Monday, August 24, 2009

The Long Road Home

One of the worst things about holidays is sooner or later they have to end & so on the day that we turned the car for home it absolutely poured rain in Victoria, something that the drought effected region really needed. It was if the weather was sensing our mood as we we packed the car & headed north into NSW via Shepparton, Tocumwal, then onto the Newell Highway.

We pushed hard with only a lunch break in the Riverina town of Finley, to break the drive. Now poor
old Finley, isn't blessed with any great tourist ventures, no gold was discovered in the area & even the Kelly Gang gave the town a wide berth when they were on their way to Jerilderie to cause havoc. However, Finley is the home to the 3 piece thrash pop band, Spiderbait, but more importantly, it is home to the best Chinese feed this side of Proserpine. The Hong Lock Chinese Restaurant, situated on the main drag, has one the best value for money lunch deals in rural NSW. So if you are passing through Finley, besides cranking up your Spiderbait on the car stereo, make sure you stop for lunch & grab yourself a beaut Chinese feed for under $10.00, beats Macca's!

But our destination was not Finley, but Forbes. Located on the Newell Highway & sitting beside the beautiful Lachlan River, Forbes is now one NSW's major pastoral districts, but it's financial roots were not founded on sheep & canola, but once again, it was gold.

In 1861, Forbes (or Black Ridge as it was known), grew to over 28,000 people in six months & that was the initial stake that built this wonderful city. Over 9,000kgs of the the precious ore was extracted during the first 2 years of alluvial mining & when the easy pickings finished in Forbes, many miners stayed & built substantial houses on the the now cleared rich farming land. So Forbes was able to escape the fate of many early Australian mining towns of becoming a 'ghost' town & grew on its rich pastoral holdings, despite the depletion of the precious metal.

One interesting fact is how tightly the Post Office is intertwined with the history of Forbes, this is
kindly reprinted courtesy of the Forbes Shire Council website

"The area at the time of the gold rush was known as Black ridge and it was under the application was first made for postal facilities for the mining settlement. The postmasters ant Bundaburra and Lambing Flat (Young) first presented the need for postal facilities at Black ridge diggings.

Their request went the authorities in October 1861. They were supported by the mayor and councillors of Orange Municipal council who petitioned the postmaster General requesting that mail be dispatched to Black Ridge three times a week. Postmaster Buchart of Lambing Flat, actually provide a mail service and had opened Black Ridge Post Office had been officially recognised. Before the official postmarking stamp for Black Ridge could have be provided,
the name “Forbes appeared in a memorandum dated November 27, 1861 in which was asked whether the fact the post office would be known as Black Ridge or Forbes."

As you wander around the town, you just have to admire the outstanding architecture that abounds in such a quiet rural area, from the Post Office, the Courthouse, the memorial to the Boer War, the Town Hall & many, many more buildings of note. There are just so many photographic opportunities available to the keen photographer, make sure you keep your camera handy & fully charged

As you head off past the historic city of Parkes (named after the NSW Premier & statesman in 1873), you pass through verdant fields of crops & sheep herds, then rising up in the distance you'll notice the CSIRO's 64 metre radio telescope rising through the fields of canola. It was from this telescope that Neil Armstrong's steps were sent to from the moon (although the Honeysuckle telescope took the first vision) remained 'on line' during the 2 1/2 hour broadcast, quite a feat considering this was in 1969!

After that, it was straight back home to Newcastle via Dubbo, our travels completed for another year. A holiday that took us from an island paradise, to an Australian bushranging icon, into Australia's cities built from gold, past our the first bloody steps towards an Australian democracy & then finally to sharing in Australia's scientific future (built in a sheep paddock).

All up in just over 3 weeks I managed to take just on 1,000 photo's of this great land & write just over 4,000 words on our adventures, but you know the best way to find out about Australia is to just get out there yourself.

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