Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Rawnsley Park Station to Broken Hill, Cobar and on to Sydney

I get on the road quite early, as I want to take a flight across Wilpena Pond and the flight is to take off at 8.30 this morning. When I get to the airfield, Chris, the Pilot is already there warming up the engine of the aircraft. I can see by the call sign on the fuselage that its the same aircraft as the one I was supposed to fly in 2 days ago. I already know that the window glass is badly cracked by the sun, to take photos through these windows will result in poor quality images. I decline to fly under these circumstances. He had advised that another plane would be available for this morning's flight, but as it turned out was not returned from Servicing as anticipated, the night before. I am sorry that I missed out on that flight because the conditions would have been near perfect in the early morning.

I drive south through Hawker, the turn left onto the "RM Williams Way" that will take me through Carrieton, Peterbogough, then onto the Barrier Highway to Broken Hill in NSW. The weather is sunny, great views along the road, Savannah grasslands, some scrub, ochre coloured earth shining through under the golden grass. In the background the hills of part of the Flinders Ranges.

I arrive at Broken Hill around 2pm, find a spot at the campground and then take a drive through this old Silver Mining Town, that still provides employment to miners even today. Like in all mining operations there are large hills of tailings that have come out of the mine shafts over the years. It looks prosperous even today, the mainstreet housing many shop fronts as well as most of the major Banks. I also take a walk arount the town centre and go to the Visitor Information for some maps and check out places around town. There are several Art Galleries around town showing various artists, also Aboriginal Art.

The following morning I take a drive out to Silverton, some 25km out of town, where the movie "Mad Max" had been filmed. I visit the local Pub, chat with the bar maid while I drink my beer. There are many pictures along the walls of the bar showing various actors that were part of the cast of the film.

The Pub at Silverton

The road to Silverton is a rather bumpy ride as there are many indentations in the road to help water running off in this flood plain. When I get back into Broken Hill I visit the Pro Hart Gallery in order to get a better impression of the work he had done before passing away in 2006.

One of the pictures by Pro Hart in his Gallery

When I pack up at Broken Hill, the weather is threatening with dark skies. I get on my way quickly, after breakfast and drive east where the sky looks somewhat brighter. My next stop will be the town of Cobar, about 460km east of Broken Hill.

I also went to see the airbase for the Royal Flying Doctor Service with their friendly and most engaging staff. I was very impressed by all the services this organisation provides to all in need, all of it provided FREE to anyone.

The RFDS base at Broken Hill

The landscape slowly changes, a little more hilly, the road good in large sections but lots of the old roads are still in evidence, winding and very bumpy. Welcome back to New South Wales, the worst roads in the country.

A Road Train driver I talked to, back in South Australia, told me that driving on the Highways in NSW they always have to slow down. In his case, he told me, he was driving what they call "Two Up" with two drivers, one resting while the other is driving, but there is no way you can sleep on those bumpy roads. I get some rain. off and on, by the time I drive through Wilcannia, the sky brightens up for a short time, the Highway now turning South, before turning East again.

Its now raining steadily, the sky dark. The Highway east of Wilcannia is quite good again. The closer I get to Cobar, the more wild goats are grazing by the side of the road. I also notice not a single road kill of the goats, although there are a few Kangaroo carcasses. I try to photograph the goats but each time I stop they all disappear into the scrub. Pretty smart, I think. I do manage to get a couple of shots simmply by slowing down rather than stopping. They also seem to come in any shade of colour, usually quite long fur and quite straggely looking. One of the bucks in the midst of his Harem has long twisted horns standing out sideways from his head.

Wild Goats west of Cobar

Cobar is a mining town, also seems to be doing well with lots of shops, the caravan park run by the local council is also nice and green. It rains for most of the night but its not cold. I leave quite early, after breakfast, the sky still dark, but not raining.

Along the highway from Broken Hill to Cobar

My next stop will be Narromine, my old Glider-flying base. When I get there, it turns out, there is a weekend event going on with Ultra-light aircraft, the surrounds of the runways with lots of aircraft tied down waiting for a break in the weather. I decide to drive on as there are no vacant spots available. Dubbo is only 38km further West. The landscape quite different now, lots of grassland, lots of cultivated fields, many large stands of poplars by the road, some of them already turning yellow. It does add a "european' note to the look of the land, quite different in its colours to the dry land I have left behind me. I re-fuel at Dubbo and continue on to the town of Orange which is about halfway to Sydney.

When I leave Orange in the morning it is still wet with a drizzle of rain. It is now Easter Sunday, lots of traffic coming west but very little going my way, east.

At Lithgow I refuel again, the lowest price for Diesel in a long time ($1.10/L). I am not driving the main highway via Katoomba but follow the initially windy road toward Windsor instead. When I get to the top of the Blue Mountain Range, I can look south, seeing plenty of clear blue sky again. What a wonderful sight to behold! The further east I drive the brighter it gets, a nice welcome for me coming back to the city I have called home for almost 27 years.

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