Day 21 Monday 30/5/2016, Lightning Ridge to Nindigully, nice
After farewells we are back on the rather rock and rolling road towards Queensland. Apparently, the road is the way it is because floodwaters sometimes undermine the asphalt topping. I wouldn’t want to travel at great speed.
We cross the border into Qld and the tiny town of Hebel.
The Hebel general store is famous for its pies but we are a little early. The old girl, the general store that is, was built in 1897 and the wooden floors are worse than the road, where the floor has given way altogether there are large metal patches. Just to get to the counter in the rear to place your order you must walk up hill, then down and up again, one wonders if they’ve ever contemplated restumping. We’re concerned about the shortcut road across to Nindigully but the waitress assures us that it is a bit rough and skinny but ok. Oh good, now we really don’t know what to expect.
Across the road is yet another iconic pub, the Hebel Hotel. If you think this blog is a tour of iconic Aussie pubs, well you may be right but if it is too early for a pie it is definitely too early, for a beer. Hebel was once a controlled border crossing when one had to pay taxes to cross what are now state borders and the store was a Cobb & Co staging post (coach horse changing station). The pub still has hitching rails out front and the steep red corrugated iron roof has large patches of quirky artwork.
Whilst stretching our legs we notice a small park called the ‘history circle’ which is a group of story boards giving the town’s history with a twist:
Have you ever been to Hebel
Where it blows and blows and blows
And barring goats and bottle tops
Nothing ever grows
The heatwaves in the summer
Make the red plains shine like glass
And there’s seldom any water
And there’s seldom any grass Jim Harper (Hebel poet)
Then there’s the story of how the locals weren’t impressed when the telephone exchange was automated in 1989, because they could no longer pick up the phone and ask the operator about the condition of the roads or when visitors would be arriving. Which sounds to me that little has changed regarding roads.
And then there’s the story of the massive beer bottle stack at the pub during the Second World War when draught beer wasn’t available. The stack was so large it could be seen at 3000 feet by planes on the Sydney Hong Kong route.
For a town with little more than a store, a pub and a hall they are an interesting lot in Hebel.
And so on to Dirranbandi which I’ll tell you about just because I love the way that the name Dirranbandi rolls off the tongue. This is a cotton supplies town with bougainvillea flowering in the Main Street and it looks like Queensland, if you know what I mean. There is a change in architecture. The roadside is dotted with rogue cotton bushes and prickly pear and that road that we’d been so worried about is excellent, it was rebuilt recently and is now a wide blacktop. If only we could drive straight instead of swerving back and forth to avoid roadkill.
As we drive, I listen to the ABC and a professor is discussing the breeding habits of brush turkeys. Wow, I hang on every word and Woody doesn’t hear a thing! I’m even tempted to pick it up again on podcast. Those poor male brush turkeys scratch about for ages building the biggest possible mound to attract a lady only to have her shoot through after laying her eggs to find another exhausted mound building bloke. He’s left to sit on the eggs, which is probably all he’s capable of doing by that stage.
The Nindigully pub was built in 1864 on the banks of the Moonie River. It too was a Cobb & Co staging post. There is a huge campground out front with at least 30 vans of all description and room for more. The river is pretty and flanked by an interpretive walk so that we can quickly identify what snakes will kill us, almost all of them we learn. There is a 100 year old wooden bridge that was once the focal point of this crossroads town.
But oh what a pub. Long and low, a sweeping shady old verandah with wooden floorboards, hitching posts across the front. This is Queensland’s longest licensed hotel. And it ticks every box as far as iconic Aussie pubs go. An inviting beer garden, inside the walls are hung with photos and memorabilia, drovers hats hang from the ceiling, a feral pig’s head wearing sunglasses and there is a charming timber lined dining room with more photos of times gone by and of the last flood when the river lapped the verandah.
We’re here with VeeWee, BP & H and D & H who leave for a caravan park in St George when their fridge refuses to start on gas. Oh, the joys of free camping.
We settle into the dining room for the best Barra (barramundi) and chips we’ve ever had, oh God!
The next table orders the famous big burger 5.5kg of beef for $60 serves 6. I forgot to mention cheap happy hour drinks, what a pub!
Towing Kms: 230kms
2021 Note: Who would have guessed that the Hebel border crossing would once more swing into action when Covid rules closed state borders.
And in 2019 we rolled into Nindigully for a night and discovered that our fridge too had gone on the blink. Spooky.