Almanac Life – On the road again: 50 years on the Newell Highway

 

There seems to be something about 2019 and fifty year anniversaries. Here at the Footy Almanac, we’ve charted 50 years since Woodstock, fifty years since the first moon landing and fifty years since the iconic Abbey Road photo.

 

This year also marks 50 years since my first road trips. I got into it properly by doing two in 1969 – a school trip from Toowoomba to Walla Walla in southern NSW and a family trek to Melbourne for my brother’s wedding. Since then, road trips have been a regular occurrence what with various branches of family and in-laws being located in Adelaide, western Victoria and south-east Queensland. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve been up and down those tracks over the years, mostly during the summer months (school holidays), for years in cars without air-conditioning, and frequently with cricket on the radio. Dozens of stories! You get to know where to get the cheapest fuel (for years it was a little place called Gurley, about 30kms south of Moree), stay at a well-priced motel (The Lucky Strike in Tomingley, with a good pub meal next door), and where to be on the watch for over-zealous police. In the 70s, a mate got booked at 3am in Gilgandra for not using his indicator!

 

We’ve just returned from our latest jaunt to Melbourne and back to Noosaville. It’s a fair drive as you get a bit older but I love it. The Newell Highway, the B39, is my favourite. Once you get out to Goondiwindi and head south, it’s Melbourne or bust. Or, if you’re heading to Adelaide, as I did for about fifteen years, it’s straight ahead once you get to West Wyalong on the Mid Western Highway, the B64. The sign says it all: Hay 257 – I just love the vastness of it all.

 

 

‘It’s a long way there, it’s a long way to where I’m going’ (LRB)

 

An alternative heading south is to start via the New England Highway, the B15, up through Cunninghams Gap and then down via the Granite Belt and New England before joining the Newell just before Coonabarabran. We went that way on this recent trip and the countryside from Ipswich through to about Guyra was a very sad sight indeed as the drought devastates the countryside. I’ve never seen so much roadkill littered along the side of the highway!

 

Tarome, heading towards Cunninghams Gap

 

Here’s a travel suggestion: if you’re on the New England Highway and happen to be looking at an overnight stay in Tamworth, we recommend Quilty House and its hostess Meg Quilty. It’s a beautifully presented B&B, centrally located, decorated with an artist’s taste, a friendly, comfortable, well provisioned and welcoming place where you soon feel very much at home – all at a reasonable price. Meg is a vivacious hostess and sensitive to her guests’ preferences as well as an excellent water colour artist whose works enhance the presentation and experience of the stay. We loved it so much that we stayed there both on the way to Melbourne and on the way home.

 

Sundown in Tamworth – time to leave it there for the day

 

I love the western plains of New South Wales – Coonabarabran’s poplars, the deep blue of the Warrumbungles on the right as you head south, the vast fields from Gilgandra down to Forbes, Dubbo’s pretty golf course as you exit towards Parkes, ‘The Dish’, the public gardens in Forbes. It may sound a bit strange but there is one particularly beautiful, sweeping corner between Parkes and Forbes that somehow appeals to my aesthetics – I look forward to it every time. Then on to West Wyalong (where the main drag is so much the better for the construction of the bypass), left and south to Narrandera with its collection of stately 19th century buildings. Make sure you stop at The Red Door Cafe, a stylish cafe/homewares/clothes/home decoration establishment halfway along East Street. Great coffee and cake (their lumberjack cake is a standout!), some surprising fashions and an unexpected jewel a long way from the big city.

 

On to Jerilderie and Finley. With time on our hands, we took a left to savour the ‘sticky’ delights of the Rutherglen area. The beautiful setting of All Saints, the rustic charm of Chambers, the character of Stanton and Killeen, the heritage of Campbells and, my favourite, the delights of Morris in the Robin Boyd-designed tasting room. Aaahhh, those luscious muscats and tokays (to be politically incorrect). Another recommendation: stay at Barkly Suites Apartments in Hopetoun Street with its spacious, beautifully presented, well appointed rooms, great breakfast, all very reasonably priced in a quiet location with an excellent hostess, Chris Grimes.

 

 

The picturesque entry to All Saints winery at Wahgunyah

 

The Hume Highway (the M31) is ok but it leaves you with the feeling that you’re not too far from Melbourne and so it loses a bit of that regional flavour. But it’s effective in getting you to your destination. For all of their utility, the bypasses of towns such as Wangaratta and Seymour rob the traveller of opportunities to see more of country Australia.

 

Melbourne is Melbourne and we had a busy time of it assisting with a housing relocation. With views over the sports precinct and away to the city, it wasn’t too hard to take. Both daytime panoramas and the night lights were spectacular. I’ll just mention two eateries that we revisited and always enjoy – The Golden Triangle on the corner of  Domain Road and Park Street in South Yarra (delicious, authentic Thai) and Coin Laundry Cafe in Armadale Street, Armadale (where they do creative breakfasts). Both are highly popular for obvious reasons. (You can read about my other culinary and cultural ventures in Melbourne by clicking here.)

 

On the way home, we stopped for a break in Shepparton, pulling over into MacQuire Reserve, a very scenic parkland which includes Victoria Lake and multiple walkways. On a sunny, if brisk, Saturday morning, it was a peaceful little nook. Again, if we’d taken the (very effective) bypass, we would have missed out on this little gem.

 

There’s a lot to love about seeing our regional areas – sights, senses, people. But they’re doing it hard away from the big centres and the decline of many smaller towns is plain to see. You have to admire the grit and determination of these people in the face of adversity. They’re a tough mob.

 

In the end, there’s nothing like pulling into your own driveway after about 4000kms, safe and sound, with heaps of good memories and photos. The only question is, when and where do we make our next road trip?

 

All photos courtesy of Anne Bitter

 

About Ian Hauser

A happy, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV - although I do share the never-to-be-beaten record for the tenth wicket for the long-defunct Unley Lutheran Cricket Club - a partnership of 62 with Craig Hartmann in 1973! A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I'm a firm believer in the notion that there is a fine line between winning and losing in sport. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of footyalmanac.com.au's online editors, I offer a comprehensive editing service for both new and experienced writers. Check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au Queenslander!

Comments

  1. WOW…What an interesting read. All the way through!
    Makes me want to hitchhike along with you!
    Thank you Ian for your very generous words about Quilty House. It really is all about the guests though… I meet some incredible people, two of whom are yourself and Anne. Between painting pictures and hosting wonderful people, I honestly believe I have the best job in the world.
    Come again x

  2. Colin Ritchie says

    Fab read Ian!
    On the road!
    There is something special about this vast land of ours no matter where you are, and you conveyed the feeling so well about the places you visited.
    Made me want to hit the road myself!

  3. Ian ,it’s a good drive. You mentioned a few places i’m familiar with, Rutherglen, Wahgunyah, both a few miles east of the Newell.

    Did you cross around Barooga/Tocumwal, heading east along the Murray Valley?

    Or maybe turned off at Finley, went through Berrigan crossing at Mulwala/Yarrawonga or further east @ Corowa/Wahgunyah?

    All countryside i’m familiar with.

    We’re thinking about heading to Forbes, Parkes in 2020. Not been to Parkes, last time i was in Forbes i’d just reached double figure: 1973. We’ll find this corner of yours,

    Glen!

  4. Growing up in rural SA love the country drives. Flame trees that blind the weary driver. Getting lost in my head going nowhere fast. Back in the day did Adelaide to Melbourne along the coast in a week then back along the river several times. Golf and trots on the journey with cricket and races in the big smoke. Twice with Dad. Other times with mates. Adelaide to Canberra at night dodging roos round Deniliquin. Never again. Earlier this year did Canberra to Lakes Entrance down the Monaro Highway through Bombala and Cann River. God’s country. Safe travels Ian. Thanks for the recommendations and hope our paths cross one day.

  5. Thanks, all, for the responses.

    Meg, the pleasure was all ours. Give us a call if you’re up our way to see your daughter. We’ll try to return the level of hospitality.

    Col, yes, it’s a wonderful country in which to travel. I’ve even been through Colac a few times – but probably at least 20 years ago.

    Glen, we crossed the Murray near Corowa on the way south and at Tocumwal on the way back. I played golf at Corowa (beautiful course) on my 21st birthday in 1973! I made a mistake – that corner is between Parkes and Dubbo, about 40 kms north of Forbes – it’s a right to left curve heading north, slightly ascendant. Just a lovely parabola.

    PB – so much to enjoy and appreciate. Deniliquin – home territory of the Daniher? There must be something in the soil there. Always wanted to do Adelaide to Brisbane via Broken Hill but never got around to it. Probably best not done in summer.

    A week after we drove through, there are now major bushfires around Tenterfield and Stanthorpe – easy to imagine how they could rage so fiercely. Very sad!

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