Day 4, 17/7/2019 Wednesday, Eumungerie to Lightning Ridge, 8 – 18
An amble in Coonamble
We wake to blue skies and birdsong, northern birdsong. The thing I’ll miss the most when this caravanning life is over is the birdsong and how it changes as you move north.
Gilgandra looks tired, old rundown houses sadly in need of more than a coat of paint, poor fences and yards filled with rusting junk. The Castlereagh Highway is in better condition than the Newell and of course much quieter. It’s dry out here yet there are green grain farms the further we go.
We swing into Gulargambone for a coffee but the nice little cafe that we found last time is now closed, I do hope that’s not permanent. We’re now on a section of road that is new to us and that’s always a bit of a buzz.
We follow the line of the mostly dry Castlereagh River into Coonamble a town which is neat and tidy with wide footpaths and beds of flowers. Buildings sport Nickname Posters, caricatures of local identities which tells us that these folk are pretty friendly and don’t take themselves too seriously. The people we meet on the street are keen to chat or shout a cheery g’day.
Coonamble Nickname Hall of Fame
Frank C Wooding
Frank Wooding was born a Leeton lad. He assumed his “Fluffy” persona as a skinny, blond haired youth when he sprouted hair down the sides of his face and from a mole on his chin. This temporarily made him the top entertainment among his 11 siblings and immunized him against other people’s opinions for life.
The thick skinned can thrive in Coonamble. With his fashionable head hankies and unusual clothing combinations, flaunting boundless body hair, Fluffy follows his own rules. He has been fencing, rabbiting and bar-tending from Quambone to Orange and back again. He has been both butcher and long time baker with his ‘fluffy’ pie-crusts the stuff of local legend. “Retired” from baking, the veteran left-hander spends his time golfing or driving his ice-cream van nicknamed “McFluffy” faster than most of the local kids can run.
Fluffy is also a hoarder. Among his collection – the urinal from the old Plaza Theatre. Why does he keep it when all of his offspring are female? You could ask Fluffy but why bother? He probably doesn’t know and doesn’t care.
The highway is good for another 50kms then becomes bumpy, farms become drier until they are just ploughed dirt waiting for rain. There are shimmering mirages to the horizon. Walgett is sad, most buildings, public and private, have security screens on the windows which gives the place a bad feel.
Ploughing ever northwards it’s getting warm. There’s not a cloud in the sky and at last we’re peeling off the layers. It’s a real bonus to be sweating and not because of a fever. Of course Woody reckons that there is an invisible line across the country that defines when you can safely strip down to shorts and T shirts. We can’t see any livestock in the paddocks and there’s hardly any roadkill either. Even the prickly pear cactus looks dry and half dead. And just as we remark that we haven’t even seen an emu we see a large emu with a flock of chicks at heel (do emus have heels?) strolling along the fence line.
About 1:00 we pull into Lightning Ridge and the reception office at the Opal Caravan Park is full of campers checking in and there’s a queue of vans outside. The girls behind the desk are flat out but cheery, they’re used to the pace at this park. It’s good to be back here again. We quickly set up camp and race back into town for a few groceries as tonight we’re going to finally celebrate our birthdays. Yep, we reckon that we can face a bottle of wine! Back at camp we soak up the warm sun like a couple of lizards, mind you, we look as wrinkly as a couple of old lizards these days. Over at the impressive camp shed Bush poets Mel & Susie are putting on their show entertaining the nomads. We cook our traditional birthday Lup Yook (a Chinese dried pork) and fried rice outside on the stove as the sky turns breathtaking shades of pink and blue. Then a full moon rises over the machinery shed. The bottle of Prosecco is good too and we’re finally relaxing.
Summary 319kms, power, water, toilets, showers, Accom $35.10