Flashing back to our first trip of the school summer holidays. After Dubbo, Dani and myself continued on to Lightning Ridge… Heading to the far north of NSW just short of the Queensland border…
The Drive from Dubbo to Lightning Ridge
The road from Dubbo to Lightning Ridge passes through huge areas of farmland and several small towns. First we passed through Gilgandra, a pleasant little town but not much in the way of enticing tourists to stay. Then after miles of open road we passed through another sleepy little town, Gulargamone. Further north we passed through the larger and oddly named (for recent generations at least) Coonamble – which they pronounce “cun-amble”. Yeah right. Maybe now…
The Castlereagh river cuts right through the town of Coonamble. As it is larger than the previous two towns and there seems to be more going on. But not much more. One thing all three places have is painted water towers. They refer to it as Silo Art in Australia (more on that to come). Coonamble’s silo art was done by artist John Murray (of Stanley the Emu and Lightning Ridge fame). Although the only water tower I took a photo of was further north at Walgett.
Grain production – wheat – plays a huge part in the economy in this part of the world. You can see huge piles of the stuff, kept dry by enormous blue plastic sheets, waiting to be transported to the cities and ports. Some of these massive heaps of grain can be seen from miles away in this mainly flat landscape – if the sky is not the same shade of blue that is.
Walgett is now a crossroads town. Literally. The main roads (‘main’ for this part of the world) of B76 and B55 cross at Walgett. Before there were cars the town was a paddle boat steamer port for the Murray and Darling rivers routes. The B76 stretches from the Pacific Highway in the East to Bourke in the far west of the state, winding some 800km along the way. The B55 runs for 632km. It links the western side of the Blue Mountains, starting at Lithgow, with the north of NSW, passing through (or by) Lightning Ridge and on into Queensland.
The town is the meeting point for two rivers the Barwon and Namoi. Walgett takes its name from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘the meeting place of two rivers’. The Barwon river merges with the Culgoa river less than 200km west (as the crow flies) to form the Darling River, Australia’s 3rd longest.
Similarities to USA
Impossibly long roads and totally flat scenary to both sides. Reminded me of the Prairies in USA once you drive west of St. Louis that is all you see for a day or two until you reach the start of the Rocky Mountains. This was similar – at least the scenery. The only break from the flat lands I noticed were a fair way to the east not long after leaving Dubbo behind. I think it was the Warrumbungle Range. The peaks looked quite high and impressive even from that great distance. Yes. I found out later that it is the Warrumbugle National Park and from what I have seen online, it deserves a separate visit.
There are other similarities with the USA around these parts. This is cowboy country. Well there are probably more sheep than cattle but there are still cattle. And they have rodeo competitions. Although yet again, that bloody “virus” put a stop to any rodeo fun this/last year. Places like this need those events to draw in some tourists.
The real problem with places like Walgett is that there is virtually nothing to do there if you stopped over. There is no decent place to eat out, no decent pubs. Which is all a bit of a shame really as they miss out on tourists who just pass through – like us! It is a sad statement to make but unless there was a country fair or rodeo in town nobody is going to stop there.
From Walgett it was not too far to our destination, Lightning Ridge. After passing Stanley the Emu of course (see previous blog post on Stanley here.) More on that to come…