Taking on the town with the worst reputation
Hands Up, who has driven through Wilcannia and refused to stop? Who has stoped for lunch but refuses to stay the night? Who would stay a week?
Whatever you do – DO NOT STOP IN WILLCANNIA! Those were the words we heard all the time, on a regular basis.
We also heard:
“They will throw rocks at your car and van”
“You will be robbed while paying for your petrol
“The local natives are all drunk and hanging out in the street fighting.”
“It is dangerous, like the wild west!”
So, being who we are, we thought to ourselves – “How else will we really know what this place is about, if we don’t visit. The kids will get nothing less than an education, and we really should see this place for ourselves.”
So, off we trooped, with the two kids and Diga Dog in tow, to visit this wild, uneducated, scary place called Wilcannia. Against the advice of many, and thanks to Wiki Camps we discovered a place called Victory Park – right in town, on the Darling River, across the road from an Aboriginal Settlement.
Yep, we jumped in boots and all to this one.
Well, all we can say is all those statements above were lies, lies and more lies. Yes, you heard me, LIES!!!
We chose our camping site within Victory Park and we made our way to the caretakers house. Yes, we were met with three viscous sounding dogs – who them licked us to death when they were able to get to our side of the gate. We received our key to the bathroom and paid our $20 for the first night. This included power and water, free firewood delivered by the caretaker (Mark) to our campsite as well as a friendly chat about the area.
We learnt that Wilcannia has changed, there is a young Aboriginal guy who has returned home from the city after educating himself and working, and he has taken over the council and the town. He is working closely with the local Aboriginal population and ensuring that the community understands that tourism is important to the town.
From this conversation alone, we booked in for the week, much to Mark’s surprise, and we felt sad when it was time to leave.
We discovered Mrs Barretts – a lovely little café in the centre of town that has the most delicious fresh made scones, with homemade strawberry jam, cream and really great coffee. Must not forget the milkshakes – the kids reckon they are the best they have had anywhere so far!
Mark was honest, the caravan park had had some stealing happen a few week’s prior – the thieves were relatives of a local family who were visiting from out of town. Mark (who grew up in Wilcannia) and his wife (who works for the council and the post office) have had a little bit of a tough time making sure the park is respected by the locals and that the park is there for the use of the tourists who are travelling, but they have gained the respect of the local Aboriginal Communities and we can camp without fear.
While it is Crown Land and is currently going through the courts due to an Aboriginal Land Rights issue, the park cannot make a profit, it cannot do improvements to the buildings on the land – however it is so well looked after, that improvements are not needed. There are even free washing machines in the laundry!
YES - FREE WASHING MACHINES (You heard me correctly)
So, do yourself a favour – STOP for a day or two and enjoy the town of Wilcannia. The locals will speak to you, they will pass the time of day, just like any other town. The local Golf Club (yes there is a golf course in town) does a great Chinese feed and the historical buildings are worth visiting. Don’t forget to check out the Pelicans in the Darling and the rather large carpet snake that lives under the bridge.