After spending an enjoyable night in nearby Orange and clocking up some quality time catching up with family, I had a day or two to kill and decided a detour on my way back to Sydney would be a good thing.
It’s not exactly on the way back from Orange to Sydney, but the old gold mining town of Hill End was my destination, in fact Hill End is not on the way back, or the way to anywhere, you’ve got to go out of your way to visit. Quite a bit out of your way.
The landscape driving up from Bathurst is beyond dry, it’s just plain dead, nothing stirring and no signs of life, a film of white dust powdered over the countryside, the only signs that life exists somewhere at all is the roadkill.
It’s not the first time I’ve been here, a few years ago now, a friend Brett and I took the kids along on a camping holiday and stayed a couple of nights.
While were were there we dropped into the local pub, as you do with kids, and had a quick drink in the beer garden, beers for us, lemonades for the kids and a few scraps for the kangaroos that live in the beer garden.
At the time I thought it looked like a great old pub and wondered what it would be like to stay a night or two there a have a poke around the town.
The old town hasn’t changed much from what I could remember, still looking like a set from an old gold rush movie, it’s streetscape dotted with funny little old cottages and here and there a few more substantial old red brick two story places, reminders of past glories.
It’s a wonderful little place and you could spend a happy few hours poking around the old ruins and going on bushwalks.
That is, of course, if you don’t arrive in the middle of the afternoon during the middle of the longest hottest stretch of weather anybody can remember.
The sun is just hanging dormant in the sky, refusing to set, I’ve checked into the pub, imaginatively named “The Royal” and built in the golden years of 1872, they’ve kindly given me a room overlooking the street, unfortunately it also looks west and faces directly into the still non-setting sun.
The weather is, quite frankly, just too bloody hot to go out exploring, I’m a prisoner in a tiny little bedroom, with no fan and facing due west into the setting sun.
There’s nothing for it, but to while away a few hours reading a book and doing a spot of local watching in the pub beer garden.
The sun, of course, eventually started to sink down to the surrounding horizon jagged hills and I could venture out for a bit of an explore, but not before checking with the pub when the bistro closed, it’s the only food in town and I wasn’t going hungry, “shuttin up at seven tonight luv, too bloody hot”
There’s only a few small streets left now in the center of town, most of the businesses and homes are long gone, it seems like the only substantial properties left now are slowly marking time, waiting for their fate.
Back at the pub and the locals are winding down after another long hot hard day, a few beers on the veranda and a bit of a gossip before heading home, what they made of me wandering off into the dark with a tripod I couldn’t say.
I’d planned to shoot all of the remaining substantial buildings left by street light, what I didn’t take into account was the little known fact that Hill End only has three street lights, and one of them goes off at 9:15.
So I did manage to squeeze off a few frames and get a couple of the old buildings recorded but pretty soon it was time to head back to the pub and into that little room again.
It’s a great old building though, with lots of character about it, and lots of characters in it as well, the most bizarre aspect of staying the night turned out to be after last drinks were called at 10pm, the barmaid switched off the lights, locked up and walk out, leaving me as the only person in the entire creaky old building, if I believed in ghosts it would have been a pretty spooky old night.