The Rocks …

Isolated locations, slippery and uneven surfaces and the unpredictable nature of the ocean, makes rock fishing the most dangerous sport in Australia. In just eight years, between 1992 and 2000, 74 people drowned while rock fishing just in New South Wales and the numbers are consistently high right around the country.

Royal Life Saving Australia

Rock photography shares some of the same risks.

and, sadly, the very last photograph you will see from this particular camera …

The photographer escaped almost unscathed. I was fond of that camera.

The Back of Bourke …

We passed through Bourke in the north-west of New South Wales fairly late in the afternoon and took the road less traveled to Shindy’s Inn at Louth. Population 35.

Like quite a few country pubs free camping brings in the grey nomads and sustains a business that could not survive on the local population alone. Indeed, at a pinch the entire population of Louth could fit in the dining room of Shindy’s Inn.

Shindy’s Inn

The small camping area overlooks the Darling River. Should there not be room at the inn there is plenty of free camping on the opposite bank of the river but no toilets or shower and a longer walk to the pub.

The pub is up for sale. Be quick.

All roads out of Louth are impassable after heavy rain. It was a warm evening with cloud building up. The prospect of a longer stay loomed.

The morning brought brought strong winds and a dust storm. We packed quickly and headed for Cobar under a threatening sky.

heading from Louth to Cobar, NSW.
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos

A flock of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos was a welcome sight.

Rain came eventually but we’d made it to the bitumen by the time it caught up with us. Our destination was the Old School Caravan Park at Merriwagga. The hospitality here is almost embarrassingly good. Kel Fry is the man. He gets around the site on his quadri-cycle and makes sure everyone is happy.

It was cold, wet and very windy, the hotel was warm, dry and inviting. We succumbed. The wind died as the sun went down and the rain stopped soon after.

What a day … from the back of Bourke to beyond the Black Stump.

We pitched the tent after dark and it was dry in the morning.

And then we drove home.


Dry as …

The drive from home in Victoria’s Goldfields to Byron Bay and back took us through the most seriously drought affected regions of south-east Australia. Ironically, whilst on our journey the first rains in a very long time reached much of the affected area. There is something inauthentic about photographing parched country under black rain clouds. On the return journey the sun came out for a while.

The dry July has exacerbated rainfall deficiencies already being seen over much of the southeast of the mainland … deficiencies have increased in severity and spread through most of New South Wales and northern Victoria (apart from the far southeast corner near the border), southern Queensland, the eastern half of South Australia in the Agricultural and east Pastoral regions and in the southwest coast of Western Australia.          Bureau of Meteorology.

Not a lot of feed for the cattle but they are nonetheless in good shape. Testament to the hard work put in by the farmers. Same goes for the sheep …

We saw plenty of trucks loaded with hay rolling in and some loaded with stock rolling out.

Both those shots are from northern NSW. Further south we got talking to a sheep/wheat farmer. This time last year there were heads on the wheat. This year the wheat is barely a third of the height. He’d also planted a paddock with oats as a fodder crop. It has no chance of reaching a height at which he could cut it. He’s turned the sheep on it to reduce the work load of hand feeding. Fortunately he doesn’t have to cart water because he has a bore on his property. He was cheerful. He’d done quite well last year and the occasional drought is a fact of life.

He’d had a heart attack and triple bypass last year. He was cheerful about that as well. The air ambulance ride to Sydney was his first time on a plane.

They’re as tough as nails out here.

Thallon …

If you turn right out of Nindigully on National route 46 Thallon is less than 34km away. You’ll know when you’re close …

Thallon silos, Qld.

The silos face east, so morning is a good time to photograph them. You can see from the long shadows that I’d made an early start.

This work really is a splendid piece. The artists were Travis Vinson and Joel Fergie who took inspiration from the work of three local photographers and discussions with local people.

Thallon silos

The scar tree and view of the Moonie River is based on a photographs by Lila Brosnan, the Pale-headed Rosellas on a photograph by Gary Petrie and the sheep Chantel McAlister.

detail – Pale-headed Rosellas after Gary Petrie
detail – after a photo by Chantel McAlister

The silos are very much in use and Grain Corp would be grateful if you stayed in the designated viewing area so as not to be flattened by a truck.

Camping is available at the site and is of a very acceptable standard. The Moonie River is not far away and apparently there is a very large wombat in the park in town.

Nindigully …

There are some outback pubs with a lot of charm. Queensland holds three of my absolute favorites, the Royal Mail at Hungerford, The Lions Den at Helenvale north of the Daintree and the Noccundra Hotel not far from Nockatunga. Now I have to add a fourth the Nindigully Hotel.

Set on the banks of the Moonie River the Nindigully Hotel has held its licence since 1864 and is said to be the oldest continuously licensed pub in the state. Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century it was a Cobb & Co staging post. These days the adjacent town has a population of just six. The night I was there the restaurant was doing a roaring trade. When the diners and drinkers had finished most of them walked a few yards to their caravans, the camp site is right outside the door and it’s free. And in the daylight it’s a very pretty spot.

The fishing is reputed to be very good. Yellowbelly and Murray Cod are there for the catching. No licence is required.

Moonie River at Nindigully
Moonie River at Nindigully

There’s service …

and there’s service.

Our last stop before leaving Byron Bay was Singhs Tyre Service. You may recall that we blew a tyre on the way up. That was approaching Condobolin just south-west of the geographic centre of New South Wales. It was a Saturday morning. In the olden days every little town had its blacksmith, these days it has a tyre service. In Condobolin they have the Central West Tyre Service. They close at noon on Saturdays … or they knock off early if they feel like it and on that day they clearly felt like it. They do have an emergency number should you need it. We rang it, discussed our needs and were told to come back Monday morning.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, driving without a spare but we made it to Byron where our first priority was fixing that little gap in our confidence. Sadly the tyre was stuffed. The spare that we’d put on was also at the end of its useful life and a look at the other three led us to the conclusion that this horse needed five new shoes.

The FJ Cruiser doesn’t have a particularly popular wheel size, there were no suitable tyres on hand. No problem we will get them in. Our stay would be just two more nights. No problem, we will get them in urgently. In the meantime they lent us a brand new Micky Thompson mud terrain for a spare. We all hoped it would never touch the bitumen but if it had to it had to. They were comfortable with that.

So there we were, first thing in the morning, making that all important decision. Should the white writing on the B F Goodrich all terrains be in or out. It’s a 4WD myth that having the white out increases the risk of a puncture but gee it looks snappy.

Quickly and efficiently, Singh’s recovered their tyre and fitted ours, washed our wheels and we drove off looking very very snappy indeed.

Moral of the story … Singhs Tyre Service in Byron Bay does offer service. You can find them at 1 Jonson Street, 02 6685 7696.

If you find yourself needing service in Condobolin tough luck.

Destination Nindigully, Queensland and almost immediately we were driving through country that was tinder dry and ready to burn …