An Outback Journey

A feeling of being closed in, a disinclination to travel to Sydney just now and warmer weather saw us (Mr MG and I) setting off on a hastily organised and whirlwind road trip to north-west New South Wales last week. I love the feeling of being on the road and as soon as we drove away from Mudgee my spirits rose with the anticipation of what might lie ahead of us.

There has been rain in the west and the countryside is looking splendid. Indian mustard is creating a carpet of yellow as far as the eye can see: that is until broadacres of wheat and canola interrupt the view. It is going to be a bumper year for wheat this year.

An added excitement along the way was to see an emu (probably male) with its five chicks which can be seen alongside if you look closely.

Our first stop was at the little town of Warren on the Macquarie River. Next to the ‘Windows on the Wetlands’ art gallery is the Tiger Bay Marsh which is full of water and boasts a large collection of birds which make it their home. Warren is approximately 600km from the sea, so I’ve no idea why the wetland is called Tiger Bay. Nor are there any tigers!

It was early afternoon by the time we arrived, so many of the birds had settled down for their afternoon nap, but we were able to see a fine collection of ibises, spoonbills, magpie geese, pink-eared ducks, hardheads (ducks) and eurasian coots. There were signs warning that snakes might be about, but I’m happy to report that despite ideal conditions, none of those made their presence felt.

The next leg of our trip was from Warren to Walgett, almost due north. We hoped to be able to drive to a bird viewing platform in the Macquarie Marshes, but as there was an expanse of water over the road we were unable to progress further. There were plenty of honks, twitterings and other bird calls emanating from the long reeds nearby to assure us that plenty of contented birds were in the process of making their nests and raising chicks.

The road was, well, narrow and somewhat rough with no room to pass unless the person in front pulled over, which this truck driver did, thankfully. We stopped at Carinda (population 22) and had a beer at the pub where David Bowie famously played ‘Let’s Dance’ in 1983

In Walgett, on the Namoi River, our accommodation was somewhat less than we are used to, but we had a great meal on the verandah of the Sports Club, enjoying the balmy evening air as well as the food.

After a restless night (trucks at 4 am) we were on the road again, heading towards Brewarrina and then Bourke and after a short while we passed a sign informing us that we were now officially in the Outback. Brewarrina, on the Barwon River is famous for its traditional Aboriginal fish traps which have been in existence for thousands of years. These are dry stone walls in the river bed and have great significance for the Aboriginal people. They are constructed in intricate patterns so that fish can be ‘herded’ into pools and caught.

Some very healthy and well-fed pelicans had placed themselves strategically on the traps: a posse of postprandial politicians if ever I saw one.

Bourke, a town on the Darling River (nearly all these towns are on rivers) was somnolent in the Saturday afternoon sun by the time we arrived. Nothing was open except the pub, so after we’d settled into our accommodation and taken a walk along the banks of the river and watched the milk coffee coloured water sliding by, we sat on the deep front verandah of the Bourke Port Hotel and enjoyed listening to a guitarist playing and singing with a group of friends. I could have sworn Slim Dusty himself was there.

Our final day: a long drive which was enlivened by our enjoyment of the verdant countryside and the colourful roadside verges, mostly weeds it has to be said, but vibrant and striking nevertheless.

Although these small Outback towns are struggling with population drift, there is enterprise to be found in cafés and galleries and there are fine old buildings still standing. We had an uplifting trip with lots of interesting interaction with folk, both local and travellers, along the way, and delightful bird and animal sightings. Just the tonic we needed in these strange times. I think another journey will be planned before too long!

35 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris Muller says:

    Sounds like a pleasant trip Jane and you have taken some great photos.

    1. Jane says:

      Thanks Chris. It was most enjoyable. You’ll have to do it yourself one day!

  2. Heyjude says:

    Nothing like a road trip to relieve the boredom. You have so many interesting country towns in Australia. I follow a couple of Aussies who have written about the architecture, the art galleries etc.

    1. Jane says:

      I didn’t take many photos of buildings Jude, and now I wish I had. Oh well, we’ll have to make another trip! Perhaps further into the outback, now that we’ve ‘dipped our toes in’. The town of White Cliffs is even further away, and I’m sure it would be an interesting place to visit.

  3. Having just finished watching all of McLeod’s Daughters, I found your post and trip very interesting. The program made me want to see Australia. Years ago, I watched, “All The Rivers Run” and I think that was on or near The Darling River. Not sure what they are, but I love the sound of those haunting birds. Thanks for sharing your journey. The wildflowers are beautiful.

    1. Jane says:

      Thank you, Cindy. Perhaps you could take a trip to Australia if we’re ever able to leave our respective countries again.

  4. Margaret Campbell says:

    Reminiscing our old stomping grounds! Sounds like a great trip.

    1. Jane says:

      It was, Marg, and a reminder of our great Lightning Ridge trip too!

  5. I enjoyed reading about your trip out to Warren and beyond… the bird life out there seems incredible. Nice to see so much water .. this must be a wonderful year for the birds in that way.
    I was amazed to read David Bowie played at Carinda pub In 1983 … but my husband Paul knew of that. Thanks for the tour, it is quite refreshing to get away from home for a while… during Covid.

    1. Jane says:

      It sure is good to get away, Gerrie, and seeing so much water in the rivers and marshes was an added bonus. It’s been so long since we saw rivers and creeks running.

  6. bonnie groves poppe says:

    Very interesting post. That Hotel looks like it could have come right out of rural Mississippi.
    bonnie in provence

    PS Those blue weeds are awfully handsome.

    1. Jane says:

      You wouldn’t want the blue weeds in your garden Bonnie, even though they make an attractive display. They’d soon take over. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Kris P says:

    I’d love to have some of those blue-flowered weeds in my garden, Jane! I was pleased to find your post in my feed this morning. I’m glad you had the opportunity to get on the road and I enjoyed your photos, especially the bird pics. My husband and I haven’t wandered far at all since March, although we did take a one hour drive south to visit a small botanic garden last week. There seems to be no end to the difficulties that have faced the US, the heat and the fires being only the latest. I’m praying for a shift in the tone of politics with the election in November.

    1. Jane says:

      It’s been terrible over there for you Kris, especially with those awfully high temperatures.
      You wouldn’t really be happy if the blue weeds were in your garden despite the fact that they’re in the same family as the very desirable ‘Pride of Madeira’. Known as Paterson’s Curse or Salvation Jane, they would soon spread everywhere and be a nuisance. You’d have a perfect climate for them where you are.
      We too are hoping for a change of politics in the US in November. We have our fingers crossed for you!

  8. Looks like a lovely trip.

    1. Jane says:

      Yes, it was, Barbara, thank you.

  9. Mr MG says:

    Mr MG here with my tuppence worth.
    My late father in the course of his working day drove all over NSW west of the mountains and was quite familiar with virtually every town no matter how small. In respect to the scattered collection of buildings which comprise the village of Carinda he was quite oblivious to David Bowie’s visit or indeed to David Bowie himself but he often spoke of Carinda’s other claim to fame. At some stage in the last twenty or perhaps more years, the town was the proud recipient of a largish modern police station quite out of proportion to the district’s requirements. Whilst presumably pleased with the state government’s largesse, the locals were later bemused to find that the facility had actually been intended for another, larger country town by the name of Quirindi which although spelt quite differently is pronounced (by Australians at least) somewhat similarly. Quite astonishing that such a mistake could be made, but we saw the evidence for ourselves when we drove past the police station and it would no doubt be a proud adornment to most country towns.

  10. Cynthia Walker says:

    Great to see you on another trip around our lovely countryside. Bruce and I just by back from Boorowa. Again the fields were thriving with wheat canola oil and other grains. No Patterson’s Curse which was good. Glad you were able to get out and about.

    1. Jane says:

      Boorowa is a lovely little town. I wonder if you travelled on the bikes?? The country in that area is very attractive and productive. It’s going to be a bumper wheat crop this year.

  11. Tracy says:

    How wonderful to see water and birdlife returning to those rivers, Jane. It must have been so nice to have that short break. I’m quite envious.

    1. Jane says:

      You and your boys would have loved the bird life and would have been able to take some wonderful photos. I hope you get a chance to do some travelling before too long.

  12. Lis says:

    What a wonderful and fascinating trip, Jane. Thank you so much for sharing, I hope it helped to restore a sense of balance and healing in these strange times. The photos are lovely, it’s good to see so much water and wildlife – I smiled at the initiative of those well-fed pelicans! What is the blue flower? It might be a ‘weed’ but it’s a real beauty. 🙂

    1. Jane says:

      The blue flower is Paterson’s Curse and is part of the Echium family. It is a problem here in Australia as it spreads rapidly, infiltrating crops. It also is noxious to stock, particularly horses. Thanks for your comment, Lis.

  13. Trish says:

    Well, that was a lovely trip. Good to get away and freshen up.
    I’ve always wanted to see the Macquarie marshes in a good season to observe the bird life. One day.
    Thank you for the photos.

    1. Jane says:

      Thanks Trish. You and Frank will have to make a visit to those parts yourself. It’s well worth a look. A trip all the way to White Cliffs, maybe??

  14. hb says:

    A delight to read this. I’ve not gotten farther than the grocery store since March, and even that only a handful of times. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. Jane says:

      So sorry you’ve been so cooped up, hb, but happy that this post was able to lift your spirits a little. Take care!

  15. Thanks for the tour!

    1. Jane says:

      My pleasure!

  16. Hi Jane, I enjoyed your adventure. My vision of the Outback was influenced by Mad Max, I like your pictures a lot better. Wonderful bird life and I am glad you got out and about.

    1. Jane says:

      Oh yes, I think there’s plenty of Mad Max scenery out there, but I haven’t been far enough to the west!

      1. Looking forward to it..

  17. Yes, I know that feeling of elation as you head off on a road trip. There’s nothing like a little adventure for lifting the spirits. Much nicer to head west than east at the moment too.

    1. Jane says:

      Indeed. Now we are really keen to do another trip!

      1. Us too! Just within QLD at this stage.

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