We arrived by shore of Macquarie River well after it was dark last night, so it was nice to be able to actually see it this morning. It was a slow start, chatting with fellow Delica lovers. Inevitably, we had a show and tell on the campervan setup of our vans. Theirs is the older (although his is actually newer than mine), smaller, though better off-road L300 model Delica. I was envious of how much space they had in their van, well, it was more like how little ‘stuff’ they had in theirs… I’d love to have a nice clean empty van again…
It was about two-hours drive from our campsite to Dubbo, returning along the same dirt trail we came on last night. As is usually the way, knowing how far we had to go (and being able to see) made the way back feel much quicker than the way there.
We arrived at the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo around lunchtime and it was somehow much hotter than yesterday in the Blue Mountains, but at least it was still that easy to tolerate dry heat that can be escaped in the shade. The last time I visited this zoo we walked around, so that is what I wanted to do today, too. I wouldn’t admit it to Risa, but I was more than a little happy that she refused to walk the 6km circuit (plus all the detours), because it was so damn hot. I thought that it was going to be very difficult to see the animals properly if we drove, but there were parking areas by each enclosure. The twelve year-old me remembered a giant, open zoo where the animals were free to walk around without the restrictions of fences. This was somewhat true, it is a very large and open zoo, but there are most certainly fences and other physical barriers detracting from the experience between you and the animals. I guess if you want the non-zoo experience you’d have to go on a safari in Africa.
The zoo seems to primarily feature African animals, such as the elephant, rhinoceros, zebra, hippopotamus, lion etc, but there are a few Australian, Asian and American animals thrown in, too. Sadly, we weren’t the only creatures feeling lethargic from the heat, most of the animals were at the rear of their enclosures resting in the shade, which as a fee paying tourist is a little frustrating, but as a decent human being it was understandable. It was also our own fault for missing all of the feeding sessions where the animals are coaxed close to the viewing areas in exchange for food.
Oh, and we can’t forget about the primates! They are always my favourite. There were several species, each with their own little island set up with things to play on. I was surprised that the water was enough of barrier to stop them from escaping – in places it would have only been 5m they’d have to cross to freedom.
The ticket is valid for two consecutive days, and it was tempting to stay in the area so we could come early and see the animals in a more active state. It’s certainly not the amazing zoo that I had in my head, but it was still impressive.
I was starving, and as we were on our way out of Dubbo, in a rare moment of weakness, I was suckered by fast-food advertising – this time it was with promises of ‘Australia’s Best Pie’. The list of accolades and trophies this bakery had won were impressive, so we were keen to see how it stood up to our favourite pie shop, Yatala Pies. Firstly, the pie that Risa wanted, Steak and Mushroom, had been sitting in a display cabinet for a while, so it had dried out a little and become hard. Interestingly, they offered this pie to us for free. I bought a works pie (Ned Kelly – steak, egg, bacon, cheese, onion). I don’t think the pies were rubbish, but I can’t understand how it could have won so many awards. Maybe we ordered the wrong pie, maybe it was the wrong time of the day, maybe they’ve changed ownership (and chefs). The pies were OK, but they weren’t much better than the frozen ones you buy from a supermarket and heat up yourself – the steak was mostly mince, and the pastry was bland. At least Risa’s was free… I was now extra annoyed at myself for being suckered in to the marketing, especially since it turned out to be quite difficult to get to the restaurant (due to road works).
We heard that the weather was going to change, and that there were going to be some storms coming for the weekend. It had been a hot and clear day, but as day was coming to an end, we could see dark storm clouds growing large on the horizon. I loved the wide golden plains of recently harvested fields in this area.
As we headed further from Dubbo, I could see what looked like a small lumpy range. I was transfixed on the sight, almost to the point that it was affecting my driving. As we got closer, the range got clearer and I could make out several free standing rocky pillars – I could only guess from the map that it was the Warrumbungle Ranges. Being a sucker for rocky mountains, I knew where I was headed first thing tomorrow morning!
Our friends that we camped with last night recommended a rest area by Hickeys Falls a little past Coonabarabran, so we headed there. We had two pieces of bad luck; the waterfall was nothing more than a wet stain on the side of small cliff feeding a stagnant pond, and the small rest area was full of people. So we drove a little further and camped in a clearing by the side of the road and waited for the storm to engulf us. I kept an eager eye on the radar, watching as the small but intense rain continued on its easterly path towards us. There was a little thunder and lightning, but the rain was little more than a short shower – not the epic down pour that I’d expected.