the arid lands of the last few days, but an hour on the water is enough.
The tour complete, we alight at the picnic area and head over to the car taking our time on the drive back doing a spot of birdwatching. We snap some photos where the road has been cut by the high water levels. Admiring silver gulls making a raucous show here, downstream from the weir.
Along this stretch we stop at some shallow pools and see Australian Shelducks and a juvenile Australasian grebe and a range of other good birds, but of course mum keeps the list so I don't recall the others!
Time is passing and I’m keen to move along, I would like to get back to Broken Hill before its too late to call the flight people for tomorrow and make sure we know what’s going on. Most of the roads into Kinchega National Park are closed, but the road down to the woolshed is open. Mum is underwhelmed at the idea of visiting another woolshed. She’s a bit over woolsheds and they tend to smell like sheep piss. There’s a few spots with birds along the way in but we decide to have a better look at them on the way back. We stopped to pay our pay and display entrance fee and head in on the dirt roads, which have patches that are quite corrugated, but nothing too drastic. Lots of people are at the woolshed. Mum decides she’ll come in after all rather than stay in the car. First stop the old dunny. Quite a classy long drop affair. Well better than average. Not currently in use, more modern facilities are available and there’s lots of signs to make sure people don’t think they can actually use this old dunny.
On into the woolshed, past some old machinery used to power the equipment over the years. A gadget used to put the bales up on the drays for transport. Right next to the entrance to the shed an echidna is sitting behind some wire, clearly well aware we can’t reach him. At first I thought it might be a stuffed exhibit, but no, its just found itself a lovely sunny corner for a bit of a kip.
The woolshed itself is a very interesting design. Very different to other sheds we have visited. There is a large under cover area where the sheep are protected and out of the weather. Dry in case of rain, or to let them cool off before the ordeal of shearing.
From the covered pens a long ramp runs down to the holding yards which though modernized before this area became a national park are still intact giving a great aspect for appreciation of how the shed worked.
The current shed is only half the size it was originally. In the hey day it was a 64 stand shed. Wow. These days four would be more likely. In the space of one year the number of sheep shorn dropped by 100,000 down to only about 30,000. We read about the ecological catastrophe of overstocking and rabbits and the royal commission that was thought necessary to sort out what had caused this calamity. The whole complex is very very interesting. Mum announces that she is surprised, The Kinchega Woolshed was very interesting and she’s very glad she had the opportunity to visit. There is a lot of additional information provided but that we didn't have time to read in detail. I do just a light skim read over the information provided about the history. There is a phone and I try to call the flight people, but find it is the one phone number I haven’t printed on the itinerary. I expected to be calling from the motel.
We pass by the shearer’s quarters and they look pretty good. One room that we can see in has two sets of bunk beds. These buildings date from the 1950s. The whole complex gives a good coverage to pastoral activity across a long period. A quick snap of the windmill, which turned out really well considering that I couldn’t really see too well what was in frame. A snap of the killing shed and we are on our way.
Back in town the first priority is calling the scenic flight people. That out of the way I want to stop at Bell’s and try a thickshake. It’s ten to five when we get there, close to closing. We order small thick shakes to take away. Flavour was good, but still very thin and milky and I cannot tell any difference to the milkshake we had yesterday. I wonder if she actually gave us a milkshake by mistake. I have concluded that the bells flavours would be good if you were making your own, but I can live without the shakes made on the premises.
The next check box on my list is to run out to the airport and make sure we know where we are heading. The drive is trouble free and we admire the large flying doctor base. We think we’ll add The RFDS tour to Tuesday’s activities perhaps.
Then we wander round looking for the road up to the memorial and restaurant. The "line of load" looks pretty grotty from the gound, but’s it’s actually pretty awesome driving up on this enormous mullock heap. It feels like you're through a mine site. You go past the mine tours that have stopped operating and up to the info centre and memorial. It’s almost sunset and there are lots of people up here. I make a bee line straight out the memorial.
It is a spectacular memorial. Very lovely in the golden light at the close of the day. Panoramic views all around 360 degrees. I am very glad I came up here. Definitely a broken hill must do. The names of miners killed on the job are listed. So many back in the 19th century, early 20th and tapering off, but still a name here and there in recent times. Mining is a dangerous business, though nowhere near as bad these days as in the past.
I wander into the restaurant, peruse the menu and make a reservation for Tuesday evening. I can’t wait.
Mum’s pretty exhausted and looking it. We sit very briefly on a seat nearby the entrance before deciding to head off back to the motel. Mum is not hungry so I just order chicken parmy from room service. Turns out to be absolutely massive and very delicious. Mum can’t resist and shares some. I’m pretty tired too. Too tired to journal so end up giving it away and hitting the sack, to catch up on the record another time.