Tibooburra and the Corner Country…

Tibooburra, nestled in the far north west of New South Wales, speaks loudly of Australia’s Corner Country and will be a town familiar to many outback travellers.

An area rich in aboriginal culture and a place of early European settlement, Tibooburra’s remoteness is matched by the tenacity of the characters that live and work in this arid outback environment.

Numerous explorers’ have visited the region over the years, most notably Charles Sturt as he went in search of an inland sea.

And it has had its fair share of modern day visitors, including Clifton Pugh, the famous Australian artist who painted a mural on one of the walls of the Family Hotel. In fact he even owned the pub at one time.

And for a very short period in its early history the area experienced a gold rush of sorts. But as was normally the case on many of the goldfields, it was the storekeepers supplying provisions to hopeful prospectors and the pubs serving grog to thirsty miners that struck the most gold…

Although, they do say patient prospectors may still be able to find a nugget or two. And if you manage to find one, or even if you don’t, there is always a cold beer to be found in one of the town’s two pubs.

Whilst we are advocates for responsible drinking, a cold beer in hand is a pleasant way to spend days end as the sun slides gently below the western horizon.

australian pubs

And be sure to visit the information centre which has a wealth of information on Australia’s First Nation People as well as other topical information that will assist visitors get the most out of a trip into Sturt National Park.

And, if travelling to Innamincka don’t overlook taking a route often less trodden that takes you through the spectacularly beautiful jump-up country before passing through the iconic dog-fence at Toona Gate.

Heading north from Tibooburra you will traverse sand dune country, passing Omnicron Lake, which will most likely be dry, and Epsilon Station, before joining the northern section of the Bore Track.

The track exits just east of Cullyamurra waterhole and is clearly marked on most maps.

The northern section of the Bore Track is well worth the effort and be sure to drop by and visit the place that Robert O’Hara Burke was reported to have died, a peaceful resting spot beside the waterhole not far from the Innamincka township.

The region is a destination in its own right, so don’t just pass through, add a few days to your trip and immerse yourself in all it has to offer…

Photos: Janet & Baz


About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

A few years ago we decided it was time to graduate from work and re-enter the classroom of life where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

Cheers, Baz & Janet

A watering hole in the bush…

Quenching your thirst is basic to human survival, no more so than whilst travelling our magnificent country. Mind you, quenching your thirst may take many different forms and how you quench it depend on the era you grew up in… 

For Australia’s First Nation People, living near a permanent waterhole on our parched continent has been key to their survival for over sixty thousand years. In seasons of good rains, which are infrequent, they were able stretch out their area of reach, travelling from rock hole to rock hole, in search of food and to trade.  Dreamtime stories providing the roadmap to those faraway rock holes.

With the coming of European settlement, watering holes morphed into hotels and inns, pubs where horses could be watered and where you could get a bed for the night.  And most importantly, where one could wash down the dust from their dry throat after a day ‘on the wallaby’. 

In some cases these watering holes were little more than a shanty with calico walls, where the company was rough and the liquor even rougher still…!

Distances between these establishments was nominal in modern day estimation, usually the distance a horse might be able to travel in a day, perhaps even less so.

These days our travel is usually in an air-conditioned vehicle with little consideration needed other than to fill it up with go-juice to keep it going, which might be petrol or diesel. And long distances are covered between resting times.

Yes, cars need to be serviced, but unless you’re driving a Landrover most vehicles don’t need to be regularly rested like a horse. 

And a note for Landrover owners, we consider ourselves entitled to make Landrover jokes having once owned two Landrover Defenders at the same time, although we have disposed of them and happy to report we are now fully recovered from the experience and leading happy lives once again (tongue firmly in cheek… 😉 )

Anyway…

As we make our way west across the Hay Plain we have been reflecting on some of the pubs we’ve visited in our travels, the characters we’ve met, the tales we’ve heard and the ales we’ve drunk. 

And hey, if you’re travelling out this way and looking for a good spot to camp take the time to check out Sandy Point along the Murrumbidgee River. 

It is a free camp you’ll be sharing with other travellers, but there is plenty of room and it is only a short walking distance into the township of Hay where you’ll find a couple of watering holes in the main street.

And be sure to take the time to visit the Shearer’s Hall of Fame whilst you’re visiting. 

As we made our way further west towards Balranald and a rendezvous with our life-long friends and travelling partners we were giving some thought to where we might stay for the night as the camp area near the old woolshed in Yanga National Park was closed due to recent rains.

And as luck would have it, we discovered the Homebush Hotel at Penarie, which is located on the road towards Ivanhoe and about 30-kilometres north of Balranald.  

Now when we say ‘we discovered’ it is worth noting that the pub was built in 1878 and today it is the only roadside inn that has survived along the road to Ivanhoe. 

We put a phone call in to ‘Nugget’ the publican to check the pub was open.  

And in these Covid times it does pay to check.

“No worries”, Nugget said, and not long after leaving Balranald we had set-up ‘camp’ behind the pub and enjoying a beer beside the warmth of the fire, a central feature in the bar of the pub. 

And you’ve got to like Outback hospitality. Providing you spend a few dollars in the pub you can camp out back for free…! 

Hey, it is no resort, but that suits us fine and it is always nice to get a hot shower in when you can.

Now legend has it that Nugget, in his younger days, was a delivery boy and pizza maker for Eagleboy Pizza’s and even featured in one of its television ads.  

Of this we have no doubt. 

So if you ever stop by at the Homebush Hotel you can’t go wrong ordering one of Nugget’s pizzas, we did and we are still raving about it.

But here’s the thing, next time you’re in an old bush pub like the Homebush take the time to stop and listen ‘cause above the crackle of the fire, or the din of the chatter, you might just hear the voices and laughter of the characters that have long passed…if only the walls could talk, hey…?

Photos: Janet & Baz

About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

In 2017 we decided it was time to “graduate from work” and re-enter “the classroom of life” where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

Cheers, Baz & Janet

Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise…

There is something very pleasing about having our touring vehicle pointed down the driveway towards the front gate, standing at the ready like a trusty friend and prepped for another adventure with our camper trailer in tow.

We enjoy the anticipation of a trip building in the lead-up to the day of departure, the chatter about places we will visit and in many cases revisit providing a wonderful mood and spring to our step.

Mind you our departure these days is usually marked with a hasty good-bye with our son, who, with bleary eyes, usually arises from his slumber just in the nick of time to wave us through the gate. 

Motoring along the freeway, the escape route from our urban confines, we reflect on past trips when TomO, once dubbed the walking hat, would happily be strapped into his car seat, colouring books and other travel distracting paraphernalia at hand. 

How things change, hey…?

TomO – The Walking Hat

The little bloke never knew if he was heading down the street to the local shop, or halfway around Australia on an Outback Adventure…

But that’s a story for another time, today we are heading to the small town of Jugiong, about 350 kilometres to the south west of Sydney, as we make our way into the Australian Outback for a few weeks of touring. 

Like many towns along the main road connecting Sydney and Melbourne, Jugiong is easily by-passed these days as one travels by at a hundred or so kilometres per hour.  But with time our own since graduating from work we detour frequently, investigating many of the places that were once a blur in the windscreen as we headed to a destination constrained by the bonds of school and work timetables.

And as we warmed ourselves with coffee from the thermos a couple of hours into our journey at Gunning, a historical town along today’s route, we joked that maybe TomO was still sound asleep in bed. 

We laughed, given the wind chill in the air could you blame him…?

We have struggled with the cold of a southern winter and console ourselves with thoughts of a warm campfire, vowing they would be a feature of this trip that would take us to far-western New South Wales. To be honest, they are a feature of most of our trips if conditions are suitable and the taking of firewood has minimal impact on the area.

In our defence we did grow up in the tropics and spent time living in Papua New Guinea, but you’d think that after 30 or more years we’d be growing more accustomed to the cold – not…!

And for those who haven’t travelled through the Australian Outback in winter, rest assured, it can be freezing cold as the sun’s rays withdraw their warmth from the wide-open plains. But the draw of deep blue skies touching a faraway horizon of parched red-earth has provided us with some immunity to the cold, but glorious starry nights. 

By mid afternoon we were pulling into the Jugiong showground that is situated alongside the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. The showground Trust asks for a small donation for the privilege of staying in this picturesque spot and we gladly oblige.  

As usual, there was a few other travellers’ set-up, some already preparing for the common place ritual of happy hour, where seemingly anonymous travellers’ share jokes and stories like old friends. 

Opposite are a couple of shops, one selling local produce and gelato, another selling local wines. 

The Long-Track Pantry café is a great place for a coffee, or lingering lunch, and the Sir George Hotel that has been renovated to its previous glory in recent years stands proudly on the street corner.  

After a day of driving, well not quite a day, we stretch our legs with a walk across to the other side of the river via a causeway and up a hill where you get a great view of the town and surrounding countryside.  

Being in the throes of winter the days are much shorter and with the sun fast sliding towards the western horizon the temperature was starting to drop. We took this as our cue to head back to “camp” for an easy pre-prepared meal, before heading to a warm fire and a glass of locally produced wine at the Sir George Hotel.

Over many years of travel we have learnt that plans usually never go to plan, so to speak, which sometimes adds to the experience.  In this case thoughts of a warm fire and that glass of red were going to be just that, thoughts, as to our dismay we discovered the Sir George was only open to dinner and drinks for resident guests on Monday nights…!

Perhaps this was due to the new order of life living with the Corona Virus, or maybe it is always the case, and as we walked back to our camper trailer, a Track Tvan, we quickly decided that a book, a queen bed covered in a dooner and warm blankets was very appealing even if the sun had only just disappeared.

It is only 6 o’clock and we are tucked up in bed. As we turned out the light we hoped there is some truth in the old adage – Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a person healthy and wise!

Photos: Janet & Baz

About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

In 2017 we decided it was time to “graduate from work” and re-enter the classroom of life where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

Cheers, Baz & Janet

The Murrumbidgee River, snaking its way across a Sunburnt Land…

Finally, we have again broken the boundaries of our urban existence, making our way into the great Australian Outback where deep blue skies touch a red ochre land on a faraway horizon.

The country is green after much needed rains and the mighty Murrumbidgee River is flowing, snaking its way across a sunburnt land.

The Murrumbidgee has been the lifeblood to both first nations people of Australia and in more recent times to European settlers.  And we are taking advantage of a beautiful campsite alongside the “Bidgee” at Sandy Point near the township of Hay in Western New South Wales.

Photos: Baz and Janet


About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

In 2017 we decided it was time to “graduate from work” and re-enter “the classroom of life” where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

Cheers, Baz & Janet

Outback Australia Beckons…

Like most people we have had plenty of time to reflect over these past few months of “lock-down” as the world has come to grips with a pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime.

And our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones and friends to the dreadful virus and to the many affected by the economic consequences that the virus has drowned us in…

Often it takes an ‘out of the blue’ experience to jolt us into realising the things that are important to us, to value life, and above all else, to simply live in the moment.

And now that we are once again able to travel within this great country of ours, albeit with some restrictions still in place, we are going to skip down the driveway and out the front gate in the next few days to soak up some red dust and blue skies in the vast Australian Outback…

About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

In 2017 we decided it was time to “graduate from work” and re-enter the classroom of life” where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

Cheers, Baz & Janet

A golden experience, whispers from the past…

milparinka

Blue skies, the earthen coloured red soil of the Australian Outback, sunsets to dream of and three weeks in the Corner Country was an opportunity far too good to pass up.

So I didn’t..!

With my customised touring vehicle loaded with supplies and TVAN Firetail camper trailer in tow I headed to the far west corner of New South Wales – “The Corner Country”.

After two days and 1,300 kilometres of travel along bitumen and dirt roads I arrived at Milparinka, a ghost town just to the south of Tibooburra, the town that is often the hottest place in the state during our long summer months.

Now it would be easy to miss this gem of a town as you make your way north to Tibooburra, or south to Broken Hill along the Silver City Highway as it is off the main highway. But a detour to Milparinka, whose history is steeped in a gold discovery, is well worth the effort.

The Corner Country has been a favourite of Janet and mine for as long as we have been touring the Australian Outback. So when the opportunity came along to spend three weeks as resident Information Person and caretaker at the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association I jumped at it…

The area’s first recorded exposure to European’s was in 1845 when Captain Charles Sturt mounted his exploration of the interior expedition in search of an inland sea. He found anything but a vast ocean of water, but his journey into the region opened the way for pastoralists’ who began arriving from the 1860’s onwards.

The environment is harsh and unforgiving, even to this day, especially with an annual rainfall averaging less than 5 inches per year. The tenacity of Sturt, and perhaps those who have followed in his footsteps are best summed up by this note in his journal…

“I would rather that my bones had been left to bleach in the desert than have yielded an inch of ground I had gained at so much expense”…

 

Charles Sturt

It was near to the current township of Milparinka that a station hand, John Thompson, discovered a couple of nuggets of gold whilst herding sheep on Mt Poole Station in 1880.

This discovery led to a “gold rush” with hopeful miners and prospectors making an arduous journey over an unforgiving land. They had no idea of just how harsh this environment was, and that water and eventually provisions were in short supply. As was the case on Australia’s early goldfields, many perished from disease; some were successful, but most left with little more than the shirts on their back.

Often, those that were most successful were the business’s that thrived on supporting the miners, especially the “sly grog shops” and “pubs”. And it is worth noting, in 1882 water was in such scarce supply that a whiskey and water cost substantially more than a whiskey “straight-up” – such was the value of that most basic of precious commodities, water…!

The township of Milparinka was first surveyed in 1881 and finally chartered in 1883, but its population peaked around this time as the “gold rush” was short-lived. However, the town continued to support a core group of residents and there were many sand stone buildings constructed from stone quarried locally.

Amongst these was the Police Barracks built in 1884 and later; the James Barnett designed Courthouse in 1896. James Barnett, the Architect for the Colony of New South Wales, designed many buildings, including the magnificent Post Office that stands proudly in Sydney’s Martin Place today.

By the 1930’s the police administration and court functions had moved north to the township of Tibooburra, or “The Granites” as it was referred to at the time and many of the old buildings fell into disrepair, some crumbling back to the earth either through lack of maintenance or vandalism.

But a community initiative in the 1980’s halted the destruction of the Courthouse and surrounding buildings, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association brought them back to life and re-opened the Courthouse as the local Historical Centre.

The Association is actively looking to preserve the couple of remaining buildings that are in disrepair and in early 2018 purchased the old Post Office with a view to bringing it “back to life”.

milparinka post office

The one remaining business in town is the Albert Hotel, which has been closed at various times, but I’m pleased to say is once again serving cold beer and fine pub style meals to the passing tourists. Much the same as 130 years ago when George Blore built the pub…

Sitting on the verandah of the Albert Hotel, beer in hand, is a great way to spend time reflecting on the beauty of this ancient land, its landscape and people, as the sun casts a golden hue over the surrounding Grey Ranges making way for an inky black sky that promises to showcase the “Milky Way” in all its glory…

australian pubs

So next time you are heading along the Silver City Highway and see the signpost to Milparinka, be sure to take time out to visit this “glimpse of the past” if only to quench your thirst as early travellers did…

Who knows, you might even hear “whispers from the past” as you walk around the old buildings, the sounds of laughter from long ago drifting on the breeze…

I’m confident if you scratch the surface of this town that time forgot you’ll be rewarded with something more valuable than just a nugget of gold; an experience that is golden…

Photo’s: Baz – The Landy, Milparinka, Outback Australia…

Barry O'Malley
Baz – The Landy

 

Travelling the Australian Outback (In Style)

Simpson Desert, Outback Australia

Travelling and photographing the Australian Outback is a great privilege that I never take for granted.

As a family we visit it often and we have a couple of spectacular desert trips planned this year, the first one coming up in a couple of months time.

Recently we upgraded our touring vehicle to a Toyota 79 Series Dual Cab that we have modified to cope with the harsh environment it will be asked to operate in.  It is also capable of pulling our off-road camper Trailer, a Track TVAN.

The TVAN is the go anywhere camper trailer with suspension built to military specifications. 

Depending on conditions, the vehicle has a range of approximately 1,700-kilometres and all electrical equipment we require is powered by two 120-watt solar panels on the roof charging a 150-amp battery.

It is also equipped with a High Frequency radio for long-range communications. For those not familiar a HF Radio is capable of transmitting over large distances and with the right atmospheric conditions we can speak with someone thousands of kilometres away.

Now I’m not going to “rabbit” on too much here and I’ll let the photographs do the talking, but a little while back I asked for you to submit some designs for a mural to go on the vehicle and I’m pleased to showcase the final product that was inspired by a design suggested by Sassy, who writes a blog titled Sasieology…

Custom four-wheel drive
Toyota 79 Series Dual Cab

The mural reflects the travel the vehicle will do, across the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Sydney Opera House and into the Australian Outback.

And I hear you ask what about the Crow?

Well Charlie, he travels with us everywhere!

We captured the photographs as we put the vehicle through its paces with the TVAN in tow in the Australian Bush last weekend.

It passed with flying colours, but I’m still trying to wrest the keys back from Janet who is a rev-head at heart, especially behind the big gutsy V8 engine!

Janet a Rev-Head - You Decide!
Janet a Rev-Head – You Decide!

Photos: Baz, The Landy – Janet Planet, and TomO