Told You We Weren't Kidding - Kidman Way, NSW. Part 2
Last month we got you halfway up the Kidman Way from Jerilderie to Merriwagga with its black stump. Time to move on from the tallest bar in Australia north to the Qld border (or not!)
Merriwagga to Barringun via the Kidman Way. To exit Merriwagga simply head south from the parking meter outside the pub then hang a right and then another back onto the Kidman Way. Don’t start too early as you’re heading into the sun and you’ll notice roadkill which turns some sections into an almost slalom track. You’ll also see the earth turning redder and more vibrant.
First town is Hillston and you’ll need to fill up here as it’s 250km to the next bowsers at Cobar. There’s 91 and 98 at the servo at the south end of town but its hours fairly leisurely. If it’s closed your lifesaver is the 24hr card operated servo on the Heavy Vehicle bypass. As you hit the town approach, take the first on the right after the 50km/h sign onto Springs Road and then take the left onto Cowper St and the servo’s on your left. Be warned though, minimum pay is twenty bucks.
To rejoin the KW, continue north on Cowper and take the right back onto the highway.
If you’ve not taken the bypass just follow the road into town and take the right signposted for Cobar, cruise through town and then right again at the roundabout at the north end of town.
In 80km or so you actually come to some twisties through the hills as you approach Mt Hope which is now just a pub and some more as you leave it. Enjoy but the goats and hoppers seem to love curves too!
Once you get back to the wide flat land the edges have been well cut back to about 20 metres or so, giving good visibility and you’ll go through a few smaller ranges making this a nicely varied stretch to Cobar, 255km from Hillston. You hit the T at the Barrier Hwy just to the east of the Town so hang a left and you’re on the main street. You’ll see the stunning Tourist Info on your left just after the COBAR sign. The turn right for Bourke is just west of this. From Cobar the vegetation changes from turpentine to mulga to box to cypress to eucalypt and all the way back again. The soil from brown to red to grey to black, pause and repeat. Fascinating country for those in touch. On the south edge of Bourke you see the Mitchell Hwy joining from the east and then you’re in the town. Your exit is a right around Central Park onto Mitchell St and then the third on the left signposted Cunnamulla. The BP is just up on your left and a bit after it is the excellent Tourism Office.
Your next fuel is at Cunnamulla, 257km away. Head north over the Darling (great river swim spot if you take the Boat Ramp sign on your right before the bridge) and then bend right and it’s 98km to Enngonia with its top little pub and then a further 53 to Barringun and the Qld border and then end of the Kidman.
The only town to my knowledge to have its name changed in honour of a publican. This place was originally known as Redbank and the first publican was a bloke from Roto Station named William Hill. He must’ve been a pretty enthusiastic drinker because when he died in 1867, the death certificate gave the cause as, “exhaustion from intemperance”. Two years later they changed the town’s name to Hillston in his honour!
This is the birthplace of Toby Price so when you come through raise a glass to this amazing bloke!
Today there’s a brace of pubs on the main street and Tattersall’s is far friendlier although often booked out due to seasonal farm workers.
Tattersalls Hotel Hillston T: 02 6967 2546
Clubhouse Hotel Hillston T: 02 6967 2514
The highlight for me is the wonderful manmade lake at the northern end. A popular boating and fishing facility and a top place for an afternoon swim. Just give the horses a bit of room!
A few years back I had a top night in the pub here (and there’s nothing but the pub here), with the owners. Unfortunately it’s now got managers in and they seem totally over it, are off handed and far from friendly. If telling a rider who turns up just ten minutes before the kitchen is about to close that he should order some grub now if he’s hungry is too much trouble, you are IN THE WRONG BUSINESS!!!!
I hear these managers are about to move on and I’ll keep you posted, in the meantime, best to keep moving. No fuel here.
First up, John Martin at the Museum/ Tourist Info Office is the best, most helpful, most knowledgeable such officer I have ever come across. I won’t go into all the details but the assistance and guidance which he gave me over two days in Cobar was waaaaaay beyond necessary. The building housing his offices and the museum there is totally worth the visit.
The Caltex at the western end of town sells all grades of fuel with a friendly smile. The Great Western Hotel reckons it’s got the longest wrought iron balcony in Australia but go inside and ask about it and if you’re like me, you won’t get a very friendly response. Run by not the most popular person in Cobar.
If you’re after a good feed and atmosphere the bistro at the Empire on Barton St is a way better bet. The Bowling and Golf Club on Bloxham at the south of town is also very friendly and cheap.
Depending on its water level, the Newey Lake a bit down past the Bowling Club is a top place to camp but throw your sway a bit away from the toilets and BBQ area as the hoons love it late at night.
Parisi Motorcycles (www.mcparisi. com.au ) on Frederick St has to be about the biggest mother of a motorcycle shop anywhere outside a capital city. If you have any problems with your bike they are certain to be able to get you going again.
If you’re spending a day here and are with a group, you might want to consider hiring a 4WD and heading out to the rock paintings at Mt Grenfell. The road in is definitely not suitable for road bikes but the paintings are very much worth the effort and expense. Coates is the best company to get a day hire. (T: 02 6879 7600)
Named after the fella who enshrined the notion of ‘terra nullus’ into law, this town and its history make it worth more than an overnight.
I stay in a 65 buck a night room at the Port of Bourke Hotel on Mitchell St (T: 02 6872 2544) and can park the bike securely in the locked carpark around the back. From here you can walk anywhere in town, especially down to the Diggers on the Bourke Club where great staff combine with good food and good prices to make you feel at home.
National Parks and Wildlife have an office in Oxley St and their staff are inspiring with their knowledge and generous with their time.
The best place for breakfast is the 100 year old business of Morrall’s Bakery on Mitchell St….great (though not huge) pies made on site and decent coffee and milkshakes. The food at Grubbymicks on Oxley St serves not too bad food but a blind eye is turned to regulars who smoke in the seats outside so best to give it a wide berth.
A hybrid bike will get you out to the Fort Bourke Stockade with few problems but the track is dry weather only. You need to get a key to a locked gate from the Tourist Info Office at North Bourke and they’ll also provide a mud map. On the way there you’ll pass the cemetery where Fred Hollows has a fitting memorial. It’s well signposted.
There’s a weir on the Darling just downstream from Bourke so the flow through town is usually very slow but if you’re after a river swim head north on the Kidman, cross two bridges and then take the right to the Boat Ramp. Plenty of parking and a gentle walk down to the water. Good spot to soak your riding gear and get rid of those 5 day old ‘scents’. AaaaaaaH!!!!!
The Caltex and Shell servos sell all grades of fuel.
Just the Oasis Hotel here really but it’s a good one and worth a stop. If you do, there’s a faux corrugated roof over the bar with a real gutter. The idea is to chuck your change onto the roof and it slides down into the gutter which is cleaned a couple of times a year.
Every cent goes to the Flying Doctor. Works out at around a grand a year. Good place run by Greg and Kim, who’ve had it for eight years. But beware it’s closed Sundays. F: Oasis Hotel Enngonia
Four people live here. There’s Darryl (the only bloke in town), his mother and his partner kiwi Lynn who run the Bush Tucker Inn (no fuel) and where you can get a very decent and honest meal morning or night.
OH, AND THEN THERE’S MARY
Mary came to Barringun in 1948 and has run the Tattersalls Hotel here since 1977. At 92 (in May) she’s been running it solo since her husband passed away a decade ago. You won’t ever meet a publican like Mary, you may never meet another person like Mary and for no other reason you should ride the Kidman Way right up to the border!
She has no draft beer, only bottles and no accommodation but she has a dog, Gidgee and she has her memories and her stories. Don’t whatever you do just go in there to use the toilet. She’s named such people, ‘frees hitters’ and she doesn’t take kindly to them.
If this country honoured its living treasures, Mary would have a gong on her mantle.
Mary chooses to sleep in a room where she can see the sunrise each morning and a single dawn here will show you why. If you are arriving at any end of the day, best to call ahead (T: 02 6874 7588)