Does Australian bush poetry have a natural home? The lines of Australian poetry meander through mountain ranges, muddy tracks, icy frontiers, slopes and plains, lakes and oceans. The skies range from rain-heavy grey, through deep blue, to a pale and unforgiving yellow, with sunsets and sunrises that span the spectrum. But arguably the most profound and enduring landscape associated with Australian bush poetry is that of the outback, and in no way is that better articulated than the annual ‘Poets Trek’ in Bourke.

Bourke has a well known association with Henry Lawson, who spent less than a year in the region, but found such deep and lasting inspiration in the landscape and people, that it became a feature of his writing for all his days. Scottish born Will Ogilvie spent years working on and returning to Belalie Station and, though buried in his homeland, claimed to the last that ‘the Back of Bourke’ was where his heart remained. Breaker Morant – a figure synonymous with Australian individuality rode and wrote all across the plains of the West, and even Banjo Paterson found inspiration in the dusty flood-plains of the Barwon and Darling Rivers.

Every year, poetry lovers, intrepid travellers, seekers of rare gems and lovers of Australian culture congregate in Bourke to join the two day trek which explores these outback landscapes, and reconnects them (and us) with the words that were inspired by them. The Poets Trek travels along the route taken by Lawson on his famous 200km walk to Hungerford on the Queensland Border. It meanders through the back roads once ridden by the Breaker, Ogilvie and bushranger Midnight. The trek courses through the famed Barringun Hotel and Belalie Station which both held close association with Ogilvie, returning to the iconic North Bourke Bridge to close off the journey over the river which has been the lifeblood of Western NSW and the inspiration for some memorable poems.

Travellers will tour through the historic sites of Bourke, visit the majestic (and controversial) Toorale Station, walk along the Warrego, Paroo and Darling Rivers and travel through the Cuttaburra basin. They will visit the Port of Bourke, FordsBridge, Royal Mail (Hungerford) and Tattersall’s (Barringun) Hotels. The journey will take them to lonely bush graves, hidden waterholes, forgotten way-stations, innovative and iconic buildings, rare collections and atmospheric sheds. All the while, guest poets, reciters, historians and yarn-spinners weave the narrative of the landscape through both traditional and modern verse.

The Back O Bourke Centre and the Bourke Arts Council facilitate the tours, which are all taken in the comfort of a locally provided coach, or by ‘tag along’ tour in your own vehicle. All meals are provided and the one overnight stay at Hungerford is ‘5-star’ (you can see all of them through the roof of the shed)- it’s a ‘bring your own bedding’ deal, but on a trip like this, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Departing on Sunday the 3rd of September the Poets Trek will follow the footsteps of renowned poets such as Henry Lawson, Will Ogilvie and Breaker Morant. The tour heads up to Hungerford on Sunday night for an overnight stay with the locals before heading back to Bourke along a slightly different, but no less interesting route, for a wrap up of festival activities in town on Monday.