On north to Hay, Griffith, Temora, Blayney and ...
Apart from the fact that the 300 kilometres of road from Mildura to Hay were almost perfectly flat, there's not a lot to say about that journey. No wonder they call the area around Hay the Hay Plains. Ideal for dragging a caravan along and kind to the donkey.
The town of Hay wasn't inspiring and neither was the caravan park. The reason we went was that the Tour Director was keen to visit the Prisoner of War Camp which has a 'museum' in the town. The museum turned out to be two old railway carriages parked at the abandoned station. Nobody was in attendance so we were left to drift through the carriages looking at yellowed prints on the walls and watch a short video. The site of the actual prison was not included in tourist information and, when we found it, we could only see ruins in a large paddock.
Griffith was a busy town and we soon realised we had been there previously. Our reason for this visit was all to do with the rear suspension air bags on the Paj but turned out to be a wasted journey. Least said the better. We did like the town and the caravan park, however being on a pilgrimage to find the sun we didn't tarry.
The Temora Aviation Museum was holding a Showcase Day on the Saturday. Did you know I like aeroplanes? They flew a Spitfire, Meteor, Boomerang and Wirroway, all of WWII vintage. Having gone overboard with aircraft photos on these pages I made a bit of an effort to find something a little different to photograph.
Remember the TV Western series from around 1960, "Have Gun - Will Travel"?
I reckon the fuel truck would look better modified thus.
Wanting a seat with a good view we grabbed front row seats early ... and saw bums, bums and more bums.
Q. What is this?
A. Hot exhaust blowing from the two Rolls Royce Derwent early jet engines on this Gloster Meteor F8.
Q. What cast this odd shadow?
A. A mark 16 Spitfire.
Q. What are these pipes - rocket launchers? Cannon?
A. Six of the 12 exhaust stubs on a Merlin engine.
I haven't discovered where the name of this New South Wales town originated. It was named by Sir George Gipps in 1842 when he was Governor of New South Wales. Why he chose the name Blayney isn't evident. Ireland as an origin of the name would seem to be a safe guess but research points to the name being established in Wales prior to Ireland.
Poor old George seems to have had a rough deal from the settlers in the territories he governed - New South Wales and New Zealand. He was vilified by the settlers with larger properties when transportation of prisoners (thus cheap labour) ceased in 1843 and there was a three-year drought. Poor old George could do nothing about either but copped the blame anyway. He wanted to return to England but the Colonial Office in London wouldn't hear of it, extending his appointment for a further two years. When he finally did return his health was ruined. He was a broken man and died three months after arriving home.
The south east region of what was soon to become the State of Victoria was named Gippsland in his honour by his friend, Polish explorer Pawel Edmund Strzelecki. And well deserved. (Strzelecki was the bloke that climbed the wrong mountain and named it Mount Kosciuszko. Really mucked up the maps.)
Blayney has two major sources of employment: Newcrest Mining has a large open cut mine and underground gold mine close by at Cadia Valley which supports 1,900 'direct and indirect' jobs, and Nestlé Purina employs about 220 people to make pet food, much of it for export.
Blayney is a farming town and administrative centre of the Blayney Shire with a population of around 3,355. We tend to grade towns by the major retail outlets they possess. If a town has a Bunnings and a Spotlight, the town is substantial. If it possesses neither of these but has a Coles and Woolworths, it is large. If it has only an IGA it is a smallish town. Blayney falls into the last category ... but, unlike so many towns today, it still has a working railway.
is a tiny village just 14 kilometres south west of Blayney along the Mid Western Highway. The fingerpost sign on the highway states:
Carcoar, the town that time forgot
. It nestles in a valley out of sight and sound of the main road and the Belubula River flows peacefully through its centre, spanned by a white-railed bridge. The description, the town that time forgot, seems perfectly apt. As the tourist blurb says,
Carcoar 19th century historic village is set in a dell by the oak-lined banks of the Belubula River. With steep hills surrounding it, Carcoar is a village of untouched 19th century charm that feels like a traditional English village.
The most dominant buildings are old churches of which there are several. The town has been classified by the National Trust due to the number of intact 19th-century buildings which have only been preserved and restored - there has been no reconstruction or replication.
T'wasn't always a quiet backwater, though. Prior to 1874 Carcoar was the major service centre to local farmlands but was overtaken by Blayney simply because the railway reached Blayney fourteen years before it reached Carcoar. Being in a valley, bringing the railway to Carcoar involved a lot of earthwork to keep gradients sufficiently gentle and in those days there were no giant earth movers.
We drove around the nearly deserted streets until Pam spotted the railway station up on the hillside above the town. If nothing else, it seemed an ideal vantage point to photograph the village ... and it was.
Carcoar viewed from the station on the hillside.
The railway station buildings were in good condition which is more than can be said for the railway line itself, closed since 2006.
Carcoar Station, opened in 1888, closed in the 1980s, was reopened by the Lachlan Valley Railway
as a tourist line then closed again in 2006. Will it ever reopen? Possibly, but not as a railway.
Perhaps as a 'rail trail' for cyclists and walkers as has been done in Victoria.
We liked Carcoar though we couldn't find out where the name originated nor on which syllable to place the emphasis. We wondered about the danger of the Belubula River bursting its banks and flooding the village. The river is dammed upstream to create Carcoar Lake which is about nine kilometres long and located in the hills about seven kilometres to the east. Water release from the lake cannot be controlled however, the dam is simple and ungated.
And a bit more of Blayney.
Our last night in Blayney was quite uncomfortable. The outside temperature plummeted - to what I don't know but, even with the heater on all night, the inside temperature in the caravan was 7° Centigrade. We shivered all night and in the morning we found the outside world was white with frost. The caravan water taps brought forth nothing as the supply hose was frozen solid. We had to thaw out the hose and drain it before leaving but that was not a problem once the sun rose. My fingers and toes took a little longer but eventually their yellow-grey colour returned to a healthy pink.
Ironically the Blayney tourist brochure claimed:
Blayney, not cold, cool.
You call it what you like, Blayney. I call it bloody freezing.
Four Days of Driving North.
We left Blayney and travelled to Gilgandra for the night, then on to Narrabri, Goondiwindi and on to one of our most loved destinations, Possum Park.
We decided to stay three nights at Possum. The park and the people were as wonderful as ever. And it was WARM! We requested an 'en suite' site. For a little extra you get your own private toilet and shower and we sometimes indulge ourselves. Julie, the manager, gave us a site a short distance away from the other caravans. That's one of the advantages of being regulars, the staff know you, you're on first name terms and you get looked after just that little bit better. Our en suite building, just behind our 'van, was covered in brilliant orange bougainvillea.
I don't usually photograph toilets but they are not usually this ... what, picturesque?
Just a quick recap about Possum Park. It is situated 20 km north of the town of Miles which, unfortunately, had its name changed from Dogwood Crossing by some boring fart sucking up to the Queensland Colonial Secretary, William Miles.
Possum Park is set a good distance back from the road up a dirt track through wooded bushland. It was first opened as a munitions store during World War II. A spur line was constructed from the Charleville/Toowoomba railway to service it and the explosives were stored in underground bunkers, safe out of sight of Japanese pilots. The munitions, the railway and the Japanese aircraft are long gone (the last, ironically, replaced by Japanese cars) but the bunkers are still here. Some have been converted to accommodation, as have some of the railway rolling stock abandoned here. The latest innovative idea for accommodation in the park is one of the first turbine powered airliners to fly in Australia. This Vickers Viscount was rescued from a Toowoomba scrapyard by David and Julie. It was a wreck without wings or engines and its tail had been removed. It took David, Julie's husband, to see the possibilities. It also took cranes and a large truck to transport it to Possum Park where the difficulties were only just beginning ...
Who would have believed that the wreck in the upper picture could be converted to the beautiful aircraft shown?
Yes, yes, I know I write all this every time we visit Possum Park but, hey, I can't help it. This park is a magic place, totally peaceful. If you listen hard you can hear the traffic on the distant highway. Most caravanners use it for an overnight stop while travelling north or south but we like to stay longer and totally relax.
If you decide to visit Possum, remember to fill your water tanks as you are advised not to drink the tap water (though some do and survive). Personally I can't see the difference between bore water and spring water. They both fall as rain and soak into the ground; spring water flows to the surface due to gravity, its source being on higher ground. People pay good money to buy bottled spring water. Bore water is pumped to the surface and regarded as impure. Any water that comes from underground may contain minerals. At Possum Park there are tanks containing rainwater from the roofs of buildings where you are invited to fill your kettle. So folks, the choice is yours - traces of minerals in the tap water or traces of bird poo in the tank water? Or fill your tanks before you arrive though I often wonder if we'd use the caravan tanks if we could see the inside of them.
Every evening many of the campers gather around a big fire built by one of the staff in what resembles the rim of some giant vehicle's wheel and we all sipped wine and told tall stories as twilight fell. One of the advantages of having one-night neighbours is that there is a fresh mob at Happy Hour the next day and I don't have to worry about repeating all the same stories that I told the night before which is what I usually do. Hey, did I ever tell you about the Viscount?
Dawson River Freebie
After Possum Park we usually stay overnight behind the pub at a little place called - would you believe - Banana. Apart from the ability to connect to a power and water supply at Banana, the little park had nothing going for it and the toilets and showers had even less. We always took the attitude that it was only for one night and we could get a meal and drink in the pub. Moreover Banana was midway between Possum Park and our destination, Emu Park. However, the last time we'd stayed at Banana the fees had gone up quite a bit so we decided to give the place a miss. And serve them right.
Instead we opted for a free campsite we'd heard about on the Dawson River; thanks for that Terry and Di. We'd worked out the latitude and longitude and fed the co-ordinates to Alice, our GPS, and she directed us unerringly to the camp where we were amazed to find thirty or so 'vans already ensconced. We found a spot near the toilet block with a view of the river. Then people began warning us about the noise from a water pump which ran at night and fed sprinklers, the pump and one of the sprinklers being close to our 'van. We decided to stay where we were and as it turned out the pump and sprinkler gave that night a miss. During the evening we were invited to a 'concert' given by a bloke and his wife who had sound equipment powered by a small generator. His voice wasn't too bad, hers wasn't too good. The small audience was more polite than enthusiastic.
Being a freebie, Dawson River did not supply power or water so that night was a test for our caravan - would the battery power the fridge all night and had we enough water left in the 'van tanks? The short answer to both was 'Yes'. So we left the Dawson River with the $35 that the Banana Hotel would have relieved us of still in our pockets. Well, more likely in the Tour Director's purse, she doesn't like me to wear out my pocket linings with money so as soon as I fall asleep ...
On the journey we discussed whether we shouldn't invest in some solar panels for the caravan roof and stay in freebies more often.
Bell Park Caravan Park and Emu Park.
The next day, after an early start from Dawson River, we rolled into Bell Park soon after noon. It was like coming home, so many of our good friends were already there, and many more were expected soon.
The damage inflicted by Cyclone Marcia in February, including the several trees brought down, had been cleared and - apart from seeing a bit more sky - it was as if nothing had happened.
The scene after Cyclone Marcia had passed. Some people had worked very hard to clear all this.
Marcia was clearly no respecter of speed limits.
We heard reports about an ANZAC memorial project that had been commenced in Emu Park on the headland opposite the RSL to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The construction was planned to span the centenary years, 2014-2018 and Stage One had been completed.
When we saw what had been achieved we, in common with everyone to whom we spoke, were very impressed. The central feature of the design was a precinct containing sandstone blocks and pillars and backed by a wall of rusty steel plates across which cut-outs of weary troops made of galvanised steel not-so-much marched as stumbled wearily. The feature was enhanced by lawns and gardens.
A close-up picture showing the Rosemary plants chosen because it grows all over the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The development seen from the RSL Cenotaph across the road.
A spectacular feature of the project is just to the left of the precinct and consists of a glass pane between two wooden posts.
A Window to the Past.
The picture on the glass is taken from part of a painting called
The Spirit - Gallipoli Landing 1915
by British painter, David Rowlands. It depicts the second wave of the 10th Battalion (South Australia) scaling Anzac Cove at 5:00 a.m. just 30 minutes after the initial landing by parts of the 9th (Queensland) and 10th and 11th (Western Australia). By noon, 10,000 men were ashore. In order to avoid confusion with the headwear of the Turkish troops, the Australians were ordered to wear field caps, not their usual slouch hats.
Isn't that something? But wait, there's more.
Stage One of two boardwalks. So far it terminates at a viewing platform
below the Singing Ship - a memorial to Captain James Cook.
The plan is to continue the walk beyond the viewing platform to terminate on Fisherman's Beach. Also commencing at the ANZAC precinct will be a second boardwalk leading in the opposite direction, down to Main Beach, thus connecting the two beaches.
A very windswept Tour Director having a bad hair day on the viewing platform. See, there are some advantages
to being bald.
And you're always the first to know when it starts raining.
At the beginning of the boardwalk, opposite that wonderful window, is a 'timeline' of significant events commencing at the outbreak of war in 1914 and continuing year by year until 1918 - and a bit after. The events are portrayed in photographs and text on plaques.
The Timeline. Plaques raised above the normal level cover the Navy, the Home Front and the Final Days.
And that's all for now on this fabulous enhancement to Emu Park. Being a 'glass half empty' man (I'm told) my great fear is that some low life mongrels will smash or disfigure it. If they'll wreck cemeteries and desecrate graves they'll do anything. So ... fingers crossed.
And that's all I can squeeze on to page 197 so go on to page 198 and I'll try and find something to put on it.