After staying in a cabin at Kidman Camp in North Bourke (Northy to the locals), we drove through the Camp to the Darling River where a paddle boat was undergoing repairs. PV Jandra usually does cruises on the river but it is out of action until its generator is fixed.
Next stop was Bourke Bridge Inn as I wanted a photograph of the old lift bridge. These were built by the NSW Government to replace river barges crossing the river and to encourage graziers to send their wool to the nearest railhead which eventually came to Bourke. A section of the bridge lifted up, allowing the paddle boats to go further up the river.
We visited the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre, which has four pavilions, one an entry point and information centre, the second and third show the history of the area and the fourth building is a café but it was not open. Walking through the gardens to the next pavilion at midday was hot, and unfortunately the predominate smell was cat pee. Much of the history we knew from other places or I had researched, so it was a quick visit.
In Bourke we saw the restored Crossley oil fuelled stationary engine and walked down many stairs to the river bank at the wharf precinct before driving on to Brewarrina. Here fish traps in the Barwon River are estimated to be 40,000 years old, possibly the world’s oldest human construction. We met up with an Aboriginal guide and he explained how the fish traps worked, how 8 tribes shared them and how a weir a short distance upstream had destroyed the flow and made it impossible for the native fish to swim upstream. Parts of this tour were confronting but it was interesting and very different from anything else we had done. The spiel was not as polished, the maps and photographs were a bit ragged and some of the plants on story boards were not from the area. This was not the fault of the locals running the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum, but of bureaucracy. Our guide’s main message was that the fish traps were always where different tribes came together in friendship.
We drove on to Coonamble and saw the newly painted water tower, peered into the art gallery as it was shut and met up with friends at the Commercial Hotel. It was wonderful to see this lovely old pub restored with good taste and functionality.
This is the end of my latest tour of some of the towns relying on the Great Artesian Basin’s water. So many people depend on this water for domestic and agricultural use and without it the developing tourist industry will fail. It’s a long straight road between places, but it’s worth it. I have learnt a lot about my country.