Narran Lake is a vast, flat, open area to the north of Walgett and to the south-west of the Ridge. On maps it appears as a lake, a body of water, but it’s ephemeral and only fills properly after deluges in Queensland pour down the Condamine–Balonne catchment. There’s an important creation story that involves people being eaten by crocodiles, which seems odd for this part of Australia but (in a remarkable testament to the durability of oral storytelling traditions) fossilised crocodile skeletons have been discovered in the area.
I went there with a group of Year 8 Yuwaalaraay language students for the annual open day. These days the lake is co-managed by NSW Parks and Wildlife Service and local elders. There were dances and songs and boomerang throwing and tours of the dry lakebed. Tommy Barker’s remarkable artefact collection was on display.
But most importantly there was weird food: emu rissoles, crocodile kebabs, goat and gravy and roo tail soup. Mmm!
I got stuck into a goat and gravy roll first because, well, that was the first thing to get served up. There are quite a few people farming the goats around the west of the state; I don’t know if these were farmed goats or feral. But it was good meat, nice and tender, and the gravy was proper gravy – not that prissy “jus” you get in fancy restaurants. All served up in a sop-absorbing white bread bun.
I didn’t get anywhere near the crocodile kebabs: as soon as they came off the barbecue they were pounced on by the kids. Opinions ranged from “awesome” to “disgusting”, but that could mean anything.
I went in search of emu rissoles. Too slow, old man.
But there was bucket-loads more goat-in-gravy and beggars can’t be choosers.
We dragged ourselves away from the food to take a walk of the lake. I’d been down here before to see the amazing archaeological work that’s being undertaken by the team from the University of New England. We got a good sandalwood smoking before we set off.
I could come down again and again; it’s such a multi-layered place. On the walk were a few old blokes who remembered harvesting crops on the lake in the years before it was gazetted by parks. There are still plenty of remnants of the lake’s time when cattle ran freely.
We got back in time for the most important course of the day: fried scones. There was a frenzy of margarine and syrup and kids licking slithery goo off their hands and forearms. The scones were good, but I have to say that Goodooga’s were better.
I did manage to get a late-entry emu rissole though, and I’d say that that was my food highlight.
Narran Lake open day: do yourself a favour in April next year and get down there.