Hear, hear, said we all in unison when we spotted this slogan on the side of a ‘grey nomads’ caravan leaving us in their dust in West Wyalong, which is where we start our own ‘Ong Tour adventure, Day 5. So here’s some facts about West Wyalong gleaned from the information folder in our caravan park cabin. The explorer John Oxley was the first European to investigate the area in 1817, claiming that ‘from want of water, timber and grass this will never be inhabited by civilised man’. Those English explorers were so FECing pompous, weren’t they? We’d be willing to wager that the Indigenous Wiradjuri inhabitants had been thriving on this land for centuries, thanks to their hunter-gathering smarts. I guess it depends on whether or not one buys into an Englishman’s definition of ‘civilised’.
Nevertheless, the first inhabitants of the area continue the tradition of getting short shrift in the historical context – only one fleeting mention that we could find. When the Australian nation came into being in 1901, 146 ‘Federation Babies’ were born in West Wyalong but there are no records kept of indigenous births from that year nor any other. Having said that West Wyalong does have a very visible Aboriginal Land Council Office on the main street.
Our new friends at the pub last night proffered a rumour as to how the name Wyalong/West Wyalong came to be. Apparently an Aboriginal farmhand asked ‘Why long, boss?’ meaning ‘how long do you want this fence, Mr Farmer?’ We heard this rumour twice from two different sources but we ain’t biting. We believe the name Wyalong is a connected to the water theme running through the bulk of the ‘Ongs we’ve visited so far – Lake Cowal, a haven for ducks and other bird life in the district, not being too far away from here.
A quick stop at the beautifully restored ‘Royal Hotel’ in the main ‘dog’s hind leg’ street of West Wyalong (follows an old bullock track, so we’re told), for a spot of breakfast. A wander along the main street and visit to the local cemetary later (#trykeepingmaryanneoutofthere) and we’re winging our way towards our next stop, Grong Grong, travelling through fields of wheat and canola to get there.
When we arrive in Grong Grong the local community park bears a sign with a quizzical Aboriginal reference to “Bad Camping Ground”. Perhaps the Traditional Owners were onto something! We stopped at the Grong Gong pub for another much needed XXXX shandy and chatted to the very amiable publican, Ted. While we doubt there’s ever a peak hour in Grong Grong (the train station being closed down decades earlier and a main street that’s only as long as your arm) we’re were reliably informed by Ted that there’s ‘nothing at all’ in Matong, our next stop. We guess Ted (and the traditional owners) would know!
@MadgetheBadge our #trustytourgiude tells us tomorrow is set to be a veritable cornucopia of ‘Ongs – Yerong, Adelong, Tumblong, Jugiong, and finally Tuggeranong, that ‘burb of Canberra. Do come al’ong and join us!