07-Dec-2003 -- This confluence has had a previous attempt, and it emerged from that try that some planning was going to be necessary in order to make our attempt successful.
I began by contacting the Hay Shire to determine if the confluence lay on private land or on crown land. I was informed that the confluence actually lay in the Balranald Shire, and so I made contact there, and was referred to a very helpful person named Rebecca. I faxed her the map showing the confluence and she did the necessary research for me. A few days later, in late November, Rebecca rang back and said she had determined that the confluence lay within the boundaries of Tupra Station, a 185,000 acre outback sheep station. She also gave me the phone number for the station manager.
I rang the Tupra Station number and spoke to Marina Norton, wife of the manager, Scott Norton. Marina was very understanding as I explained what this confluence business was all about, and she said she would discuss it with Scott who would call me back. Scott called back the next day and agreed that we could visit the station to travel to the confluence and take our photographs. He gave me directions on how to reach the homestead, and the plan was set in concrete. Sunday the 7th December would be the day.
On Saturday the 6th, with my wife Pam and friends Ian and Trish Kelly, we left Melbourne in Ian’s Subaru Outback, and had a very pleasant journey to Hay, about 75km south of Tupra Station. We stayed in the New Crown Hotel, in the main street of Hay, and enjoyed the country experience. This was a typical country pub, with a balcony over looking the main street, and must be nearly identical to thousands of other country pubs spread throughout rural Australia.
We left at about 8am on Sunday morning and travelled west towards Maude, turning off before Maude towards Oxley. About 30km after turning we reached a big white roadside mailbox proclaiming “TUPRA” and turned off towards the homestead. I should add here that the Hay Plains in this area of Australia are almost completely flat, and largely devoid of trees, except near watercourses, which are few and far between. It was quite a surprise then to find after about a kilometre that we came across a little oasis in this flat treeless plain. The road crossed a wide creek, which was actually the Lachlan River, with water birds abundant, lots of green vegetation and tall river gums completing the contrast with the surrounding area. A gate lay at the far end of the bridge, and after negotiating it and covering a further couple of hundred metres we came to the collection of buildings comprising the Tupra Station homestead, shearing shed, and other various sheds and accommodation.
As we approached the homestead a large wedge-tailed eagle swooped low over the car, and we moved on past an Australian flag flying proudly in the yard.
Scott Norton came out to meet us and we introduced ourselves. Scott had a map and had identified how we could approach quite close to the confluence provided the recent rain had not left the clay tracks in too wet condition. He readily accepted what we were doing and was extremely hospitable and good natured, ending up giving us about three hours of his Sunday morning. Scott’s 4WD was being repaired in Hay, so we all piled into Ian’s Outback and set off towards the confluence.
To give you some idea of the size of Tupra Station, the homestead was about 27km away from the confluence, and the small town of Oxley also lay completely within the boundaries of the station. I have used the track feature of my GPS to show our path from the homestead to the confluence. We drove from the homestead back to the Maude – Oxley road and turned north. After driving through Oxley we turned west onto one of the myriad tracks which criss cross the station. All the while we were plaguing Scott with our many questions about the history of the station, its operation, the surrounding area etc., and Scott congenially answered all our questions, adding additional facts and figures which helped turn the confluence visit into a fantastic experience for us. We saw lots of birds of all kinds, and many blue-tongues and other lizards. We also saw emus and kangaroos and occasionally came across some of the 25,000 sheep scattered across the station, which was just beginning to recover from the severe drought that had been in effect for several years. The station has had up to 80,000 sheep when conditions were favourable.
Eventually we began to approach the confluence, which was a miracle to us, but Scott seemed to know the twisting and turning tracks very well. We occasionally hit a wet patch of track and the Outback slewed a little, but Ian’s calm hands and firm foot kept us on track, homing in on the confluence. We managed to park about 250 metres from the confluence, and then set out on foot through the saltbush dotted plain.
We had two GPSs, Ian’s Vista and my Legend, and they agreed perfectly on the location of the confluence. It is always difficult to get all the zeroes showing long enough for a photo, but we achieved this with both GPSs, and placed Pam’s hat on the ground as a temporary marker while we took the photographs. After basking in the glory for about 20 minutes, we all piled back into the Outback and retraced our journey. This time I remembered to turn on the tracking feature in my Legend, so we could overlay the track onto the map when we got back home.
All in all it was a tremendous experience for us, and it was further enhanced because when we arrived back at the homestead, Scott showed us around the station buildings. Tupra was established in the middle of the 19th century. The shearing shed was built in 1906 and is largely the same now as when it was built, including the diesel driven shearing stations, the original wool press, and all the tables and yards. During the 1980s, Tupra had 15 men working full-time on the station, and with their families comprised quite a sizeable little community. When the shearers came as well it was like a small town, and provided bunkhouses, a cook (who had his own house) and all the various amenities necessary to support the work force.
We are greatly indebted to Scott Norton who generously gave up his Sunday morning to guide us around Tupra, and helped to create what turned out to be a wonderful experience for us. We were certainly on a high as we departed, and pointed the car towards Melbourne, our assignment achieved.
The total distance travelled on the weekend was 1385kms, but it was a very rewarding expedition. In addition to the Confluence, we reached five dashpoints on behalf of two GeoDashing teams, and successfully uncovered the “Hey, Hey, Hay” GeoCache. The highlight for me was the Confluence, and in particular the enthusiasm of Scott Norton for his part in the history of Tupra Station. He clearly loved the country he managed, and he was very happy to share his knowledge with us, people that he had just met from a city 500kms away. He seemed to immediately understand the principles involved, and he also became caught up the “thrill of the chase”. As has been frequently found before, there were no special features to be seen at the intersection of longitude and latitude, but the country covered in getting there was spectacular, and, in particular, the people met and the friendships made on the journey were outstanding.