Heading for the Outback – via Gunnedah

Flashback to January 2nd. Day one of our big road-trip and a long drive from Sydney to Gunnedah. A distance of 450km taking about 5 hours. We started early which seemed to make leaving Sydney fairly easy. But it did rain most of the way.

The route took us north close to Newcastle, then inland along the “New England” highway, passing places called Aberdeen and Scone; all still in New South Wales.

Scone

Other places we passed through include Willow Tree, Muswellbrook and Curlewis. None of which I had ever heard of. We stopped in Scone, named after the Scottish town, for breakfast. Scone is a farming area but it is also famous for breeding thoroughbred race horses. It is known as the ‘Horse capital of Australia’ and there are plenty of stud farms to prove it.

Scone Anglican Church

It turned out that there was no place open serving food. We ended up using the McDonald’s on the edge of town. Most of the small towns we passed through had a McDonalds. Not something I think of as being good for a rural town, but it is the way things are going.

Scone is a pleasant enough little place and could be worth a proper visit for one of the horse racing festivals. One building that stood out for me was the old art deco cinema on the main high street. This beautiful building was being restored. This was taken over two months ago and I have rea that the elegant art deco façade has since been revealed in all its former glory. Another return visit must do…

The Civic cinema in Scone – being renovated

Coal

I knew the area north and west of Newcastle was a big coal mining region. There are several signs of mining and coal fired power stations along the route. I did not know that Gunnedah was so dependent on the coal industry.

Tribute to the coal town’s miners
Gunnedah from one of the area’s lookouts
Farmland as far as the eye can see. But also coal!

Gunnedah is a thriving, smart and clean little town. The wealth generated by the coal industry obviously helps. However, there are many ‘greens’ in Australia who would shut the industry down without a second thought. I won’t print what I think of those types here but maybe you can guess.

Gunnedah Town Hall
Sculptures in a town park

We saw several long coal trains along the way and many small towns have a rail link. If the coal industry is closed down there is no way the passenger trains could pay for the upkeep of the railways in this part of the world. The coal industry is very profitable in Australia. I see no reason to stop it.

Why have I never seen one of these before?

A small kids park near the town centre had an unusual but clever swing. It incorporated one of those baby swings with a normal (adult) swing. The parent can sit facing the baby/toddler while both move together. What a great idea! Why has nobody thought of that before? Maybe they have been around for while, but I had never seen one.

What a great idea.

Koalas and Art in Gunnedah

Gunnedah is also famous for being a centre for koala spotting. We tried al the main spots around the edge of town but had no luck. We did see a fair few of the ubiquitous kangaroos however.

Vietnam war artwork is not something you see very often, but Gunnedah has some. The artist Jenny McCracken painted an old water tower  – after it was converted to a museum – with commemorative murals to those who fought in that war. This has become part of a growing interest in this part of the world – known as the Australian Silo Art Trail.

Another fine example of silo art is the painting of Dorothea Mackellar and an extract from her famous poem “My Country”. This has been immortalized on this 29 metre high, privately owned maize mill in the town. Silo artist (yes that is a real thing now!) Heesco completed the artwork. More on Heesco to come…

Dorothea is famous for writing one of Australia’s most iconic poems, “My Country”. Here is the famous second verse:
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
Who says this old dad is uncultured eh?

On to the Outback

By 9pm I was ready for bed. There was another long drive the following morning; some 550km to Bourke, the start of the real outback.

OK, this all happened two months ago and I need to catch up – quickly! So over the next couple of weeks I will add posts for the rest of the outback adventure. I need to hurry. In three week’s time Dani will be on school holidays again and we will be off again…

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