137. Armidale and some Reminiscences

We left the Warrumbungles with regret and headed east through Gunnedah to Tamworth. Half way between the two we passed through Somerton, scene of some exciting moments in my life – eight in fact -eight parachute jumps! I don’t remember the exact location (a private property) where the Tamworth Blue Diamonds Skydiving Club operated, it was just a wide expanse of grass with a few trees and fences here and there.


I was then a post graduate student at the University of New England (UNE) which had a small skydiving or rather parachuting club (none of us were experienced enough to really skydive, i.e. jump out of the Cessna and free-fall at terminal velocity for some distance before opening the chute. On the other hand, we all jumped on our own, none of the wishy-washy piggyback stuff that tourists do for a thrill these days.

We had to help pack our own chutes too, a very careful, closely supervised operation. The number of fine cords connecting the chute to the harness was amazing. Not just the main chutes but the reserve chutes. Thankfully I never had to use mine.

As a beginner I had to do nine static line jumps before I could be trusted to pull my own ripcord. Sadly the University club disbanded when I was one jump off from doing just that. I was required to practise landing falls, that is keeping the legs relaxed and rolling over at the moment of impact. I also had to get a medical certificate to testify I was fit, and official permission to jump because I was deaf. Apparently beginners are guided down by instructions through a loudspeaker but the Club must have convinced the authorities that I was capable of doing without. I think I was the first totally deaf woman in Australia to make a parachute jump. (I think this photo was taken after my first jump).


A static line is simply a stout line fastened to the plane with the other end attached to the ripcord which opens the chute. Normally one jumped from the plane, counted to at least five (to be sure of being clear), then pulled the ripcord. Experienced skydivers might not pull the ripcord for some time (!). As a beginner I was closely watched to see that I did the technique correctly.

One time when climbing out onto the step of the Cessna where one stood holding onto the wing struts before throwing oneself backwards with arm wide, my ripcord somehow became twisted around my arm. I waited and waited for the signal to jump but then realised they wanted me to get back into the plane and it circled while everything was sorted. I was annoyed because of course people on the ground would have thought I’d lost my nerve – which did happen with some other beginners.

Another time I landed very close to a barbed wire fence. The chute collapsed on one side and me on the other. Another club member was not so lucky and practically straddled a fence on landing. (Yes, some of my slides are in a bad way). COR026

As we approached Armidale the scenery became more and more familiar. Past the airport (more reminiscencing as we usually flew from Armidale to Somerton) and the highway turnoff. Thank goodness for the GPS. Armidale is a great deal larger than it was in the sixties.

We found Judy’s property without any trouble but the long narrow driveway with overhanging trees gave us a few anxious moments, as did the sight of the low trellis archway over the main driveway. No way could we get the caravan under that! Fortunately the driveway also branched away and we found a good spot to park although Dave did worry about how to turn the caravan round later. As it happened he had no difficulty at all, just drove through a few gates and did a wide circle in a paddock and back again.

Here’s one of the clever sheep dogs ….


We paid a visit to the University but it is changed out of recognition. My old College is still there but the buildings have been much altered. I THINK that was my room in the second photo, on the ground floor and sightly to the left of centre, next to the window with a small sign underneath. DSC01226


I couldn’t identify the main building which once housed the Faculty of Rural Science.  I was however fairly sure of the paddock where I kept “my” horse (actually the property of Rural Science) and rode often, including before breakfast in winter when my toes froze in my boots and the horse’s hooves cracked the ice in road puddles. Friends living in town got used to me parking my horse in their front garden while we had a cuppa.

I did manage to identify a block of flats where Julie-from-Canberra and I had lived for about a year and where we first decided we would go overseas together.

DSC01219It was also where a cat called Minou came into my life. Minou, of indeterminate parentage and striking streaky-black-cream-brown appearance, lived to be 19 and had an amazing life, living in a variety of flats, my parents’ home while I was overseas, more flats, a farm, and finally about seven years on a boat. She definitely used up most of her nine lives, survived a fight with a snake (I found it half dead on my kitchen floor), being yanked down and out of an old  chimney by her tail, various swimming episodes and several bouts of VERY BAD seasickness followed by soothing warm baths. When first husband Geoff and I were living in a small flat in Sydney while working on the boat, Minou would almost always come with us in the dinghy when we went out to the boat. She was a wonderful cat. (And by an amazing coincidence, my daughter now has an almost identically-coloured cat!).

We’d missed most of the glorious New England autumn colours but did find one avenue of elms near the cemetery. There must be a microclimate in that area.



The town is also much changed although some of the old buildings remain, particularly Richardsons, a sort of country town Myer (Aust.) or Ballantynes (NZ). We found a jeweller who repaired our caravan clock, bought me a pair of casual and much-needed shoes, and generally enjoyed time with Judy and some of her family who live nearby, including three wonderful grandchildren.

Judy had discovered a most unusual skull on her property. We could not decide what it was . A frilled-neck lizard was the closest we could get but there were several features which belied that. Do any of my readers have any idea?


After a relaxing few days it was time to move on. We needed to be at Tamborine Mountain in time for friend Ian’s special birthday party.  We wanted to avoid the congestion of the Pacific Highway so drove up the New England Highway which I used to know so well on my trips to Brisbane from Armidale. Through Glen Innes, Tenterfield and finally Stanthorpe where we decided to spend the night at the Blue Topaz camp a few km outside town. We were on a powered site so could use our big heater. A week or so later the highway from Glen Innes was closed due to black ice and snow!

Next day on to Tamborine via Warwick and Beaudesert. A nice quiet drive.

136. Heading East – Warren & The Warrumbungles

We wanted to visit my brother in a nursing home at Wauchope near Port Macquarie before finally heading for Queensland. The shortest route seemed to be Cobar – Nyngan – Warren – Gilgandra – Coonabarabran – Gunnedah – Tamworth – Walcha then down down down the Great Dividing Range to Wauchope. Not all in one day of course. Somewhere along the way I must have mislaid my treasured RM Williams’ navy quilted and studded sleeveless jacket – and am missing it sorely.  We’ve contacted as many places as we can remember to ask if it was left behind, but no luck so far. I really cannot understand how I could mislay it.

We stopped at Warren, which sits on the Macquarie River. Warren is a major cotton-growing area and the river water is used for intensive irrigation.  Following recent rains it was much discoloured.





The main highway goes over this bridge.


IMG_9329The view from the other side. Wattle trees lined the banks.


A nearby sign tells how the townsfolk battled to save their township  from a major flood in 1990.


Warren is also notable for being the point where the explorers Oxley and Sturt passed this way during their early explorations in 1818 and 1828 respectively, the latter on the search for the ‘inland sea’.


This map shows the location of Warren in relation to Broken Hill and also Tamworth, and the size of the Macquarie and Darling Rivers.

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After Warren came Gilgandra, the location of a memorable time when I was six years old. I was recovering from a serious bout of meningitis (which resulted in my deafness) when my mother, my little brother and me flew up for a ‘holiday’ on a wheat farm in the locality. We flew up courtesy of Butler Air Transport in one of the early DC3s. I have a photo of Barry and myself on the tarmac, but it is in storage in Christchurch. It was also the first time I’d been on a horse. My mother’s friends’ two daughters rode an old horse to the local bush school each day (oh how envious I was!) so when offered the opportunity this little city girl was plonked on top and the horse given a slap which made it take a few steps forward. And there it stopped. Nobody had told me about using my heels so I just sat up there on the giant, flapping the reins uselessly and shouting Giddap!  Every now and then someone would come out and give the horse another slap.

We were ready to call it a day by the time we were approaching Coonabarabran, and looking at the map I suddenly realised we were about to skirt the fabled Warrumbungles. A quick decision was made to spend a night or two there in the National Park. Turning off the main highway, the distant mountain landscape changed dramatically:





The park is an area of former volcanic activity; “…… a large shield volcano which was active from 13-17 million years ago. the lava overlays sandstone areas which are the remnants of the 150 million year old Pilliga Sea. Weathering of these rocks left the harder tracheae plugs towering over the wooded slopes ….”

WikiCamps indicated several camps but only Camp Wambelong looked close to the road, and as we were towing a 24 ft caravan we picked that one. It turned out to be a grassy area off the main road to the information centre which was about 5 km further on where there were many more camp sites, some even with power. But I’m glad we stayed where we did, surrounded by kangaroos at dusk, with walking trails in easy distance and a creek nearby.



We’d been noticing the effects of a bushfire everywhere but it was not until we visited the Information centre that we realised how major it had been. However, encouraging signs of regeneration were everywhere.





Described as a “once in 100,000 year event”, a firestorm, it occurred in January 2013 during a time of very high temperatures (up to 47 deg C) and fierce winds. Although the fire destroyed much of the National Park, Siding Spring Observatory and surrounding land (55,000 hectares in all), 51 homesteads, stock and farmland and also caused major damage to the park’s walking track infrastructure, no lives were lost. Only a few days later the region was hit by absolutely torrential rains which caused even more damage, washing away topsoil which contained many seeds necessary for regeneration. Signs of this were still visible.


A major research program is being undertaken on the impact of all this on the region’s flora, fauna, cultural heritage and physical landscape. Nest boxes for birds, possums, gliders and bats have been put in place to replace hollow trees.


We left the caravan parked at the Camp and drove to Coonabarabran to do some shopping, stopping at various viewpoints …….








……. and called in at the world-famous Siding Spring Observatory. The site houses 17 separate observatories including one with the largest optical astronomy research telescope in Australia. We decided not to visit the Exploratory Centre, which in retrospect and following too-late advice from friends, we should have done! But we did have some good coffee at the Visitor Centre.


After two nights in the Warrumbungles it was time to move on (it was also a trifle cold with no heater) so off we were again heading for Tamworth, Walcha and then Wauchope.


135. White Cliffs (NSW)

This place needed a blog to itself. Heading east from Broken Hill, we thought it wise to top up the diesel tank at Wilcannia before venturing north into the unknown. Friends had warned us about the fine bull dust on this road but they travelled at a different time of year, and we were following the rain, so – no dust!  Just green grass verges all along the 93 km from Wilcannia.

White Cliffs was Australia’s first commercial opal field. It describes itself as “…. small, dusty, a bit ramshackle…” and so it is, but “… look deeper and you’ll find the beauty of opal, the gritty reality of mining, the chance to fossick for your own opal, and the fascination of underground living…”  All of which we found to be true.





We were not sure where to go on arrival but someone drove up and advised us that the Pioneer Tourist Park was just nearby, with powered sites for $25 a night. She was also the Park’s caretaker and showed us several sites, the park being rather full. It was a very clean, well organised park surrounded by trees and shrubs, with a swimming pool nearby. Across the road was a school; we were told there were ten pupils.



The Murray River Caravan Club (or similiar) whose members almost filled the camp,  invited us to join them on a guided tour the following morning. This turned out to be a very fortuitous invitation, the guide was excellent and of course we saw places and things we would not have seen or understood otherwise.

First we were taken to the Pioneer Children’s Cemetery with its sad little graves. It was said to have been White Cliffs’ first landmark.


A bunny rabbit to hug?



The shaft of an abandoned mine. All around us were mullock heaps.




A registered claim is usually 50 x 50 metres with a post at each corner; that on the NE corner had a datum board (small metal tag) with the details of the claim holder. Claims had to be re-registered every year.


We were shown examples of opal found in the field including an opal pineapple (a pseudomorph of Glauberite or Ikaite crystal clusters which are replaced with opal). These are only ever found at White Cliffs and the guide discovered one in his own backyard when spreading some mullock from another site to form the floor of a shed!


There are only two above-ground houses within the opal field, further homes being forbidden unless they are floor-less and easily transportable.Many homes were built partly underground. Some were mere shacks, others quite substantial.






This house was constructed from empty stubbies (beer bottles) with a huge heap beside the house ready for any extensions!



Lots of caravans too, of one form or another.





We were not really interested in buying any opal, but I was amused to see at one ‘serious’ shop the prices were very high, reflecting on the high quality of the stones, but at another more touristy place the prices were low – and although it was not said, the opals were probably only doublets or triplets.

An unexpected highlight of the tour was a visit to the White Cliffs Solar Power Station. Originally established as an experimental facility by ANU researchers in 1981, “… the Power Station is now nationally recognised as an iconic engineering project equal in status to the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Parkes Radio Telescope.” In 2006 it was given the honour of receiving a Historic Engineering Marker.


There are 14 sun-tracking parabolic dishes of 5 metre diameter. The electricity from the station was ‘sold’ to customers within the township (the local hospital, school, PO and 12 residences), making White cliffs arguably the first commercial solar power station in the world.  In 1997 the faculty was converted to a photovoltaic system, the dishes were resurfaced with new mirror panels …..  the system was 22% more efficient.  It was the first solar dish concentrator photovoltaic plant in the world and  played a part in the development of solar technology.


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We were told that one man looked after the whole system, and his duties included cleaning all the mirrors, using a trestle fitted to the top of a truck.


The present generation of this technology is now commercially operating in central Australia at ten times the scale of White Cliffs.

Here are more photos taken next morning before we left.




There are three of these special shacks labelled Nobody’s, Somebody’s and Everybody’s.


Yes, it was surprisingly green. Tiny little plants and native bushes were popping up everywhere following recent rain. I wonder how many will survive next summer.



134. Silverton

Quote from a very helpful publication “This Month in Broken Hill”: “ Silverton is essentially an abandoned settlement. It was the largest township to exist in the Barrier Ranges before the discovery of the Broken Hill field in 1883…” Silver was first discovered in the area in 1876… but all early mines had ceased operation by 1896. By the end of 1884 there were 1,745 inhabitants with a district population of 4,000. But once Broken Hill was extablished, the population of Silverton declined.

Everyone said we MUST go and visit. So we did.

There are only a few houses left in the main street, Including a rather impressive if small “Municipal Council Chambers” ((formed in 1886) and a few private houses. The Council ceased operation in 1899.




The ruins of other houses are visible here and there. The current population is about 60.



The Silverton Museum on the site of the old Silverton Gaol is chock-full of interesting local memorabilia.


Outside was a mine cage used for transporting men to the underground mine. A complex series of bells signalled at which shaft level the cage had arrived.



Quite a coincidence – the first police officer in Silverton had earlier been involved in hunting down Ned Kelly…. (see my fascination for Ned in earlier blogs).


There were some interesting early characters. Home-brew, anyone?


A nice photo of an early mail coach to Wilcannia.


Dame Mary Gilmore (Mary Jane Cameron) was one of the early teachers at the Silverton Public School from October 1887 to December 1889.  As an Australian schoolgirl I learned several of her poems, particularly  “I love a sunburnt country…”


Her portrait by William Dobell was a very controversial entrant in the (Australian) Archibald Portrait Prize in 1957, so I was delighted to find this description/explanation of the portrait:

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Here it is, from the NSW Art Gallery website. Certainly controversial at the time. I remember seeing it with my parents.

Dame Mary Gilmore

Various rooms in the old gaol were devoted to specific topics, for example family history. The stained glass window came from a church.


Other  rooms notably the original holding cells had examples of clothing – i was most impressed by the light and delicate cotton clothing which looked like it had been starched and ironed only that morning.


This photo of five sisters caught my eye – think of dressing them all!


Part of a hairdressing establishment within the womens’ quarters of the old gaol.


Around a corner was an old pub, the Silverton Hotel, where a couple of donkeys lazed around  … inside was quite a collection of toilet humour notices, the sort that are funny seen individually but en masse are quite overwhelming. The same brochure I quoted earlier says “The town provides an intense cultural tourism experience for visitors” . Hmmm !


Just out of town we visited a photographic studio. Extremely good photos, a pleasure to view. The photographer also showed me around her garden, a real oasis. She was one of those rare people who I can immediately lipread almost 100%, so I didn’t want to leave!  She also breeds horses. A lonely life but she seemed to flourish.

On the road back to Wilcannia we crossed a bone-dry river bed. Yet there had been rain recently, there was plenty of green grass along the roadsides.


We returned to our camp at Broken Hill and next day set off back to Cobar via Wilcannia, with a detour and overnight stay at White Cliffs.

133. Broken Hill.

We did not stay overnight in Wilcannia but continued on to Broken Hill, arriving just at dusk. We’ve been strongly advised by many people to be off the road well before then as the kangaroos start to come out in force, and we are yet to acquire a bull-bar for Grandy. indeed, when we were at Euabalong and went to Condobolin for the day in Jim’s car, driving back in the evening we saw quite a few kangaroos.

The road to Broken Hill may have been long but the scenery changed every now and then. There had been reasonable rain and everywhere the road verges were bright green, particularly noticeable against the red earth. Some areas were bushland, some scrub, others mainly saltbush. We saw a few emus, some dead kangaroos and a fox making off with some roadkill ……



….. but by far the largest number of livestock were feral goats. Small multicoloured mobs were everywhere. I wish I’d had my camera ready, particularly for the black billygoat outlined against the sky.


An interesting cloud formation lured us on.


The caravan camp at Broken Hill, just inside the city boundary, was very clean and well organised. There were not nearly as many caravans there as at Cobar. The weather was initially so good that Dave decided to try and put up our huge awning for the first time!




Broken Hill itself I found a little curious, it has many lovely old buildings but it is also most definitely a mining town rather than a typical country town. It is dominated by a huge slag heap near the railway, and has a curious mix of old miner’s cottages (some in original condition, some “modernised”) side by side with far larger and more modern homes. Very few if any had flowers in their front gardens although most had a shrub or two.





I had a date with the librarian at the Family History centre, but it was Sunday, so to curb my impatience we visited a museum or two. The Railway museum was fascinating, particularly for Dave – so many old trains to clamber over and around and through! The pressed metal ceiling in the entrance was a work of art.










A newish section was devoted to the many immigrants who arrived following WW2. Many personal stories were told. It was a moving display. Here’s just one of many panels each covering a different aspect.


Next door was room devoted to old transport – buggies, a stretcher for transporting people who had to be turned frequently, etc ……..


…… and on the wall a huge old map …. and there was “Cuthowarra”, near another old Darchy property “Yarrawirra”, and well to the north of the Broken Hill-Wilcannia road.


Here’s a navigation map for the Darling, hand-drawn on linen;  it scrolled up and down.


So meeting the Librarian next day was a bit of an anticlimax, but she did have another very clear map for me, and some information she’d gleaned from the slightly infamous “Ancestry” website, infamous because too often in the past people submitted incorrect information and it is all still there. I will have to contact them and try to correct it – AGAIN!!  I

(I know who put the incorrect information in – an extremely distant cousin who thought the way to build a family tree was to grab any likely tree (same surname etc) and just mis them all together and hope some matches resulted….. This person also entered incorrect information about one of my families so that a great grandmother is now “married” to her grandson!!)

It was mostly cold and dismal while we were in Broken Hill, but a visit to the Pro Hart gallery soon changed that – a lovely explosion of colour on a cold dull day. There are also some of his sculptures on a vacant allotment just across the road.  (i could not take photos inside the gallery).


We made a day trip to Silverton, a blog in itself.

132. The Wild West – Wilcannia 

We left our friends’ property at Euabalong West near Lake Condobolin with regret, it had been a lovely warm haven during some overcast chilly weather. We discovered a lovely old Dodge in one of the farm sheds, and Dave photographed the local birdlife.


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Rain is always welcome … although we discovered right in the middle of the puddle, more or less, was the best place for WiFi reception! Another good place was down the driveway.


Saltbush – the farmer’s friend.IMG_8871

A couple of hours’ driving through light rain and past very green verges saw us in Cobar, THE gateway to the West. We bailed up in the Cobar Caravan Park, a very tidy well-laid out place with excellent facilities. As the weather sounded better at Broken Hill we decided to head straight off in the morning.


It’s 261 km from Cobar to Wilcannia. I couldn’t wait. Wilcannia was the birthplace of my grandfather Dick d’Archy, whose father Frank ran “Cuthowarra” station for some years in the 1880s.



Wilcannia was once an important port on the Darling – Murray River system. In 1859 Captain Francis Cadell and his steamer the Albury arrived, effectively beginning the paddle steam trade on the Darling. The system flourished for over 70 years.  River ports established included Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Louth, Tilba, Wilcannia, Menindee, Pooncarrie and Wentworth. The importance of the river for transport declined n the 1920s as new forms of transport emerged.


The Darling River system itself is one of the largest in Australia – or was. it covers over one million square kilometres (14% of Australia) from its source in Queensland to its mouth south east of Adelaide. It is 3,370 km long, and was once an integral part of the lives of many Aboriginal people and continues to hold great significance to them.


In recent years the river has become a shadow of its former self, due in part to multiple damming and water extraction by greedy cotton farmers in the north. Not to get into politics here, but the Government certainly has much to answer for. The beautiful Menindee Lakes south of Wilcannia are now mostly dry.




These indicators show high the river once was – 0ver 11 metres.


We heard there is to be a protest in the form of a (partial?) blockage of the bridge at Wilcannia on the 16-19 June. Sadly we won’t be there then, I would have liked to have supported the organisers. Odd of me perhaps as “Cuthowarra’” was some distance away from the river ….. but still, Frank d’Archy would have been dependent on the river for supplies and for shipping his wool to market.



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The town itself is now a shadow of its former self, but there are signs that it is reviving. Most of the graceful old buildings have been restored.

Granddad d’Archy would have collected his mail here…..








…..  and others such as the Old Fuel Store Cafe recently received Heritage grants to help with restoration. We had coffee at the cafe on our way back from Broken Hill and I can attest to the quality of the coffee/chai and in particular the cold bread and butter pudding with cream which was served as a “cake” – very light with just the right amount of sugar and sultanas. Dave was happy with his Hummingbird cake too. Recent Heritage funding has greatly improved the streetscape outside the Cafe and around the Courthouse area.



We filled up with diesel at the BP station off the main highway, an odd location perhaps but it is next to the remains of a river wharf. About six dogs guard the pumps at night. They were very friendly while the proprietor was around but I would not like to go near the place at night!



On our return from Broken Hill we stopped in Wilcannia again and noticed the old Athenaeum (Library) and Museum building was open. Oh joy!




But on enquiry we discovered the Museum had been closed and the building taken over by other organisations. We were directed to the nearby Council Chambers (another gorgeous old building, formerly a Bank) but the helpful clerk told us the Museum’s contents are now in a shipping container, “and probably full of termites”.



The old hospital also received a visit. Established in 1879, I doubt Grandfather and his two younger siblings would have been born there, it would have been a full day’s journey from “Cuthowarra” in a  buggy.




The old church of St. James ….


An interesting carved stone in a park…


I did not want to leave….. it is unlikely I will ever go that way again. Am I being maudlin dwelling on the past? I think not, I just want to immerse myself in some family history. I will be writing up about Wilcannia and its place in the family history at more length in my other blog, The d’Archy Chronicles.


131. A brief Postcard ….

I am seriously behind with this Blog. So just to let people know where we are … camped in the Warrumbungles National Park near Coonabarabran. It’s dusk and there are kangaroos hopping around everywhere. We are the only caravan in the camp although there are several camping groups with tents, BBQs etc … making me feel both privileged and very old (!).

We had not planned to come here but I realised we were going to skirt the Warrumbungles anyway, so simply had to come closer. I’m so very glad we did. I was last here in about 1962 on a walking trip with a group of people from Armidale, and  I still remember the awesomeness of the place.

Here’s the Warrumbungles from a distance, and from the road after entering the Park. More anon.


We are heading for Port Macquarie to visit my brother in a nursing home. Then we head north again.

130. Dubbo (NSW)

A visit to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo was a must-do. Now part of the great Taronga Zoo in Sydney (one of my favourite childhood haunts) it is very different from most zoos as it is set in several hectares of bushland with at least 6 km of winding surfaced road plus numerous cycle and walking tracks. The entry ticket covers two consecutive days!



Visitors can drive their own cars or ride their bikes or hire a motorised golf buggy or special bicycles which cater for various family groups.  For example I saw one family of 5, mother was riding a bicycle pulling a baby buggy with the two little ones, the eldest child rode her own bike, and father was on a tandem with the second child riding behind him.

Although the number of different species was not as large as in a conventional zoo, the size of the herds was impressive. It was lovely to see the antelope and other African species including African wild dogs wandering at will, and also a herd of Przewalski horses – I’ve only ever seen one solitary Przewalski before and that was in Taronga many years ago.






The primates – not a large selection but an interesting one – had their own special area with a number of  islands connected by monkey-style swing bridges. There were plenty of large trees on each island plus some little cubby houses.




There was a huge tribe (now what is the correct collective noun?) of otters, absolutely delightful to watch but very difficult to photograph, and also meerkats.



Meerkats always have one sentinel posted ….


The larger animals included quite a number of hippos, rhinos, giraffes (including babies), zebras with varying stripes and 5 elephants plus about 8 Galapagos tortoises, three of them bred at the zoo. Throughout the day talks were given and the animals seemed eager to cooperate. The giraffes in particular – who could resist a nice piece of carrot (!).




One of the hippos loved having the keeper scratch inside his mouth (very slimy!).





The zoo has several endangered animal breeding programs including one for the rare white rhino (which isn’t white). There was one little baby …



This is a Bongo – and apparently the males collect large harems.


The solitary Bengal tiger was sulking the first day we visited – cold and rainy it was, and him without a mate … but he looked happier next day devouring his dinner.


the Zoo has five elephants, one African (“Cuddles”) and four Indian. They do not mix so cuddles has been given a couple of camels as companions (there were several other African elephants originally).


The grass is always greener …..



I thought for a moment I was in NZ … this is NOT a pukeko it’s an Aussie swamp hen.



Dubbo was also the place where we finally succumbed and bought some cosy winter PJs! We’ve been trying to keep our winter clothes to a minimum as we expect to spend most time in the warmer north. However I think the PJs may still be needed at night, I remember the night temperature at the Alice was rather low in April, and we will be in northern Qld in July-August.

A half-day’s drive through Parkes took us to Condobolin and then (after a false start, the GPSr had a hiccup) to Euabalong West, where we arrived just at dusk. Kangaroos were already in evidence and one hopped right in front of us but we saw it coming and slowed in time. Once at Euabalong West the question was – where were my friends? I had no idea! However, a quick question to one of the locals soon had us on our way.


I’ve known Valda since schooldays and spent many happy school holidays on her and Jim’s parents’ properties. Here is a reminder of what I got up to at Jm’s …. the cow’s name by the way was Chloe. There, that’s now recorded for posterity!


Dave cannot raise the WiFi on his Telstra wireless modem despite their claims to have the “best cover”. Hopefully I can post this and the previous blog at Condobolin but we will see.

Later: here we are in Condo having just had the best butternut pumpkin soup ever at a cafe called “Happy Daze”. I’m just about to post two blogs so am indeed happy.

129. Temora (NSW)

On our last full day in Canberra Dave went off to do some more Museum-ing while Julie took me to a friend’ birthday party at a Nepalese restaurant. The food was delicious.

Late that afternoon we went to the War Memorial (which Dave had explored alone earlier) to see the various displays ……







……. And to watch the Last Post ceremony.Usually it’s a simple ceremony, one soldier’s name read out and his story, then the Last Post sounded. But that day there was some wreath-laying as well. Both a lone piper and a bugler were in attendance. Cockatoos wheeled overhead, the eternal flame burned on, the sun sank and the ceremony started …. It was a moving ceremony, we watched it all from an upper gallery which gave a clear view of everything but was also very exposed to the chilly Canberra air.


Both sides of the gallery are lined with soldiers’ names from every war in which Australian men and women have fought.




Scattered throughout the museum are photos of soldiers, often with their families – studio photos taken before they left to fight in the Great War. Few are labelled. Some are very poignant. One looked very like a d’Archy cousin but there is no way to tell if it was the same man – here is the Museum photo (left) and a family photo of Max Wreford d’Archy 1897-1966.

IMG_8582 (1)Max Wreford d'Archy ((probably) copy

There was a reasonable display about the Light Horse but not as extensive as I’d hoped.


We had not heard back from the farmer about Five Mile Creek by the time we were due to leave Canberra, so headed straight for Temora, with a slight detour through Yass to take photos of the old buildings lining the main street.


That evening the farmer rang, and confirmed that the old Inn site was exactly where we had surmised. Jubilation! He also offered to meet us there if we returned. Meanwhile Dave discovered that he still had our friends’ front door key, so we did seriously consider retracing our caravanning steps just for a day, leaving Westie at the excellent campsite run by the Temora council. However, we’ve decided to press on instead.

We were waved in by Dave’s sister’s relatives Biffy and Spud; Biffy’s blog has been our inspiration for some time.

Dave spent a happy morning at the big Air Museum in Temora with Spud; I elected to practice with my ‘new’ oven and do some knitting. I’m sure the museum is very good but I have seen quite a few air museums by now (!). Photos by Dave.

Temora 01Temora 02Temora 03Temora 04Temora 05

Next day a hasty farewell, they went south and we went north – sort of. We DO want to get north before Winter officially arrives, even though to all intents and purposes it already has.