More driving, more walking, more animals...
Thursday 27 - Sunday 30 April
Sharon had been doing a lot of driving and a lot of walking over the last few days, and coupled with the tiredness caused by trying to keep warm overnight in an unheated van with minimal bedding we opted to take Thursday as a 'day off' in Goondiwindi. This is a great little town; not only did we find the most delicious hot pork rolls for lunch, we also bagged a bargain double quilt for the princely sum of $16 (about 6 quid)! No more chilly nights in the van...
Once again, the day was warm and sunny giving us the chance to spend a pleasant afternoon at our camp ground to catch up on the laundry.
And so, back to the travelling - we still have huge numbers of kilometers to cover...
Shortly after Goondiwindi we crossed the border from Queensland into New South Wales and pressed onward to the town of Coonabarabran. Our intent was to get as near to our next destination - the Warrumbungles National Park - as possible. Coonanbarabran is hailed as Australia's astronomy capital, with the night sky clearer here than anywhere else and the local hilltops dotted with observatories. Sadly, on this day, the skies were heavily overcast and so we missed the opportunity to spend the evening stargazing at Siding Spring Observatory.
Instead we motored on, finally arriving at a great caravan park run by a Scottish couple. Here we saw our first wild Echidna (a sort of spiky cushion with a long nose and short legs) and, inevitably, more Kangaroos.
Setting off early for the Warrumbungles visitor centre gave rise to an increased likelihood of Kangaroos on the road (they tend to be most active at dawn and dusk) and sure enough, a couple hopped in front of the van; they were lucky - roadkill is evident everywhere in Australia as it is illegal to swerve to avoid animals.
Another bright and warm day persuaded us to tackle the 14.5km Grand High Tops trail. Despite the length of the walk, this is not too arduous as proper paths and stairs have been installed to ease the more challenging parts of the route. Mind you, some paths were rather well guarded...
Climbing steadily we eventually reached a famous rock formation known as the Breadknife
and a final (and reasonably tough) upward push brought us to the Grand High Tops themselves.
Again, the effort expended was more than justified by the views:
Better still (but sadly unphotographed. Pah!) was the sight of a huge Wedge-tailed Eagle hovering on an updraft no more than 5 meters or so away from where we sat.
Another terrific day's walking complete we headed off to Warrumbungles' own excellent campsite, where inquisitive wildlife happily mingled with visitors.
If you've been keeping up with this blog you'll probably know by now that we can't resist the lure of a good wildlife reserve or zoo, and several of the people we had met in Australia had recommended the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo to us.
The zoo is pretty large; it has a 6km circuit around which you can drive. Several families did this, seemingly never leaving their cars. Trying to maintain our new-found health kick, we toured the zoo on foot.
Whilst the Dubbo zoo is engineered in similar fashion to the zoo in Singapore (i.e. animals are separated from visitors by moats rather than cages giving an 'open plan' feel), it is slightly less imaginative in its presentation though we still found it an enjoyable way to pass a Sunday morning. We encountered a few animals we'd met before in our travels...
... and a few we hadn't.
These last being a mother and baby Macaque, a Dingo, and a Tapir.
Leaving the zoo, we headed for the campsite we'd earmarked in Dubbo but on arrival we found a patch of empty ground and a 'For Sale' sign! With time still on our side, we carried on to a one-horse town called Peak Hill where a very accommodating campsite manager found a spot for us. Feeling thirsty we headed into town in search of a pub but alas the only options were a Serviceman's Club or the local Bowls Club (visitors welcome). Feeling that perhaps we weren't suited to either of these fine establishments, we headed back to the van for a few rum and cokes...