We woke to the flash of pink galah into the sunlight through the skylight in the van. Then walking along the slow, mud-coloured Murrumbidgee as the sulphur crested cockatoos socialised above, we marvelled at the breadth of the trunks of centuries-old river red gums.
A pair of parrots soared above and landed on a high branch. With the camera, I zoomed in on them – they turned out to be endangered superb parrots. What a treat!
We made an espresso by the river bank before continuing our journey through irrigated crop land to the next big river, the Murray. We have a large, man-made lake opposite us and had drinks as the setting sun cast a coral hue on the bleached tree trunks.
Leaving Condolbolin, on the Lachlan River, we started south past cattle grazing on the unfenced verge, but stopped to bird watch at Wallaroi Creek, where the wattle cascading towards the creek captured my attention: Australia’s national flower. A fitting image for the first day of spring. As it is Fathers’ Day, I took a portrait of Dave before a river gum.
We journeyed on to a bird hide near Lake Cargelligo. The shot taken through the hide’s peephole gave a pleasing panaromic effect.
The lake itself was an ideal spot for a picnic lunch, using up fresh fruit and salad prior to reaching the Riverina fruit fly exclusion zone. A mudlark got very chummy with its image in the mirror of the 4WD. I was inspired by the effect of the light behind a golden jacaranda tree – today gold is the theme colour.
The Griffith area looked fertile, with dazzling canola, cotton waiting in giant bales, ageing vines.
We are camped by the Murrumbidgee River. An hour ago a huge limb crashed down from a gum tree a few metres away. We are relieved that we chose a more open campsite.
We awoke to the sound of rain on the van roof. Bidding farewell to our new friend, Myra, (who dried the breakfast dishes while we packed up), we drove through the rain to Warren, a town of 2000. After hastily switching from shorts to jeans in the van, we stocked up at the IGA, being careful not to buy much fresh food as we’ll have to surrender uneaten fruit or veg when we cross into the Riverina irrigation area.
It was 12 degrees Centigrade – half of what we’re used to, so I opened a can of soup for lunch, at a roadside stop on the red earth, with cypress pines and spring wildflowers.
We’re on the homeward run and are looking forward to seeing loved ones, but as we approach the chilly south, we are pleased that spring is on the way.
Then on through pea-green fields of canola (such a contrast to the grey tones of the eucalypt and cyprus forest) to Condobolin, past the geographical centre of the state of New South Wales.
After reading the information about Macquarie Marshes, we decided to extend our stay to get a closer look. We did a circuit of approximately 200km round the northern section of the Marshes. Even though this year is dry, we still had to make a river crossing, much to David’s delight (he went back and repeated the exercise twice).
We passed through extensive flat, dry areas that flood in wet seasons, as well as a spectacular wetland at Monkeygar Creek. We drove over a rough track with deep potholes through a small nature reserve and picnicked by the deserted homestead of Ninia. The bird watching was good, and I spotted a few types that I hadn’t seen before.
I’ve included a shot of some beautiful parrot feathers – does anyone know what bird they belong to?
Finally, the dawn this morning from the door of our caravan – the beauty of wilderness.
We are at a property called Willie Retreat, near the RAMSAR-listed Macquarie Wetlands, not far from Walgett in New South Wales, Australia.
The property has some amazing birdlife, including a bowerbird which has built its bower in the campground and an emu that has imprinted on the owner and defends her from unwelcome guests who try to invade her after hours.
The owner, Myra Tolhurst has won an Australia Day award from the local shire. Myra was a mine of local information and agreed to pose for a photo with David.
We travelled through saltbush plains, brigalow scrub, cattle paddocks and laser-flat cotton fields.
I have also included a couple of shots of an old cattle yard we lunched beside. The rails appeared to have been fashioned from recycled iron railway sleepers. The final photo shows the lumpy, multi-hued saltbush plain with river gums following the watercourse behind.
In Lightning Ridge, inland New South Wales, Australia, many signs are written on car doors, as there are plentiful old car-wrecks lying around. The local tourism people have made car door signs a feature, with four colour-coded self-drive tours.
Instead of driving, I followed the Red Door tour by foot between the mine sites. Then after lunch, we took a bus tour of the mining area, went down a mine and watched a demonstration of opal polishing. I was particularly impressed with three dimensional opals, that are polished by hand using an instrument similar to dental drill. But they were pricey, so I didn’t succumb to the temptation.
The town has more than its share of eccentrics, who have built amazing, illegal structures on crown land without permits that are now heritage-listed. We met 80-year-old Brian who in his time had played bit parts in many films including Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max Thunderdome. Even the mine we visited had been used as a set for a movie called Goddess of 76 (remember the Citroen Goddess)?
Apparently there are now only 100 or so working miners, plus hobbyists who work a claim during their spare time, but the town has more than its share of both millionaires and people on welfare. Tourism has grown in importance as mining has declined.
For swimmers, I have included a photo of the fantastic indoor swim and dive complex, built largely with funds raised by the local community.
We started the morning with a walk along the Ballone River at St George, where a high red pole indicated last year’s record flood level. St George is pleasant town servicing the cotton and cattle industries. A mural in the main street depicted cotton harvest and production.
A couple of fellow travellers were working out on the exercise equipment beside the river pathway, killing time while their 4WD was being repaired.
After a cappuccino and cake, we headed south past self-sown roadside cotton and through the village of Hebel. Here I was photographing the store and a biker posed in front of it.
We crossed the state border from Queensland to New South Wales in a remote arid part and continued to Lightning Ridge, famous for mining the beautiful black opal. I think of my father who made my mother a beautiful opal and gold pendant.