Here are some ghost towns we might visit:
I am in a motel in Orange. We stayed here last time we drove through this country. The Town Square hotel, attached to the Commercial Hotel pub.
It rained all day. Torrents of large drops. Ridiculous rain, depressingly dark and dangerous on the roads. Every car dragged a ragged cloud of spray behind it, every truck threw up a rooster tail of dirty water on our windscreen.
We started out heading west along the familiar route of Bells Line of road, stopped for lunch at Tutti Frutti, which we visit so often they know us. We buy their apples at Marrickville community market where their father sells the from his ute. We buy their raspberries and blueberries in season, the produce they use to make the tutti frutti ice cream their cafe is named for. I also like to pick the interesting mushrooms with the attractive brown caps that grow amongst the roses that surround the picknic tables behind their establishment. I believe they must have used cow manure as fertilizer at some point, which is the usua growing medium these mushies prefer.
On through the mountains, the road winding through a notch in the rock, following the ridge, the trick the first explorers used to get through the range.
Down through Lithgow, full of junkies and ex junkies, skinny and old and moldy looking people wandering around the streets with shopping bags wearing heavily pilled nylon tracksuits. They moved here in the 70s and 80s when the real estate was cheap, and their numbers attracted dealers. With daily trains to Sydney, but too far from the city for commuting, it suited them perfectly. We noted caravans with layers of tarp on their roofs, linked to nearby houses with catenaries of extension cord, smoke puffing from shiny steel chimneys.
Here we left the Sydney sandstone behind. The granite and basalt tors sit in the cropped grass like gems in metal. Coated with rich grey lichen like woven carpet. The grass was toasty brown in the rain, it needed the water. On ward we drove, mile after mile of countryside we could barely see in the shifting curtains of rain.
Stopped for a smoko in Bathurst. Lovely shabby buildings, a well stocked art shop nearby, wide streets, relics of the age when horses and carts needed to turn around in them. There seem to be more social services out here, more rehabilitation clinics and employment agencies, but I think that‘s an illusion caused by the lack of vacant luxury shopping and other specialist establishments which you find in the city, with obscure these things by their sheer numbers. We weren‘t tempted to stay. Onwards to Orange.
The regional centre, the first inland city of the state. No tall buildings, but many relics of the golden age, the 1880s when huge amounts of money were dug out of the ground and spent on infrastructure for the ages, gingerbread and wedding cake architecture, hals and banks and churches in weird pastel blues and greys in the same pallet as 50s bathrooms. A big grip of streets. We quickly located the hotel, with it‘s broad verandas nwhere they have an excellent restaurant.
Dinner on the veranda, looking out through plastic curtains at the dark deserted streets in the cold. Big family groups at the long tables around us. Old men with startled expressions trying to focus on the screens of smart phones in the hands of their offspring, displaying photos of absent family and friends. Dozens of bottles of local wine on the tables. Cut glass bowls of ice cream for the kids. The inner windows of the hotel building proper, now the kitchen, are covered in thick welded mesh. The lady who checked us in took our order. We predicted each others tastes. Michelle had the chicken parmagiana, myself, lamb shanks. There were three of those, on a bed of garlicky mash, covered in well roasted carrots.
Afterwards we drank a beer in the bar downstairs. Warm fire in a barrel stove. International currancy above the bar. A surprising number of gourmet beers on tap, even a cider. Several patrons drank only soft drinks, one dude in a bright coloured leather motorcycle jacket, some designated drivers at the bar. A stereotyped old farmer in shabby blue clothing and droopy hat was hanging out with some younger metal types with creative facial hair and piercings, getting excited and ordering up drinbks at the bar. Huge roidy dudes with belligerant eyes sat around a tabe watching the footy. A princess type in a chilly red cocktail dress took endless upshots with herself, her date, and the desperate spare wheel male friend they had dragged along for a laugh on their night out.