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carmel’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 29 Mar 2006

Location: Lightning Ridge, NSW, Australia

MapSaturday, 25/3/06

We are now heading towards Cobar. Again, a lot of road kill – kangaroos, 2 wedge tailed eagles and an emu. It is unusual to see a dead emu on the side of the road. They are so tall, they usually come through the windscreen – which means, in all probability, that the driver is killed also. We also saw quite a few live emus and eagles (and eagle nests), and also a couple of lizards risking their lives getting across the road – but no kangaroos. Even Charles Sturt in 1844 wasn’t impressed with the scenery. He called it the most barren and desolate land he had ever seen – all salt bush and mulga.

We had to buy fuel at Wilcania, an aboriginal settlement, and it was 147.9c per litre, the most we have had to pay so far.

The country improved once we were east of the McCulloch range, there was even water lying on the ground in places and it was obvious the road had been repaired in places, and would need repairing in other places. The initial silver find at Broken Hill was found on George McCulloch’s land and he was one of the 7 initial shareholders in the BHP syndicate. I wonder if the ranges were named after him; he certainly sounded like a very canny Scot.

Once the land improved, we started seeing (wild/feral?) goats on the sides of the road. We even saw a couple of solitary sheep. There were also some flocks of sheep, but I don’t know how they kept them contained. There were fence posts on either side of the road, but no wire. Barrie reckoned it was so the kangaroos wouldn’t run into it!

Just as we pulled into the Information Centre at Cobar, the car developed a rotten egg gas (sulphide) smell. Apparently that means the battery is on the way out.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

Because of the battery, and everything here being shut, we had decided to stay on here till Tuesday. (We had initially intended staying till Monday.) However we’ve managed to see almost all I wanted to see, although I missed out on the old reservoir and Devil’s Rock (an ancient rock formation where the Ngemba (aboriginal) people carried out their ceremonial rites). It was a 3km dirt road and Barrie didn’t fancy walking back if the car stopped. (Oh well, I got to see everything else.)

The highlights of our stay here have been the visit to the Weather Station, where, among other things, we saw the weather balloon being released; and the New Cobar Open Cut Gold Mine.

So we are going to leave tomorrow after all. Barrie is going to talk to the Holden dealer before we leave, and we’ll follow his recommendation.

Monday, 27/3/06
When we tried to start the car, the battery was dead – talk about lucky! We have a battery for the caravan, so Barrie was able to start the car using it. We had a squat, maintenance free battery and, unfortunately that is the only sort we can use. Needless to say, it is much more expensive than a normal one ($214 – caused us to gulp).
It was another uneventful trip. The only bit of interest was a crow we saw. Whenever there is livestock on the road, Barrie toots to get it off before we get there. Well, there were 3 crows on a recently killed kangaroo. When Barrie tooted, two flew off, but the other one simply hopped onto the kangaroo’s stomach (its highest part), which, needless to say, Barrie drove around. A clever, lucky or just plain lazy crow??
We were disappointed with Bourke. All there was as far as we were concerned was the historic loch and weir and a replica of the historic wharf. The main street was also worth seeing, with many well-preserved buildings. Our other stop-off was the cemetery (of course). Fred Hollows grave was there; you couldn’t miss it. But I couldn’t find Captain Starlight’s (the bushranger).
The man at the Bourke Information Centre was great, but, when we went to the supermarket, the girl was quite unpleasant. Barrie asked her ‘how long have you been working, luv’ and she replied ‘since Wednesday’ – 5 days. So Barrie told the supervisor she needed talking to – not that he cared. Then, just as we got to the car, a woman ran out of the shop – with my credit card. As you can imagine, that made me feel just great. We stayed at the Kidman Camp Country Resort, a really great park. We had a look in one of the cabins – it looked like a 5 star motel room.
Tuesday, 28 March 2006
(Pro Hart died today.)
Yesterday, the temperature was 34.5oC and not a cloud in the sky (Barrie even went for a swim, but the pool was freezing); then we woke this morning to rain, thunder and lightning – although still hot. The grass here is (almost) green but obviously could still use a lot more rain. On the way,we saw a scrawny looking emu with 2 chicks.
We are heading to Lightning Ridge. The town before Lightning Ridge is Walgett. We ‘thought’ we were heading in the right direction, but the distances were getting greater, so Barrie flagged down a police car to ask, and, yes, we were going the right way. I don’t know what was going on with the distance indicators. When we reached Lightning Ridge, we weren’t too impressed, but it got better with time. We’ve booked in at the motel/caravan park for 2 nights so far, but may stay longer. All we did today was have a look at the artesian baths. They get cleaned tomorrow, so we’ll go again after that. I also want to find somewhere I can use the internet.
Wednesday, 29 March 2006
We had rain, thunder and lightning all night and it is still raining and its now afternoon – although still not cold. We’ve done a bit of fossicking in a mullock heap and found some nice (obviously not opal) stones, and also some small pieces which could be opal (?). Seeing we had no idea what a black opal looks like, we were somewhat at a disadvantage, so we went to the Opal Cave and asked the assistant there what a black opal actually looks like. She was great. The black opal is so called because its back is black. The opal itself looks like any other one. I hope the weather clears so we can have another go at the mullock heap. We then went to have a look at the walk-in mine, but didn’t get there – the road looked pretty bad. So we then checked out Amigo’s Castle (a private home, started in 1983 and still only a shell) and the Astronomers’ Monument – BUT we forgot the camera so have to go back (I hope). We then called into the internet café, but when he heard we were staying at the motel/caravan park told us they have wireless for the guests – and they have, I’ve been given 10 hours free. I’m going to try it now.
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(As you can see, the wireless network worked!