The land and the people along the New South Wales tourist drive, the Kidman Way, are revelling in the end of the long dry.
Story By Ken Eastwood
The Kidman Way is living up to its name. Baby goats and their parents form a constant colourful stream across the blacktop near Cobar, in western New South Wales, and the feral pests constantly trim the roadside mulga up to head height.
But in a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of the locals, the goat scourge has become saviour. Thousands of goats are mustered by those living along the tourist route, providing a much-needed income that kept many going through last decade’s nine-year drought, and they continue to provide supplementary income today.
The Kidman Way, a 780-kilometre strip of bitumen from Jerilderie in southern New South Wales to Barringun, on the Queensland border, is one long line in many stories of changing fortunes. Once a rough track that mercilessly bogged trucks for days, it was sealed more than a decade ago, completing an easy 3500km route from Melbourne to Karumba. As a tourist drive, it provides history and highlights as it winds through one of Australia’s premier commodity- and resource-producing areas and, with a little effort, a few spots to gain a wedge-tailed eagle’s perspective of the changing landscape.
For the best uninterrupted view of the rich Merino heartlands at the genesis of the Kidman Way, start at the sleepy town of The Rock, and walk the six-kilometre return track to the top of the hill, 300 metres above the plain. You’ll gain views from the Snowy Mountains to the vast western plains through which the Kidman Way travels.
From here it’s about 140km to the historic town of Jerilderie, the official start of the Kidman Way. Although it wasn’t called the Kidman Way until it was sealed, the route was established in the late 1800s, with resting stations and water tanks for Cobb & Co coaches every 20km or so, and Jerilderie was a major stop. In 1879, Jerilderie was also visited by Ned Kelly, who robbed the bank of £2140 (worth an estimated $1 million today).
Larry James, current publican of the Royal Mail Hotel says at least half a dozen people come in every day to take photos. “The rooms where he stayed are our flat now,” Larry says. “Where the pokie machines are, that was the bank that he robbed … so people are still making withdrawals here today.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #84
Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012