News State New South Wales What it’s like to live in one of Australia’s hottest towns
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What it’s like to live in one of Australia’s hottest towns

The Bourke War Memorial Swimming Pool is a meeting place for children in the scorching summers. Photo: John Kitchen/ABC
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Welcome to Bourke: Land of melting roads, exploding thermometers and scorching summer sun.

On Friday, the mercury reached 45.2 degrees Celsius in the New South Wales outpost at 2:37pm.

To some that will sound like Hell on Earth, but the 2000-odd people that call Bourke home would not have it any other way.

As temperatures rose past 39C in Sydney on Wednesday, trains had to slow down by 10kp/h. In Bourke, there was a different problem.

“The bitumen roads melt. It doesn’t run or anything, but if you’re wearing thongs it gets really tacky and it sticks to the bottom of them,” said Kathy Lowe, who runs the town’s only swimming pool.

“I remember 12 years ago we had a thermometer under shade at the pool canteen and it got so hot it exploded. It got [to] more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit [about 49C].

“We all heard this noise and thought ‘What was that?’ The glass would have been old and fragile, but it gives you an idea of how hot it was.”

Even the Mayor, Barry Hollman, who has lived in Bourke for 69 years, is on holidays trying to escape the heat.

“The crows fly backwards at this time of the year to try and keep the dust out of their eyes,” he joked.

Sweltering temperatures are nothing new in this part of the world. Bourke recorded a NSW record high of 49.7C on January 4, 1903, which was equalled in Menindee in 1939.

Swimming pool ‘was like soup’

Mrs Lowe, a mother of six, runs a tight ship as manager of the Bourke War Memorial Swimming Pool.

Everyone in the family is a trained lifeguard and has to pull their weight, although there are perks.

“If it’s hot, the lifeguard on duty can just drop their belt and jump in,” she said.

“That normally keeps you going for another couple of hours.”

You could be forgiven for thinking a place in the water at the town’s only public swimming pool would be hot property when the mercury starts to rise.

“But even the water temperature is 31C on hot days,” Mrs Lowe said.

“We’ve got a shade shelter over half the pool now, but before that went up it was like soup in there.”

Pubs offer an escape

Tracey Hegarty, the publican at the Port of Bourke Hotel, takes pride in helping locals “keep their fluids up”.

But she said there was more to the town than hot weather.

“We love Bourke. Anyone who lives out here in Bourke is dedicated,” she said.

“We’re all out here for a reason and there’s some great people out here. They just tick different.”

The Port of Bourke pub is a key hydration spot. Photo: AAP
The Port of Bourke pub is a key hydration spot. Photo: AAP

– with Declan Gooch

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