Posts Tagged ‘Western Plains zoo’

276. Sunday 14th October 2012. Forbes, Parkes, Dubbo and a trip to the zoo…


Monday 8th October

Woke to a fine sunny day tempered by a cool southerly breeze. You know the type of day I mean. Anywhere in the shade is cold while anywhere in the sun is comfortable. I emptied the black water cassette and drove around Forbes picking up useful bits of information. Did you know a bad boy bushranger lived and died here? Like all bushrangers his story has grown as the telling increases. There were then and are now, people who believed he was just a poor misunderstood boy who got in with the wrong crowd. Hmmm! Have you ever heard that before? He is credited with hundreds of robberies, armed of course and came to an end in a shootout with Police on 5th May 1865 aged two days short of his 28th birthday. Forbes the town started life as a gold rush town (and attracted bad types such  as Ben Hall), and like West Wyalong it seems the streets were made to avoid trees so there are a number of zigs and zags in the main street. At one time there were 40,000 people living in a tent city. Like many of the other towns I have visited, the passenger trains no longer stop here but freight trains continue to zoom through.

On the outskirts and various places around town I have seen the signs that Forbes is an RV Friendly town. On the evidence seen so far – 86 motorhomes or caravans parked beside Lake Forbes, rigs driving around town and water taps placed strategically where camping is permitted for self-contained rigs and a Dump Point – I have to agree it is RV friendly. I can walk to the shopping centre and main street with an easy 10 minute stroll.

Tuesday 9th October.

Most of the rigs were gone in the morning, headed off to the Bedgerebong Country Music Festival. Only 6 rigs remain.

The sun shone and the cool breeze continued and for the first time in a long time I sat outside in the sun and read a book.

In the morning I drove to the cemetery (yeah, yeah, I know, I always visit cemeteries) and visited the site of the grave of the bushranger, Ben Hall

The well maintained grave site of bad boy bushranger Ben Hall.

and discovered nearby, another two graves of famous by association, persons.

Kate Foster

The well maintained grave of Kate Foster (nee Kelly)

was sister of the infamous Ned Kelly, bushranger from around Glen Rowan and Beechworth in Victoria. It seems Kate married a man from Forbes and at some point she drowned in the Lachlan River.

Even more remote by association famous was Rebecca Shield the great grand-niece of Captain James Cook the man who is credited with discovering Australia. No matter it was discovered 40,000 years before by the Aboriginals.  I digress.

In the afternoon I visited Gum Swamp

Gum Swamp

and its bird blind. This swamp is a happy hangout and breeding ground for all manner of birds, not just the water birds. The swamp can be seen from the highway an attracts 9 species of duck although to be honest I had trouble telling them apart except perhaps for smaller ducks which seemed to be chasing each other across the pond either in a game of “catch me if you can” or perhaps a mating ritual. Of course there were not just ducks but from my perspective I was impressed with the huge dead trees partly submerged and more impressed with the very large eagle nests high uppermost branches of the trees furthest from any bank.

Wednesday 10th October

One of many footbridges over Lake Fobes.

In the morning I visited the McFeeters Motor Museum where 62 cars are on display, 42 of them owned by the McFeeter Family

McFeeters Motor Museum.

A 1953 Austin A50 Convertible. My first car was an A50 Sedan with an MGB sports motor.

(I suspect the family is a well-heeled sheep grazier) The huge shed was purpose built to house the display of cars from around the world with the oldest being 1905 and the youngest a Kia / Alpha experimental prototype sports car. Only 6 were built and never went into production and the other five cars were destroyed. I enjoyed wandering amongst the old cars especially the early models which were so intricate and have a grace and charm lacking in most modern vehicles.

My passengers are Grace and Charm.

Model T Ford.

Now this convertible really appealed to me.

Next I wandered the main streets of Forbes looking at the historical buildings and statuary.

Forbes Courthouse.

Fountain in the Forbes Courthouse/Post Office Square. The fountain is over 100 years old and still operational.

Forbes Post Office.

The guy driving this car with the large oversized and illegal bull bar was not happy about having the photo taken. The bull bar is so low it scrapes when driving down slight inclines.

Late in the afternoon I found the old Commercial Bank of Australia building, now a real estate office. Inside, many of the dark timber counters, partitions and staircase has been retained as has the strongroom.

The original Commercial Bank of Australia branch of Forbes.

Thursday 11th October 2012.

The rain woke me at 3am and I could not go back to sleep so read until tiredness took over. Dawn arrived cold windy and wet. The rest of the day was much the same.

I continued along the Newell Highway a main thoroughfare for big trucks from Adelaide and Melbourne heading to Brisbane. I drove to Parkes a huge drive of 34 klms and set up camp at the showgrounds. It is a bit primitive but with the cold wet weather having shore power will be a bonus. I took a walk along the main shopping centre looking for the old Commercial Bank of Australia building. After speaking with an historical society lady it seems the old building was torn down and the site is now part of a shopping mall. The local council is not interested in historical sites. I found Parkes to be busier and less friendly than Forbes. Although a bigger town it looks untidy compared to Forbes which boasts a tidy town award.

Parkes is named after Sir Henry Parkes, often referred to as the Father ofAustralian Federation. ( A larger than life statue of Henry Parkes is in the main shopping street.

Sir Henry Parkes.

Australian readers will no doubt remember the film The Dish (  which is a fictionalised version of the true events of the radio and TV signals being received from Apollo II and Neil Armstrongs walk upon the moon. Nasty looking black clouds smudged the distant hills as I drove out to the CSIRO Radio Telescope better known as the dish. This thing is huge and at 64metres stands out in the near flat land just outside Parkes.

The Dish as seen across the fields of wheat.

The Dish up close.

The locals I spoke with welcome the rain claiming they have not had any worthwhile rain for many months and are quite happy if it buckets down. Much of the showgrounds is hilly red soil and turns quickly to a thick red mud after rain.

Late in the afternoon the sun briefly came out of hiding so I drove to the highest, steepest hill in town to a War Memorial site.

Parkes War Memorial.

Looking across the Parkes basin from the War Memorial site.

As the afternoon and evening rolled on, it got colder and colder. I was dressed in layers, including long johns and the heater was blasting away.

This is Spring,…isn’t it?

On the news tonight there were reports of snowfall in the Adelaide Hills and a Victorian town.

Friday 12th October

Woke to a bitter cold morning. I leapt out of bed, turned on the heater and crawled back into the warmth of the cocoon formed by my body and the doona during the night. I found this little weather report from one of the Alpine Centres but all centres had a similar report.

“Time and Date: Friday 12 October 8:57am


It’s Snowing! Winter just won’t stop. Heavy, dry snow has been falling since yesterday morning and is expected to continue today. “

Hmmm! No wonder it is cold. The wind is coming straight off the southern alps. As well as cold a light drizzly rain is falling. It also snowed in the southern highlands, Bathurst, Katoomba, Orange and Guyra. The Great Western Highway near Bathurst was closed and three hundred vehicles were stranded in the snow.

Saturday 13th October

It was a biting cold wind which greeted me as I hooked up TERIOS this morning.  Continuing along the Newell Highway to Dubbo I stopped first at Peak Hill and while looking for the original Commercial Bank of Australia building

The original Commercial Bank of Australia Branch at Peak Hill. The new tenants, CentreLink and Aboriginal Council sure need to do a bit of cleaning, tidying and maintenance.

I found a sign to a free open cut mine experience. This gold mine started as a simple vertical shaft in 1889. The mine closed in 1918. A new approval was granted in 1993 and open cut mining commenced. The new open cut is 100 metres deep, 600 metres long and 300 metres wide.

Peak Hill open cut gold mine.

I enjoyed the self-guided tour walk but I was on a slight timetable so will somehow have to do the remaining trails another time.

Peak Hill is another of those western towns struggling to survive.

Old Holden motor cars in storage in a disused garage workshop.

The shops are old, most are closed and crumbling.

Carrington Hotel at Peak Hill.

Although on a major highway truck and domestic travel route there seems little to entice travellers to stop.

The Club Hotel at Peak Hill.

I met the 92 year old barber who has lived here for 86 years. He still cuts hair in the old short back and sides style and even at $7 a haircut business is slow. At present I am in the long, thick and unruly hair style so passed on the opportunity to contribute to the local economy.

The countryside has changed from open flat grain crops to thick brush and hills which become frequent, steeper and longer.

Driving into the City of Dubbo is a huge contrast with busy shops, lots of traffic, including traffic lights (I have not seen lights since Wagga Wagga 300 klms further south)

In the afternoon I called on John Riley, a fellow blogger who is camped at Terramungamine Reserve about 15 klms to the north of Dubbo. John and I have kept in touch via blog comments, Skype and mobile calls and it was a great opportunity to meet him.

Sunday 14th October

I visited the Dubbo Western Plains Zoo (

Entrance to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo.

I have been wanting to visit the zoo since before we started on our full time travels in September 2010. It is a shame Donnis is not here to share the trip with me.

Composite photo of waterway at the main entrance to the zoo.

The zoo is a 300 hectare site where the animals have enclosures much closer to nature and plenty of room to move around and none of the traditional miserable concrete cages with bars.

Lots of covered observation decks are provided around the zoo grounds.

The zoo is open and to get around the 300 hectares you can walk…yeah right…ride a bicycle yeah right again…your own or hired, hire an electric cart

Electric zoo carts.

or drive your own vehicle. I drove TERIOS. Most of the power to run the zoo is provided by a huge bank of solar panels which cover an area larger than the roof area of three good sized houses. It was a hot day…yay about time… and by the end of the day I was worn out. I parked TERIOS in parking bays and walked around several exhibits then move the car and do the same thing again. In reality I managed to get halfway around the zoo so I am going again tomorrow as the ticket is valid for two days. I enjoyed my day and in fairness to the zoo, myself and my readers I have decided to make a separate blog post in a couple of days just on the zoo. That way if a zoo is a bit boring you can skip my next post Or you can enjoy the photos dedicated to the zoo visit.

For those regular readers who have noticed trig points, I have found another at the zoo,

Trig Point.

This trig point came with a brass plaque explaing why trig points are used and where they are sited.