|Male Superb Parrot|
I was flat out painting my bedroom, cooking and buying supplies before we left to go to Bowra so packing on Thursday was a real rush. I went to get the gas bottles for the stove filled but one was out of date so I did a quick trip to Ray's and bought a new one. Back home I opened cupboards and draws and stuffed the car with pots, food, clothes and tent. We had planned to leave at 0530 on Good Friday for the drive to Hillston for our overnight stop. We actually got away at 5:40 which was good as we were ahead of most of the Easter traffic and had a clear run all the way to Hay.
|The road north|
Apart from the stark beauty of the Hay Plains, the first highlight on the long haul from Melbourne to Bowra via the Cobb Highway arrives, for me, 10 km north of the Pretty Pine Pub. Just past the brick electricity sub-station marked "Nurimal" we pulled in beside the irrigation channel and the first birds we saw were White-winged Fairy-wrens. Walking south we got into the stand of Buloke trees and could hear Superb Parrots calling all around us. With care they were quite tolerant of our company and allowed some excellent views. A small family of Grey-crowned Babblers also lives in the trees and this selection of very desirable birds makes it an excellent spot for a tea break.
|Superb Parrot showing long tail|
According to the reports about 80% of western New South Wales is in drought and feed in the paddocks has all been eaten so all along the Deniliquin to Hay Rd we passed mobs of cattle on the Long Paddock where there is still some grass left. The "Long Paddock" or Travelling Stock Routes system of stock routes was set up in the 1850s by maintaining an unfenced strip of land about 200 metres wide along all the major outback roads. There is good information on system at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_route As we drove north there were four mobs, one being controlled by 2 women on quad bikes and their dogs. Other mobs were more traditional with the drovers on horseback.
|Wedge-tailed Eagle standing on road-kill Grey Kangaroo. Wedgies are a seriously large bird|
At Booligal, north of Hay we turned onto the dirt road to Hillston Rd and drove at fast birding speed, about 60 kph. At Hillston we had booked into the Hillston Motor Inn (02 6967 1001) and this turned out to be a magic decision and I recommend it for anyone who wants to stay in Hillston. It was $110 for the night for the 2 of us but the room was large and the bathroom was city quality with a huge, modern shower with designer fittings, which was very welcome on the return trip. What really surprised us though was that as we were checking in we were asked if we wanted red or white wine? After a moment of shocked disbelief we asked for one of each. The room comes with a complimentary small bottle of wine for each guest and a plate of home made Rocky Road chocolate!! YUM.
As I sat in the motel sipping a cold glass of wine Joy walked to the lake in Hillston which is an excellent spot for water birds and on this occasion she found a Cotton Pygmy Goose, well outside its normal range.
|Cotton Pygmy-goose. A very small goose as can be seen by the Eurasian Coot in the background|
From Hillston to Cunnamulla is a serious 8 hour drive and we arrived at about 3:30. We bought petrol and 20 km later we pulled into the drive for the last 5 km to the homestead and campground. And it wasn't until we pulled into drive for the last 5 km to the homestead and camping area that I realised, in my rush to pack and get on the road, I had forgotten to pack the camp stove; gas bottles yes, burners, no. For just a moment I actually cried. But, with help from our friend Ian and the kind people at Bowra, we made it through our stay and the world did not end.
|Trees at the Superb Parrot site|
|Map showing part of the Travelling Stock Route system|
|The Hay Plains|
|There are some trees but they are few and far between. These ones even have a name - 16 Mile Gums|
|Southern Cross windmill at 16 Mile Gums. Southern Cross is the iconic outback windmill brand|
|Woman and her dogs driving cattle|
|Doing it the traditional way, on horseback|
|The cattle have right of way|
|A warning as one leaves Bourke heading for Cunnamulla|
|The Long Paddock sign|
All photos & text © Jenny Spry