A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to an 86,000 hectare wetland in western New South Wales, on assignment with a colleague at work. The Nimmie-Caira is a vast area of floodplain that was formerly farmed, at the very end of the Murrumbidgee River system. Its restoration back to a natural wetland is a divisive project under Australia’s controversial Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Personal politics aside (there are both supporters and detractors of the project), it was was an amazing day I wanted to share with you a little part of the country that often gets forgotten…
The Nimmie-Caira sits on western end of the Hay Plains – one of the flattest places on earth. The first time I ever ventured onto the plains I expected a lot of nothing, but there’s actually an amazing array of scrubby bushes, colour and wildlife. It actually is quite spectacular.
The wetland sits in between three major New South Wales rivers and there are creeks, billabongs and little oasis’ everywhere. Although the area is currently affected by drought, it’s amazing how verdant the land does feel when water is present. Down by the creeks the birdsong is almost raucous and you can also hear the buzz of insects and the hum of frogs. Sit there long enough, you also might get lucky enough to see fish coming to the surface too.
Halfway through the day, and after seeing more kangaroos and emus I think I’ve ever seen in my life, we travelled to a huge empty lake. It was covered in fine green grass and wildflowers and our hosts told us it’d been two to three years since water had been in the lake. It’s mind boggling to think there was still enough moisture in the ground to support such lush foliage, particularly after such a dry year in this part of the country. Huge gum trees growing on the lake’s bed were full of empty cormorant nests, ready to occupied again when the water returns.
I love the colours of western New South Wales, the bright blue of the sky, contrasting with the reddy-browns of the earth. I can imagine if I lived somewhere similar myself I’d want to take up painting to try and capture the different shades of colour. I’m sure the landscape must look different all the time, depending on the time of year and the time of day.
As we drove out of the Nimmie-Caira in the late afternoon sun, we got caught up in a mob of merino sheep bleating and trotting along, while being moved from one paddock to the next. It was the perfect end to a truly stunningly beautiful day.
Have a wonderful week. x