|Travelling Australia - Journal 2010|
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|7 June - St George to Tenterfield|
The night was cold; temperature inside the van at 6:20 was 8 degrees, by our rule of thumb that meant the outside temperature was 2 to 3 degrees. The official
weather bureau temperature was 3.1 degrees at 7 o'clock.
I had connected the Pathfinder and EuroStar the evening before so our departure was easy and we were away from St George on a sunny, cool morning with no wind; good for travelling. Initially we passed through the irrigation area; now mostly empty paddocks after the cotton crop had been harvested. A few paddocks still had the "empty" cotton plants left; in other parts drained irrigation channels were being cleaned out. The irrigation area ended about 20 kilometres from St George to be replaced by eucalyptus woodland with grass understory. Sheep and cattle were grazing. Road kill was slightly more common than on previous days with foxes and kangaroos the usual species seen.
We turned off the Carnavon Highway onto the Barwon Highway then stopped on the edge of Weengallon (one house, one shop, one church, one barn, one public toilet - population five) at rock pools. These are immediately beside the road and appear to be a geological formation comprising deep roughly circular holes between one and two metres in diameter which capture and store water running off the surrounding slopes.
The vegetation along the road was mixed eucalyptus and cypress woodland with variable numbers of acacias. This road runs along a designated stock route and we passed several named Camp and Water Reserves for the stock and drovers but there are no rest areas along the road for travellers or truckies and very few places where it is safe to pull off the road for a break.
Within several kilometres of Talwood wheat paddocks were common along the road stretching far into the distance on this flat land. At Talwood itself there were two large grain storage areas, both using plastic sheeting to cover piles of grain at least five metres high. A railway line was visible near the road from Talwood but we couldn't see whether it was still operational. Grain paddocks continued for some kilometres after Talwood then faded away to be replaced by woodland and open grassed areas with cattle grazing. Emus like grazing on grain stubble and we saw several groups of them in stubble paddocks. Bird life was common along the road; white wing choughs, mudlarks, crows/ravens and apostle-birds were active on and beside the road; surprisingly, magpies were rarely seen.
The township of Toobeah was marked by silos visible from a distance; and by grain paddocks around the town. The volume of grain storage we can see from the road seems to be far more than needed for the land we can see from the road so we suspect there are significant grain areas away from the main road. Several road trains passed us carrying grain towards Goondiwindi.
Approaching Goondiwindi there were many scraps of cotton caught in the grass along the roadside; we were not surprised to learn that Goondiwindi has a cotton gin. In Goondiwindi we filled with diesel then stopped for lunch at a bakery before continuing on towards Tenterfield. Leaving Goondiwindi on the Newell Highway southbound we were soon in New South Wales at Boggabilla where we turned onto the beginning of the Bruxner Highway. This road caused some concern at first with its degraded bitumen surface and general air of neglect; if it got much worse we would make very slow progress but the road improved after ten or twenty kilometres. Just outside Boggabilla we passed small irrigation channels but these were soon behind us and we were passing through dry land farming areas grazing sheep and cattle with some cropping. Once again we saw a large group (about 20) emus picking over stubble in a paddock.
Around Texas we passed eight or nine groups of kilns, made of stone and usually in groups of three with connecting stone buildings. These are relics from the tobacco growing industry which thrived around Texas until the 1980s. The former tobacco growing area is now devoted to mixed farming although not all the land has been cleared; we would drive for ten or twenty kilometres through cleared, mainly grazing, land then on the steeper parts would be back among woodland in different combinations of undergrowth and main trees. For a while, around Yetman, the gum trees in the woodland were noticeably taller and more robust but this trend did not continue. Sometimes irrigation sprays were set up in paddocks, presumably drawing water from the Dumaresq River just to the north.
One surprising sight along the road was a group of three camels grazing. They were near a horse (or camel?) drawn caravan with a man and woman nearby. We speculated for a while what that was all about but we had not had a good look at the caravan as we drove past so couldn't come to any firm conclusion.
Rest areas were non-existent along this road and even areas where we could safely pull off were hard to find but we found one eventually. By now the road surface was quite good, far better than many we had been on in the past two weeks. Along this road we finally saw a couple of grey kangaroos; so far on this trip we had seen many emus and far too many dead kangaroos on the side of the road but this was our first sighting of live kangaroos.
Approaching Tenterfield the Bruxner Highway temporarily joined the New England Highway north of the town for the final five kilometres. We turned into a caravan park in the main street for the night and remained connected. We had driven 448 kilometres since St George reaching an elevation of 867 metres, very close to the top of the Great Dividing Range in this part of New South Wales.