Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ROADTRIP: Sydney to Dubbo

Bathurst Gustav's reward for 6 hours on the road Munson's hidey-hole
Roadtrip departure day has finally rolled around. Munson has seen the bags accumulating near the front door and knows that some travel is afoot.

The first week of accommodation has been planned after scouring the state for Munson-accessible hotels along the general route. The book of pet-friendly venues across Australia has grown in recent years, but the majority are weekend holiday rentals along coastal areas; they’re not designed for stop-overs along the inevitably long road routes that characterise Australian travel. The limitation for many of the “pet-friendly” venues is based purely on size. They specify that the dog must be quiet and well-behaved, just small. Your tiny little pooch can presumably yap its heart out and they’ll welcome it.

I’ll be paying a “size premium” for Munson at one of our stop-overs, which I’m guessing won’t entitle him to any additional services other than permission to lie on a slightly larger floor area. It was the only pet-friendly place in the area not booked out – so there is a demand, but one that Australian hoteliers are slow to wake up to.

Today’s drive to Dubbo is one of the longer driving days. I figure that we should get these over and done with at the start of the holiday. Since Gustav has already seen the Blue Mountains as far as Katoomba, I’ve selected the other mountain crossing known as Bells Line of Road, which converges with the Great Western Highway in Lithgow.

Before we made our mountain ascent,  a noisy problem presented itself: I’d had aerodynamic roofracks fitted a few weeks earlier, and they sometimes made a bit of a humming noise, turning the Renault into a mobile carmonica (sorry). It wasn’t until the speed increased on Sydney’s outer roads that the musical accompaniment transformed into a high-pitched squeal. I don’t know what it sounded like to those outside the car, but it was intolerable inside. Around Richmond as we stopped to refuel, I asked the internet what to do. The main idea was to disrupt the flow of air around the crossbars, so I wound some bungee cables around it and found that did make some improvement.

Our first touristy stop was in Bilpin, at one of the many fruit shops that are particularly known for their local apples. After Lithgow we were able to pick up some speed, and our unearthly musical accompaniment resumed. Reaching the outskirts of Bathurst, we pulled into a large hardware outlet, where I bought some foam rubber used to insulate pipes and strapped that to the rails with duct tape. Problem solved.

When I was a kid, our family’s car journeys to Sydney often involved a night stopover in Bathurst, staying with a friend of my grandmother. I don’t remember us ever going into the town centre, and so today I took that opportunity. We had coffee and lunch and a small stroll around the centre. It’s Australia’s oldest inland settlement (post-colonisation), and some years later became the centre of its first gold mining boom. Even with its long historical importance as as administrative centre, it’s still only got a population in the low 30,000s. Australia is an extremely urbanised country – from multi-million population cities hugging the coast-line, the drop-off to the next tiers is quite dramatic.
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The new king of DubboWe chugged along the road through Orange and Wellington without stopping. These place-names are becoming better known in the city through the presence of local producers at farmers’ markets, but they had no draw for us on this trip.

Late afternoon saw us into Dubbo, where we immediately checked into our motel, about 15-20 minutes’ walk from the town centre. Named either for the local “red earth” or possibly after an aboriginal word for head-covering, it’s the last of the “big” towns you’ll find out this way. Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst are in the same size range, and after this, the populations drop off into the sub-5000 range.

In our motel room, Munson immediately located the closest spot to his bedside hideout at home – an under-shelf gap behind a bed in the corner (see top photo).

The three of us walked into town and found a good feed at a local bar-restaurant. I was more than a little surprised a the high quality of the food, although you do pay extra to get this outside the cities. The economics of food supply mean that it’s harder for regional restaurants to obtain ingredients.

If we were staying longer, I guess a visit to the Taronga Western Plans Zoo would have been in order, but we’re already taking a large beast on an extended safari of sorts.
Munson seduces the locals
Gustav, Dubbo street-style
The next morning we found a great cafe Brigade in an old fire station to get our coffee-digestive systems in order before we hit the road again. A local pronounced Munson, “the most magnificent dog in Dubbo”, a title he would only hold for another thirty minutes.

2014-10-23 ROADTRIP 2 Armidale

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