Hillston to Cobar

We had a great nights sleep at the Hillston Rest Area. This large paved Rest Area is just 2km south of Hillston opposite the Airport. It was a busy rest area last night. I counted 3 caravans, a huge fifth wheeler, us and a couple of nice young girls camping in a tent. Multiple big rigs also used the rest stop during the night.

Richard got chatting to the young ladies and invited them in for a hot cuppa. They took him up on the offer and I think they enjoyed being able to sit inside in the warm for a bit. They are traveling in their little car with a 2 man bell tent and plan to go all the way to Uluru. They had planned to go via Ivanhoe but due to the recent rain and the heavy storm yesterday the Ivanhoe Road is closed. It will probably be closed for a few days to dry out. This means the Ivanhoe-Menindee Road is probably closed too. The girls have no option but to go the long way around via Cobar and Broken Hill. I heard them leave about 4am.

We started our travels again by visiting the tyre joint in Hillston to see if they could find out why one of our tyres is leaking air slowly. After taking the tyre off and investigating we are still no wiser. There is nothing wrong with the tyre or the valve so, by the process of elimination, it must be a faulty valve extension. They didn’t have one so we will have to try to get a replacement in Cobar. At least we know the tyre is OK. Unfortunately without the extension we cannot fit the TPMS sensor so we won’t know if we get a puncture in that tyre. We’ll just have to check it manually as we go.

It was a lovely, sunny, cold day and made for quite pleasant traveling as we were warm and snug inside. The countryside after leaving Hillston is mostly Mallee scrub with some cleared land for cropping. We did see a few Emus and a couple of paddocks with healthy looking black-faced sheep. As we got closer to Mt Hope we also came across native Pine forest.

We had a short stop at the tiny village of Mt Hope so I could take a photo of our motorhome near the Royal Hotel. Across the road is the remains of the slag dump that my dad and his brothers used to play on when they were boys and lived in Mt Hope. The school they went to is just an old historic site now. Funny to think this is where my dad and his brothers spent their early years. Back then the road wasn’t even tarred. It would have been pretty remote.

Further along The Kidman Way we stopped for a lunch break at the Gilgunnia Rest Area, 51km north of Mt Hope. This is the site of the Gilgunnia Goldfields and was once a thriving mining area. I liked the statue called ‘Charlie’ made from bits of old metal stuff and the story alongside.

Gilgunnia Goldfields was once home to 1,000 people and had 3 pubs. One of those was founded in 1873 by Henry Kruge (more about him later) and he also provided blacksmith and wheelwright services and sold general stores. He was an enterprising man and as Cypress Pine grew in the area he also set up a sawmill and later opened a post office at the hotel. This old hotel eventually became a homestead and survived until it was destroyed by fire in 1976.

Gilgunnia was proclaimed a village in 1897 and had a public school from 1896 to 1907.

All mining had ceased in the area by the 1930’s and the population dwindled and by 1942 there was no one left. The buildings decayed and there are no buildings left today.

It is a good stop for a rest with some remnants of mining on display. There is a plaque commemorating the Kruges as the first settlers in the area and the founders of Old Gilgunnia.

We continued on towards Cobar. The countryside became progressively hillier and we were surprised by the amount of floodways on the roads. It doesn’t rain often out here but when it does it must be heavy to need all those floodways across the road.

Along this stretch of The Kidman Way we spied lots of groups of feral goats of all sizes and colours. Many of them do not appear to be afraid of the traffic on the road.

Just south of Cobar we turned off to the Fort Bourke Hill Lookout and I’m glad we were not towing a van. The very narrow tar road leads to the top of a steep hill and there is a very small turning circle at the top. I think they need to have a Not Suitable for Caravans sign at the bottom of the hill. There is a small tin shed only a short walk away from the carpark and it overlooks the New Cobar Mine. The shed houses story boards of the history of Cobar and mining in the area. It was really windy and very cold standing up there looking down at this huge hole in the ground. New Cobar open cut mine was started in the late 1890’s and is considered to be a medium sized open cut. I thought it looked pretty big!

On the northern end of the cut you can clearly see the vein of quartz called the Great Chesney Fault and it extends south to the Chesney and New Occidental Mines.

Underground mining commenced at New Cobar Mine in 2004. Ore from nearby Chesney Mine and New Cobar Mine are brought to the surface at the bottom of the open cut by huge dump trucks. 200 loads a week are brought to the surface.

We continued on into Cobar and had to stop at the famous Cobar sign and take the obligatory photo. I thought it turned out pretty well.

I was very disappointed to find the Cobar Heritage Centre and Museum is currently closed for renovations. I was really looking forward to going to that. Oh well. We will just have to come back another time.

I wanted to go there for a special reason. Copper was first discovered in Cobar by three tank sinkers, Danes Ferdinand Emilius Kempf (known as Charles Campbell), Jens Arnholdt Gottfred Albrecht Hartman (know as Thomas Alfred Hartman) and Scotsman George Samson Gibb. The three of them were sinking a tank near the Kubbur waterhole where they camped overnight. They were impressed with the blue and green colours of the rocks and took samples with them.

They headed south and they met up with Mr & Mrs Kruge (remember them from Gilgunnia?). Now Mrs Kruge was a Cornish woman who had worked at the copper mines as a girl. She recognised the samples as being copper and this was confirmed by her husband Henry Kruge in his forge at his blacksmith shop.

Tank sinking was forgotten and Campbell, Hartman and Gibb set off for Bourke to lodge a claim. They lodged their 40 acre claim on the 10 October 1870. This was the beginning of the Great Cobar Copper Mine.

Why is this special to me? Ferdinand Emilius Kempf is my great great uncle. His sister Olivia Ricki Wilhemina Kempf is my great great grandmother.

We had a drive around town and found another ‘big thing’…..the Big Beer Can on the roof of the awning of the Grand Hotel.

We found a tyre shop in Cobar and they were able to fix our valve extension. We bought a couple of spares as well. Our TPMS is happy now.

Our camp for the night is a free camp at the Old Reservoir just north of town. This is a large flat area next to the large dam that was once the town water supply. There’s a lot of other campers here too. I don’t know why people would choose to stay in the other free camp in town that is right next to the main road!

Cobar Old Reservoir free camp

2 thoughts on “Hillston to Cobar

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