5 July continued.
The tour of Coonamble Nakadoo Farm's shed was very interesting. Lots of old bits and pieces from around the area. A set of the old chains and links used as a measurement years and years ago caught my eye. Camo tested the shackles, chain and heavy weight around his ankles, he thought he could escape no worries, we all thought otherwise, a set of these for home and a muffler would be good!.
We learnt that the dry sandy river beds in the area were normal, even when it did rain; below the sand is a water course. That explains why there were nicely established, healthy looking trees lining the creeks.
Camo and a Dorpa sheep played chase. The sheep bounced, launching from all four paws at the one time, she was very funny to watch. The boys were in their element when the station owner took them for a tour of their property in his new Polaris buggy; although Lachlan was disappointed as he would have liked to drive it.
The owner's told us that they had recently had to sell their last remaining rodeo bulls and a few cattle, as the feed costs couldn't be sustained; they were paying $5,000 a week.
Continuing north, we only had approx. 200 kms of driving today. Half way was the town of Walgett, where there was an artesian bath, filled with 40° that is flowing from below the surface. We all had a nice swim.
Lightening Ridge is tonight's destination. There's a working farm called Carinya just east of the town, were they allow a minimal number of self-contained campers to stay and contribute some work/chores on the station in return for your camping there. They have a minimum 2 night stay requirement, so people get to experience the farm, not fly in and out.
On the farm there are sheep, pigs, 300 plus chickens, some working dogs, a couple of Alpaca's and a roaming sheep called Lambert, who thinks she is human. The station and surrounds are in significant drought. There's no feed at all for the animals, all need to be hand fed, and therefore their animal's levels are very low.
Inside the sheering shed are the daily chores list and the wish list. In addition to some daily chores, we've offered our building/renovating skills to tackle some projects on their wish list.
We spend the afternoon exploring around Lightening Ridge. There's what they call "car door tours", one red, others blue, green and yellow. They are self-drive tours, with car doors painted and numbered, instead of sign posts. They take you on an exploration on the outer skirts of the town, around peoples shacks they live in, some are more fancy, there's a couple of houses built of bottles, others out of the old ring pull beer cans. One castle built of scoria type rocks. Lots and lots of opal mines, rubble and old disused shafts around. It is somewhat similar to Cooper Pedy, however, there's more to see above the ground.
We visit the art gallery of John Murray, we all enjoy his sense of humour in his art and his attention to detail.
We enjoyed the evening around the communal fire pit. There are some returned guests who camp here for weeks to months at a time to help out; they are welcoming to newcomers, which is often not the case.
There was a little market in town to explore; the boys got some cheap DVD's that will keep them entertained during the drives, whilst Brad and I relish the piece. We try to limit their exposure to the DVD's and Ipads, they need to do their Maths and English and diaries first, then they can watch their DVD's, but we get them to stop watching whilst we go through towns. There are no gadgets once we are stopped, and that's never a problem.
We plunge ourselves into the artesian bath again, then back to Carinya to do some work. They've asked us to build some shelving to finish off the chook egg washing station. We are advised to take a stroll thru "Mitre 11" their road of recycled pretty much everything; it lines both sides of the road. We found some old timber and the remains of an old upright freezer became another bench and further shelving. We felt the freezer lying on its side beside the sink was fitting, as someone else prior had used the door of the freezer as the bench top that they had cut the sink into. What people do with limited resources, money and a bit of imagination! This will help the station owners, as they will now be able to wash the 300 odd eggs they collect each day (and sell to local café's) beside the chicken pens, as opposed to carting them up to the house to wash.
We also helped with some of the moving of the sheep around their pens. That was very dusty work. The boys took the working dogs for more walks.
Tonight for dinner, we experimented and cooked premade pizza's on the camp fire. Placing them on a metal grate, sitting on the edge of the long rectangular fire pit. We put some coals underneath; the bottoms cooked, but struggling on the top. We lined the top with foil and threw some coals over the top, it only took minutes to finish cooking them off. The boys enjoyed eating the bits stuck to the foil. The pizzas were a hit. By the reaction of the caretakers and the long term campers there, pizza will be on the menu for them one day soon.
After dinner, we went for another bath at the artesian bath. We decided to only go in the smaller of the 2 pools, the water runs from the larger pool, it's slightly cooler pool, but still very hot, 4-5 minutes was all we could be in before needing to get out and cool down.
We said goodbye to Carinya station and those we had socialised with. The boys took sox and red dog (their favourite pups) for one last walk. They are looking to rehome these 12 month old kelpie pups, the boys are hopeful they could become ours and friends for our existing dog Lilly, asking if we can return home via this way. Brad and I don't' think so, but, the better behaved children we've had in the last 24 hours is worth entertaining the idea…
One last swim in the artesian baths, a few km's north from Lightening Ridge, we cross over into Queensland.
As we continued north, coming close to St George the barren dessert like planes gave way to lush green pastures and green crops. Again, we are seeing such a vast difference in topography in a few hundred kilometres.
The township of St George sits on the Balonne River, its well below its peak water levels, but looks picturesque and healthy. The boys wanted to go for a ski!
We set up camp for the night in Surat, at the Surat Fisherman's Club, a donation camp on the river. It was very full with lots of grey nomads, but still lots of room and peaceful. Unlike, the east or west coasts, you don't see backpackers and whizz bangers touring this part of the country.
Unfortunately, the fish eluded the kids again…
After an hour's drive we arrived in Roma. The cattle auctions were on. We were able to observe from the cleaner surfaces of raised walking / viewing platforms, enabling a clear view of all the action below on the ground floor below were the cattle were in their many pens and the buyers walk ways. The auctioneers' were almost impossible to understand, talking so fast.
I started chatting to an older chap who turned out to be a bull breeder and a retired agriculture teacher. He was happy to have a chat and share his vast array of knowledge. He informed us that the cattle sold today (a mix of Angus and Hereford breeds) needed around 5-6 months of fattening up, before their final step. As a result of the drought, the cattle prices are very low; today's prices were around 2.80 to 2.90's per kg. He said when the rains come, the cattle prices will turn around, farmers won't want to sell, and then watch meat prices rise. He also said that across Austrlia, there's a shortage of females, for some reason many have been killed, so it could be a problem for farmers to rebuild their stocks.
He said that part of his teaching was to take students to the cattle yards, so the students could learn to become buyers agents, purchasing cattle on behalf of their client, commonly paid a fee of $2.50 a head, he said they could make good money. He said part of the skill was being able to guess the weight of the cattle. He guided us towards this, we followed a pen of 13 steers to the weigh bridge, he was a little off with his estimate. These cattle were sold off at $2.88 per kilo (288.20), their average weight was 240kg, the whole pen sold for $693.90.
Tonight we find a secluded bush camp of the side of the road, with the rugged Carnarvon Gorge ranges in the back drop. We have to be careful to avoid the monster bindy shrubs that grow there.
We enjoy a night around the campfire and for once, we have the whole area to ourselves, we are most surprised.
We arrive early into Carnarvon Gorge National Park this morning. We were only able to secure one night in the Takarakka Bush Resort, just outside the National park, so we need to make the most of the day. As we do a quick caravan drop, we experience our first sub-tropical rain, a quick, loud burst of noise and rain, and then it was gone.
Carnarvon Gorge has vast sandstone cliffs, with rainforests and trickling creeks.
It's a 2.8km walk into the gorge, then as you continue further on, the individual walks divert off. We explored into the Moss Garden, the Amphitheatre, Ward's Canyon and the Art Gallery. The pictures, don't do it justice. In all we walked approx. 16kms today.
On dusk we went in search of the platypus that can be found on the river that runs beside camp, unfortunately, they did not want to be seen tonight.