Moree, with a population of about 8,000, is situated in the north-west of NSW on the Mehi River and at the junction of the Gwydir and Newell Highways. It is famous for its Artesian Spa waters, which were discovered accidentally in 1895 when a bore was sunk in search of irrigation waters. Instead, mineral water heated naturally to 45 degrees spurted upwards flooding the area. For years I had wanted to return to this town, so loved by my father.
A first memory of bathing in the thermal pools kept calling me back:
Mum and Dad are holding me up in the hot soothing waters; on the surface barely a ripple; Donny and Billy are at the farm with Grandma; I am the baby of the family and Mummy and Daddy are happy together; I am ‘the littlest princess’, ignorant of injustice outside the fence, aware only of this perfect bliss of warmth and of innocence.
This time it will be different; the baths are in the same place, but housed in a brick building instead of the original timber one. Still the waters are hot (35 and 40+ degrees) and soothe the tired traveller from the city. I notice that the Aboriginal citizens seem to be integrated somewhat into the community, and I remember the Freedom Ride in 1965 when Charles Perkins and other students from the University of Sydney, where I was studying at the time, took a bus to Moree and shamed the town for its racism, which included barring Aborigines from swimming in the thermal pools. I was glad to see that this blatant discrimination was no longer evident.
Downtown, I was fascinated, by the hundreds of long hauliers and road trains passing constantly along the highways and through the middle of the CBD carrying every imaginable product, animal, mineral and vegetable up and down the countryside, as far away as Victoria in the south and Darwin to the north. There is no shortage of accommodation, and it is less expensive than in the city; I counted nineteen motels, many with thermal-type names, a couple of hotels and bed-and-breakfast joints. There are several delightful caravan parks which have their own spring baths for their residents, as do many of the motels in the town.
Just before I leave, I visit the Gwydir Carapark on the outskirts of the town, where “grey nomads” take the waters, their heads bobbing above the surface like seals at play. On the way back into town, I point out the double rainbow that has appeared over the Fishalot Cafe to a friendly Aboriginal lad, who wants to know where I am from; he seems bored, despite his shiny bike and junk-food-laden pockets; I suggest that he might like to travel one day and he says: “Where?” The scene reminds me of the Buddhist idea that phenomena, both good and bad, manifest like rainbows and clouds, and then dissolve back into space: they call it “karma”.
The original drill