Following the Big Wet - 2011 Trip – Part 3: Goobang National Park to Bourke

Sunday, Oct 02, 2011 at 18:02


We woke to light showers next morning and reports of extensive wind damage over much of the state. Time to head west. We headed for Narromine and stopped at the “I” centre. It was then that we noticed that one of the trailer tyres was almost flat with a big chunk of tread missing. Not wanting to be reduced to just one spare we found a tyre place and got a replacement tyre. Seems our luck is holding with mishaps – helped along by frequent checking.

After a bit of shopping we set off for Warren across country that was now quite flat, with trees lining the watercourses. The roadsides are white with cotton, and we passed some big cotton gins with huge stockpiles of baled cotton. This is irrigation country, and cotton is a major crop here. There are also some big grain storages and we were surprised to see that many of the grain bunkers from last year’s crop are still full.

The Warren Weir was our destination, about 5kms east of the town. We were delighted to find a green grassy area surrounded by big trees with the sound of water rushing over the weir – and no-one else there. There was no toilet, and no water either, despite many visible taps, but neither of those was a problem. We got a fire going using our own BBQ – the big BBQs provided looked as if they would require a mountain of wood to work – and pretty soon a delicious aroma of lamb was making us hungry.

Next morning was very cold with frost on the ground, but at least the sky was clear and the wind had dropped. Also we are starting to get into our camping routine, and our pack-up was quick and easy.

Back in Warren we refuelled and took the road that runs up the western side of the Macquarie Marshes. The country is mostly flat and greyish with dry grass. We explored a few side tracks. One took us past a number of farms down to the Macquarie River, a typical muddy watercourse with high, steep banks but lined with beautiful river red gums. The smell wafting from the carcasses of a couple of feral pigs moved us on from that spot. Another track went into a nature reserve where there were many kangaroos and emus and a few waterbirds on a creek. We turned east onto the Quambone road and just past Willie Retreat we found some of the kind of wetland that we see on TV when there is a news item covering this part of the state. There was shallow water over the road and either side were reeds over 2 meters tall surrounding open patches of water. There were plenty of waterbirds there too, as we could hear all manner of calls, but the reeds gave such good cover that few birds could actually be seen. We were only now realising that most of these wetland areas are not accessible by the public, and this is probably as much as we will see.

Continuing east we passed through some wooded areas heading for a bird hide. Unfortunately the drought had taken a real toll there. Most of the reeds had gone and many of the trees had died, so there weren’t many birds there either.

We headed back to Willie Retreat and on the way Val, aided by Troopy, collected a half grown feral pig when a group of 3 or 4 pigs shot out from thick roadside clover that was giving them a tasty treat. Now we have heard that some folk regard road kill as good tucker, and we had to admit this fellow looked pretty succulent – nevertheless we decided to pass up this opportunity.

Back at Willie Retreat we met Myra who owns and runs the property and caters for guests from many countries who come to see and study the wetlands. There were only a couple of other campers in the campground so we chose a site and settled in. Myra came over with a sheaf of brochures including bird lists and other great information about the area and we had a good chat. We also met the 75th kangaroo that she has hand reared. He was about half grown and not afraid to stand up to us so we treated him with a bit of caution.

The night and following morning were very cold with frost on the vehicles. We spent quite a while chatting to neighbours and Myra, so it was close to midday before we were back on the road heading for Brewarrina on the Barwon River.

At the 4 Mile Camp just east ofBrewarrina there were already about 10 vans in residence. After we had set up we walked along the river and realised that we could have driven further in and had a more private camp. The downside was that the ground adjoining the river was densely covered with Noogoora Burr with seed pods covered in Velcro like hooks that stuck to everything. As it was we enjoyed the company of the caravanners around a big log fire and listened to the big pumps of the neighbouring cotton farm as they pumped water from the river all night. There was also a group there making a DVD about the area surrounding the Darling River.

It was interesting talking to this group of caravanning folk and we became more aware that caravaners seem to have a different approach to travelling. We tend to travel most days and would find the idea of doing nothing pretty novel. Whereas this group had to kill some time by staying put for a few days as they were all going on to a country music festival the following week. One lady who was on her first trip confessed that she found it hard to do nothing all day – she had previously run a big sheep and cattle property so was used to keeping busy.

After another cold but sunny morning we went into Brewarrina for a few grocery items then went to the weir and aboriginal fish traps. These fish traps are a clever arrangement of stones that allow fish to be herded into a maze like set of small channels from which they can’t escape. They obviously work, judging by the large number of water birds – ibis, egrets, cormorants - in that part of the river. The age of the traps is unknown but they were able to help support a large population of people as the area was used as a meeting ground for a number of tribal groups.

From there we headed for Bourke along a good sealed road that took us through flat and often heavily timbered country. We saw plenty of emus again and here and there, big cotton growing properties. We didn’t spend much time in Bourke, but did have another quick look at the old wharf and steam engine, and also Fred Hollow’s grave marked by a big polished black granite boulder. Then we set out for the Gunbabooka National Park.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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