The Way Back to Sydney – Part One

Here I am in July still writing about our outback adventure in January. I really should make more of an effort eh? At least looking back to summer is better than being stuck inside on a rainy weekend like the one we are having.

In case you have forgotten…. our last real base was Wentworth and the last post on this trip was about Mungo National Park. We only planned to stop over one night so it was mostly driving and short stops to see some more outback and country towns.

We left Wentworth heading east on the Sturt Highway (aka A20). After less than two hours and Dani moaning, the first place we stopped was called Balranald. It is a town of about 1200 people that was established in 1851. The town is in a semi desert landscape which would be a lot harsher if it wasn’t for the wonderfully named Murrumbidgee River that borders the south side of town.  The river is the second longest in Australia at over 920 miles from its source in the Snowy mountains to eventually joining the Murray  further west. Although we only had a quick look around I think I can safely say that the people we met there were the friendliest we have come across (so far) in Australia. I can put this town on the list of places I want to return to.

There is even an old gaol in the town. Its claim to fame (or infamy) is that it once housed the last man to be hanged in Australia (Ronald Ryan, in 1967) after he robbed a local bank. There was little to see and it was not open.

Old Balranald Gaol

Balranald is located within reach of Yanga, Mungo and Murrumbidgee Valley National Parks. We also visited the Yanga Woolsheds just past the town (on our route). Yes, yet another huge old woolshed that is no longer used. It begs the question: Where are all the sheep now being sheared? I have no idea. But the scale of these places still impresses me…

Murrumbidgee River
Another huge abandoned woolshed
Inside the Yanga Woolshed

Baling machine

Hay and the Second World War Internment Camps

Another 130km east we arrived at Hay. Located about half way between Sydney and Adelaide, Hay was an important transport hub and became the centre of a thriving sheep farming and crop growing agricultural industry. Like so many isolated places in these parts it only has a small population – something like 2400. But it has an interesting history.

Hay Post Office

During World War II Hay was the location of internment and prisoner of war (POW) camps, thanks largely to its isolated location. Three high-security camps were built in 1940. The first arrivals were over two thousand refugees from Nazi Germany and Austria, many of them Jewish. They had been rounded up in Britain when fears of invasion were at their peak, and for some reason it was decided to transport them to the other side of the world. Not the first time the British had transported prisoners from one end of the planet to the other eh? The trip was made  aboard the HMT Dunera and the ‘prisoners’ later became known as the ‘Dunera Boys’. The internees arrived at Hay station and held in camps built close by. The station is no longer used for trains but is well preserved and home to a museum inside old rail carriages.

Unused but perfectly preserved Hay station

They were released a couple of years later once it as realised that they were ‘friendly’ and  800 of those interned at Hay eventually chose to remain in Australia. They also made way for thousands of German, Italian and Japanese POWs that were held here during the final years of the war.  Every year the town holds a ‘Dunera Day’ in which surviving internees return to the site of their former imprisonment.

One of the old carriages housing the museum

The internment camps even had their own currency

Hay was yet another place where artists had used the large silos as a canvas.

Silo art at Hay: Commemorating locals who went to war.

Hay Gaol

Another old gaol. Me and Dani can’t get enough of them whereas Dani’s mum preferred to sit this one out. Hay gaol was mentioned in the Wentworth Gaol write-up (here) as being designed around the same time.

Hay Old Gaol and Museum

The gaol doubled as a museum and had a decent collection of old vehicles in the grounds outside the main walls.

Another Model ‘T’ Ford. Only the second I have ever seen, in almost as many days!
An old fire engine
An early ambulance

One of the cells had an early 17 inch Astor TV set made in 1956, the same year as the Olympic games in Melbourne. It was known as the Olympic Games model. Like old gaols, old vintage TV sets are always interesting. To old dads like me who can remember only having black & white TV sets, and to kids like Dani who just can’t believe we used to watch things like that. His reactions always make me laugh.

One of the cells housing museum antiques.

There also had a couple of old motorbikes that I could not recognise. Anyone know?

Further East

The tiny village (or hamlet) of Weethalle is worth a mention. As small as it is you can’t miss it as you drive through. The thing that catches your attention is the huge work of art that doubles as grain silos. Or should that be the other way around?…

More Silo Art at Weethalle

Definitely one of those little towns where I would have liked to spend a bit more time.

By now we were in the county of Blandshire. Bland by name… but apparently humorous by nature. The shire of Bland has linked up with two other places in the far corners of the planet to form what they call a trinity of ‘The League of Extraordinary Communities’. Check out this photograph which may explain it.

Bland… far from Dull and Boring

Now I had never heard of Dull, but it does exist. I must have passed through it or close by as it is in Scotland, only 75 miles or so north of Glasgow. Boring is also a real place in the US state of Oregon.

This particular spot is on the outskirts of West Wyalong the town where we stopped for the night. More on this town and the rest of the return journey in a future post…

2 thoughts on “The Way Back to Sydney – Part One

  1. Love the Bland sense of humor.
    The silo art is amazing but they’re no Banksy’s are they? 😉
    If the shearing sheds are now idle does that mean that the sheep farming has declined? And if not the sheds that are used instead of the many closed must be humongous!!

    1. Good questions Lynette. I don’t know about the sheep sheds now but intend to find out. There are so many closed down. Certainly sheep farming (wool and meat) helped build the Australian economy years ago but in more recent days the country is a lot less dependant on it. But I am sure there will be some huge shearing sheds out there. I will try and find out.
      As for the silo art; yes it’s really spectacular and quite a thing here at the moment. And why not? I have a collection of photos of those we have seen so far (most of them) and intend doing a special post about that art scene…

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