After leaving Tibooburra, we detoured to check out the little town of Milparinka with only a population of 12 people. Where there used to be four hotels back in the day there’s now one and this is the only business operating in the town. We spent a while wandering around the old buildings and checking out the museum telling of the Gold Rush history in the area and we also chatted with the volunteers at the visitors centre. They are travellers like ourselves who liked the idea of volunteering and stayed a while.
We left Milparinka and made our way to Packsaddle where we were to stop the night behind the pub before returning back to Broken Hill and stocking up ready to move on again.
We then heading towards Corowa, and because the borders between NSW and Victoria are still closed we can’t take the shorter route crossing and recrossing the Murray so we head to Wentworth and then Robinvale by the lake where we have stayed before. Next stop, Balranald at the free camp next to the visitor’s centre. I made good use of the free wifi there trying to sort out our Boost phone plan. Our phone plan had dropped out (a problem caused partly because of our credit card issue a few weeks previously and partly a Boost issue) We were without a phone for 3 days. Not good when you are in the Aussie outback!
Leaving Balranald, we crossed the Hay Plain which did not seem the long boring drive that we remembered when we did it many years earlier. Then we were fairly new to Australia and to driving long distances that we have come to know now. We stayed at Hay Showgrounds for a couple of nights, checking out the town, the museum in an old railway carriage and also the Shearer’s Hall of Fame. Here we learnt the history of the sheep industry in the area and watched a sheep being shorn. We chatted with the shearer about his working life which sounded really hard but which he would choose to do again given his time over.
Next stop Finley then Berrigan, more places we have visited before. We again enjoyed the steak and caramelised onion pies from the pie shop in Finley.
Leaving Berrigan, we head towards Corowa ready to celebrate our friend Colin’s 80th birthday. It was a small celebration due to the Covid restrictions. As most of Colin’s family live in Victoria they were not allowed to cross the border so the big birthday will be celebrated later when restrictions lift.
It was great to catch up with Colin and Renate, originally friends of my mum and dad from their travelling days and now considered good friends of ours.
After we left Corowa we headed to Lockhart and found a great little spot at the small but very friendly caravan park next to the river. We got to Lockhart on the Monday before Melbourne Cup day and after chatting with the three couples that we were parked near we joined in with their little group. On the Monday evening we went to the local RSL for a Chinese meal and the Calcutta Cup. This is something we had never been involved with before and found it quite an experience. People bidding on horses that were running in the Melbourne Cup the next day. There was some big money being bid on the likely horses!
Next day we headed back to the club for the Melbourne Cup lunch. A lovely lunch of pre-lunch nibbles followed by cold meats and fresh prawns with several different salads and a beautiful cheesecake with ice cream for dessert. A good feed for $22 a head.
We spent a good few days with Bev and Ian, Lu and Doug and Laurine and Morris. Thanks guys for including us and making us feel so welcome.
While in Lockhart we found another painted silo along with various sculptures around the town. We visited the museum and the highlight of this was the artwork of pictures made from the different colours of sheep’s wool. The artist was Doris Golder and so talented. These pictures have to be seen to be believed. The time and effort involved in making them so lifelike is amazing! Doris is now in her nineties and living in the local aged care facility.
From Lockhart we went to Narrandera spending a couple of nights at the free camp just out of town, seeing another painted silo and also the world’s biggest guitar at the visitor’s centre. We drove around the four wheel drive tracks of Narrandera Common wondering where we were going, then as we made our way out we parked up and walked along the river looking for the koalas high in the trees above us.
We then headed to Leeton only expecting to stay one night but ended up staying four at the Showgrounds for $17 a night. Bargain! Everyone in the town of Leeton were so friendly, it was a pleasure to be there. Free golf balls from the caretaker at the Showgrounds, coffee and biscuits at the visitor’s centre and even free cup cakes and oranges from the Op shop. At the Showgrounds we chatted with the guy training his horse for trotting and pacing. Along with his other horse we were told these were two names to look out for in the racing world. “Beau Brown” and “Dances in America” We joined in with the locals to pay our respects at the war memorial for Remembrance Day (11/11) We walked the wetlands just out of town and we had two new batteries fitted in the car.
From Leeton we went to Lake Wyangan, just outside Griffith. This is another great spot, another freebie where we were parked right beside the lake. With the other campers up behind us we felt like we had the place to ourselves except when we shared happy hours with Peter and Corrie, other campers who came to share our company and view. Next to this camp area is a large picnic and barbecue area for day use visitors and also large enclosures with a variety of birds and animals to discover. Deer, peacocks, chickens, duck and goats.
I want to mention here that although free camping does save us money, it isn’t the reason we do it. To find these little gems of places where we can appreciate the space, the scenery and the wildlife is really what it’s all about. We find our fellow travellers tend to be more friendly at these places too.
While at Griffith we stocked up from the Steggall’s Chicken farm shop and bought some farmed Murray Cod from Aquna Sustainable Murray Cod. We did the Catania Fruit Farm tour and called into the Warburn Estate Winery where we managed to spend far more than we had intended. We drove out to the scenic lookout and walked the trails of the old hermit (Valerio Ricetti) who spent many years living in the caves and overhanging rocks where he painted the walls, grew flowers, fruit and veg and had his own church. He lived there from 1929 to 1952.
Still looking for painted silos, we then head to Weethalle (pronounced we-thal-ee) then on to Grenfell for two more great examples of this impressive artwork.
All these small towns have led us now towards Booroowa and a long awaited catch-up with Emma, Graham, Josh and Ellie who we last saw in Dubbo during a quick visit in the last school holidays.
We have just spent twelve days enjoying their company. We made good use of the town pool, just over the road and watch Josh as he participated in swim club. On the first Saturday there we took Josh and Ellie to Canberra where we went bowling, Op shopping, lunch at KFC and then a visit with Graham’s brother Chris and his family who now live in Canberra. It was good to catch up with Chris and Karen and we all enjoyed watching Josh and Ellie with Deacon and Riley. Their highlight of the visit was definitely the water fight they had in the back yard. We had two tired, wet kids in the car on the way back to Booroowa.
Chris and I returned to Canberra again on the Monday to do a IKEA pick up for Emma. She is now starting a family day care and their large back room is getting a facelift with this in mind. While the kids were at school I helped Em re-cover a chair and stool and shorten four pairs of curtains. Chris put together the storage units and found other repair jobs to do. We also kept busy with our usual help of me in the laundry and Chris in the kitchen. The second Saturday of our stay we took the kids to Young where we went cherry picking. Young is known as the cherry capital of Australia and we were not disappointed. A very large bag of cherries and a tray of apricots later we were tucking into a cherry ice cream before heading to the shops.
We had food shopping to do in preparation for us leaving today (Monday) and also the kids needed to buy some secret Santa gifts ready for our early Christmas celebrations. Emma had decided to do Christmas in our honour and we had a lovely lunch before the boys went off to play golf in the afternoon. Later that evening we picked at more turkey, ham and cheeses before tucking into home made cherry pies. Yum!
Now we are saying our goodbyes and hitting the road again. As Josh and Ellie left for school this morning we then pulled out of their drive already looking forward to our next visit. We are heading towards Wallington and our friends Dennis and Christine where we will spend a few days before getting the ferry over to Tasmania for Christmas.
This will be our first Christmas on the road, (as in, not with other family members) and hopefully a good one, sharing it with other travellers. This is something we have wanted to do at least once and as the girls and their families will be with the boys family this year and we are already so close to Tasmania, (well relatively, by Australia’s standards) this is going to be the year. And yes, most of the state borders are now open! While a lot of the world is still battling Covid with lockdowns and restrictions, Australia is slowly coming out of the crisis and we are now living with the new norm. With hope, good management and self responsibility from us all, long may it last.
I may be a bit premature as it’s still November but as I finish this entry now I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone or even anyone that is reading this blog a Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Stay healthy and be good to each other.