Belting around Bathurst

Day 9: Thursday 14th July 2011  Millthorpe – Bathurst – Lithgow – Sydney

Mount Panorama Race Track sits on top of a hill overlooking Bathurst

Mount Panorama Race Track sits about 800 metres above the town of Bathurst

It was just in the last few days that I was complaining to Bill that all country motels were built forty or fifty years ago, and hadn’t changed in design, except that the breakfast serving hatches had been closed up, and here in Millthorpe we have discovered a brand new motel with kitchenette and ultra-modern bathroom.  The bedding was two king singles pushed together, enormous for just the two of us, and easily convertible if the room was to be let to two burly miners.  It must be insulated both for sound and weather, as we got the last of twenty rooms, and we know that some rooms had young children, and yet we never heard anything from them, and were warm and comfortable all through the night.

The receptionist on duty as I checked out told me that ‘Sam and Shona’, a young couple with three children, who owned the newsagent and convenience store next door, had made the brave decision to build the new motel. They had done so in two stages, during which time a gold mine at Cadia* had been opened, and now the motel serves fifty meals a night to the miners, and I guess they supply accommodation as well. The new buildings of the motel, which are constructed of corrugated iron, are built around a renovated brick cottage which is let for the next twelve months to miners.  On display in the reception area were photos of what the cottage and surrounding land looked like before renovation and construction. I marvelled at the vision of the owners.  They had to exercise a huge leap of faith to believe in what it could become, given the dereliction of the original site. It certainly is a credit to them, and a very significant investment in these dodgy economic times.

(* Cadia Valley Operations is one of Australia’s largest gold mining operations and comprises three mines – the Cadia Hill open pit mine, and the Cadia East and Ridgeway underground mines.)

After a lazy morning and 10am checkout we decided against backtracking to Orange, and instead carried to Bathurst.  We were about twenty minutes into the journey when we reached a bank up of trucks and cars that were being turned around as they reached the Mitchell Highway.  We were diverted back to the turn-off to Blayney and then on to the Western Highway.

I found out a couple of days later that a truck heading east had lost its load, the load fell onto a car heading west, killing the female driver, and then four other cars had crashed into the load.  It had happened about 10.30am, and the highway was blocked in all directions for the rest of the day.  We were so lucky not to have been involved, and it was so very sad for the people concerned.

The Hire Car Toyota Corolla HatchbackAt the time that we were diverted, we thought there may have been a very serious accident, but of course we had no way of knowing the details. So, blissfully ignorant of the tragedy, we arrived in Bathurst in a carefree mood. The first thing we did was fang around two laps of the Mount Panorama Racing Circuit – well, as much as you can fang around in a thrashed and worn Toyota Corolla.  This race track (which is actually a public road) is the home of a couple of twelve hour races, but the race known to all Aussies is the Bathurst 1000, which began its history as a 500 mile race and is now 1000 kilometres. When I was a teenager, cars of various classes were on the track at the same time, and they represented vehicles that the average Joe Blow could expect to own. Then for a couple of decades it became a play-off between Ford and Holden, and now it is V8 and super-charged vehicles that rule the day. Hell Corner, The Esses, The Dipper, Conrad Straight – these are all terms which are repeated over and over on the television coverage of the day – and we grabbed the chance to experience them ourselves – at a significantly lower speed than the professionals, of course.

We have come around in a large circle, and are not so far from Hill End and Sofala – which I wrote about on Day 2 of this trip – where gold was discovered by Hargreaves. Gold would be brought to Bathurst for transportation to Sydney, which also led to the establishment of a Cobb&Co coaching business. I was keen to have a look around the centre of Bathurst.

I had one snapshot memory of being an eleven year old, in the company of my aunt, and standing under a beautiful magnolia (or Gordonia?) tree in full bloom. So we made our way down the mountain to the town centre, to try to put some structure around that memory.

Bathurst was established around 1815, following the successful crossing of the Blue Mountains.  This is a long history, by Australian European standards. Bathurst’s place in Australia’s history is clearly evidenced by the large number of its landmark monuments, buildings, and parks. A few examples ……..

There are also many significant people associated with Bathurst.  One of them was Ben Chifley, the 16th Prime Minister of Australia (from 1945 to 1949). Chifley was an engine driver before entering politics, so a little trek around the railway station and his former home were in order.

Ben Chifley Home Bathurst (1)

Well, that just about wraps up the 2011 road trip.  Those of you who have been following from the beginning will recall that we broke down on Day 1, on the highway halfway between Bathurst and Lithgow.  Leaving our car for repairs in Lithgow dictated that we had to come around in a circle to collect it.  The type of road service assistance that we have entitled us to seven days car hire at no cost to us.  In recognition of 45 years of continuance membership, the NRMA generously extended this for a couple of days. Now it is time to return the hire car and collect our “as new” car.

So, on to Lithgow, and then a couple of hours later and we were in Sydney, having a long overdue catch-up with a friend. Good wine, good friendship – a fitting way to end a wonderful trip. (Hangover is an optional extra). Thanks K!

In my next posts, I will share our exploration along the Murray River, straddling the border between New South Wales and Victoria.

5 thoughts on “Belting around Bathurst

  1. Pingback: NSW Trainlink Outback Explorer from Sydney to Broken Hill | The Reluctant Retiree

  2. It’s beautiful country around Bathurst. I’ve never been to the Bathurst 500 track (I think some things still sound better in miles) though I’ve had many trips through Bathurst over the years. I don’t think I knew that Chifley hailed from Bathurst so I’ve learnt something new today.

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    • First time I “fanged” around the track was on that visit as an eleven year old. My cousin took me around in his Ford Anglia – LOL. Wikipedia has some interesting stuff on Chifley. I was tempted to include some of it in the post, but didn’t want to get too political.

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