We arrived in Gilgandra yesterday afternoon (Saturday). It was overcast and miserable looking, and there was not a soul on the main street. I know most country towns tend to be quiet Saturday afternoon, but this was ghostlike.
Gil (as the locals call it) is only about an hour from Dubbo, but of course we stopped along the way so it took us a lot longer.
The first stop was the farmers market, though I’m not sure that counts as a stop as it was still in Dubbo. We stocked up on fresh fruit & veges, had coffee & rice paper rolls for breakfast, and headed out.
Next it was Terramungamine Reserve. Free camping by the Macquarie River, walking tracks, picnic spots and Aboriginal sharpening grooves. The shortest walk along the river confirmed why Aboriginal people would live there. It was beautiful – peaceful, plenty of fresh water, and good fishing. If we’d been driving for any more than the 10 minutes we had, we might have decided to stop and camp, rather than just the chat and walk along the river we did have.
Then it was on to Gil. First stop – the Heritage Centre, an information centre, history centre, art gallery and good chat all rolled into one, and the best place to find out about the history of the place (lots to discover) and what was happening now (not much).
Looking for a camping spot we came across two problems – first there was nothing that overlooked the river and Helen was desperate to try out her new fishing tackle. Second, it looked like rain and neither of us wanted to spend our first night in the tent getting flooded out.
So we booked into the pub.
Like most country pubs it has a big verandah on the first floor and the accommodation rooms front the verandah. That was wonderful, and we sat on the verandah, with a bottle of champagne and nibblies watching the world go by.
Or we would have, if any of the world did go by.
Saturday evening on the main street in Gilgandra and there wasn’t a person to be seen. I was starting to understand why Helen ran away from home when she was 16 – with a bikie gang. Yes, some of my friends are wild.
I was even thinking that that was why the Coo’ee marches started in Gilgandra. It wasn’t patriotism or that young men were desperate to get to war, it’s just that they wanted out of Gil.
But we were there for a reason – that’s where Helen went to high school, and she wanted to see if there was anything or anybody around that she still knew.
“That’s the ambulance station where my father was the manager. And next door is where we lived, but that’s the new house that they built after I burnt the other one down.”
Wtf??? How come I’ve never heard this story??? Yes, it’s true. When my best friend was 13 years old she burnt her house down – to the ground. Accidentally of course.
In the RSL club that night Helen found a couple of people she knew. One of whom was her high school best friend’s sister. It was a happy, sad and funny reunion that ultimately left both of us feeling the need to retreat to our room for a drink. So we did.
It was still quite early when we crawled into bed, and immediately remembered why it’s not a good idea to stay in pubs. People get drunk, and even though there might only be 2 or 3 of them, they get very noisy. And stay noisy all night.
When we did finally drag ourselves out of bed, bleary eyed from lack of sleep (and possibly a glass or two too many), it was warm and sunny, and people were having coffee at the open café and wandering down the main street. It looked quite welcoming. Time for coffee and a walk through town, along the river and the windmill walk.
What a difference a day makes!