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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Visit to Narraburra, seeking goats

Narraburra is approximately 40 kilometres north of Eulo, a small town west of Cunnamulla. Much to our relief we traveled from Cullamulla on the Bulloo Development Rd, fully macadmacised, following our host in his 'All Wheels' car. Sadly, however, there were many dead animals, largely wallabies with occasional emus. I was watching carefully but suddenly a wallaby leapt out from behind a bush and could not be avoided. I had no way to miss the poor beast and it hit the left front of the car. As we drove on I saw in the rear view mirror a wallaby hopping away but surely that was not the one that had jumped at our car?

We came to Eulo and conferred. The track into the Nurrabunda Station is not too bad and our car was expected to get to the house safely enough, and that is how it turned out. The landscape is red dirt with trees and shrubs. On the way in we saw more wallabies/kangaroos, emus (the silliest road crossers, often seems deliberate, like they are playing 'chicken' with car drivers) and some skinny cows with calves. (Being agisted, we were told, not that there is much to eat as the drought has been persistent.) No goats, however.

The house is large with large rooms and a near new kitchen. Wide enclosed verandas all round and windows with mesh to stop insects while allowing winds to cool the occupants . There is a manager's house, shearer's quarters, a large shearing shed and lots of other sheds and miscellaneous buildings. The surprise was the presence of four 40 year ago Polish immigrants, splendid fellows who attend regularly to shoot pigs. They left on their hunting expeditions most mornings around 6 am but we assembled for dinner around a large fire most nights.

On the morning of our first day I settled down to sketch, take notes and photographs of places for a painting I have agreed to paint for the new owners. I started with an old shed with windmills and tank in the background. Simple but no story. I shifted to an old stockyard, built with rough bush wood at least 50 years ago, with a distant view of the main house, the 2 metre high levee around the house, successive sets of trees and shrubs all placed nicely in dramatic red dirt. With a fine example of the white trunked river red gun, a rare variant I was told. Even better were dark clouds lending an atmosphere of some drama.

Dramatic clouds during droughts often fail to deliver desperately needed rain. We were pleased later that day when it started to rain, which became heavy. There are many dry creeks in the landscape that present serious challenges even without rain. Water flows only when there is heavy rain to the north, so there was no immediate threat. But the 12 ml of rain that fell over the next 2 days made some parts of the various tracks on the property very slippery, which lead to our third road accident of the trip. (Forth if one counts the collapse of our car's gearbox in Mildura.)

Part of our reason to come to Narraburra was to explore the property plus a new adjoining property currently being purchased. Our host John is a bold driver and after the rain stopped suggested a visit to the most distant part of the new property. The best outback tracks are firm gravel embedded in hard dirt. Some parts of these tracks are very stony - hence flat tyres. Animals jump out from behind bushes, hence dented cars, far worse for the animals. Parts of the tracks with loose red dirt quickly become very slippery.

We almost made it, but close to the end of the distant track we came upon about one km of sticky, slippery red dirt. John we could see was stopped on a distant hard dirt part of the track. I should have stopped but decided to go for it. Clearly the driver and the car were struggling. Slipping and sliding we gradually made progress but my instinct was not to drive too fast. Gradually we slowed until we stopped with the back wheels spinning slowly. We discovered our new car was not a four wheel drive variety, as the salesman indicated, but a standard 2 wheel drive.

We climbed into John's car and returned to the homestead. 'It will be ok when the road dries' John advised. 'At least you did not rev until your wheels were properly bogged'. Trouble was ,those dark clouds were still there, and occasional showers were falling. The pig hunters returned and asked where our car was. We explained and they did not hesitate. 'We'll get it for you' asserted the boss. 'Can I help?' I asked. 'No' was the answer. 'It is too wet to shoot pigs, we shall get your car'.

Two hours later they returned in triumph. I went out to thank them, and found one of the group washing our car. I thanked the team and we settled down for a big drinking session around the fire. Again, it was a case of what wonderfully kind Aussies do for an economist of little knowledge or skill at managing his car.

We were due to leave tomorrow. Someone phoned to say it was again raining at Eulo. 'We had better go in case it sets in' I told John. He agreed, we packed quickly and now we are safely at Cobar. Finally we have seen lots of goats. Goats graze on both sides of the road to Cobar. Unlike Emus, goats respond by running away when one sounds the horn. A sign of relative great intelligence, I reckon. All being well we shall be home in Melbourne in two days. Older and wiser, especially about driving in Australia's wonderful outback.

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