We left an hour later than planned but, oh well. I've finally realised schedules don't matter much. I wish I'de done so earlier.
Our first leg took us south the Werris Creek and then west through the Gap - a narrow neck for rail and road to pass through onto the Breeza Plain. From Werris Creek, all the way across to MR55 which starts at Mullaley and tracks south through Coolah, this is one pretty journey. Most of the way, the range to the south which holds Coolah Tops NP, refuses permission to cross and the black soil plains may be dotted with villages but its the land which prevails. It remains one of my favourite drives in Australia.
We stopped at the park in Coolah for lunch and a cuppa and then pressed on to Wellington via Gulgong. At Wellingto we refuelled and went south west through new territory to Baldry and then turned west to Goobang NP. The final access road off the Baldry/Trewilga Road, was 6kms of much worse road. Rough and rocky, it was mostly driven at no more than 40kms/hr, so I took advantage of a chance to drop the Forster into low range.
The campsite - little more than a motel room for us - was small. Perhaps only likely to accommodate six or seven camping trailers or adventurous caravans and only three fireplaces had been installed. Greenbah Creek burbled past within twenty metres of the camping area. A pit toilet was the only mod-con provided. It was quiet, it was deep in the bush and it was perfect.
The next morning - today - was the longest leg of these first three days. about twenty kms of dirt taking us out to Trewilga and the rude shock of the Newell Highway. It was wall to wall trucks initially ... and vans and four wheel drives but eventually we settled into a rhythm. We stopped in Parkes for a few supplies and then put in some solid hours before stopping at Ardlethan for lunch.
Sitting in the park, one thirty second sweep managed to take in the local rooster - crowing at 1:00pm; the old couple who are the local driver reviver team, complete with tent and one of those old four seater fold out picnic tables; the train shunting bins under the wheat silo; the wedding taking place (local girl with four children); and the grey nomads who were staying behind the toilets for a couple of days because "its free and where else have we got to be".
Not the show stopper though. That was only a few steps away. At the foot of a health tree, a small plaque gleefully told the world that Jenny Coupland, with her Miss Australia crown firmly in place, planted this tree. Perhaps it was the gardener's day off. Ardlethan is unlikely to have had a finer moment since it blossomed when the railway set up headquarters for wheat transport. Not even the discovery of tin could outshine the visit of green-fingered royalty.
Not long after Narandera, we left the Newell and went predominantly south on a series of narrow back country roads, eventually emerging at Mulwala, with its lake of dead trees which forms part of the Murray River. Having planned for another night in the bush, we compromised when rain and hot showers bent our sensibilities.