Odometer: 2794 km
Hay is another old pastoral town, on the junction of the main highways leading to Sydney (720 km), Melbourne (416 km) and Adelaide (655 km). It has both the Cobb Highway and the Sturt Highway intersecting it. “The Long Paddock” is the tourist drive along the Cobb Highway. Yes, that name relates to the famous Cobb & Co carriage company. The Long Paddock follows the routes that cattle traders used to take to get cattle and sheep to market in Victoria. There is a dedicated “Long Paddock” App which comes up with sights to see along this route, and we downloaded the Hay section.
Hay has a large number of heritage buildings from the late 1800’s. Interestingly, between the 1881 Victorian Post Office, and the 1877 Victorian Shire Office, stands the 1896 Lands Office, which was one of the first buildings specifically designed for the outback climate. It has walls and a roof or corrugated iron, and ventilation is via ceiling grills and floor level hatches.
Our accomodation in Hay was my second attempt at staying in a quintessential Australian hotel, and thankfully, the chenille bedspreads and doilies from the Star Lodge in Narrandera were nowhere to be seen. The Commercial hotel in Hay still has the wide wrap around balcony, but the rooms are modern, with ensuite (yeah!!!), and are spacious and well equiped with microwave and small fridge. Plenty of room for us and our bags, and space for me to put this blog together on the balcony, overlooking the town.
We visited “Shear Outback”, a purpose built information centre and woolshed, where real shearers demonstrate their craft. They are very friendly and happy to tell you the real story. Our guy must have been in his fifties, had done it for 33 years and fairly admitted that he was on pain medication as his back was “buggered”. Shearers get paid $3 per sheep, and average about 150 sheep a day. The fast ones can do 200 sheep a day, that is only $600 for a day of back breaking work in 2020!
We also got to stretch our legs walking the Bidgee Riverside and Sandy Point trails, which combined are about 5 km. Walking is a great way to get a feel for these small towns, and you often get to chat with some of the locals.
We did the Hay section of the long paddock drive. It took us across the Hay Plain, arguably the flattest part of the Southern Hemisphere. And it is flat!
There are a couple of sights to see; a sunset viewing area, the One Tree Hotel, as well as the Booligal township (28 residents), and the Baird Rest Stop (where the old mailman used to take a nap travelling the 5 1/2 hours between the Ivanhoe and Hay townships).
We also spotted our first emu on this trip, we recall them from other trips. They have a strange habit of running alongside the car, and then suddenly veering across the road in front of you. And if you have missed that one, beware, there usually is another one just behind it as they mate for life….
The area looks very pretty, the rains last weekend have filled the billabongs and lakes, and has flooded some of the roads.
The sunset viewing area is a must, you notice how incredibly flat this area is!
- Best coffee: forget it, Hay is in desperate need of a good barista. We tried three venues, best coffee is 175 km down the road in Narrandera!
- Accomodation: Hay Commercial Hotel, recently completely renovated, large comfortable en-suite rooms with fridge and microwave and access to the wrap around balcony.
- Tip: Shear Outback, entrance fee $20 p.p. and well worth it if only to witness the shearing (twice a day at 10:30 am and 1 pm at the moment)!
- Tip 2: Sunset Viewing Area 16 km North of Hay, completely free and every day at sunset only!