The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

09 January, 2015

The Kidman Way

From Hay we travelled to Goolgowi to travel a section of The Kidmay Way which took us  to Bourke.  The Kidman Way transverses from Jerilderie north to Baringun on the NSW/Qld Border.  Our first stop was Merriwagga home of the Black Stump Hotel where I had anticipated partaking of my first beer for 2015.  On arrival we were disappointed to find that the Pub was not due to open for another couple of hours and the only life present was lone figure drinking strong coffee on the veranda.  After chatting and finding out how the New Year's Eve celebrations went, in a croaky voice which indicated the night's celebrations were pretty good, he offered to show us inside the Pub to see the tallest bar in Australia.  Hels caused a traffic jam in the main street by chatting to the local caravan park owner who was heading to Hillston for a picnic lunch on the man-made lake.  He and his partner just stopped the car in the middle of the road getting out leaving both doors open to have a chat, as you do!

Hels stopping traffic in the sreet for a chat ....... well, they actually stopped to tell us the pub was not open!

Really not much point in putting money in the meter if the pub is not open!

In Merriwagga there is The Black Stump Memorial and tells the gruesome tale that gave Black Stump Country its name.  A bullocky passing through in 1886 left his wife to make camp for the night while he tended to the cattle.  The day was hot, windy and dusty, and while his wife prepared the evening meal, the camp fire raged and she was burnt to death.  When people expressed their sympathy, the bullocky simply said "When I returned, my wife was dead, she looked just like a black stump." And so the Black Stump Legend was born.   The town also has a Ron Clarke sculpture dedicated to the hardships endured by the pioneers when settling the land.

Tallest bar in Australia

I couldn't touch the floor ...... wouldn't like to fall off these chairs

Hillston Lake

Called into Hillston and had lunch at the man-made lake where we watched water skiing.  Apparently the lake is drained after summer for irrigation purposes.  As the temperature was soaring into the 40's our aim was to get to Billabourie Riverside Tourist Park (approx 35kms from Hillston) on the Lachlan River.

Caravan at the entrance to Billabourie

The 10km drive from the Highway on the dirt track took us to the Station which offers the Park.  Billabourie has been owned by the Parr family since 1953 and is a mixed farm with an area of 2600acres.  It grows winter cereal crops which includes wheat, oats, barley and they also breed Hereford cattle. This is a little oasis offering  bush camping on the banks of the River with the option of power, which was greatly appreciated for cooling as the next two days recorded temperatures of 47 & 44 degrees!  The new amenities offer flushing toilets and showers and we will definitely revisit.  Fishing is very popular and a few people have caught good size Murray Cod - I  even decided to get the rod out and even jagged a couple of carp!

Camped on the banks of the Lachlan River

Hels found a shady tree on a 47 deg day

I was trying my luck at fishing ....... put the rod down to get a drink and caught a carp which Hels wants to clam as she reeled it in.

Another hunter, he doesn't need a fishing rod.

Some gala's getting a drink on a hot day

After 3 nights we departed Billabourie and headed north to Cobar another 200kms.  Still travelling on The Kidman Way our next stop was Mt Hope - population 10 (which I think was an exaggeration!).  As the Pub (the main attraction) was not opened we had our coffee and continued on.

Mt Hope Pub

Again in Cobar we opted to stay in a Caravan Park to take advantage of the power for air conditioning!  Visited the Cobar Heritage Centre (built in 1912 as the Administration Building for the Great Cobar Copper Mine) where we picked up information about what to see and do around Cobar.  With information in hand we proceeded to drive around the heritage walk (as the day was hot as) taking in the historical architecture which gave an appreciation of the mining town.  Also drove out to Fort Bourke Lookout and Open Cut Gold Mine, visited the old Reservoir where we watched water skiing  (looked like they were skiing on red mud!).  Cobar has a manned weather station and we were able to take a short guided tour of the station and watch a weather balloon being launched which was very different to what we had witnessed many years ago at Giles Weather Station where the balloon was released manually.  In Cobar today, the release is done mechanically.

Water skiing on the old reservoir

The Great Cobar Heritage Centre

Releasing the weather balloon, check carefully on the horizon

St Laurence O'Toole Catholic Church built 1907 and the Sisters of Mercy established the convent on the LHS 

Rick the Miner in the Miners heritage Park

Great Western Hotel took 3 years to complete in 1898 and with a length of 100 meters its acclaimed to be the longest iron-lace verandah in the southern hemisphere

The main street also has the biggest beer can

Certainly not much to see between Cobar and Bourke another 161km to the north.  Arriving in Bourke we drove out to Kidman Camp which is situated in North Bourke and is a real oasis in this hot dry country with tropical palms, lush green lawns and the humidity on the day reminded us a lot of the tropics.  With 2 swimming pools which we frequently visited over the next couple of days, our stay was truly enjoyable.  Bourke has a great Tourist Information & Exhibition Centre where we picked up the Back O'Bourke Mud Map Tours and selected the mud map tours which interested us the most.  These included:
Forte Bourke
  • Fort Bourke Stockade - 15kms out of town,  Major Thomas Mitchell and his 21 men completed the Forte Bourke stockade in 1835 as a place of defense and security against possible aboriginal attack.  This was be the defense for seven men who would remain there while the others explored downstream.
    Lock and Weir
  • Historical Loch and Weir - built in 1897 and is the only one of its kind built on the Darling River
  • Town Wharf (is a replica wharf) - originally there were 3 wharfs at this site built in 1898.  All wharfs had steam cranes to load and unload cargo.
    Crossley Engine - fully restored 1923 vintage Crossley oil fuelled stationary engine, manufactured in Manchester England
  • May's Bend - another 15kms out of town.  We were originally going to stay at this free camp but due to the weather conditions were quite glad we didn't.
  • Historical Buildings of "Old Bourke" - this mud map guided us around town to look at some of the remaining buildings which are part of Bourke's history.
    Western Herald first known as the "The Central Australian" established in 1868  and Bourke's first paper.

    The London Bank built in 1888 and is the last surviving example of Victoriana business, the bank closed in 1890's

    North Bourke Bridge built 1883 across the Darling River
  • Bourke's Historical Cemetery - this was worth a walk through.  The cemetery predates the town and has been the scene for two of Australia's famous funerals. In 1892 Henery Lawson joined in a procession following a coffin of an unknown young stockman.  This even is said to have been captured by Lawson in what became his best story; "The Union Buries It's Dead" a tail from the western frontier.
    Aboriginals have placed large boulders around Fred Hollows grave in the shape of an eye, his grave is a massive rock (polished) forming the pupil. The Hollows Family invite visitors to touch and feel the rock, to climb on it, or sit peacefully and contemplate life.

    Fred Hollows monument 
  • In 1993 Professor Fred Hollows, the eye surgeon known worldwide for his determination to restore the sight of people going needlessly blind, was buried in Bourke.  His motto "that all the world may see" . A team of International Sculptors carved the stone monument.  The motif symbolizes the ongoing work of this inspirational surgeon. The sculpture is a fitting tribute to Fred capturing the many aspects of personality, particularly his love of nature, the outdoors and climbing.
  • We also had a tour of the regions Indigenous Radio Station 2CUZ FM. Our guide was very informative and keen to show us through - unfortunately the local announcer was not available as there was a funeral in town that day.

As it was my birthday while in Bourke we visited the Diggers on Darling restaurant for nice strong coffee in the morning and an evening meal of Wild caught Barra, yum.

It was here we left The Kidman Way and headed east to Lightning Ridge.  The Kidman Way does continue further north another 132 km to Barrigun on the Qld/NSW border but that will have to wait until next time.


Don Boucaut said...

Plan to do the Kidman Way this year

Geoff n Hels said...

Hi Don, It's a good drive lots of interest on the way, would be better when a little cooler as you can free camp more, we tended to use the a/c more than normal. Enjoy your trip, Geoff