Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Bourke and beyond

Bourke is not a town you immediately think of in terms of intellectual discussion, but this rough and ready outback town surprises. One night we sit around campfires listening to the local 'bard' and his poetry (Poetry on a Plate), and today I walk into a shop and am immediately drawn into a discussion on the merits of an English language university degree and then the origins of some English words. I love the unexpectedness of it all.

The old Bourke Bridge over the Darling River.
Bourke has had a bad reputation as a very rough, dirty - and sometimes dangerous - outback town. However we've visited twice over several years and have found it clean and tidy and very safe. It has a fabulous local history museum (Back o'Bourke). The old RSL is now Diggers on the Darling [River] and is a popular place to eat as is the great Chinese restaurant at the Bourke Bowls Club.

Locals are lovely and enjoy a chat, as a result it's one of our favourite places.

Leaving Bourke we travelled north then westward towards the Queensland/South Australian border.

On nearby Mt Oxley.

Distances are vast in the outback. Often you drive several hours without passing another vehicle. We travelled almost a thousand kilometres over two days to the Dig Tree. The first night we free-camped by the Wilson River not far from the Noccundra Hotel before reaching our destination. We have to calculate distances fairly precisely as sometimes it is 200-300 kilometres between fuel stops. There are good sealed roads in areas where there are mining or oil wells, but there are also great stretches of unmade graveled roads with accompanying corrugations and clouds of dust. We also have to look out for straying cattle, horses, emus, kangaroos with eagles, crows and corellas feasting on any roadkill.

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