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A 620 km “Spur of the Moment” Decision

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After writing yesterday’s blog post, and saying that we’d be here for another two days, we got to talking over a lovely breakfast overlooking the river and we decided there was no real point in stopping for two or three days at these places when we could make for a destination that we were aiming for and then stay there.

We decided to make for Hay knowing that it was over 600km away from Mendooran.

It was 10:30am when we made that decision and by 11:00am we were once again on the road and heading south along the Mendooran Road through the Goonoo Forest.

Although this is classed as a “minor road” it was remarkably good and there was almost no other traffic.

We passed huge collections of beehives set amongst the Cootamundra Wattle, the largest amount of beehives we’ve ever seen.

Boy this is a spectacular country!

Along each kilometre of road is something new, from the ramshackle old farmhouses, long abandoned, to the pristine pastures of superbly managed farms. Dense forests and wide open spaces give way to spectacular valleys at the bottom of bush covered ranges.

Tiny settlements that don’t even warrant a name on the map occasional cause the mind to ponder on what may have once been.

Arriving at Brocklehurst we again hit the Newell Highway. Passing through the busy town of Dubbo we happened on a caravan park with an exceptionally high fence with barbed wire around it. We couldn’t help wondering why.

Long straight roads took us past a mass of hang gliders circling and riding on the air currents. There must have been a couple of hundred of them.

After stopping at Tomingley for a late lunch we headed on past Peak Hill and the tiny community of Alectown with its tiny cottages, and then to Parkes which was packed to overflowing with the annual Elvis Festival which attracted Elvis lookalikes from all over the country. We didn’t stop to enjoy the street performances and partake of the merriment as many kilometres still lay ahead of us.

Into Forbes for fuel and an ice cream and a quick drive around the main centre which was exploding with colour from thousands of red and pink roses planted in a magnificent array throughout the towns streets.

After passing through West Wyalong we were onto the Mid Western Highway and travelling through grain country. Vast grain fields, mostly recently harvested, produced the endless acres of gold sprouting from red soil that is the hallmark colour of the country. The country was noticeably flattening out now with fewer hills and straight roads with few bends. Tiny settlements, some abandoned others with inhabitants, would appear in the windscreen seemingly out of nowhere and disappear in the rear view mirror just as quickly. What do these people do? What did the original builders of these little settlements do? What made them come here and what made them leave.

It’s so tempting to search out a live soul and ask but there are so many of these little settlements time just doesn’t permit it. We’re sure that every building, every collapsed farm shed, every windmill that has long stopped pumping water has a story worthy of the telling.

The little town of Weethalle was our stop for a coffee and crackers. We were transfixed by the old shops and building, long closed and boarded up. Our eyes saw the empty street and the deserted buildings but our minds saw the town through the eyes of yesteryear when the little station, now trying to survive selling crafts and coffee, was bustling with people catching the train which probably would have hauled the grain from the area.

The long closed hardware, supermarket and newsagency store, built in 1929, was the result of someone’s vision of the town, then large enough to warrant the sizeable investment.

Weethalles deserted street

Weethalles deserted street

The very few locals were super friendly and we could not help but be fascinated by this place.

The town of Erigolia passed. It is without a single house. Only a grain silo marks its existence.

Highway from Erigolia

Highway from Erigolia

The town of Rankins Springs was larger, fascinating in its isolation with its empty caravan park and patronless motel. The pub was open and quite active and the massive grain silos, the central point of the town, gave hint to the reason for its existence.

Here we needed to get rid of our fruit as were entering the Riverina Fruit Fly exclusion zone and there are on the spot fines for carrying fruit.

We stopped and fired up the generator and juiced a bag of oranges and some tomatoes.

Parked at the same spot was most unusual sight. An old motor home towing a curious trailer made us enquire as to the inhabitants. We met Frank the Chook Man who was on his way to Tamworth to busk and do some performances. Frank plays the guitar and sings and performs with a huge rooster.
The rooster, (and a few hens to “keep him happy”), were housed in the trailer behind the motor home. Somebody is apparently making a film about this unusual character, who also has the strangest houseboat moored at Paringa near Rankin.

Frank The Chookman

Frank The Chookman

Only two tiny towns lay on the next 164 km of now perfectly straight road, which didn’t bend for nearly 80 kilometres.

If the settlement of Goolgowi was a little further west it could fairly be described as being ‘beyond the black stump’ (an expression used to describe incredible isolation) because nearby is Merriwagga which claims to be the home of the Black Stump.

Another 32 km west along this vast Mid Western Highway is Gunbar, said to be an Aboriginal word meaning place of plentiful meat. Once a thriving township based on income derived from Cobb& Co. passengers and local station owners Gunbar is a ghost town today with only a corrugated iron hall, separate corrugated iron men’s and ladies dunnies and an old once grand church to show evidence of human occupation.

The vastness of the plains was absolutely awe inspiring.

These are the flattest plains on earth and stretch to the horizon without a hill or a house and only the occasional tree to interrupt the view to the horizon. It is so flat that the curvature of the earth is plainly visible in the distance.

Home, home on the range?

Home, home on the range?

We simply had to stop as the sun closed in toward the horizon creating a scene of vibrant colours blending into an almost exact replica of the Aboriginal flag. The silence was overwhelming and the sense of isolation strangely invigorating.

An unbending highway through vast flat open plains

An unbending highway through vast flat open plains

 

We can only look on in awe

We can only look on in awe

Can anything match the colour of theses sunsets?

Can anything match the colour of theses sunsets?

Wow!!!!

Wow!!!!

Going, going...

Going, going…

Gone!

Gone!

We finally arrived in Hay at about 9:30pm and after a burger from the local takeaway, headed to the Sandy Point Reserve a free camping spot right on the Murrumbidgee River. We simply parked, hopped into the van, showered and jumped into bed with the now cold night contributing to a sound and peaceful sleep.

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