We made a big mistake going to Orange, NSW … and that was, only planning a month’s stay.
I mean, there are 36 wineries in the region. And as it only takes one wine to put me to sleep, it would take 36 weekends to get through them all. That is before taking into account all the other amazing things to do (not forgetting I’m working five days a week – this locum stuff isn’t all fun and games).
As it was, the winery I really wanted to visit was shut, due to a death in the family.
This is it…
We drowned our sorrows with a visit to the Agrestic Grocer, which offered wine tastings (with each taste about half a glass), beer tastings, local cheese and live music by a bushranger (well, he had a bushranger beard!).
Following this up with a visit to Heifer Station winery may have been another mistake, but at least the tastes were tiny there. But still big enough for us to lose our inhibitions and buy some bottles.
History oozed out of every crack of Orange and its myriad surrounding villages. Australia’s first payable gold was found at nearby Ophir (rhymes with sofa), with tunnels and shafts all that is left of the once bustling goldfields. We staggered through the heat of the day, and found respite in a gloriously long, dark tunnel, exploring in as far as we could with our phone torches.
Another day we explored a tourist drive between Molong (not far from Orange) and Dubbo, featuring quirky and amusing animals on bikes.
This is Banjo Paterson territory, and I learned there is such a thing as a Banjo Paterson hat. Never really associated the man with a hat before, but according to the brass plaque on a park at his childhood town of Yoeval, this is it…
And if you look at an Aussie ten-dollar note, there he is, in a hat. Right under our noses. I couldn’t find any similarity between Banjo Paterson and the swaggie sitting under his hat, but he was kind of cute.
As usual, we filled each weekend trying to see (and eat) as much as possible. We cycled the race track at Bathurst, bushwalked to a waterfall (waterdribble really, but it had the coolest cave underneath it) along an overgrown track that turned out to be closed and sampled a beer at the oldest pub we’ve ever been to (the Gladstone, established 1865).
Orange was such a contrast to Mt Isa (obviously), with greenery, cottages with chimneys, coffee shops on every corner and open every day, no spinifex, deer, sheep and rabbits.
But thanks to many familiar place names, we felt at home.
And also thanks to the friendly policeman who reminded us with a $450 fine that you mustn’t cover your number plate with bicycles. We will remember that as we head to our next stop, Launceston.