On my last day of trekking from Sydney to Dubbo, I am now in the rolling slopes of NSW with the country given over to the beautiful kurrajong, Cyprus pines and sturdy box gums.
With a cooling southerly behind me, following an apparent change overnight, I have stepped out of Geurie, population 500, which like all the little places one drives through reveals a whole world of its own to those who decide to linger. At the Mitchell Inn, John Dwyer, 75, said he was the fourth generation of his family to have been there, with the original settler having worked for James Rutherford, a man who had acquired a vast stretch of mid western NSW.
Geurie has had its golden period. A century ago it had 5000 people, five pubs and a department store. There are remnants of fading glory there, including a disused building of the Commercial Bank. In 1915 three men immediately put up their hands when the Cooee-Marches came through and said they would be available for service as soon as the harvest came in.
I am now walking with two school mates from Sydney’s Newington College, one being a lawyer, Peter Moffitt, the other a grazier from Tottenham, Alan McRae.
We’ve arrived at Wongarbon, another shell of a once bigger place.
James Rutherford had an area that included the future Peak Hill and the site of Wongarbon. His property was call “Murrumbidgerie” and the settlement finally came to its present site at Wongarbon, the name coming from a local Aboriginal tribe. In World War I, Wongarbon provided 16 volunteers for the Cooee-Marches and a total of 70 served in WWI including Wilfie MacDonald, who fell at Moquet Farm near Pozieres.
We are now about to head for Dubbo, which effectively dates from 1847 when Jean Emile Serisier and Nicholas Hyeronimus opened the Carriers Arms on the banks of the Macquarie River. A village was proclaimed in 1851, Cobb & Co founded in the late 1860s and in 1871 extended its service from here to Bourke.
The country was beyond the gold deposits but not beyond the bushrangers. Jackie Underwood, a member of the Jimmy Governor gang, was taken to Dubbo to be hanged.
Dubbo took the big cattle herds from Queensland and the numerous crossings of the Macquarie such as Butlers Falls and and Willandra Crossing, now just picnic spots were once important places to get the herds across.
On the road we passed Deep Creek, which brought a comment from Peter Moffitt. I said: “Don’t worry Peter, it’s only when you get to a Snake Gully that you know you’ve reached the back woods but I don’t think there’s any Snake Gully on this road.”
I am going down memory lane, passing the stretches of bush I once wandered, but my blistered right foot tells me that all good things must come to an end.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.