Sunday October 28th 2012, Broken Hill to Menindee
It’s warm and clear and very quiet, there must be a lot of sore heads in town. We pack up and head off early, we have an easy 112kms to cover. Two minutes out of town and we’re back in the desert again. We come across a kangaroo just sitting quietly in the middle of the road, he must be enjoying the view too. We pass a grazing emu and a flock of eagles circling their prey. The road is flat, there is saltbush, tussocks and occasionally she oak like trees. We see a flock of emus and an enormous wedge tailed eagle feasting on road kill. Suddenly there is a line of trees on the horizon, we wrongly assume that it is the Darling River, but it is the dry bed of Stephens Creek. We slow for a big fat knobbly lizard slowly crossing the road and soon discover that he is the first of dozens of Shingleback lizards that want to cross this road today.
About 11:15am we pull into Copi Hollow Caravan Park, although we’re now back on NSW Eastern Standard Time, the park is on SA Central Time, as it is owned by the Broken Hill Speed Boat Club! We park the van on beautiful grass, under a row of poplar trees, right on the lake shore. This is one of the smallest lakes in the Menindee Lakes system, it’s hard to believe that we’re in the middle of the desert. We setup the van and eat our lunch, a pasta salad, in the shade of the trees. When Woody finishes his lunch a cheeky little yellow eyed bird jumps up onto the table then perches on his bowl and proceeds to pick at the small bits of tuna that are left. The natives are friendly! This is a truly beautiful spot and surprisingly the lakes aren’t visible from the road as they are each surrounded by a levee bank to control the water flow.
We drive into to the town of Menindee to see the sights, it is only 12kms away and we pass a large vineyard (growing table grapes) and nothing else but desert and the grave of a Burke and Wills exploration cameleer. The town only has 980 residents and it is pretty dry and dusty, with just two pubs a supermarket and post office. I doubt that it’d win the tidy town award. We drive into the Kinchega National Park and follow the river road beside the Darling for a few kilometres. There are National Park camp sites dotted along the river. Somehow it doesn’t have the spirituality that the Murray has, the banks are very steep and there are no grassy spots. We can see the rings on the trees left by last years’ flood. The water is strangely white. There are small birds that look like a cross between a hen and a road runner, they scurry across the road in front of the car at every turn. As we leave the park, we see a flock of eagles roosting in a tree.
We pop into the historic Maidens Inn Hotel for a beer, this is where Burke and Wills rested on their way north, perhaps they should have stayed. The barman tells us that the river only floods over the grey soil and not the red soil, thus in town, the east bank of the river floods and not the west bank. I think I’ll store this snippet away for future reference.
We return to Copi Hollow, sit in the shade and walk by the lake, birds honk and hoot in the bulrushes and kangaroos thump and crash through the scrub. The red sandy path is patterned with the footprints of birds and the slither marks of lizards and snakes. Small black and white butterflies flit about the wildflowers and those little hens scurry ahead, always out of reach. It is a magical walk. These lakes are a milky, slightly green colour, like nothing we’ve seen before. Menindee Lake is filled with dead trees, whereas the tiny Copi Hollow is devoid of trees and perfect for water skiing.
Marinated pork ribs on the BBQ with a tossed salad are perfect for dinner. We bought the ribs in Broken Hill and they’ve been marinating in the fridge since yesterday. Soon it is time to chase the sunset that this area is famous for, it isn’t the blow you away type of sunset, but a really gentle one and the sky slowly changes to become a ‘neapolitan’ with layers of soft pinks and blues.
We settle in to watch a movie, Red Dog, before calling it a night and nodding off to the croaking of the frogs in the bulrushes.
2021 Note: The Burke & Wills expedition set out in 1860 and was the first European exploration to cross the continent from South to North. Only one member of the party John King returned alive to Melbourne.