The final stretch of my tour around the golden west of New South Wales took me out of Parkes and through Dubbo, which is famous for its sprawling zoo and sprawling pub fights. I was running short on time, so I took a photo at the city limits and pretty much brushed the rest. Honestly, all I saw of Dubbo was the inside of the bottle shop, but that’s alright because it’s all most of the locals have seen.
Driving through the west of the state is a wonderful experience that I highly recommend. The roads are great, the orange hills and clutches of dark brown rocks are stunning, and the tiny villages all beg to be explored. Dunedoo caught my attention because of its bizarre name and historic, but it was Merriwa that demanded I spend the night so we could get to know each other better. This historic town of 1800 rests on the banks of the languid Merriwa River and boasts an impressive council-run camp ground within stumbling distance of the RSL club and pub, so how could I resist? It was a great decision, because Merriwa is a top town.
My night at the RSL club was spent chatting to the charming locals and wolfing down a monstrous schnitzel while watching the footy. Despite being a Friday night, it wasn’t exactly a den of iniquity – I was one of about eight people in the joint – but the town has a pleasant atmosphere. Best of all, it’s not the sort of place where you’re likely to get stabbed.
The next morning I explored the streets of Merriwa, finding an historic church, a sweet little footy ground and charming museum/community craft shop. It was within this unassuming shed that I laid my hands upon the Holy Grail – a hand-knitted Canberra Raiders beanie. Merriwa, I will wear your woollen helmet on my handsome head for years to come!
As I left merry Merriwa, I was sad that my adventure was coming to an end, but I had one BIG THING I wanted to check out before returning to the Central Coast – the Big Kookaburra at Kurri Kurri, just outside Newcastle. The king-sized kingfisher flew into town in 2009 but, despite being approached by many larger birds over the years, I’d never had the pleasure of meeting him, and was excited to rectify that. I was gobsmacked, awe-struck and flabbergasted by the 4.5m-tall structure, which was lovingly built out of horse shoes and old bits of metal. The Big ‘burra is worth making a detour for, even if your car will probably end up on bricks after parking it outside one of Kurri’s bustling methadone clinics.
This five-day journey through western New South Wales was a surprising and eye-opening experience. Bathurst, Orange and Parkes are prosperous and historic towns that have so many fun spots to explore and so much to do. The eternal mountains, rivers and plains pulse with an ancient heartbeat, and everyone should sit quietly and listen to their epic stories. The region is surprisingly close to Sydney and so easy to race around, meaning the great distances fly by. If you’re reading this, you need to jump in your car and head out to this remarkable part of the world. Just find a point on the map and head out there. We might not be able to see the rest of the world at the moment, but who needs it when we live in the best country on the planet?