When I said to friends I was going to Nyngan for the long weekend, most said “you’re going all that way to smoke weed?”… “No, thats Nimbin on the NSW North Coast” I stated with a sigh. Nyngan is located in outback NSW on the Bogan River in the Bogan Shire. I was off to visit a good friend, Amanda – not a bogan.
After thousands of years of indigenous habitation, Nyngan was first visited by Europeans in 1835 and settled as a town in 1883. Over the Australia Day long weekend, I travelled by CountryLink XPT from Sydney to Dubbo and connected to a coach service to Nyngan, a distance of around 600 kilometres from Sydney.
The 1990 floods are perhaps Nyngan’s most well known, tragic yet heroic, claim to fame. It was in April of that year when the banks of the Bogan River threatened to burst and flood the town as a result of unusually heavy rains. The residents and Army banded together in an attempt to build a levee to try and save the town. I still remember watching images on t.v of the fast paced effort as they filled bag after sandbag while the water seemingly rose instantly around them.
Unfortunately, despite the huge effort, the town was flooded and on 24 April the locals, some 2500 people, needed rescuing from the higher ground around the Railway station by Army, television and local helicopters. With practically all of the town and surrounding farmlands completely submerged, it was three weeks before the residents could return. The seriously damaged railway line caused all services to be ceased, though these days freight trains do pass through and service the town.
The former railway station is now a museum and in the adjacent park you’ll find an Iroqouis Helicopter, donated to the people of Nyngan by the federal government to commemorate the evacuation. It was unveiled by Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair A.O in April 1992, whom the bridge over the Bogan River, rebuilt after the devastating floods, is named after.
The resilient ‘Nynganites’ are tough and could be mistaken for pretty rough, but just on the outside. When my friend Amanda, met me at the station and we went for a drive around town, we stopped for petrol and a few cold drinks. Amanda, jumping out of the car, said “$40 worth thanks!” I turned my head, jaw dropping and was amazed there was an attendant filling up the car, next he took a squeegee and after lifting the windscreen wipers proceeded to clean the windsheild of all the red dust and squashed bugs. I hadn’t seen this since I was a kid, an actual SERVICE station. He chatted away, the fellow in the shop chatted away, a lady walking down the street waved and said hello – all welcoming me to town!
We drove out west of the town on whats nicknamed ‘The Triangle’, a 45 km westward drive along the Barrier Hwy to Hermidale then a 40 km drive southward drive towards the newly opened copper mines then a 45 km northeast drive back towards the town and with not much insight, I could see the toughness of this region, the arid landscape, searing heat and the pungent aroma of roadkill.
I met more of Amanda’s friends that evening when we ‘hit the town’ and went to the Nyngan RSL club, Charmaine, Kelly Rebekah and Kiara and so many more people were so lovely and made me one of their friends instantly. I’ll admit, and they’ll certainly tell you with a few ‘strong words’ in the mix, that there’s not much to do here entertainment wise, but if you are travelling through or out this way, stop in and say hi, because you will discover a gentle roughness and the most welcoming bunch of people only the harsh yet beautiful outback can produce – and not a single Bogan around. 🙂
With dear thanks to my friend Amanda, her family & the people of Nyngan.