FRIDAY JULY 24 BOURKE TO LIGHTNING RIDGE 334kms
Left the park at 9.20am.
There was some early morning rain, but after that it was mostly fine for us, but with a looming, threatening sky for much of the day.
Skies looking promising, just out of Bourke
We had not ever driven the Kamilaroi Highway between Bourke and Walgett before. Any new route is inherently interesting.
We had debated, before yesterday, whether to stay last night at Brewarrina and I had tried to find out what conditions might be like in the town caravan park. The reports of other travellers had varied so much as to be of little help. Then, whilst we were at Warrawong, I was talking to a local official whose patch covered Brewarrina and he advised us to stay in Bourke. The free camp area at the Four Mile, out of Brewarrina, would not have been a viable alternative with the rain, so we had opted for the known park in Bourke.
Maybe not so promising
There was much of interest along the highway. Saw some large cotton farms just out of Bourke. Passed one farm with a huge quantity and variety of machinery parked up and a very large walled up dam, presumably for irrigation.
I am ambivalent about cotton growing in Australia. On the one hand, can see the value of agricultural diversification. But how much of the cotton growing profits benefit local farmers and businesses, and how much adds to the offshore wealth of overseas based companies? The diversion of waters from the upper reaches of the Darling River system really alarms me. I don’t think our fragile Murray Darling River system and associated environments can withstand such enormous water diversions.
Mt Oxley stood out in the distance – a peak in otherwise pretty flat country.
Good grazing country
Another large farm entrance had a sign by the gate with an arrow directing to “goat yard”.
The highway parallels the Darling River floodplains, which means good soil and water for some irrigation. We could tell where the river was by the line of taller trees. We were actually close to where the Darling officially starts – where the Culgoa and Barwon Rivers join, near Brewarrina.
Distant line of trees marks a river
“Beemery” seemed as we passed to be a huge property. I later Googles it and found it described as 100,000 acres. That is one very long fenceline.
The Brewarrina township looked a lot nicer than I had expected. Pre-conceived notions shot down! There were viable shops and a fair variety of them, decent housing, and the town appeared clean. Not sure why, but I was rather expecting a sad place like Wilcannia. It was bigger than I’d thought, too. We side tracked slightly to drive past the caravan park, which looked fine to me. But it was empty.
Crossed the Barwon River on a modern bridge, with the old one next to it.
The Barwon River at Brewarrina
There began to be more surface water pooled near the road. Must have been really heavy rain here.
Flood plains near Walgett
On the approach into Walgett, on the floodplains where the Namoi and Barwon Rivers join, one crosses stream beds with names like Big Warrambool – which is a local dialect word for watercourse.
We had a brief stop at the large rest area at Walgett.
Rest area at Walgett
It looked very different from our last trip, now with lots of mud and puddles.
Not suitable for free camping right now!
From Walgett up to Lightning Ridge there was much surface water in the areas beside the road. By the time we turned for the last few kms into the town, it was raining again and there was water right up to the road edges.
Roadside water on the way to Lightning Ridge
Reached town at 1.30pm. Drove straight to the Opal Tourist Park, where we were booked in for two weeks.
At the queueing area for Reception, there were a few vans in front of us. We joined the queue and waited patiently until some of the front ones had been sorted out and moved on and we were closer. No point in clogging up the office area standing around waiting for too long. Just as we moved forward, with only a couple of vans in front of us now, a camper trailer rig zipped around us, pulled up right in front of the vans, and man jumped out and actually ran to get into the office ahead of me! Clearly, he had left his manners at home. It was busy inside with the vanners ahead of me, so I waited my turn, while Mr Pushy got told there were no powered sites left, unless he had a prior booking. I smiled secretly to myself. The second receptionist became free to serve me and while Mr Pushy dithered over whether to take an unpowered site, I took great pleasure in saying my name and loudly stating that I had a booking. Petty, perhaps, but it felt good. Meanwhile, the man from the front van, who had already been processed came back in, complaining about the camper trailer that was parked across the front of his rig blocking him from moving off.
The park was very wet. Lots of red mud and puddles of water.The actual sites themselves were not too bad, because of the pebble stone surface covering.
We paid $40.50 a night, after discount, for our en suite site – the same one we were on for our last trip, which was what we’d wanted.
Set up for the long stay. Put the rubber awning matting down outside, on top of the pebbles. It would be a bit softer underfoot and also help to keep Bus cleaner inside.
I took the car and drove to the IGA supermarket in town. Needed a fair stock up.
In between showers, we took Couey for a walk across towards the undeveloped part of the park. It involved dodging mud and puddles. She, of course, really wanted to wallow in every puddle, so was kept on the lead. Occasionally she managed to make a lunge for one. She was so strong. The stock of old towels I brought with us came in really handy as dog wipes.
I made fish cakes for tea, with salad.
Football was on TV – John’s favourite team, Carlton, was playing. After a while of a very inept performance by them, John got really disgusted and wouldn’t watch more.
I had read, in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper that it is sometimes joked that Lightning Ridge has about 10 taxpayers, 15 rate payers, 30 on the State Electoral Roll, 50 on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll. The Primary School has 600 students, the Bowling Club 8000 members. The population was “probably” about 7000. I found that an interesting commentary on the nature of this place.