To Broken Hill and Bourke

After fuelling up at Dublin, just a few kilometres up the road from Parham, we were heading off in the frosty cold of the early morning.

As the heater warmed up the car we settled back into enjoying the surroundings as we meandered through the South Australian countryside turning east at Port Wakefield towards Balaklava. As usual there’s an always fascinating new landscape to ensure that each kilometre is packed with interest.

As we passed Auburn and the beautiful little town of Saddleworth the scenery changed to lush rolling hills lined with vineyards, in which the countless acres of grape vines had been neatly pruned for winter.

Saddleworth - South Australia

Saddleworth – South Australia

At Burra we turned on to the Barrier Highway which would take us the next 812 kilometres to Cobar in New South Wales.

The little town of Mount Bryan was our stop for morning tea, we had stayed the night here last time amid the many windmills of the wind farm that seemed to overpower and pollute the vision of the surrounding beautiful rolling hills.

We again marvelled at the beautiful farms most of which still had the ruins of the old stone homesteads on them.

Vast plains spread to the horizon in every direction

Vast plains spread to the horizon in every direction

The landscape changed gradually to vast, sparsely populated outback country again as the miles rolled by and we progressed closer towards Broken Hill.

Red dirt, scrub, blue sky and seemingly endless space was interrupted only by the dead straight Barrier Highway reaching so far into the distance that it disappeared as it became one with the far off horizon.

Ribbon of highway to the future?

Ribbon of highway to the future?

There’s not much on the way to Broken Hill but we did stop for lunch at a tiny store in Manna Hill where there was a welcoming roaring log fire to keep out the chill that still hung in the air.

On making Broken Hill we decided to treat ourselves to a night in a van park where could turn on the electric heater and the electric blankets. This was to be a real treat after not being able to do this while free camping. Our solar power is wonderful and generally gives us all our electricity needs but alas it doesn’t extend to heaters and electric blankets.

So we spent a wonderfully comfortable night, warm and snug and felling like no one on earth could have been happier than us cuddled up and thoroughly content.

We got away from Broken Hill fairly smartly as it would be another 620 kilometre day to get to Bourke.

Stopping at Wilcannia for a “driver reviver” coffee and fuel we met a couple travelling to Bowen in a Aussie Wide. They’ve had there’s for 5 years and couldn’t be happier with it. They will try and sell it in Bowen though as they want a smaller one (theirs is 25 foot and they want one a similar size to ours), but they will only buy an Aussie Wide.

On we drove through the constantly changing outback scenery marvelling at the roadside signs pointing down tracks that led to homesteads 50 80 or 100 kilometres into the bush.

Feral Goats line both sides of the highway in their thousands.

Feral goats are responsible for an estimated loss of $25 million per year. These are derived from a calculated $17.8 million net loss due to reduced stock production, $6 million contingency loss due to the threat of exotic disease and $1.2 million spent by the government agencies on goat control operations. This estimate does not include the costs associated with the impact of feral goats on the environment, of soil erosion, or pastoral degradation.

On the positive side, commercial exploitation of feral goats is an industry worth about $29 million annually. Many pastoralists in Australia now consider the capture and sale of feral goats to be an essential part of their business. Meat for export is the main product from feral goats. Some live feral goats are also exported. Goat skin is a by-product. Recently, feral goats have been crossed with the South African Boer goat to produce a heavier animal for export.

Feral goats are also used as a biological method of controlling weeds such as blackberry, briar serrated tussock, St John’s wort and thistles. They are particularly useful for controlling heavy weed infestations in difficult terrain. The Goats have a preference for such weeds over pasture plants. Control of these weeds is usually expensive and herbicides are not appropriate in some environments.

Feral goats line the highway in their thousands

Feral goats line the highway in their thousands

We’re noticing a bit of a new phenomenon. The truckies along this road all wave. Usually this doesn’t happen but here almost every one waves. It’s a good, friendly feeling. It’s as if by sharing this road, where there are precious few vehicles, we are somehow bound by our common location and therefore momentary kindred spirits.

Cobar for fuel is the next stop before finally leaving the Barrier Highway to enter the Kidman Way which took us the final 160 kilometres for the day into Bourke.

We decided on another night of luxury in the only van park in Bourke and after making friends with a really nice couple from Buddina, just a hop skip and jump from Wurtulla, we shut the door of the Aussie Wide against the cold night and settled in with the heater on again. Ahhhhhh – bliss!