Sunday 31 July Texas – Goondiwindi
On the way out of Texas, we passed the free camp on the southern end of the town on the Damaresq River which forms the Queensland/New South Wales, border so once again we travel on the Bruxner Way in NSW on our way to Goondiwindi. Along the way, the Damaresq River joins up with the McIntyre River, which then becomes the border; with Goondiwindi being a border town just on the northern (QLD) side.
The vegetation has changed, some interesting cacti and silver-ish medium sized trees along the road. The dam water looks a bit reddish, and for a bit we’re afraid (read Arno! who still has nightmares about how long it took to clean it after our NSW outback trip 2 years ago 😆) we are heading into the red dust country … but by the time we get across the plains and enter the Goondiwindi area, the red has disappeared.
Once again we’re almost the only vehicle on the 112km stretch. Along the way we come across fluffy white stuff alongside the road, which we discover is cotton. We are now in the cotton belt.
We had considered staying at the Goondiwindi Showgrounds which sounded good, but when we arrived there, it was downwind from a herd of horses (racing) and their combined smell was more than Jen’s sensitive (city girl!) nose could bear, and we moved on and booked into a tiny caravan park walking distance to town and the river.
The owner Dom used to be a cotton farmer and answered all Jen’s questions patiently until he suggested we do a tour (patience ran out?)…. So we booked one for Monday morning, combining a town and cotton farm tour; hopefully, all questions will be answered then.
It looks like there’s plenty to do here and we booked 2 nights, but we may extend it even by one more.
We had read that the town was pretty well shut on Sunday, but Arno could no longer bear our filthy vehicle, so he went to see if the car wash was open. He came home happy, and we can once again tell it’s blue. Foodworks was open so we picked up a few things and walked over to the ‘famous’ lovely Victoria Hotel for a beer. Arno went back to watch the Formula 1 qualification, and Jen walked around town a bit, it has a bit of history and it’s fairly flat, and the council has done a great job of making walk/cycle ways along river and waterways, it promises a good time and hopefully the weather holds.
Made a spicy aubergine and chicken curry for dinner and enjoyed our warm van.
Cotton anyone? Pick up was 8.30am for the tour and we were on time, eager to find out why this industry had deprived the downstream rivers from their water, their fish and fish storage which we had learned in Brewarrina during our NSW outback trip).
It was a super interesting tour of a family-owned small to medium cotton farm called Alcheringa, with the business name Goondiwindi Cotton – from seed to ‘tee’ (which is a reference to their clothing range).
Comprising 2,500 acres, with an approximate yield of 7 bales (weighing 227kg each) per acre, at today’s skyrocketed market price of $900-1000/bale, you can do the math and work out its turnover. Good business this year.
We learned how the huge on-site water storage is filled periodically from local dams (one of them the Glenlyon which we visited a few days ago) upstream. This water is purchased from the state and they also control/approve the spill frequency and the amount. The onsite main water storage supplies all the irrigation systems; either via huge lateral water carriers (photo below) or via surface flow, which means that the water is siphoned via short hoses from supply channels surrounding the land into the trenches between the rows of cotton plants on a gradient slope of around 1.5m down the entire length of the property.
Stealing water from the rivers is no longer as easy as some 40-50 years ago with the many controls in place, and the huge fines when caught. That obviously does not resolve the Murray/Darling basin problem as that horse has bolted, but from what we are led to understand today, cotton farming no longer contributes to it.
The whole cotton farming is a fascinating process and the Australian cotton industry is a huge producer to the world market of apparently the best quality; sadly only 5% is retained locally, the rest is exported to Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand, and China to name a few destinations. There it undergoes the conversion from pressed cotton to thread, yarn, fabric, bed linen and finished garments, which we then buy back (shame our wages are so high that we can’t keep this manufacturing process local and be more self-sufficient).
The harvesting days start mid-morning till late at night before dewpoint, as cotton can only be picked when dry.
While on the tour driving to the farm, we learned that a levee along the McIntyre River was built in 1956 to protect the town from future floods after it copped 3 in one year, and many more prior. It has since protected the town from many floods, though in 2021 it came within a few cm from the top, and residences were on evacuation standby.
Arno had hoped for a game of golf in the afternoon but we got rain!! And it was more than a drizzle so that’s been put off and we have booked another night here. It did fine up again around 5pm.
Going to the Victoria Hotel tonight for dinner.
Tomorrow is going to be nice again so we cover the art trail and while Arno plays golf Jen plans a nice bike ride and a visit to the botanic gardens and some other attractions.
Sunny day, so another load of laundry done. Arno is off to the golf course and Jen is on her bike, to do the lovely river track. Many interesting historic facts, plaques and art along the river, mostly of the river’s importance on the fauna, there is a lot of bird and water wildlife, including turtles, and of course the work done to keep the water from flooding the town. Some art along the way too.
An easy 5km bike ride away, the botanic gardens were laid out for walking & cycling – spread out and with a lake, the perfect place for a picnic lunch and to enjoy the birds and their sounds.
Arno returned from golf, and we decided to go for a drive to capture the other art around town.
We asked some locals if there was a pub with a beer garden and were pointed to the recently beautifully renovated Queensland Hotel. We enjoyed the large but very cozy outdoor area, before heading back and listening to a couple playing the ukelele and mouth accordion at the caravan park. Dinner at home, tomorrow on to St George.