NSW Country trip: 27 – 31 August

Wentworth/Gol Gol
Left Broken Hill reasonably early, as we would be travelling for around 3.5 hours to the next stop, Wentworth, where we wanted to spend the afternoon and most of the next day.

Wentworth is a lovely little town that used to be quite busy due to its strategic location – it is where the Darling river ends, and meets up with the mighty Murray (at 2500km it is the 3rd longest in the world).

Murray and Darling junction (circle)

The first settlers came in 1829 (Charles Sturt’s exploration). A lot of trade took place on the rivers, especially after the arrival of steamers (1853), and Wentworth was a thriving port, second only to Sydney in NSW. Over the years many steam paddle boats were used on the Murray, and if it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d have taken a tour on one of them (now moored along the banks).

Modern paddle boat

Wentworth also housed the only jail (Old Wentworth Gaol) in the area (ie radius of around 300km), so that is now a (heritage listed) attraction, and an interesting piece of architecture for its time.  Some modifications were made over time, as it served as a school once more jails were built in the other nearby towns and it was no longer really needed.

This location is also the closest we’ve come to the Victorian border, as the Murray separates it from NSW.  Normally this would not be noteworthy, but Victoria has been in (COVID-19) lockdown over the past 5 weeks or so, and if we were to cross, we’d have to go into a 2-week hotel quarantine upon our return into NSW. Or we could opt to stay there until the borders opened again, but we don’t know when that will be, so we will stay in NSW for now.

So we visited the gaol, which was interesting – 2 cells for women vs 12 for men… Most of the women prisoners were Salvation Army workers who were arrested for singing their psalms (and thus trying to convert the uninitiated I think!).

We walked down to the Murray riverfront at the river confluence.

Some further information
2 rivers: meet right: Murray, left: Darling

We walked over the Junction Island Nature Reserve to actually get to the point where the rivers meet, below (map also shows where we camped; the weir and the goal).

Murray on the right; Darling on the left

We also visited the Weir (lock 10) which is located just a little further along the Murray before the junction. It regulates the water flow and keeps a high level of water for irrigation for times of drought (source).

Just outside Wentworth we visited the Perry Sandhills. According to geologists, they originated after an ice age (40,000 years ago) and are formed by wind erosion over thousands of year.

River Red Gum which has been consumed by the sand.  Over time, the sand has completely covered the trunk and you can walk within the canopy of the ancient tree

We free-camped along the Murray, and had a sensational spot with a beautiful sunset.

Sunset on the Murray

Arno built an impressive fire, as there was plenty of wood to be found. Harper facetimed and wanted to know why it was so dark…


We spent the morning exploring a bit more of the history and other worthwhile attractions in Wentworth, talking to some of the (albeit fairly recent) residents. The town is small, and the inhabitants normally rely heavily on getting standard supplies from Mildura (Victoria), the nearest city with big shops. Crossing the border is now only allowed for essential (doctor, pharmacy etc) needs. Having said that, the local ‘hardware’ store was doing far more trade than usual, as their competition (Bunnings in Mildura) is not classified as essential.

We walked to the Wharf, which is of course an important part of the town’s history, and to just enjoy the sheer beauty of the environment. We did learn that it does not always look and feel this beautiful. It can be brutal, 47 degree heat, dust, drought (and bugs). To top that, we are not proud of how our waterways have been managed – natural droughts are bad enough, but the overallocation of water throughout the basin caused the death of up to 3 million fish in the 40km downstream from Menindee to the lower Darling 2018/2019. National public outrage pushed an investigation and hopefully, recommendations have been made which will be implemented to prevent this from happening again. Below the wharf and the riverbank

We had a pub lunch at the Crown Hotel and then headed out to Gol Gol on the Murray, only 34km further south.

We stopped along the way at Varapodia estate a well-known Olive farm, for some oil tasting and purchases. It also was deserted, but it was open.

Gol Gol is a tiny place and even closer to Mildura (Victoria, across the border!), and we are staying in a caravan park on the river for several nights as it is one of the gateways into Mungo National Park.


Had an early start to drive 1.25 hour to Mungo NP. We had a tour booked with an Aboriginal guide, as the ‘Walls of China’ can only be accessed that way.  The  rive in is only accessible during dry weather, as the road is a long gravel stretch.  As it is dry now, it was extremely dusty 🙂 Can’t have it both ways.

Mungo NP is a small part of the national heritage listed Willandra Lakes system which is an ancient landscape formed by wind and water. The lakes have been dry for some 10,000 years.

We met and followed the guide in our own cars to the lunette dunes called the Walls of China – named by the Chinese workers who built a shearing station (now near the tourist information centre) as they were reminded of their home.

We learned that this stretch (that we would just call lovely dunes made of different layers of sand) holds many treasures that the Aboriginal people found, and archaeologists then further studied. Only in 2010 have the indigenous people been able to re-claim this land as theirs.

In 1974 bones were found buried and studied in Canberra, and the historic Mungo Man given his name. He is said to have lived 42,000 years ago. His bones were returned in 2017 to its original resting place. Mungo Lady cremated remains were found in 1967, and this seems to currently be the oldest cremation known to have taken place on earth.

Many other interesting facts were shared by our guide that surprised and delighted us all. The weather was ideal, around 23 degrees not a cloud in the sky – perfect for photos.

On the way back we went to the Australian Inland Botanic Gardens, where there was not a soul… however all the little bins were filled with maps of the various walks and self-guide drives, and it definitely looks like a well-kept and cared for place.  An empty large carpark confirms that this is another result of our current hard times.

We checked out Gol Gol and had a drink at the almost deserted local hotel’s outdoor area on the beautiful banks of the Murray. Did a few loads of laundry at the Caravan Park, which by the way is also quite empty, though the Airforce (helping the border patrol teams) is also based here in cabins.


Another beautiful day (at least it started that way) and Arno took off for
some golf.  Jen spent some quality alone time, and updated the blog and escaped inside the caravan with the heater on, as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped considerably.

Treating ourselves to the local hotel for dinner, but won’t be sitting outside, that’s for sure.

Tomorrow we are on our way again.

Map of this post’s route

Click here for a map of  our route so far.

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2 thoughts on “NSW Country trip: 27 – 31 August

  1. Ha lieve reizigers, op onze hotelkamer in Valkenburg even tijd genomen om weer jullie interessante reiservaringen te lezen. Wat een wonderlijk land ,prachtige natuur en toch veel historie. Weer ondersteund door mooie sfeervolle foto’s en de altijd handige maps!
    Jullie maken wel wat mee met die Covid 19 maar wel heel goed dat jullie het avontuur toch zijn aangegaan (dan komt er tenminste nog iemand voor al dat moois ! )
    Nog een goede reis verder en veel mooie verhalen. Xx
    P.s wij waren vanmiddag in de grotten van de St.Pietersberg en in Valkenburg, we hadden gelukkig goed weer.

  2. Interessant verslag Jen en fraai gefotografeerd Arno
    “Mungoman en woman” weer wat geleerd, nooit eerder gehoord.
    Wat opvalt is het schitterende weer daar, boffen!
    Groetjes Ton

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