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.
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.
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.
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 …
Captain James Cook was the first tourist here and he started quite a trend. He could hardly miss the most easterly point of the mainland which he named after John Byron a mariner of note (and the grandfather of the overrated poet). Early European settlers developed serious pursuits such as timber getting and gold mining but these days it’s all about hedonism, sun-worship, yoga, coffee any style and very expensive houses. There are little pockets of residual rainforest and extensive areas of heath dominated by Banksias.
It is very different from the country on the inland side of the ranges.
It was dark and raining when we drove into town. We were hoping to camp at the Primitive Camp Site just out of town. It’s free, has a toilet block and made camp sites spaced around it. It was full and a quagmire. The suggested alternative was the sports ground. The locals were having a party there to celebrate the rain, a very raucous party.
We camped instead on the banks of the Barwon River. When we woke up we could still hear the party going strong. Our campsite was bathed in mist.
The expedition from north central Victoria to far north Queensland was some time in the making.
The lovely Gayle* would accompany me up, we would pick up Mark* in Townsville. Gayle would part with us in Cairns. Mark and I would return south via Birdsville in the far south west of Queensland. The trip was designed to take in the best of Australia’s tropical rainforest and the driest of desert.
The Toyota Prado was freshly serviced and fuelled up. The first day was intended to be a big step over all places close and familiar. Across the Murray River at Echuca, north east to the Kidman Way then north to Gundabooka National Park not far from Bourke in New South Wales, a little over 900km.
Not far from Echuca the fuel system warning light fired up! We’d hardly started. Out came the iPad, Toyota dealers … yes. We were on the doorstep when Toyota Echuca opened. They had replaced the fuel filter and reset the alarm within 30 minutes. That was the only mechanical problem we would have to face. Gotta love Toyota.
We made it to Gundabooka in daylight, set up our camp and had time for an evening walk. On this occasion it was to serve only as a stopover but it is a worthy destination in its own right. The park is mostly dry woodland with some rocky outcrops, hills and a gorge. The area is of great significance to the Ngemba aboriginal people and there are paintings at a rock shelter that can be visited.