So what do you do in the hottest and most isolated town in NSW? You do the only sensible thing and go to the pub of course. And when that pub is one of just two in the town, the only ones for several hundred kilometres in any direction, you'd better believe that it is well loved.
Located on the back road to anywhere 400 kilometres BEYOND Bourke this place is none too cool – VB signs, white plastic chairs on the peppercorn tree shaded veranda, and a great front row view of the passing parade of dusty utes and 4WDs.
The food though is something else. Jenny, the cook, can roast a roast, crumble an apple crumble and generally dish out anything that's good and wholesome and filling. The place is owned by the Petrovich's who have been here for a while now, and owner, Peter and wife Liz, are on hand most of the time to keep the beer cool, and the welcome warm.
There's a touch of bush culture here too. The walls inside the pub are covered with mural – and pretty priceless ones too. Clifton Pugh came to Tibooburra in the 1960, befriended the publican and decided to do some high class graffiti for him. Other artists such as Richard Armor, Russell Drysdale and Eric Minchen followed – and an Armor portrait of Pugh remains, valued, they say at $1.5million, if it could be rolled up and taken away.
Most of the year the town (population 150) just putters along and the drift of visitors stays manageable. But one weekend a year - the long one in October - the town really hums. That's when the rodeo (said to be the best in the West) comes to town and the population soars, the pub roars, and people live off the buzz for weeks.
And if you think living in Tibooburra is a picnic, just remember that this is the place most people in NSW know only from the fact it usually stars on the TV's evening weather report as having the state's highest temperatures in summer. It's doing it real tough too, right now, with the drought almost petrifying the already bone-dry land.
And as far as isolated goes, how does 335 km north of Broken Hill, 1504 km north-west of Sydney, and 900 km from Adelaide, sound? Even the indigenous locals can't have thought too highly of the place. Their name for it translates as 'heaps of rocks', but this may be more to do with some granite outcrops nearby which they regarded as sacred sites.
In the 1840's poor old Charles Sturt, the explorer, and his companions, came through this way too, and probably had some doubts about his sanity. He came dragging a 27-foot long whaleboat on a wagon, and was all prepared to tackle the vast inland sea when he found it, but sadly he finally abandoned his craft as well as the notion. A full-size replica of the boat is mounted in Pioneer Park on the outskirts of town, sailing incongruously above the flat dry plain.
A few decades later, the town had a brief fling with fame with the discovery of gold in 1881. A thousand miners arrived, and because of them a post office, school and hospital were built. The hotel began in that era too, of course, and over the years various artists, including Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale and Rick Amor, visited this distant corner of the state and added their sometimes raunchy sketches to the walls around the bar. It's almost worth the trip just to see them.
The road to Tibooburra, whichever way you come at it, is a long, dry, dusty one. There are roos and wombats, saltbush and spinifex and hundreds of kilometres of red dirt. But under the peppercorn trees, the beer is waiting, and you can bet that Jenny is just putting something delicious in the oven for dinner, and Peter and Liz have dusted off the welcome mat.
And Stretch is more than ready to share a coldie and a yarn.
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