From Cumnock we drove to Wellington after deciding the caves we were going to visit were not worth the $50 they were asking. In wellington town centre, John found a couple of carved heads in a bric-a-brac shop and paid just $10 for them but they will need careful placking to bring them home in one piece.
Also in wellington the information centre gave us lots of good maps and ideas for our onward journey. We are staying tonight at a lovely free spot beside the Macquarie river at Ponto Falls and would be extremely peaceful if the huge flock of White Cockatoos would stop squawking!!
We've booked our next site at Geurie already as now the children have broken up for Easter, things will get a bit busier. Geurie is only a short distance from where we are but within a striking distance to Dubbo where we hope to be on Wednesday.
I am now looking at the banks on the other side of the river in the hope of catching a glimpse of Platypus that we are told live in this area.
Tuesday 11th April
The sun is shining this morning and we take a stroll down to the lower part of this site at Ponto Falls where there are a lot more vans parked. We are pleased we chose the higher spot as there are lots of flies down here. We walk along the river as far as we can go but cannot spot any Platypus despite this looking like an ideal spot. There are enormous flocks of White Cockatoos who take turns chasing down the river and the competition to see which flock can squawk the loudest!
We leave here and make our way to Geurie. This is a lovely shady area beside a sports complex and Bruce, the caretaker, arrived after our phonecall to announce ourselves, to switch on the power and take our $10.00. We are the only ones here so far and use the afternoon to take a stroll into town. We cross the railway line and ahead is the town.... a cafe, a pub and a garage.
Back at our camp site we have dinner and John lit a fire using wood he gathered from around the site. We sat around the fire as the sun went down with a couple of beers when a car arrived and two young men asked if they could camp there too. We told them to call Bruce to check and they did so with his permission they put up two one-man tents and we invited them over to share our fire. They were two friends who had travelled over here from the Netherlands and were on their way to do some diving on the barrier reef.
Wednesday 12th April
By morning the two boys were already packed up and waved us goodbye before we followed out and on towards our goal for today, Dubbo.
The main attraction here is the Taronga Zoo which is very well laid out so that you can either walk, hire bikes or golf cart thingy or drive your own vehicle around. There is also a car parking area for Motorhomes with fresh water and dump area but no overnight camping. We decide to walk the first bit and our entry ticket was kindly reduced when I asked for a senior discount [normally only given to Australian residents!] so we paid $72 instead of $94 and the ticket is valid for two days although one will be more than enough for us.
We walked around about half the 5km circuit and then cut back to the car park to collect our van and drive through the rest as we could see the parking would be easy even for our 7 metre vehicle.
Although it was a particularly excellent zoo with ethical goals of saving endangered species, I was disappointed. I had hoped to see more Australian natives so I could identify them if we come across any in the wild. I would have liked to see a Wombat, a possum and maybe a crocodile or two. I aslo wanted to see some birds so I could put names to the ones we've seen but they had none of these. Nevertheless it was good to do something other than drive and shop.
We drove onto Emungerie and stayed on the recreation camp site for just $5 as we didn't need power. The fee had to be paid at the local Post office which was just across the railway line and next to the only other commercial business in town, the local Pub. This proved to be an excellent find for our evening meal. The Drover's Dog supplied a large plate of Fish, Chips and salad for $11 and John had a rump steak for $13.
Thursday 13th April
We were not looking forward to this weekend as it was predicted to be super busy and very expensive but we set off anyway and have found a very quiet and FREE spot with toilets, water and power at Coonamble Showgrounds. There are about 30 powered sites here and only 4 other vehicles although I'm sure more will arrive before nightfall.
On the way here we had to slow down because of cows blocking the road. A man driving an off road 4 wheel bike with two dogs hanging on for dear life on the back motored up to the front of the herd and tried to turn them back the way they had come. Obviously they had escaped from some field and as there were about 100 of them he would have had a difficult time of it on his own. A little further up there were even more and we reckoned there must have been about 300 in total and they all looked up as we drove past with what I could swear was a grin on their faces!!
The weather is definately getting hotter again with temps today at 27 degrees and promises of 29 - 30 tomorrow.
We walked the 2km into town during the afternoon to have a look around. There isn't a lot to recommend Coonable and most shops were shut which seemed odd for a Thursday afternoon. Everywhere we looked were signs saying closed over Easter so we decide to have a meal at the RSL club which thankfully was open. We've used these clubs before and found them excellent value and although the beer was good and the barman friendly the food on offer was Chinese and not brilliant. At least we have saved what we would have had for tomorrow when eating out might prove impossible.
We got back to our site just after dusk and find no more vans have arrived so pretty empty. Our joy at finding this site was a little premature as when John tried to hook up the electric, it didn't work and the showers were all locked up plus the toilets were far from clean so not brilliant but what can we expect for a free night stop?
Good Friday 14th April
We awoke to another lovely sunny day in prospect with not a cloud in the sky. I warned John that our drive today to Walgett looked pretty boring. 120km with nothing in between, no town and only a couple of farms in the distance as far as I could tell from the maps. We started out on this very long straight road which is flat on either side as far as the eye can see. The fields [as big as an English County!] just seemed to reach for miles towards the horizon on either side. No crops now as it's their Autumn over here but then suddenly I thought I saw a couple of Emu's and pointed them out to John. Further on there were more and probably a total of about 30 in the middle 50 mile stretch. Lots of dead roos on the side of the road but we didn't spot any live ones today.
We have arrived in Walgett on the edge of town and managed to bag one of the 4 allocated sites for this campsite.
As you can probably see, our van is looking very well travelled!
Saturday 15th April
Slight problem this morning, no electrics in the van and engine dead!! Our neighbour had jump leads and a kindly local drove up to offer his engine and we soon got started again but we can't figure out why that should have occurred as we drove over 200kms yesterday. We've called the hire depot and basically told them but for now we are OK again so making for Moree Camp site with Power, showers and washing machine so we can set ourselves up again. Also we need to shop for food as it's Easter and everything will be shut for the next couple of days.
We find camp sites through WikiCamps app and Moree, which is where we're headed doesn't get the best of reviews so we are being particularly vigilent although it does seem quiet and the facilities are great.
On our way here the drive was pretty much like yesterday with fields as big as the Isle of Wight and lots more Emu's wandering around. I got John to stop so I could take a photo and this is of the most we saw in one place as mostly there were only two or four together. Sorry the camera on my tablet isn't brilliant and I didn't have time to get the real camera out as they were moving away pretty quickly.
We are now ready to set off again on our travels wondering what we'll discover today.
Our friend Stephen often refers to the UK as 'civilised' and I don't totally understand what he means by that although one or two things have started to make sense. For instance, I popped into a large supermarket [like tescos] and there was an enormous stack of mince pies that I thought John would appreciate so I grabbed a packet more to compare to our Mr Kipling variety. When I got back to the van to show John my prize we decided to try them straight away. Well first of all the pastry was very nice and like shortbread but the filling was a sort of paste like the centre of a fig roll but the killer was on the packet. The best before date was 14th March 17 and it was the 15th April!! Couldn't happen in the UK without someone ending up in court!!! [But the won't be wasted and Mr Kipling is safe!!]
On our drive here we passed a few cotton fields and the roads were littered with cotton buds that escaped the haulage trucks on their way to being processed.
We arrive at our camp site for tonight at Yetman where we are supplied with power, water, hot showers and a free washing machine for just $10 a night. Our neighbours have told us there is a local pub called the Codfish Hotel just up the road that does excellent meals so we're off there tonight. However before then we have another amazing experience. In the corner of the site there are several trees which are currently home to an enormous colony of fruit bats. There aren't as big or black as the ones in MacLean but there are so many more. They are not a bother and at dusk they start to get agitated, circling around for about 15 minutes and then they all fly off to their feeding grounds for the night. John and I walk up to the bridge and take some video footage which I will eventually upload when we get a strong enough Wi-fi but it is no exageration to say there were over a million of them.
Once they left we walked to the pub and enjoyed fish and chips for $14 each. We spoke to a local who told us the bats may go elsewhere for a couple of weeks and then come back but they certainly aren't always there. By dawn they were all back again and once settled into their trees all was quiet again.
Well this is the end of week 5 so we're close to half way through our time over here and amazed at how much we've seen and experienced already. No rain for the whole week and temperatures up to 27 degrees during the day.