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Travel Australia with Kids

Friday 22nd April 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Saturday, April 23, 2011

From Orange we headed to the lovely, and VERY tidy town of Forbes and camped in front of Lake Forbes - great views but also located in front of a few businesses that employ guard dogs whose job it is to bark at every passing car during the night!  Although we arrived at the camp spot with just 1 hour of daylight left, the kids insisted on dipping their line in this new body of water - of course they caught a carp!

The next day dawned grey and rainy - to continue all day long.  We headed to Parkes and the Henry Parkes Centre which incorporates 4 different museums adjacent to the information centre. First was the Elvis Museum - I didn't know that Parkes was the Elvis capital of Australia, but it is!  This museum was quite comprehensive, with quite a few of his performance costumes, memorabilia and great summary information about his career and life in general.  Got me very nostalgiac indeed!  Next door was the vintage car museum, starting with Elvis' cadillac. I loved the old 1920s cars.  There was also a Pioneer & History Museum which was somewhat haphazardly organised and hard to follow - but by that stage the boys had finished their viewings and wanted to show me the barn owl they found in one of the many outside sheds housing the old machinery museum - apparently he's been a resident of the shed for over 5 years!  A very good way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy day!

The highlight of Parkes is of course The Dish (one of my all time favourite movies EVER!) - the Parkes Radio Telescope.  We could see it from the highway even before we turned into the road leading down to it - very impressive and pointing straight up.  The centre has quite a bit of information about how radio telescopes work and the replica of the control panel they used in the movie.  There was also a movie theatre showing 3 short films about the centre and space - my favourite one was called "Bigger than Big" where they showed the relative size of the planets and the sun in relation to the other stars in the universe!  Mind boggling and way more than my meager cranium can handle!  Mike asked one of the staff if they had a picture showing the relative sizes of the planets and the very kind gentleman printed one off the web and laminated it for us!  Now that's service!

Our next stop was the Peak Hill open cut mines - yes, yet more open cut mines.  I could do without seeing anymore, but the boys just get so excited by the size of it all, it's hard to resist taking them.  These 5 mines had been closed down, but they had put safety fencing around all of them with self-guide tracks. And at least the rain eased up long enough to allow us to walk around without getting completely drenched.

Finally reached Dubbo and our camp spot at Terramungamine Reserve (about 10km north of Dubbo) - it was absolutely packed!  We managed to squeeze in on the road next to some very friendly Tasmanian travellers for the night.  Amazingly the next day everyone except us and another family (who are travelling around Australia with 3 children) cleared out.  So we moved into a spot much closer to the arm of the Macquarie River flowing past. We spent the first day doing chores (laundry, fixing up bits and pieces) and thinking what a lovely quiet spot we had found....spoke too soon as usual.  Around noon, caravans started arriving and by the afternoon it was a full house again. This was to be the pattern for our 3 day stay!

Of course the thing to do in Dubbo is Western Plains Zoo - the tickets are good for 2 consecutive days and you need them!  Not necessarily because of the size of the zoo (the 6km round circuit is fairly do-able in one day) but it is quite exhausting getting in and out of the car every few hundred metres.  Quite a good range of animals, and the best time to see them is during feeding time as you are guaranteed a close view - we got great views of the giraffes, elephants and the Sumatran tiger this way.  Some of the animals were very disappointing - specially the big cats:  cheetahs and lions. They just lay there having a snooze (on both days!!) - but then again what is there really to do when all your meals are supplied?  Our family favourite by far were the cute and energetic otters - the kids squealed with delight as they ran around and jumped in and out of their pool.

The other interesting thing to see in Duboo - right at our camp spot - were the Terramungamine Grooves. These are a type of Aboriginal site formed as a result of sharpening axe and hatchet edges or spears using very large abrasive stones. Truly amazing! There was also plenty of fishing on hand, being next to a river and all, but nothing to keep and eat! And.......more mice in the roof! Michael had bought some foam strips in Orange and when I heard the tell-tale noise, I refused to sleep in our bed again until he had plugged up the gaps in the hidden lighting strips above our bed.  Even with our defenses thus re-inforced it was a bit difficult to sleep that night. Checking the traps and baits in the boot of the caravan is now part of Mike's morning ritual and the next morning there was one grey mouse caught in a trap by his hind leg doing his damnest to escape!  After debating his fate for a few minutes, we decided to throw him in the river. I did NOT know that mice can swim!  He made it to the other side of the river and I hope he finds peace and happiness somewhere other than our caravan.

We left Dubbo in the afternoon and headed toward Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles National Park.  Coona is the "Astronomy Capital of Australia" and the site of the Siding Spring Observatory (the largest optical astronomy research centre in Australia - I'm not really sure what they're laying claim to here, but it's a very large telescope!). A very interesting and educational thing they've done is the "World's Largest Virtual Solar System Drive" - the planets of our solar system are scaled (1:38 million from the real thing) in both size and distance and attached to billboards in rest areas and information centres along the 5 different roads that lead into Coonabarabran.  We passed Pluto, Neptune and Uranus and then took a detour via Tooraweenah to get to the Warrumbungles.  Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury were located on the road from Coona into the National Park and up to the Siding Spring Observatory whose dome represents the Sun (in relative size and distance).  We had to wait until we left the park to spot Saturn at a rest stop!

The Warrumbungles Range are the remnant peaks and spires of an extinct volcano and formed 14 million years ago. There are a few different campgrounds within the park and we chose the less populated one and found a gorgeous spot again in front a little creek. The kids played down there every chance they got, and as it was quite shallow, we could supervise them from above.  There were plenty of walks to do around the park, but we chose the lazy way of things and relaxed as much as we could (finally getting the hang of it - only took 4 months, not too bad!).

The capture of another mouse in our trap the next morning (this one dead) finally drove Michael to set his sights on the discovery and eradication of their point of entry.  He emptied out the caravan boot and it wasn't until he unscrewed the 2 batteries that he finally found their secret path - a very large hole near one of the caravan legs that hadn't been covered up (more messy workmanship from Travelhome).  So Mick jerry-rigged a cover from one of the plastic pot holders we use under the legs of the caravan and stuck it down with some silica. Fingers crossed that we have managed to stem the tide of unwanted rodents!

We did sign the boys up for an Aboriginal boomerang painting class being held at the park.  It was led by a very patient Aboriginal (Gamilaraay) ranger who explained to the 17 kids assembled all about how the different colours of ochre are found and used and the various symbols depicting natural structures and animals.  The kids had an absolute ball and couldn't wait to throw their decorated boomerangs around - no matter how many times we told them that they wouldn't actually come back! It was good exercise anyway until they go tired of running to pick them up again.  When we returned to camp, the kids took off for the creek as usual - as they were being uncharacteristically quiet, Mike went to investigate to find that Kia had managed to somehow find pure ochre near the water and was painting rocks with it!

We met more fellow travellers (N and D) - a young couple from Portland going in the same basic direction as us.  They kindly shared their fire with us one night where we spontaneously decided to make damper - never having had it before, I took their word for it when they said it was the perfect recipe. So now we can add bush tucker to our list of achievements!


Camp spot at Lake Forbes - Forbes, NSW (16Apr11)Lovely old buildings - Forbes, NSW (16Apr11)Elvis Museum - Parkes, NSW (16Apr11)Classic Elvis outfit! - Parkes, NSW (16Apr11)
He even makes those nerdy 3D glasses look cool! - Parkes, NSW (16Apr11)Kiavash and Daddy all ready for the 3D movies - Parkes, NSW (16Apr11)And another open cut mine (maybe I should keep count as we go?) - Peak Hill, NSW (16Apr11)
The stunning Terramungamine Grooves - Dubbo, NSW (17Apr11)Giraffe feeding time - Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW (18Apr11)I thought he was a bit small myself - Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW (18Apr11)Driving around the zoo - Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo, NSW (18Apr11)

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