Day 11, 20/5/2016, Friday, Byrock to Bourke, Weather magnificent
The Kelly Gang are running amuck outside the pub. I visit the wooden loo and after flushing, something floats back up. As I reach for the flush button again four legs unfurl and it scampers up the side of the bowl. Welcome to frog country.
After a lazy start, we drive the 80 kilometres into Bourke. Entry is via the newly tree-lined Fred Hollows Vision Way. There is a crumbling abattoir on the outskirts of town. We swing into a truck wash and spend an hour washing the red dust off the cars and vans.
Bourke is not what I’d expected but then nothing is what you imagine. I had imagined a large dusty town but instead it is smallish and very green with lush lawns, palms and bottle trees. The mix of buildings is decidedly unusual, the courthouse especially grand and elaborate.
We visit the cemetery to see Fred Hollows grave. Fred, whose cataract surgery restored the sight to not only Aboriginals of the outback but to the underprivileged the world over. The cemetery is awash with artificial flowers and we realise the significance of the Nyngan funeral director selling artificial flowers. It is a tradition of the Aboriginal people to cover the graves completely with flowers. There is often a chair beside the grave too, for the mourners when they drop by to have a chat with their loved ones. As we wander around we probably look a bit lost. A council worker and dog catcher pulls up in his ute to offer assistance. We get chatting and he tells us about the rise and demise of the abattoir and the possibility of a new one to process goats no less. Hallelujah, there are more goats out here than rabbits. The conversation is peppered with jokes too risqué for these pages but a true gentleman of the bush he is. He gives us a map of the cemetery and tells us to come back after dark, it is beautiful, he says as the graves have lots of solar lights around them. We’ll take his word for that. I find the graves of the nuns who died in a heatwave, it was way too hot for their heavy habits. And the graves of Afghan cameleers beside the corrugated iron mosque. One of the men has the name Khan. Which could possibly explain why the IGA supermarkets in Cobar, Nyngan and Bourke bear the name Khan.
The three storey Bourke wharf has been rebuilt on the original site beside the Darling River. It is hard to imagine how paddle steamers made it this far inland as the Darling is much narrower than the Murray River.
The young couple who run the Mitchell Caravan Park in the heart of town cook dinner for campers every night of the week. Tonight it is fish and chips for $5. What a great way to get people out of their vans and chatting.
Towing Kms: 80kms