Posted On 19 Mar 2024
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This entry is part 21 of 33 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#24



The first impression you get when arriving at Hebel on the back road from Goodooga is that some folks ‘round here have guns – big guns. The sign on the border signals more the end of the sand, the dirt and the broken grey oil that passes for the road than the differentiation between two states. It also has more holes in it than a Tony Abbott election promise. But where Abbott’s fancies feature bullet points, the sign is a sieve of bullet holes or rather shotgun craters.

I’d been at the southern end of the goat track on a mission for my late father whose best mate during his time in POW camp had been someone we all only ever knew as, “Goodooga Bert”.

When Bert had left home and headed to the front, Goodooga must’ve been truly something; shops, and cinema, a theatre, a butcher, a couple of pubs, a local fabric – a culture. Today there’s just a single pub, no shops, and the cemetery has three times the population of the town.

The locals in the pub were no more illuminating about Bert than the inmates of the graveyard would’ve been, so I headed for the border, the Hebel Pub and a bloke I’d partied with, the last time I was there a year or so back. I’d decided then that this deserved to be a PotM but the next 24 hours were to mold that idea!

The cops had assured me the surface was hard packed and smooth. They lied. It was endless hourglass powder, too hot to touch under the 48ºC heat. It was hard going but “Lily”, my new Tiger 800 XC got me through to the white aggregate at the border with its target sign, and the easy 7km into one of the most iconic pubs in Australia.

No-one who has any interest whatsoever in outback or even bush pubs hasn’t seen the Hebel Pub, either in the corrugated flesh or in pictures. It sits alone on the cover of the most beautiful coffee table book on this country’s bush hostelries; it usually adorns the front page of both and and it’s featured in every book on the subject that I’ve ever read.

Quite simply this is the embodiment of an outback Australian pub.

I pulled up out front in the afternoon shadow, went inside, grabbed a coldie from Craig the owner and settled outside. Pretty soon the stillness was broken by a car’s engine and my mate jumped out of one of his mate’s utes. He’s er, “acquainted” with the cops from up at Dirranbandi and no longer has the option of driving.

We sat outside and talked of the awesomeness of Souths’ victory in the NRL Grand Final, asutes and vans and 4WD’s filtered in and the pub began to fill.

Hebel’s total population is just 34 folks but chuck in the surrounding farms and this swells to well over, well, maybe 60! This Friday night, seemed most of them were here.


All the blokes ride Ag bikes and they’d not seen a Tiger XC so before soon there was a gaggle around it until, kneeling beside it Mick called me over with the news there was a pretty serious fuel leak from under the tank.

Oh great! I’m in a flyspeck town in the middle of “Nowhereistan”, it’s going to be close to 50ºC tomorrow and my bike’s likely to ignite if I touch the ignition button!

And then the call goes out for “Greg”!

“He’s got to be here somewhere! He’s always here on Fridays!”

Turns out Greg was in the dunny when the call went out but soon he’s under the bike searching for the leak.

And he knows what he’s searching for. In this town of 34, I’ve found a fully qualified Ducati mechanic, an ex flat track and circuit racer with a professionally equipped workshop back at his farm 7km out of town.

“Bring it around at 8 in the morning and I’ll fix it for you”, he tells me, adding directions to his farm.

Anyone wanna give me odds of that?

Anyone wanna try to explain how 3% of the population of this town are qualified motorcycle mechanics? You can’t make this stuff up!

The next morning it took Greg just on two hours to firstly change my dirt tyres back to roadies and then strip this bike he’d never seen before, remove the tank, locate the faulty O-rings, re-seat them and reassemble the whole thing again.

(Oh, and then give me a ridiculously cheap bill for his trouble.)

Once fixed I went back into town to fill up but the bowsers at the pub were too hot to function, and for a minute or so I felt stranded yet again. Another local whom I won’t identify saw my plight and told me he and his wife always had a 10 litre tank in his garage. Yes he’d help me and no he wouldn’t take any payment for it. Thanks Big Fella!

As the fuel gurgled in, I figured, bugger it, this shouldn’t be the Pub of the Month. No! This should be an entire Town of the Month! Around 10% of the population had done me favours. In Sydney that would equate to 200,000 going out of their way to help…hmm that’s not going to happen!

The Hebel Hotel is one of those places where everyone has a story but not everyone has a surname. Some of the stories may be long and many are definitely tall and as I sit in the fading light and listen to them talk I think of Henry Lawson’s lines in his essay on nearby Hungerford:

“…the man who told me might have been a liar. Another man said he was a liar, but then he might have been a liar himself – a third person said he was one. I heard there was a fight over it, but the man who told me about the fight might not have been telling the truth.”

Bar stories are never about facts, much more important to be entertaining!

Oh, and of course the regulars have their stools and seats. When you first pull up and are about to sit your sore arse down, check with owners, Craig or Karen that you’re not about to plonk on the perch of any local who’s due in shortly!

They’ve had the pub, their first, for just on 18 months and are putting all they can into improving the services.

Craig cooks up a feed on Friday nights but is planning on expanding this to at least a couple more nights soon.

Not to worry if you arrive hungry on any other day. Across the road Barb and Ralph run the beautifully restored General Store and Restaurant which, fully licensed, does meals from 6.30am til 8.30pm every day. From the big breakfasts to the stir fries, Thai curries and steaks, it’s all home cooked goodness from a couple of good people. And the pastries are damn fine too!

The pub’s accommodation is currently in three air-conditioned dongas across the road. It’s a great idea as it maintains the aesthetic integrity of the pub. Soon there’ll be space out the back to throw your swag but, especially if you’re travelling with your life partner, this might be a good time to lob the $75 for the air-con because it’s either hot here or cold, rarely just mildly pleasant. Just be ready for the sulphur taste ‘n’ smell of the artesian shower water.

Our room was spotless and the beds very comfortable. The air-con was quieter than most and there was all the ingredients for a morning brew. I wasn’t woken by any traffic noise.

The Hebel Pub on its own rated 78 points on our scale but when combined with the General Store’s restaurant and other facilities the town went well into 4 helmet gold territory.

The cold hard numbers show a value index of just over 100 but this low number belies the unique fl avour and the ensuites of the dongas.

The beer value index represented by the price of a schooner of XXXX Gold is $5.

The combination of the friendliness of the locals and the sheer character of the pub, make Hebela “must visit” place, a destination in its own right and definitely a “drop-in” for any rider on the Castlereagh Highway between Walgett and St George. It’s a worthy first ever Town of the Month!

Hebel General Store: 07 4625 0920 (Ask for Barb or Ralph) Hebel Hotel: 07 4625 0923 (Craig and Karen) For a detailed review and hyperlinks to all relevant places please see the Accom Review section at

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