On the way to Kinchega NP we stopped at Pooncarie, a lovely little town on to Darling River. Nice coffee break down near the old wharf where paddle steamers used to load wool clips and bring in supplies. An enterprising Kiwi with a Brit wife opened their house with a few modifications and became a café to the surprise of the local council. Later, coming home through Broken Hill at the end of the trip, it was amazing to see how many roads led to Pooncarie from the west, which must have indicated its importance as a hub town around 100 years ago. He told us to travel up on the road on the west side of the Darling as the East road was chopped up as all the truck traffic used it. This was good advice. There were attractive lunch stops by the river after about 60 km. We stopped at an old cemetery by the roadside at Bindarra station. It contained mostly graves of women with headstones, but a few station men, whose wooden markers have disappeared, must also have been buried there . These old cemeteries are dotted round the far west associated with stations; they attest to the rugged conditions, poor medical help and dangerous jobs the station hands did. Lots of single graves on road sides too, like Roman times when travellers who died on the journey were buried where they died. About 40 years ago quite a few councils/ historical societies asked for bi-centennial grants and repaired some of these graves -standing headstones again or creating new ones and fencing off the grave. They are almost tourist spots now. Newer burials are popping up in scenic high spots where someone’s ashes are scattered or interred and a small monument erected, probably without permission, that names the deceased and attests his/her love of that spot. Sometimes a memorial seat is built too. This seems to be a post 1970 custom. The road got much rougher from Bindarra cemetery to Tandou station. Irrigation levees ran along parts of it suggesting that at one time the Darling flooded badly, an ironic thought in this time of seven years or so of drought out here. This road enters Kinchega NP from the south and passes the, now full, Emu Lake which was never-the-less closed for camping. We didn’t check the Visitors Centre as we passed it,  a big mistake as we discovered the next morning they provided hot showers in clean ablutions blocks. We continued north through the camp and turned off to the Riverside camp sites strung out along the Darling. Most were under huge river red gums, so we avoided them. No. 27 was a good one but already taken so we proceeded further to just opposite the road to the old Kinchega homestead, where we camped in an area with good views of the river and clear of overhanging trees. After dinner we drove down to the old homestead in the dying light. We stopped at an old Aboriginal campsite on the way and saw our first example of the clay balls fired in the old Aboriginal clay ovens. This road follows a billabong that stretched back to the homestead in wetter times and must have also been a great spot for Aborigines to camp traditionally before settlement. Rob noticed stone flakes here too. The Kinchega homestead was abandoned in 1944 but seemed even sadder than Zanci station. It was a substantial homestead by the 1860s. Sturt University students have been conducting archaeological digs here and the homestead itself is fenced off with a high cyclone wire fence. A viewing walkway has been built around it and many information boards are available with photos of the fabric of the home and the gardens. These were tended by a Chinese gardener who constructed an elaborate channel irrigation system drawn from the nearby billabong. Brick water tanks, channels and some remnant shrubs, including the charred trunk of the date palm in the ornamental garden, give an air of sad melancholy to the site. Heaps of debris, wire, bricks, old iron are scattered over the site. Further down the road was the Kinchega homestead cemetery where the crew of the steam paddle boat “Providence” are buried.  Steamers must have been able to come up the billabong to a wharf near the homestead. This one exploded one night while moored there, killing the whole crew. While an information board identifies the site no grave markers remain and we speculated that some mounds and broken fences may have once marked graves. Only an odd large iron box remained; perhaps it was a part of the steam ship and was used as a grave marker when the men were buried. It was a desolate spot in the fading light – settlers and Aborigines alike disappearing from the landscape as if they had never been there. We visited Kinchega Woolshed before we left this morning. It’s by the Information Centre with the hot showers and also bunk accommodation & in much better condition than Mungo woolshed even though it’s of a similar age, built in the 1860s. A lot of old shearing equipment is inside it with yards etc intact too.
Copyright Grey Gypsies Australia 2009
Grey Gypsies of Australia
NSW Desert Parks
Kinchega National Park
Next: Mutawintji NP
Previous: Lake Mungo
Home Mungo National park Sturt NP Slide Show