FRIDAY 29 MAY LIGHTNING RIDGE TO ST GEORGE 245kms
We did not have too much to do, to get away, after doing most of the pack up yesterday.
We stopped in town. John wanted to buy the local paper, in order to read more about some local land possibly being opened up for mining! He had a quick look at a few opal stalls set up opposite the “craft market”.
Today’s was a pleasant drive. The country was varied enough to be interesting. At one point the highway passed close to the Coocoran Lake, but we couldn’t see any sign of surface water. Maybe it was mostly dry?
We stopped in Hebel, just after crossing into Qld, partly for a break, and partly due to curiosity. A previous boss of ours had lived here for a while, a decade or so ago. He and then wife had the store here, and he also dabbled in opal fossicking, presumably at Lightning Ridge. We wanted to see what the store was like, having heard O talk about it.
It was interesting, although I found the downhill slant of the rough interior floor a tad tricky. We got chatting to one of the residents. They were under the impression that our previous boss had totally owned the property where we’d worked, instead of being a part owner and resident manager. They also thought his recent marriage was to a Parisienne lady, rather than a nurse from Brisbane. I knew the bush telegraph could distort things, but really?
Hebel was one of the tiny settlements that made you wonder how it kept going. Just a store and a hotel. It would originally have been established as a border station, back pre-1900, when customs duties existed between the states. Hebel was only a couple of kms from the border.
After Hebel, there were increasing signs of irrigation and cotton farming, though the latter was not as obvious as I had expected.
We stopped for lunch at Dirranbandi, a little town trying hard to be attractive, but the number of businesses with For Sale signs, indicated that the town was battling.
John was getting sleepy by the time we reached St George. He had gotten out of travel mode.
We had a look at one caravan park, but thought it looked too small and crowded. So drove on to see what the Pelicans Rest was like – much nicer, newish, on the edge of the town. They had a long row of drive through sites, as well as conventional ones. All were well grassed. Grass! Green! The amenities were modern, nicely tiled, clean. All very pleasant after the rather rough and ready Lorne. $22 a night – good value.
We set up, then followed the usual ritual in a new town i.e. drove to the Bowls Club. There was no-one there. At the newsagent I ordered tomorrow’s papers to be kept for me. Checked out the location of a cafe for fish and chips – it had been a while since we had a bought fish and chips indulgence.
In cruising around the town, we found the Information Centre, so had a browse there and I bought some items. These included a card for younger grandson, with a picture of a bush curlew on the front, which when opened makes the sound of a curlew. Reckoned he would love that, though it might give him a fright when first opened. Not sure how well it would be received by parents, either, come to think of it. They might not thank me….
Went on to have a look at the Balonne River, which edges the town. This was bigger than I expected but made more so by a weir that held back water – presumably for irrigation. The highway to the west crossed the top of the weir, which had impressive towers along one side, that were part of the system for raising and lowering the weir gates.
As we drove back past the Bowls Club, there were signs of life. John went in and came back saying he’d booked BOTH of us to play tomorrow. He was going to owe me a lot of walking now!
From the cafe, we ordered our fish and chips, for collection at 6.30. Then it was on to the supermarket so John could buy a brush to dubbin his shoes, which had dried out from the white dust of the opal fields. I had a tin of leather dressing in the van, for my leather handbag, but usually applied this lightly with paper towel – no good for John’s shoes.
The caravan park had become quite full; probably a lot of overnighters.
We were allowed to wash our vans here. That was unusual, these days, but could help explain the lovely green grass.
After an adequate fish and chip tea, had an internet session.
We had TV again, after wonderful weeks without. John would be watching it long after I had gone to bed. I had, over the vanning years, trained myself to go to sleep despite background noise from the TV, or computer games – or both at once…..