When the TomTom reset itself during our Queensland trip last year, we played around with it a bit, changing settings back to how we had them. Then we started going through the voices. There are a range of English-speaking voices available on our device, but it was Naoimh whose voice we picked to accompany and guide us. With her very relaxed, Irish accent, Naoimh is welcome to give us directions to any place in the country for as long as our device remains functional.
Earlier this month my lovely cousin gave us tickets to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, so we organised a little mid-week road trip, just the two of us (and Naoimh). The zoo is located in Dubbo, a five-hour drive from Sydney. A friend recommend visiting The Dish in Parkes on our way there. In fact, it was a bit of a detour, but it seemed like a waste not to visit this historical radio telescope.
We left home at around 10, stopping at a cafe in Leura for a late breakfast, and then again in Orange for lunch before continuing on to Parkes. It was at this point that Naoimh sent us through a dirt road instead of the highway, just to buy us some extra minutes (possibly). By the time we arrived at the CSIRO Parkes Observatory, however, the visitor centre was closed, but there was still plenty of light to appreciate The Dish.
I knew of The Dish, and also knew that there was a film about its role in relaying the Apollo 11 moon landing, though I can’t remember watching it. It is a very impressive sight, and I do wish we’d arrived a tad earlier so that we could learn a bit more about it in the visitor centre. Who closes their visitor centre at 4.15pm?!
We did make one more stop on the way to Dubbo but, again our plans were foiled by a ridiculously early closing time. Note to self: everything in the country closes early. We arrived in Dubbo in the late evening, and after a short rest we found a bar whose bistro was open until 11pm (I guess not everything closes early!) The Milestone Hotel has really tasty food, and the schnitzel is the size of my head! The staff are friendly too, which is always a bonus.
The next morning was zoo day. The open plain zoo allows you to drive your car around the premises, stopping at designated parking spots to take photos and admire the animals. There’s an air-conditioned cafe at the entrance, and throughout the park there are picnic spots, barbecue area and a kiosk.
The day we visited the zoo was a scorcher, with the weather reaching 41C / 105.8F in Dubbo. We were equipped with plenty of water and an air-conditioned car, which made things more bearable. The zoo was better than I remembered, having first visited around eight years ago with my partner and some friends.
Some of the highlights included:
- Seeing three different types of rhinoceros, including the Greater One-Horned Rhino that looks like it is wearing armour.
- Watching Cuddles, the last African Elephant in the country, as she cooled herself with water on a terribly hot day. Cuddles’ story is a bit sadder, as she’s the last of her kind in Australia, and looked quite sad and droopy at times. I imagine this was partly due to the heat, and the zookeeper did say that they were having some trouble getting her to gain weight.
- The Galapagos Tortoises were amazing.
- Watching a baby Koala climbing a tree and then leaping from branch to branch to reach its afternoon snack.
There are feeding times and talks throughout the zoo, organised in a clockwise fashion so you can follow them in your vehicle. We saw part of the hippo talk, though the bigger hippo was having none of it, and then caught a bit of the elephant talk, which is where we learned more about Cuddles. The Galapagos Tortoise talk must have just finished when we arrived, because the two larger tortoises were still eating.
I’m so glad we got to visit this incredible zoo again. According to the map the zoo will be adding a new Lion Pride Lands in late 2017, which is pretty exciting. I wish the day hadn’t been quite so hot, but we were able to get a bit of a respite during our air-conditioned drives, even though I now have a cold as a result.