As we get started on the road again I have to introduce our mascot to you and what better time to do it, but as we leave Victoria. Everyone – meet Ned, Ned – meet everyone. He’s fairly familiar to most of you I’m guessing, but our little Ned has a wobbly head, so as we travel along he bobs his little head around. The gravel roads can be a little tiring on Ned’s neck and we’re waiting for the day when Ned may just lose it altogether and his head flies off through the windscreen… all good so far though!
We’re back in our home state again now and the first night in we stopped in Narrandera to catch up with my Auntie and Uncle… and got to sleep in a real bed, with a solid roof over our heads! I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, because we did love the shower, but we quite missed our little camper and were happy to be back in it the following night! I am sure that feeling will wear off after a few more months.
Onto Dubbo after Narrandera where we stayed at the Dubbo City Holiday Park – it’s a brilliant spot that I would totally recommend. It is right on the edge of the fabulous cycle ways around Dubbo, cycling distance to the zoo and walking distance to town and it’s facilities are great too. We’d never been to Dubbo before, for us it’s been just that little bit too far from Sydney for a weekend trip and we’d never found the time to take an extended holiday. It’s such a shame we hadn’t been before because we all really loved it. The skate park is the best that any of us have ever seen and we had a few trips there over the time that we stayed in Dubbo.
Check out the videos:
We also went for a ride along the cycle tracks to take a look at where the flood waters had come up to in January. It’s really hard to comprehend the volume of water and a little hard to show in a photo, but you can see in this photo that the grass has been washed against the fence with the current river level far below.
and guess where else we went when we were in Dubbo!
The Dubbo Western Plains Zoo is fantastic. It’s on such a large site that you have the option to drive your car, ride bikes, hire an electric buggy or walk around the zoo. We drove! I’m not sure if it was because the day was a little cooler or that we arrived early or that we basically went from one keeper talk to another, but most of the animals were fairly lively and we were able to see a lot of action, which is always far more interesting at a zoo than trying to find the sleeping lion at the back of his cage. Although I must say, the lions were sleeping at the back of their cage, he was letting it all hang out too! Some of the highlights of the day would have to be the Tiger feeding, watching this HUGE cat bound up a power pole to snatch a chicken which had been tied to the top – her power was truly amazing and she made short work of polishing off the chicken, bones and all afterwards. The Siamang apes (watch the videos) put on a great display too, trying to warn us off from their patch of ground, they went on for 20 minutes or more with this whooping and screaming and I have been putting up with renditions of it from the rest of the family ever since. Ben in particular thought it was the funniest thing on the planet. I think he thought it was some kind of mating call and was hoping it would somehow improve his luck… he can only hope I guess!
From Dubbo we followed the worlds largest solar system drive up to Coonabarabran. It’s a 38 million times scaled down version of our solar system with planets represented on billboards scaled down by 38 million times and the distances between the billboards representative of the distance between the planets, only 38 million times shorter. The sizes and distances are all so hard to comprehend for us, let alone the kids. They enjoyed stopping off and getting the obligatory photo at each stop though and of course the favourite is not hard to guess, but to add to the hilarity the billboard for Uranus was near the town of Tooraweenah (TorraWEENAH – get it, ha ha, yeah I know REAL funny… well it is if you are a 8 or 10 year old boy (and a 40 year old boy found it highly amusing too).
We stayed in the Warrumbungle National Park just for one night. This area looks amazing for walks, but most of them were out of the reach of the little legs of Indianna. Perhaps a place to come back to visit in a few years time when a 5-6 hour walk is something that we can tackle without too much difficulty.
Even with all the rain that this region has had recently it still looks dry and had it not been for the surface water still lying around in various places you would never believe that there’d been flooding this way. We drove into the town of Lightning Ridge really not knowing what to expect and had the most wonderful couple of days. What a place! The basic “mark your plot and dig for your riches” that began here in the late 1880 is largely unchanged today. Apparently it is not possible to survey for opal (like gold and other metallic gems), so large companies have not taken over from the one or two men operations that have always existed here. As a result the landscape is covered with small mounds of clay that have been (primarily hand) dug from below ground, bought to the surface and sorted through to find the illusive black opal. Lightning Ridge is the only place in the entire world where black opal is found, the colour in the opal is highlighted by being on the black background of the black “potch”. We went on a fantastic opal tour with Outback Opal Tours (phone (02) 6829 4110).
The tour guide Pete has been a local miner for decades and ran his tour (with only us in the group on this particular Monday morning) like a bit of a gossip session, telling us where this, that and the other thing happened. He pointed out all the usual sights of Lightning Ridge, taking us down a 21 metre hole to the depths of a working mine (much like a rabbit warren really), the artesian bore baths (where we had a soak that night – excellent, with real heat at 40 degrees, not like the tepid baths of Tasmania!), sights of past movie scenes, showed us how to fossick and what to look for, the opal cutting and polishing process and we also got the extra little touches, like tasting the fruit from a cactus plant and a look through “Amigo’s castle”. Really fantastic.
I knew it wouldn’t take much for the boys to get interested in fossicking around to discover their riches, they love this type of thing, but Indianna was really into it too. They all certainly had ‘THE FEVER’! We spent hours on a heap of clay rubble outside the visitor centre looking for a stone to pay off the mortgage. We found some beauties too (as Indi will tell you), so off we trotted to the Opal buyers the next morning, the kids full of expectation with their gleaming rocks in hand, only to be told that they’d done a “great job of hunting, but there was not really anything that could be polished up, but don’t lose hope – out you go and try again”. Blow that, we’re not sticking around for another 50 years in the hope that we dig up the big one! We’re off to Queensland!
It’s been a flying visit through our home state, but that was always our intention… we’ll have many more opportunities to see the rest of NSW in the years to come, it’s time to move on and get some of that Queensland sunshine!