Stopping at small country towns along the way you get to talk to a lot of people, and obviously you talk about your trip “Where have you come from?” and “Where are you headed next?” are the most common questions.
If you’ve just come from where they’re going (or vice versa) you swap stories and ideas about where to go, where to stay, and what to avoid. And of course you talk to a lot of locals.
Out here a distance of 500k is nothing for most people, so if you live in one town it’s nothing to drive a few hours to the next one, or to the closest major centre. Which means no matter where you are, the people will know about where you’re headed.
So wherever we’ve been we’ve had great suggestions about what to see and do, and where to stay in the next town. And about what little known detours there are to other sights.
And consistently we’ve had “Don’t stop in Wilcannia.”
Driving from Cobar to Broken Hill it’s hard not to stop in Wilcannia. At 250k from Cobar, it’s halfway to Broken Hill. It’d take a bigger petrol tank than mine – and fewer detours than we make – to make it all the way from Cobar to Broken Hill without stopping. So we stopped in Wilcannia.
Being the contrary type, we didn’t just stop for fuel. We also had a look around town, and went to the Bowlo for a drink. (that’s Aussie slang for Bowling Club)
We were only there for about an hour, so it’s difficult to form an opinion – unless of course I pretend I’m a visiting celebrity being interviewed on arrival: “So, what do you think of Wilcannia?”
Think for a minute – do I say “It’s a beautiful town” (which it is), or do I say “Can’t see the point of it really” (which I can’t).
The scars of the riots (how many years ago now?) are still visible, with most shops burnt out or vandalized and boarded up. Not much remains on the main street. Except the beautiful old sandstone buildings. And they are beautiful.
Nestled along the Darling River, lined with gum trees it’s an incredible spot. But without the river traffic, and 200k from the next town in any direction, not much happens there now. I’m not going to start on the social problems of Wilcannia or any other place, that’s not the purpose of this blog, nor do I have the knowledge or experience to do so, but something seemed out of kilter. With a population of only 596 Wilcannia has a hospital, DoCs office, local council and other government offices. All seemed designed to provide services to the community rather than employ them. Is this just the current version of “sit down money”?
But I may be completely wrong, and that’s too big a question for this blog anyway.