01 October 2016
I didn’t really leap out of bed when the alarm woke me at 2.30am. I had a shower last night so it was only a matter of a quick wash, clean the teeth, get dressed, final packing and then waiting for the taxi to arrive on time. There were a fair few people waiting for the coach at the Information Centre and we didn’t have to wait long for the coach to arrive. Safely on board I blew up my neck rest and had a snooze as we travelled through the dark, although I was fortunate to see a sliver of silver through the clouds as the sun started to rise and dawn broke. It was announced at the start of the trip that no eating of food or drink was permitted on the coach (except for water) so our snacks sat in our backpacks – except for a small cherry ripe that we managed to sneak in!
We are not due to arrive in Nyngan until 11.25am, so lots of cat naps to make up for the early start. We made stops at Wilcannia and Emmdale, then had a 45 minute stopover at Cobar for a snack (right). The coffee machine was not working (they did have instant!) and the milkshake maker wasn’t working either – however, we are in the west and nobody cares much, they just make do with what’s there! Best thing we could manage was a ham, cheese and tomato toastie each – did not like the look of the greasy hamburgers or saveloys or other nondescript and obviously deep fried goodies!
Much of the landscape to date was the usual spinifex, although there were lots of lovely wildflowers blooming in clusters along the roadside. As we approached Hermidale the landscape again changed and was quite green after the recent rains. The massive paddocks were dark green with crops, the trees became more dense, and by the time we arrived in Nyngan the landscape looked very healthy and rural. Nyngan is a pleasant country town in the Bogan Shire on the Bogan River, on the edge of the outback. It was largely unknown to the rest of the country until 1990, when unusually heavy rains caused the worst floods of the century.
In April 1990, floods hit the town, despite a massive effort by local people to raise the levee walls using sandbags. With the town almost completely flooded, all the residents had to be evacuated by helicopter from the railway station, the highest point of the town, which was not flooded. Air Force helicopters, TV news helicopters and private helicopters all co-operated in the airlift. The total damage amounted to $50 million. The airlift is commemorated by an Army helicopter placed outside of the Nyngan Railway Station (right). The railway station now houses a museum which includes exhibits relating to the 1990 flood (below left). (The station had not been regularly used for train passengers since about 1980; the train line to Bourke has been out of use since 17 May 1989 but the Cobar line remains open to carry ore and wheat.)
Nyngan advertises that is at the geographical centre of NSW, but in fact it is a cairn built about 70 kms south of the town that has this honour.
About 10 km west of the town is Australia’s largest photovoltaic power station, with 1.36 million solar panels and became the largest solar PV plant in the Southern Hemisphere when fully completed in June 2015. It complements another plant at Broken Hill, which also became fully operational by the end of 2015, for a combined capacity of 155 megawatts.
The town has mainly sheep and cattle and crops, but another industry has been added with the opening of a scandium mine out of town. Scandium is one of the rare chemicals that can be found in houses in equipment such as colour televisions, fluorescent lamps, energy-saving lamps and glasses. The use of scandium is still growing, due to the fact that it is suited to produce catalysers and to polish glass. The main application by volume is in aluminium-scandium alloys for the aerospace industry and for sports equipment (bikes, baseball bats, etc.) which rely on high performance materials. It has been shown to reduce solidification cracking during the welding of high strength aluminium alloys.
After getting off the bus we crossed the road to ask a group of the locals, who were selling raffle tickets, where we could find a taxi. After they finished laughing, they explained there was no taxi service in Nyngan, and one of the older men offered to drive us the short distance to the motel. In return Pete bought $10 of raffle tickets! I’m still suffering the effects of the ‘flu, so after settling into the comfortable motel I was happy to have a short nap on a decent bed, before setting off on a lovely sunny afternoon to the main part of town. There is a Railway Museum (left) that was open until 4pm, but unfortunately the Shearers Museum closed at 12noon and did not reopen until after the weekend. On our walk we came to the Big Bogan, a highlight of the main street and a drawcard for photographs, and had our photo taken with him!
Without too much difficulty we found the local IGA supermarket so I could buy some Strepsils to soothe my throat, then a nice café was open for an iced coffee and cheesecake. The local RSL was open for dinner, and they have a courtesy bus, so it was no trouble to organise a ride there and back, the dinner was typical pub style but very nice. I’ve decided to have an early night again in an effort to shrug off this nasty ‘flu, we have a casual morning tomorrow and the motel manager has offered to drive us to the coach stop to catch the 11.25am coach to Dubbo.