60th LOUTH RACES – THE BUCKET LIST ADVENTURE
While on a weekend camping trip knocking back a few frothies by the fire. It was decided a trip to Louth for the 60th running of the Louth Turf Clubs annual races was needed. As a result, the morning after the night before and with foggy heads. The trusty HEMA road book was sourced and a route was to be planned.
We are off
After a quick load up on the Wednesday morning we left Coffs Harbour just before lunch and took a bit of back road to meet up with the Gwydir Highway and head west out of Grafton. A scenic drive in its own right, we made it to Jackadgery where we would cross the Mann River after a quick bite and an ice-cold lemon squash. From the picnic area you can see the remains of the old bridge upstream. This was replaced when the new bridge was opened on October 7 1961 for a flood free route.
The Celtic town of Inverell
A short haul up the road and you meander into the Celtic town of Inverell. With a quick left hooker we headed up to the Standing Stones and go for a wander.
About 40 minutes out of Inverell is the picturesque Copeton Dam. While not being high season we felt like we had the 4600ha of it all to ourselves. With dam levels at 24% when we visited, camping waterside meant a bit more of a wheel to find the perfect spot.
With camp setup in a few minutes, Chriso took a ‘Poo with a View’ and I called ‘shotgun’ in the Triton for tomorrow so Chriso had to drive first on day 2.
Some of us hit it harder than a head into a brick wall (possibly me), it appeared a bit blurry in the morning that the ¾ of my fresh Jameson bottle had leaked out of the bottle and into my mouth. I don’t remember getting into my swag, rumor has it Downsy had to put me in it. Lucky he didn’t leave me in the camp chair by the fire.
With Sore heads
With the sore heads numbed by the -3°C morning temps, a quick feed was cooked up followed by hot showers on the way out. A quick Pie from the Bingara Bakery and we had our sights set on Gundabooka National Park just west of Bourke. Leaving Bingara this took us through Kilarney Gap, Narrabri, Wee Wah, Burren Junction Artesian Bore baths (which we called into on our way back) then Bourke for a top up of the tanks and then some red dirt camping at Dry Tank Camp in the National Park.
The campgrounds have many flat camping areas with good facilities. Easy to fit in a few utes, swags and camper trailers. With the fire cranking, bovine cooking on the BBQ and a few cups filled with distilled goodness race day was approaching fast.
On leaving Dry Tank Camp in the morning we backtracked about 20kms towards Bourke to see our first Aboriginal rock art at the Mulgowan Aboriginal Heritage site.
The Yapa Rock Art site is only a short walk from the carpark on a very well-defined track. We were blown away by what we saw. I’m sure there are more sites in the area that would be great to explore and admire.
Squiggly 4×4 tracks
On heading out towards Louth only about 60 kms from where we were we saw evidence that after any amount of rain out here the journey could go from an hour to a whole day. Squiggly 4×4 tracks in the crown of the dry and dusty road about 3-4 inches deep showed of someone’s struggles to keep it out of the swale drains and a boggy mess.
This re enforces why I only run Muddies on my ute because you never know what may happen.
With live music pumping
Rolling into the Port of Louth on the near empty Darling River it was time to go find a camp spot on the river bank then head up to Shindy’s Inn for a few amber ales. With live music pumping the crowd continuing to swell and beer flowing faster than King Gorge Falls in the wet they were on target to get the 70% of their yearly income in two days trading. The town swells from its regular population of about 43 to over 4000.
Waking up on Race Day we were dustier than the dry river banks, it was off to the hot showers with a gold coin donation and then get ready for the punt. One tip for newcomers, it’s not like Birdsville Races where the pub tickets are accepted at the racetrack, the Turf Club only take cash. After a few wins and losses on the punt, the Race day was ending and with that the after party began. Not as messy as after the Melbourne Cup, the party began back at Shindy’s and then along the banks of the Darling River till early in the morning.
The return trip
Our return trip would see us traveling even more remote and less travelled routes.
We journeyed through some spectacular country which I estimate we did on 70% dirt roads.
They boys made it home in one piece
Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment….
history and facts
Standing Stones – The first stone was raised on September 7, 1991. Officially opened by NSW Governor on February 1st 1992.
Gundabooka National Park – 63,900ha, First noted by Charles Sturt in 1829. Wasn’t pastoralized until the late 1800’s. Has Aboriginal Rock Art sites highly significant to the Ngemba and Kurnu Baakandji people of western new south wales, Old homesteads and Shearers quarters.
Louth – Established as a Port in 1859 when Thomas A Mathews built a pub ‘The Daniel O’Connell Hotel’ to cater for the passing River trade. Known for its Racing Carnival and the Shining Headstone of T.A Matthews wife.
Louth Races – Village Races date back to 1880 where the first Christmas race was held on the 27th December that year.
The second race was held in 1889 and was a 2-day event – Day 1 a 2-mile hurdle event then a 5-race program. Day 2 had an 8-race program.
Live Coordinates of these locations
Jackadgery – Mann River – Lat -29.5771, Lon 152.5549
Copeton Dam – Lat -29.9051, Lon 150.9242
Kilarney Gap – Lat -30.1323, Lon 150.0804
Artesian Bore Baths – Lat -30.1142, Lon 148.9956
Dry Tank Campgrounds – Lat -30.5180, Lon 145.7146
Mulgowan Aboriginal Heritage site – Lat -30.6404, Lon 145.7680
Shindys Inn – Louth – Lat -30.535080, Lon 145.115459
Ebor Falls – Lat -30.4024, Lon 152.3438
Boambee Beach Coffs Harbour – Lat -30.3130, Lon 153.1404
Words and Images by Jereme Lindsell of Trickydevil Offroad for North Storm waterproof bags