Peter Ashley

Joined December 2016
  • Day21

    Day in Sydney & Trip Home

    January 18, 2017 in Australia

    In Sydney Riagan showed me Paddy's markets which I had actually never been to before - it was just like QV in Melbourne, but much more confusing to navigate around. I was pretty chuffed to get a silent clock so that the ticking wasn't keeping anybody awake in my room anymore.

    We went to see Aladdin with rush tickets, which was fun and interesting but overall quite disappointing. It wasn't anywhere near as good as Matilda and I won't be in a rush to see it again. We had changed trains to the 4pm one so that we could see it, so didn't arrive back in Canberra until about 8.30pm, which was a lot later than planned but worth a chance to see Aladdin. When we got home we both collapsed, and made sure that we emptied all of our clothes straight into the washing machine so that if we brought any bed bugs home they wouldn't infest our beds!

    Note: I've come back a few months later to confirm that neither of us have ended up with a bed bug infestation!
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  • Day20

    Train from Broken Hill to Sydney

    January 17, 2017 in Australia

    We got up pretty early to catch the train at 7.30 from Broken Hill to Sydney – a service that only runs once per week. It was quite full, at least half full when we first got on – and kept getting fuller as we went down the line. The most surprising thing that we zoomed past (yes zoomed, the train went very fast in the outback) were the ‘Menindee Lakes’. We got a perfect outlook across the lakes as the train line runs very closely to it. There were some people who seemed to be very keen on trains as they were tracking its speed, location, and taking pictures of it at every stop. It was quite interesting to watch their squabbles when a battery went flat. We stopped at quite a few different stations where the desperate smokers got off to chow down a durry as quickly as possible in the blistering sun. To give you an idea of direction, the stations we stopped at on the way to Sydney were: Menindee, Darnick, Ivanhoe, Eubalong West, Condobolin, Parkes, Orange, Blayney, Bathurst, Lithgow, Katoomba, Penrith, Paramatta, Strathfield & Sydney. To give you an idea of how good the track was, we travelled 820km in just under 8 hours which is fantastic – exactly what you would expect for a first-world rail service. The next 6 hours however were spent travelling quite slowly onward to Sydney as the line goes over mountains making it very slow (around 350km or 50km/h).

    We had packed some lunch so ended up eating our coleslaw, butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and a lot of snacks. By about 12pm the train was exceptionally hot, and the staff were running around trying to fix the air conditioning. Unfortunately they couldn’t fix it, and I couldn’t cope with the heat so I took my book to an Economy-Class Car with the riff-raff (joking). There was a really cute family in front of us and both Mum and Dad were sick of their twins running around so were getting quite cross, but who could blame the kids on a 14-hour train ride? I made faces with one of them a few times which entertained him for a while. The other child with them was feigning a sore foot which was very amusing since the foot that was sore kept changing, depending on whether there was food available or not. We stayed in Economy for the rest of the journey because even though the air conditioner was partially working, it was much more entertaining and comfortable with the air conditioning – we didn’t need the 45* recline during the day. In the evening I had a train dinner ($9 only) of vegetable lasagna, followed by some wine and cheese ($8).

    The Blue Mountains was very pretty because we could watch the sunset from it, I enjoyed the scenery a lot. On the train to Dubbo it was daytime and I was drifting in and out of sleep so missed a lot of it. When we got off the train, we arrived at the hotel quite quickly as it was just around the corner – a very nice room for a very nice price ($108.00, Leisure Inn Sydney Central). As I had only done 3,000 steps walking up and down the train and was very sore, we went for a walk around Sydney. It was a nice cool night and was a good way for me to learn more about where everything is around the city. After about an hour we went to bed and had a chat about our favourite parts of the trip.

    KM Travelled: 1,180 / Steps Taken: 9,287 / Temp: 41*C
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  • Day19

    Broken Hill (Silverton & More)

    January 16, 2017 in Australia

    We got up at around 8am then got ready, leaving the house at around 9am to walk over to Thrifty. We picked up the car – this time a Kia, which turned out to have very comfortable seats. We made a decision to visit the historic town of Silverton then the Living Desert State Park. The drive to Silverton ended up being very bumpy indeed! Much of the road as we approached the town was dirt, there were no sealed roads in the town at all – perhaps because it is heritage listed (Broken Hill & Silverton are ENTIRELY heritage listed as towns)? The town was founded with a post office in 1883 with around 250 residents, but within ten years this blew out to many thousands. Now, there are only 40 people living in the old town and many of the buildings are in ruins.

    Silverton was like a place I had never visited before – I instantly felt like I had been thrown back into the 1800s, appearing in a western classic film. We drove around the streets for a while taking it all in, before finding the ‘Mad Max’ museum. We decided not to go in because it wasn’t something of much interest to us, however the story is. Mad Max was filmed in the Silverton area and the film crews dumped many of the cars, which were salvaged by locals. A superfan of the movies moved from the UK to Silverton just so that he could collect the old cars and open the museum which stands there today. I must say that seeing the cars out the front in real life was pretty cool, although they do look better on film after all of the enhancements. We continued driving around and noticed that there were heaps and heaps of churches! Our next stop, which was unfortunately closed, was the John Dynon art gallery as he creates a lot of fascinating outback art. We did get to view a few of his pieces which were out on display though, including a big mural, an outhouse and a painted VW Beetle.

    After taking everything in we decided to go to the Silverton Hotel for a drink and a look around. The outdoor area was huge, they (of course) had a black VW Beetle which was modified by the Mad Max film crew, and the pub was crammed full of heaps of different memorabilia. As we had packed lunch, we just had a drink each while marveling at the hundreds of signs hanging from the roof with jokes such as: “We’ll be friends till we’re old and senile … then we’ll be friends again… new friends”, “A hard man is good to find”, “FOR SALE: 1 Set Encyclopedia Britannica (husband knows everything)”, and “We’re happily married: I’m married, she’s happy”. My favourite was the Encyclopedia ad. We saw a sign stating that if we do ‘THE TEST” we can get a free beer. After waiting for the lunchtime influx to order their lunches, we donated $2 to charity each and started the test. I’m not allowed to write what we had to do here, however I can say that we are now Life Members of the Silverton Hotel! It was an absolutely hilarious surprise and would recommend stopping in to anybody in the area.

    We then went to the old gaol museum and looked around – there was lots to see here and it was quite enjoyable but I won’t write about it here. Out the front there were some donkeys which we later found out were living on the commons arrangement. I gave them a pat and played with them a little bit before we went into the museum but Riagan took pictures because he didn’t want to get kicked. We then got in the car and headed back to Broken Hill to check out a few of the viewing platforms. On the way back we stopped at the Silverton cemetery which is one of the creepiest places I’ve ever been: barren desert with randomly placed gravestones. After the drive back to Broken Hill we stopped at ‘Block 10 viewing platform’ which was fascinating because there were stones with many minerals lying around on the ground so we picked up quite a few samples. They were glimmering with metal – I can understand why so many miners were attracted to the area. Next stop was the Royal Flying Doctor Service museum where we got to watch a DVD about the service and have a tour of the control room and aircraft hangar. It was amazing to hear about the great work that they do: apparently the government covers all of their operational costs (I assume for staff etc) but they must supply the planes and do so using donations. My favourite part was watching the re-enactment of a call-out in the early 1900s using a radio, and looking at the medical kits to see how many heavy-duty drugs they give people for remote prescribing.

    After our rest in the cool we drove to the Living Desert State Park to have a look at the sculptures on top of the hill. We looked at them first in daylight, then went for a 2.5km walk. We both agreed that the general outback scenery from our drive was much nicer than that in the park. We stayed there for sunset with the picturesque background of the carvings which was absolutely gorgeous – I’ll just leave you with the pictures rather than writing about them too much. When the sun went down we drove back home, had a BBQ, packed then went to bed.

    KM Travelled: 180 / Steps Taken: 15,699 / Temp: 42*C
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  • Day18

    Walking Around Broken Hill

    January 15, 2017 in Australia

    We decided to have a quiet day for our first day in Broken Hill, so we ate some breakfast and went out for a walk. It was only 35*C which was quite pleasant for us given the extreme heat that we had been experiencing pretty consistently. We went to buy some more sunscreen then continued on past the shopping centre housing Coles. We took a detour past the Coles because there was a big discount store which looked similar to the one we had experienced in Parkes. It wasn’t quite as good but wasn’t too shabby at all – I managed to procure a New York Subway sign for $3.00. We kept walking until we got to the visitor’s centre in town.

    The visitor’s centre was nice and airy with loads to look at but we decided to go straight to the desk and ask the attendant what best to see and do for one day walking, and one day with a car (we planned to have a car the following day). He suggested that we do the heritage trail around town if we didn’t want to walk too far as there would be plenty to see. We embarked on our walk, attempting to find Thrifty so that it would be easy to find the following day. I got really annoyed because it was extremely difficult to find – we did about three blockies before we finally saw the shopfront. At least we knew where to go the following day instead of doing the same thing and wasting hire-car time! The street names in Broken Hill town centre follow a theme of mining elements: Chloride St, Bromide St & Argent St to name a few. We started our tour walking down Bromide St which is considered the main street of the town.

    There were lots of old buildings and museums but we decided not to spend a huge amount of time exploring absolutely everything. Our first stop was the Palace Hotel, which was featured in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The building was painted with murals throughout and I certainly did not know what to look at. We decided to go upstairs for a beer. On the way up after getting our beers, we walked past a Priscilla display complete with a gigantic high hell bigger than the average person, along with lots of over-the-top memorabilia. We saw a few posters advertising the ‘Broken Heel’ festival which definitely peaked Riagan’s interest so we decided to do some research. The festival runs for three days in September, with a ticket covering all events costing only $160.00. We both got very excited and started planning a potential road trip: stay tuned as we will probably be doing it in September. Unfortunately our gorgeous little cottage was booked however we found two cottages next to each other that we have tentatively booked – if any readers want to come with us let me know. It looks like a hoot with around 2,000 guests attending each year!

    After recovering from our excitement we decided to go and have a look at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery on Argent St, which was the first and is now the oldest Regional Art Gallery in Australia. It was opened in 1904 following the bequest of three major artworks by Mr George McCulloch, one of the founders of Broken Hill Propriety Limited (BHP). The bequest included Lynmouth, North Devon, 1867 by James Webb, After the Bath, 1890, by Harriette Sutcliffe and Memories, 1891 by John William Godward RBA. Currently the art gallery is run by the local council relying on both its’ and visitor donation support. There were some really stunning Aboriginal artworks on display, along with more classical 19th Century European art. After our look around we decided to leave and keep walking. We walked past a Hungry Jack’s and went in for lunch. We didn’t really stop anywhere on the way back except for at Coles to get food for dinner.

    Riagan cooked tonight: a beautiful Moroccan salad made from beans, lentils, and a variety of vegetables including potato - it was delicious & we had heaps of leftovers. We curled up on the sofa bed with some popcorn to watch an Australian movie we had found on the mantle called ‘Alice, Sweet Alice’. I didn’t really watch it all the way through because I was busy researching accommodation for the Broken Heel Festival and writing this, however it was extremely messed up for its’ time.

    Note: Our accommodation was gorgeous. I’ve included some pictures of it here – it was a very old miner’s cottage belonging to our host’s grandmother, where she had lived as a small girl when she moved to go to school. It had three bedrooms with a kitchen and bathroom out the back, along with an outside laundry and is full of everything you would want or need including TVs in every room and a vast collection of DVDs. It was also cheap, only costing $300 for three nights. The house had everything that we needed including air conditioning in all of the rooms and even a breakfast/snack basket that lasted us for the whole three nights. I would highly recommend Lillymay Cottage to anybody who wants to go to Broken Hill!

    KM Travelled: 10 / Steps Taken: 14,040 / Temp: 35*C
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  • Day17

    Bus to Broken Hill via Nyngan

    January 14, 2017 in Australia

    It was a short walk from the Port of Bourke Hotel to the bus stop where it was already waiting for us. It was the same bus driver as before: he was shocked that we were leaving already. We told him a little about our trip and he called us crazy then laughed. The trip was uneventful, but when we got to Coolabah we had a proper look this time. They have an old wooden shed for a pub, with the toilets about 100m walk down a dirt track – I wish it was open when we stopped! Mum's friend Teresa told us we should definitely have a drink at the Coolabah hotel - alas. We continued driving for a few more hours until arriving in Nyngan where we were having our 5-hour layover.

    Nyngan was an interesting little town, it had a museum right next to the bus stop which we went into right away. The museum was in the old railway station which was quite large, with a fenced-off outdoor area and many themed rooms. The creepiest room of them all was the doll room – there were at least 200 dolls. I found the library to be most interesting, as it had a lot of resources for genealogy research and history books about the area. I picked up a stack of papers titled ‘My Nyngan Experience’ by Bruce McIntyre, which gave an account of what it was like to live in the area in the 30’s. I read the whole thing in around half an hour and in doing so learned a lot, it was a great thing to do. There was also a telecommunications display like in many of the other museums we had visited but quite uniquely there was a DVD recorded during the Nyngan floods of April 1990.

    Nyngan was one of the worst affected areas in Australia, and they were not prepared for floods at all, being on the banks of the Bogan river. When the waters started rising the whole town came together in an attempt to stop the waters from coming into their town using high sandbag walls, however ultimately they failed to keep the water at bay. Everybody was evacuated by the army and several media helicopters, and when they came back their town was destroyed. After learning about the floods we said goodbye to the museum to go and visit the ‘Big Bogan’. It was a gigantic man dressed, unsurprisingly, in thongs shorts and a wife-beater, holding a fishing line with an esky next to him. We had a few pictures with him then went to have some burgers for lunch which were delicious.

    We then went to the supermarket for supplies and afterward decided to go to the RSL to have a drink. After a little bit of relaxation we decided to explore the banks of the Bogan river which have since been fortified by a flood Levee which is designed to protect the town from future flooding – it is around 2 meters high. We walked down to the banks and then along the river for a bit and up and down the Levee. The river looked lovely which was evidenced by people swimming, fishing and boating along it. We then went back to the RSL to relax before our next leg of the trip.

    At the RSL we had about an hour of relaxing before it was time to get on the bus to Broken Hill again. The rest of the journey was quite uneventful indeed, except that the bus driver cracked it with a few people for taking too long at a toilet stop. When we arrived in Broken Hill our host graciously picked us up from the bus before driving us to our miner’s cottage accommodation about 3km out of town. The accommodation was absolutely gorgeous, but we pretty much went straight to bed as we had spent so long travelling during the day and needed rest.

    Note: Another interesting fact about Nyngan is that around 10km west of the town there is a solar farm. It is the biggest solar plant in the Southern Hemisphere with around 1.36 Million Solar Panels.

    KM Travelled: 800 / Steps Taken: 9,373 / Temp: 42*C
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  • Day16

    The Women of the West

    January 13, 2017 in Australia

    At the Back of Bourke exhibit I read a poem by George Essex Evans titled "The Women of the West" (published in 1906). I have included it below, because I found it quite striking and enjoyed it thoroughly, re-reading it in the evening at the hotel...............

    THEY left the vine-wreathed cottage and the mansion on the hill,
    The houses in the busy streets where life is never still,
    The pleasures of the city, and the friends they cherished best:
    For love they faced the wilderness - the Women of the West.

    The roar, and rush, and fever of the city died away,
    And the old-time joys and faces-they were gone for many a day;
    In their place the lurching coach-wheel, or the creaking bullock chains,
    O'er the everlasting sameness of the never ending plains.

    In the slab-built, zinc-roofed homestead of some lately-taken run,
    In the tent beside the bankment of a railway just begun,
    In the huts on new selections, in the camps of man's unrest,
    On the frontiers of the Nation, live the Women of the West.

    The red sun robs their beauty, and, in weariness and pain,
    The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again;
    And there are hours men cannot soothe, and words men cannot say -
    The nearest woman's face may be a hundred miles away.

    The wide Bush holds the secrets of their longings and desires,
    When the white stars in reverence light their holy altar-fires,
    And silence, like the touch of God, sinks deep into the breast -
    Perchance He hears and understands the Women of the West.

    For them no trumpet sounds the call, no poet plies his arts -
    They only hear the beating of their gallant, loving hearts.
    But they have sung with silent lives the song all songs above -
    The holiness of sacrifice, the dignity of love.

    Well have we held our fathers' creed. No call has passed us by.
    We faced and fought the wilderness, we sent our sons to die.
    And we have hearts to do and dare, and yet, o'er all the rest,
    The hearts that made the Nation were the Women of the West.
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  • Day16

    Back'O'Bourke

    January 13, 2017 in Australia

    After dropping off the car to Hertz we took a taxi to the train station. I was craving chips with gravy and cheese, so we asked the lady at the kiosk if she would make it for us. She gave me a very weird look but decided to do it anyway and it was delicious. We waited for around half an hour before the bus was ready for us to load on and we managed to get the seats right at the front of the bus! We drove North-East towards Bourke for about four hours. The ride was quite uneventful so I was listening to an audio book of The Great Gatsby then having naps in-between chapters. Halfway through I moved a few rows back because the front was too hot (the air conditioner wasn't working as it was around 44 degrees), then fell asleep for a while – when I woke up at Coolabah for a break Riagan was quite distressed.

    We got off the bus to have a chat, and he told me that the lady behind him had been trying to rob him! She had been tapping him on the shoulder to see if he was awake, and when he didn’t respond the hands would start wandering before he stopped her. He came to sit with me after the break, but we were even more cautious about our belongings then before (we were already cautious as I have been convinced we will get robbed on this trip). The conversation of the people who were robbing us was quite strange – it was almost like a conversation between children even though they were 50+. Instead of asking each other questions like most adults do, they spoke in a chain of statements. For example ‘I’m going to Broken Hill”, “I want to go to Broken Hill”, “I’m going to Broken Hill on Tuesday”, “I’m coming with you”, “I’m going on the bus”, “I’m going to go on the bus too”, “I don’t like the bus”, “I’m going to book on the bus tomorrow”, “This driver is a bastard”, “I’m looking forward to going to Broken Hill” …. and so on. When I listened to other conversations on the bus and around the place, I realized that they were all very similar – no questions and often unrelated statements.

    On the approach to Bourke, we passed through a road named Fred Hollows avenue. Apparently Fred Hollows used to frequent the Bourke area as there were a lot of people there who required his eyesight-restoring operations and didn’t have enough money to get it done elsewhere. The township has devoted kilometers and kilometers of highway to his services, with a beautiful sign and lined with native trees – in a few years it is going to look beautiful. Upon arrival in Bourke, we stopped at the train station then walked the short 800m journey to our hotel, ‘The Port of Bourke Hotel’. We paid and checked in then went upstairs – the room was really nice however there was a disgusting smell from the air conditioner: better than bed bugs. We didn’t bother doing anything about it because it could have been much worse. Because we arrived at about 6.50pm, it was dinner time so we decided to go out for some dinner at the RSL club. Upstairs they had Chinese, we got some Shezuan and some Curry Vegetables. The Shezuan was way way too hot, so we barely touched it but the Curry Vegetables were nice. We went back to bed and had a lovely sleep in the soft, cool bed.

    In the morning we decided to go for a walk to the Back O’ Bourke Exhibition, as it didn’t seem that much else was open during the low tourist season. On the way we stopped off at the bakery for some breakfast before continuing. It was about a 2km walk, but at 9am it was already 35 degrees and rising. Fortunately when we arrived at the exhibition it was nice and cool. The lady there was over-the-top happy and it made us feel quite good after the exhausting walk. It was now about 43 degrees outside. She helped us to try to find a bus or hire car (no success), then we went into the exhibition. It was absolutely fascinating, I loved the exhibition because it told such a great story about Bourke’s history. I won’t write about it here however I’ll share some of my favorite parts. I loved the story about Mr. & Mrs E. M. Davis, as they were rich station owners however treated everybody on their station with delight. They ran a tight shop, with all of their staff wearing three-piece suits and gorgeous dresses to dinner parties – even the station hands, both Aboriginal and White. Those who worked with them said that they felt included and looked after which is pretty magical given the trends of how society treated lower-class citizens in the late 1800s.

    The final part that I will leave you with is about Henry Lawson who travelled to Bourke when one of his men tours told him that he was becoming stale in Sydney. He wrote: “I rise in the drought from the Queensland rain. I fill my branches again and again; I hold my billabongs back in vain, for my life and my peoples the South Seas drain; and the land grows old and the people will see the worth of the Darling River”. One thing that I have noticed in general about Bourke, is that while it is in the absolute middle of nowhere, people water their lawns and look after their houses in a way that makes it feel similar to Bendigo. It is not until you walk about 100m out of the town, albeit small, that you realize you are in the middle of nowhere in the arid Australian desert.

    After exploring the Back O’ Bourke exhibition we walked back to the hotel in the 43 degree heat via the supermarket and rested in the room. We ate dinner at the hotel which was very substatial – I had roast vegetables with loads of different salads. Afterward we decided to go for a short walk around the town during the dusk hours, which was a little bit cooler (just below 40). We walked from one end of town to the other after walking below the gigantic wharf that was used by paddle-steamers to haul wool down the Darling. To finish our walk we went to the Bowling Club – we had realized by now that the Aboriginal & lower-class White people go to the Bowlo, and that the White snobby people go to the Port of Bourke Hotel. We chose to go and sit at the Bowlo to play pokies with the locals, one of whom was absolutely hilarious – and I won $120! At around 10.30pm we went back to the hotel and to bed, as we had to catch the bus at 9am the following morning.

    KM Travelled: 380 / Steps Taken: 11,382 / Temp: 44*C
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  • Day15

    Dubbo Zoo Billabong Camp

    January 12, 2017 in Australia

    We woke up at around 6am to the sounds of zoo animals (ok – mainly cicadas). When we walked over to the mess shade there was a huge amount of pancakes, cereals, toasts, fruits and condiments. I had lots of pancakes and they were delicious! At breakfast, the other families were talking about what they heard overnight – apparently they heard lions, tigers and birds. Those of you who know me well would know that nothing like that will wake me up so unfortunately I did not hear them. We had a quick shower to prepare for the morning activities and had packed the car by 7.15am which was our starting time. We found out what we were doing: an encounter with a Sumatran Tiger, Otters and Apes.

    Firstly the guide took us on a walk into the ‘Asian Forest’ and through a restricted access gate to the ‘dens’ where tigers sleep overnight. During the day the tigers are let out into ‘exhibits’ where the public is able to see them. The Sumatran Tiger saw being fed was a young male that had been rejected by his family – when he was an adolescent he had a medical issue so was sent to Sydney for surgery and when he got back they didn’t want to know him at all. Apparently he is quite chilled out and happy to be alone which is good as tigers are solitary animals. The keeper fed him chicken necks which was good to watch, and he climbed up the fence with his front paws as he was very excited and knew what he was going to get.

    After seeing the tiger we went to the rear of the otter enclosure, where we learnt about ‘enrichment’ for animals. The otters were sleeping so we didn’t get to see them here. A large 40-gallon drum with holes in it was used like a kong for dogs (elephants), old fire hose like a kong (monkeys), and many others things. The idea is supposed to be that in the wild animals have to think about their food, so they should think about it in the zoo to keep their minds healthy. Afterwards we went to see some apes – we could hear screeching in the distance so the keeper thought it would be a good idea for us to see them next. The Siamang Apes were on an island as they cannot swim – there was an older couple and their younger son. The couple were doing a call which is designed to ward away predators – the female did a fast chant which increased in speed and volume, and the male did the final call by screaming ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAH’ then doing a pose similar to a gymnast. It was fascinating to watch because they sounded so much like people!

    After the walk we said our goodbyes and got in the car for our drive. We weren’t sure if it is possible to drive the car around Dubbo zoo, so went to ask: we could which made life a lot easier! We saw a lot of keeper talks/feedings: Meerkats, Hippos, Otters and Ring-Tailed Lemur & Spider Monkey feeding. The Hippo talk was fascinating because they have actually trained the alpha male hippo, who has overgrown teeth digging into his upper gums, to open his mouth on command to have his teeth filed down! We also got to see the alpha spray poo everywhere. The otters were ganging up on one particular otter, chasing him around the enclosure – it was sad to see that he couldn’t really escape. Hopefully they can help him to enjoy his life! We also went for a walk up to the ‘African Savannah’ and got on the safari bus, the giraffes came very very close to the bus which was quite amusing – the bus driver had to keep speeding away. It was quite a nice little side detour. We saw: Addax, African Lion, African Wild Dog, Asian Elephant, Barbary Sheep, Black Rhinos, Ring-Tailed Lemur, Bongo, Cheetah, Dingo, Eland, Emu, Galapagos Tortise, Giraffe, Greater One-Horned Rhino, Quokka, Hippo, Koala, Meerkat, Small-Clawed Otter, Ostrich, Oryx, Przewalski's Horse, Siamang Ape, Spider Monkey, Sumatran Tiger, White-Handed Gibbon, White Rhino & Zebra. After making our way around the zoo circuit, we drove the car to Hertz ready for the next part of our journey.

    Side note: While at the zoo I did a lot of reading about the function of zoos. While Taronga Zoo is not-for-profit on the surface, each individual employee profits from its existence. I think that some of the conservation activities it does are good, but that these activities are a minority compared to the focus on exhibiting the animals for patron pleasure. Thus, overall, zoos do profit off animal suffering even though they are not-for-profit on the surface. I think that the conservation work they do is great, but that it could be done without exhibiting so many non-endangered species. I saw some stereotypic animal behaviour – especially from the larger animals, including pacing and hiding (there were signs of scratching all over the pens) but most of them seemed quite relaxed which is good. Overall, while the zoo was a nice experience, I felt quite sad there and really shouldn’t visit any more zoos in the future – this is likely to be my last one for a long time. In the words of Matilda: If you always take it on the chin and wear it nothing will change…If you sit around … you might as well be saying you think that it’s okay – and that’s not right! Attending a zoo is similar to saying that it’s okay – which I do not believe – so I should not be supporting them by supporting them financially. I would feel much better if they had less non-endangered exhibits and focused more on conservation but perhaps it is not a viable business model.

    KM Travelled: A few / Steps Taken: 17,000 / Temperature: 38*C
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  • Day14

    Bogan Gate, Parkes & Dubbo Zoo

    January 11, 2017 in Australia

    We left fairly early in the morning to get on the road so that we could arrive in time for our next adventures. The first stop was a tiny town called 'Bogan Gate' which only has a population of 307 people! We wanted to go there because we found the name funny, however according to Wikipedia (reliable source... I know) the term Bogan does not originate from here. It instead refers to the birthplace of the headman of tribe, taken from the local Aboriginal language. The residents have tried to change the name of their town and of their streets several times due to the derogatory way the word is often used in Australia.

    After a quick drive around Bogan Gate we continued on to Parkes, where we wanted to attend an event of the annual Elvis Festival. The town swells during this festival and nearly every shop window was crammed full of Elvis memorabilia and Las Vegas themed items. The streets were even filled with Elvis classics over a PA system, and I lost count of how many Elvis' there are. We found a really cool discount store called 'Discount Dave's' which had me considering moving to Parkes - it was fantastic! We purchased three large bags of Doritos for the road for $2, and got some giant oversized glasses for our next activity. With our new items, went for a walk along the Parkes art trail, then came back to the RSL. At the RSL we attended Elvis Bingo, where participants competed to win prizes mainly made up of Elvis memorabilia. It was quite a fun morning having a schooner and playing bingo, however the computer system that called the numbers stuffed up multiple times (user error) and we kept missing numbers because it was going too fast. Riagan actually won a game but as they didn't have enough prizes he had to draw a number out of a hat and lost. We took off our big glasses, went to Coles to pick up some supplies and food for lunch, then started driving. Riagan realised at this point that he had lost his MiBand (Fitbit) so called the hotel. He called them again after a few hours and they had already posted it for free even though we offered to pay! We did a police report just in case for travel insurance... Very lucky indeed.

    On the way we stopped over at Parkes Observatory, better known as 'The Dish'. It was an amazing site to behold. Luckily, it was moving while we were there so we got a bit of a treat. We learned about radio waves and how they allow astronomers to find out more information than light as they are not filtered by the atmosphere. After a quick look around and a slurpee each, we continued on the road to Dubbo. Our next stop: Dubbo Zoo!

    I had to have a nap on the side of the road for about an hour because I was exhausted driving but we still made it to the zoo by around 3pm. We had decided to stay overnight at the Billabong camp so that we could get a more immersive zoo experience - it is also the cheapest overnight zoo stay in Australia ($178pp). When we arrived we picked up our sleeping gear then made our way to the tent for 'nesting time'. After a while, the cow bell rang and we had an introduction with some nibbles, and a zoo keeper brought a snake and a bearded dragon for us to pat. The bearded dragon was very placid, but the snake was whipping around in a very agitated way so we only got to pat it for a little bit. Afterward, the kids went to catch yabbies in the billabong while we sat, relaxed and talked. The cow bell rang again for dinner, which was a gigantic BBQ with salads and damper - it was very delicious but they definitely over-catered - over half the food was thrown out.

    After dinner we walked to the Australian Animal Sanctuary, where we got to come up close to emus, wallabies, koalas and quokkas (giant marsupials only found on Rotnest Island). The koalas were gorgeous and had just had babies, and one of the wallabies came up to Riagan and I. I got to have a pat and a play but before Riagan got a chance the kids had scared it away! He was not impressed. After this we went back to the camp for supper, then Riagan and I sat in the mess area playing Snakes'n'Ladders, Where's the Meerkat (like Where's Wally), and Connect4. Afterward we enjoyed reading some children's books, had a hot chocolate, then retired for the night. It was an interesting experience so far, but tomorrow is likely to be more interesting!

    KM Travelled: 180 / Steps Taken: 12,500
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  • Day13

    Warrumbungles and Trundle Hotel

    January 10, 2017 in Australia

    The 5.50am bus ride to Dubbo was pretty uneventful but quite exhausting - we had a gross breakfast of dripping greasy spring rolls in Coonamble. When we got to Dubbo, we decided to walk to Hertz: big mistake. It was 37 degrees and 3.6km - won't be doing that again! After we got the car, we had some Hungry Jack's vege burgers for lunch and then decided to drive north to the Warrumbungles National Park for sightseeing and perhaps a walk.

    It took over two hours to drive there, and it was extremely hot - each time we stopped to get out and take a look we quickly got back into the car. The view however was quite phenomenal - barren plains for miles and then a bunch of green, lush and odd-shaped hills popping up out of nowhere. When we arrived at the edge of the park, we stumbled across an emu farm so went to take a look. While there was nobody around in the shop, there were a lot of interesting facts about emus which we had a read of, and hundreds of them running around in a field together - it was quite interesting indeed. After the emus we did the loop drive from one side of the national park to the other.

    The road was very windy and the views were gorgeous. We stopped at the visitor's centre where the lady kept suggesting that we go walking, however it was far far too hot (the car was now saying 42 degrees outside). Instead, on the East side of the park we decided to go for a short 1km-only walk to a view point which turned out to be magnificent. Afterwards, we jumped back in the car and drove to Trundle. On the way we stopped off to get a coffee and I had a nap in the car for around an hour before we continued.

    We drove along the Bogan Way which runs to the West of Dubbo toward Trundle. It was quite scenic with lots of dilapidated old buildings, train lines, granaries, homes and towns. When we arrived in Trundle we checked into the Trundle Hotel which was a nice old building with the longest wooden veranda in NSW - too bad it was falling to pieces. It was lovely inside with a lot of charm though. They were fixing the pub up bit-by-bit and seemed to be doing a great job. We had a pizza on the balcony and then went for a walk around the town, noting that the school was K-12, it has the widest main street in NSW, that Riagan's friend's childhood home was absolutely gorgeous, and that they had a few little boutiques around. We also found out that Trundle was host to the ABC series 'save a country town' as 5 families moved from the city for a better life and only paid $1/week to stay there. Since this has happened the town now hosts a yearly 'ABBA' festival in May and it has been very invigorated, almost back to its' pre-millennium drought state. Very soon after our walk we retired for the night (it was only $50/night so would highly recommend it as a cheap place to stay - very comfy, cool and clean).

    KM Travelled: 850 / Steps Taken: 15,369
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