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Lake Cargelligo 2019

Following on from our 2018 drought aid weekend at Lake Cargelligo, members of the Wagga Wagga Four Wheel Drive Club Inc again traveled west to the small town to assist with their 2019 drought aid fundraiser and “Paddock to Plate” community event.

The farther the group traveled, the windier conditions became, with raised dust across the road and in the paddocks –the ongoing drought evident everywhere. The lady in the Caravan Park office was new and had been there for only 3 weeks, working almost single handedly with a small amount of casual help only, and a fish-o-rama and packed park the previous weekend. She was horrified when we said we would be using the camp kitchen, which she hadn’t yet had time to clean from all the wind and dust, as she was still battling to get through the cabins, amenities blocks, office duties and other tasks by herself. We assured her, we would happily clean it, if she could supply the cleaning products. Since we came to the Lake to support a drought fund-raiser, we felt this was another way we could support a small, struggling, drought-affected community. Many hands sweeping, mopping, dusting, wiping and washing soon had the camp kitchen under control.

Unlike last year, where we served the food and people sat down to their meal, a different format was used, with half the people seated and half the people standing to eat. A smaller selection and quantity of salads were provided on a table with servers taking the lamb hoes-oeuvres around the room. Guests were treated to lamb meat balls, koftas, kebabs, ribs, sliders, and chipolatas from the various producers. About 150 people attended the function. The rooms were already set up so we would be helping with food preparation, cooking, serving, greeting and tickets.

This year there was no cabbage shredding, garlic peeling, nut shelling, etc, with pre-cooked jacketed potatoes, vacuum sealed packs of coleslaw and green per-prepared salad, needing only fetta added and dressings. Quite a bit of the meat was pre, or partially cooked and vacuum sealed and simply required finishing off by our 4WD club. The remaining meat was cooked by “Down the Track” –a team of local indigenous youth, under the guidance of their mentors of 2 local police officers. The youth cater approximately 3 times a week in their customised van/trailer and the program assists in up-skilling the local youth, providing work experience, education and training.

Peter “Spida” Everitt, formerly a Saints, Hawks then a Sydney Swans AFL player, and now a Queensland radio-show host, proved both an interesting and entertaining guest speaker. He was at ease mingling and chatting with the guests, listening to their various tales. An auction of goods and memorabilia was held with ribbons awarded in the lamb “Paddock to Plate” competition, with music following these events.

Our exhausted group caught the courtesy bus back for a welcome sleep after a big day. On Saturday, the group travelled to Hillston, to meet Simon of “Select Harvest” for a tour around the company’s almond farms –a mammoth operation of drip-irrigated almond varieties. The group also met the irrigation manager and spent an educational couple of hours touring the plantation, pump-houses and dams, machinery lot and workshop, learning about gas cannons that attempt to scare crows, $50,000 fans that aid in preventing frost destroying trees and second shakes of trees to get 10% extra almonds worth $500,000. Flies were in plague proportions and unwelcome company on our tour.

Another gusty, dusty journey back to the Lake followed, with a quiet afternoon to socialise in our less windy, camp-kitchen base, prior to our evening meal at the Bowling Club Chinese restaurant. After the 36c Friday and hot night, a cooler 24c and 9c Saturday night was welcome.

On Sunday we visited the Lake Cargelligo Weir and Fishway on a scenic part of the Lachlan River. From there we continued a dusty journey on the unsealed back road to Condobolin where we enjoyed a visit to “Utes in the Paddock”. This collection of utes has been creatively decorated by various artists in traditional Aussie themes. Hopefully, this well-planned and developed attraction will bring tourists into another drought-affected community. An enjoyable 3 days had been spent by all, getting to know some new members, strengthening friendships, socialising, sharing stories and assisting other communities in times of drought, whilst traveling through some different roads in our visit inland.

Extracted, with thanks, from a report by Jan McKenzie.