Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 21 — Tuesday, 16th August, 2011 — Nyngan, NSW, to Gladesville & Woonona, NSW
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Someone I know (you know who you are) always used to end their primary school essays that way. But that is indeed the way we felt when we finally rolled into Matt’s street in Gladesville about 5:30pm today (well, Tuesday, as I am writing this a bit later) after twenty-one days on the road.
The journey today of a little over 600 km* was by no means our longest but was by far the most exhausting — probably because of the horrendous Sydney traffic. It is far more demanding to drive a couple of kilometres in Sydney traffic than to drive a hundred times that distance in the outback.
We said farewell to Yvonne and Collin about 9:15am but drove through the shopping precinct of Nyngan and found the petrol station reputedly cheaper than anyone else in town, refilled our tank and cleaned our windscreen. Then it was time to hit the road, getting away about 9:30am.
* 600 km is about 370 miles.
This is the main street of Nyngan (though not in the shopping area which is about where the most distant vehicle is). Nyngan is very much in Australia’s arid zone (average annual rainfall of around 400 mm*) and is often well below that average. But it has tree-lined streets, a swimming pool and, as I said yesterday, a well-developed sense of local pride. Perhaps it is because of family connections, but I always enjoy visiting Nyngan.
* 400 mm is about 17 inches.
Still the road goes on and on . . . and on.
This is somewhere between Nyngan and Nevertire on the Mitchell Highway. Nevertire is an odd little village where the Oxley Highway leaves the Mitchell Highway to wend its way in a north-easterly direction all the way to the coast at Port Macquarie. We continue on the Mitchell.
Nevertire is also the rail junction where the branch line to Warren swings away from the dead straight (at least at this point) line between Dubbo and Cobar. Nevertire has a population of a little over 300 and both the school and the railway station have closed in recent years. It always seems to the passing traveller to be quite dead.
Whilst the railway station may have closed, the railway line has not. It is no longer operated by the NSW State Rail Authority but by the National Rail Corporation and all the traffic on it now is operated either by the mining companies or by GrainCorp.
When I was a child, it was considered that the country west of about Narromine was unsuitable for grain crops because of the low rainfall. Today, with the development of hardier strains of wheat and other grains and improved farming techniques, wheat is grown even further west than Nyngan and other crops have also moved into the area.
This is a crop of canola between Nevertire and the next small town, Trangie. Canola is a cultivar of rapeseed, sometimes known as field mustard. In this country (and perhaps in others as well) it is mostly used in the production of margarine and other vegetable oil products.
Trangie, where the highway crosses the railway line briefly to go through the town and then crosses back again, is a small farming community of about 860 people. There is a nearby Department of Agriculture Research Station and the hinterland includes the famous Haddon Rig Merino Stud Farm as well as many other sheep farms.
This is also cotton country and I snapped this picture as we drove past a major cotton storage area a few kilometres after we left the town of Trangie. Note the cotton debris on the roadside again — much as we saw on Day 2 just north of Moree. You can see the land is still very flat.
When we reached the town of Narromine, however, hills began to appear and the road no longer went in straight lines for great distances.
Narromine is a town of about 3,500 people on the banks of the Macquarie River and supports a farming community based on the production of citrus fruits but also on other farming activities. It is also well-known as a centre for gliding and the Narromine Airport, whilst not featuring large in the tourism stakes, is a busy centre for gliding.
Narromine is only about 40 km* from the major regional city of Dubbo and, as one approaches Dubbo from the west, one does so over the crest of a hill from which I snapped this photo.
Dubbo has over 30,000 people and serves a region of many more than that. It sits at the junction of the Mitchell Highway (from South-central Queensland through Bourke in western NSW to Bathurst), the Newell Highway (the main road link between Melbourne and Brisbane) and the Golden Highway (which runs from Dubbo to the Hunter Valley near Singleton). It is a major shopping town and has several government offices. Dubbo is also home to the Western Plains Zoo, a subsidiary of the famed Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
* 40 km is about 25 miles.
From Dubbo our journey turns more to the south and, some 50 km* further on we entered that part of the Macquarie River valley known as the Wellington Valley. As you can see from this photo, it has gently rolling hills and is good faming country. Wellington, where we stopped for a coffee break, is a pleasant township of about 4,500 people and I have always enjoyed driving through it.
* 50 km is a little over 30 miles.
We timed our arrival in Orange perfectly, just in time for lunch with my Brother, Jim, and his wife, Kerry, who have lived in Orange for many decades (Kerry all her life). My third brother, Bill (also known as LeRoy), whose home is in Nyngan, was working in the Orange area today (he works for Telstra, the major Australian telecommunications company) and so I was able to see him as well at Kerry and Jim’s place — all three of my brothers and both of my sisters-in-law on the one day — wow!
Like Dubbo, Orange is a major regional city. It has direct road, rail and air links with other major centres and a whole variety of farming activities, from fat lambs to viticulture to horticulture in the neigbourhood.
The next city on our journey is Bathurst, the oldest inland settlement in Australia with a population of about 29,000 people. We have been following the Macquarie River valley virtually since we left Nyngan and Bathurst is near the headwaters of the Macquarie.
It is a very pleasant little city with many links to Australia’s historical past. The World War II Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, was born here and worked as a railway engine-driver here. There is now a museum in what was his home. Gold was first discovered in Australia near Bathurst and the nearby village of Hill End featured large in the Australian gold story.
We didn’t stay long in Bathurst but pressed on towards Lithgow.
We lived in Lithgow for five years from 1975 to 1979 when I was minister, first of the Lithgow Methodist Circuit and then (after church union) one of the two ministers of the Lithgow Uniting Church Parish. My younger son, Sean (whom we visited in Darwin, of course) was born in Lithgow. You can be sure that Matt and I diverted a little from the highway so that we could drive past the house in Rifle Parade where we lived.
This is not that house! This is a historic house in Lithgow and, fairly obviously, I lifted this photo from elsewhere. After all, I was driving and it is difficult to take my own photos when doing so. But you deserve some sort of photo.
From there it was a matter of joining the increasingly heavy traffic through the rest of the Blue Mountains down into the greater Sydney basin, along the M4 Motorway to Homebush, then through the streets of Rhodes, Ryde and Gladesville to reach Matt’s home at last. Whew!
We unloaded the car, sorted out who owns what, and then went to a local Thai restuarant for a delightful evening meal before I drove home to Woonona. The windscreen wipers had still not been used, even once, on the whole trip, though by the time I had unloaded my car at Woonona, it was covered in raindrops.
The car suffered only two minor injuries. The first was on the evening of Day 0 at Matt’s place when I managed in the dark to back it into a little low garden wall (painted black) that was too low to be detected by my parking sensors (much cursing!) and the second was a small stone chip star on the windscreen somewhere in central Queensland. And that is all!
From start to finish that little car has travelled 9,181 kilometres* over the last three weeks and never missed a beat. We have travelled through New South Wales (twice), Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia and have stayed in ten different motels, ranging in tarrifs from $68* per person per night (in Moree, NSW) to $160* per person per night (in Mount Isa, Qld). As well as that, we stayed in the homes of Kris and Sean in Darwin, and Yvonne and Collin in Nyngan. Also, of course, I stayed one night in Matt’s home in Gladesville.
We thought a bit about a list of bests and worsts but the list didn’t get very long. The best motel was probably the last one, the Charles Rasp Motor Inn in Broken Hill, NSW, on Day 19, though the first one, the Golden Harvest Motel in Moree, NSW, on Day 1 was a close second. Two motel management teams would have to be rated as the friendliest: the couple who run the Waltzing Matilda Motor Inn at Charleville, Qld., and the Sri Lankan family who run the Lookout Cave Motel at Coober Pedy, SA. The dearest petrol we bought cost us 199.9¢ a litre for standard unleaded petrol at Renner Springs, NT (sorry, can’t easily convert that to pence per gallon). We didn’t record the cheapest petrol.
Matt thought the best bought meal was a sirloin steak he had in Longreach, Qld., on Day 3 (name of restaurant now forgotten) and I thought the best bought meal for me was the Thai meal I had tonight in Gladesville in a restaurant called the Red Spoon. However, we agree that the best meals of the whole trip were two dinners in Darwin, a roasted lamb cooked by Sean (vegetables by Kris) and a roast beef cooked by Matt (vegetables by Sean). There were several very enjoyable lunches, quite apart from the ones we made ourselves on the road. Lunch at the Darwin Wharf on Day 10 and Lunch at the Mandorah Hotel on Day 11 come to mind. We agreed that our worst bought meal was a pizza we had in Coober Pedy. It bore little resemblance to its supposed Italian heritage and, although Matt kept several pieces of it with a view to later consumption, within 24 hours he had discarded them into a bin.
We could not decide which was the most interesting sight of the whole trip. Uluru and Kata Tjuta on Day 14 would have to be up there, but so would the Qantas Museum at Longreach on Day 4, the underground motel in Coober Pedy on Day 16 and the bushwalk at the Wilpena Pound Resort on Day 18. But the greatest experience was just travelling through this incredible country and seeing for ouselves its vastness and its beauty.
Would we do it again? You betcha! But we will probably wait a while!
Thank you for staying with the blog this far. I will leave it up on my site for a while so that both you and I can refer back to it when we need to do so.
* 9,181 km is 5,705 miles; $A68 is about £43.25; $A160 is about £101.80.
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