Did I say dusted? I meant dusty. My enduring memory of Dubbo will be the dust storms and the drought.
We are on the tail end of six months in this sweet region, and it is hard to leave. It’s been an enriching experience.
Having arrived fresh from Tasmania with its lush greenery, we put ourselves in the middle of the desolate wintry dryness. Since then, it’s become hot desolate dryness. The devastating bushfires of the past month have not come too close, but the smoke lies as thick and suffocating as the dust on some days.
My first experience of a dust storm showed my naivety. I headed out on my bike for a ride, thinking I couldn’t see the horizon because of distant rain. An hour later I was battling hot gusty gales and spitting dust from my mouth.I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Breathability Index, but now I do, and I know what it’s like to try to breathe in it.
Despite the climate challenges, and spending five days a week at work, there has been an endless supply of things to do and places to go. Our original three months turned into six. Here are the highlights.
- Being snowed and hailed on while hiking in the Warrumbungle National Park. What an amazing place. Everyone should visit. I need to go back.
- Sleeping overnight at the Western Plains zoo. Waking up to the animals on the plains just outside the door, and seeing an elephant get its bath.
- Visiting the zoo for coffee. You don’t have to go into the zoo to see animals. You can sit and watch the spider-tail monkeys and lemurs on the other side of a moat. What a privilege to sip cappuccinos while the primates play. We did this about 10 times.
- Exploring the Mudgee region over two weekends, including two gorgeous wineries. It was obvious how lovely the gardens would be outside of drought, and their drinkable products were outstanding.
- Seeing the rings of Saturn from an astronomy observatory – there are plenty to choose from in the general region. This is dark sky country, with so little light pollution the stars fairly blaze. Unless it’s too smoky or dusty.
- Walking the bush tracks on Mt Arthur at Wellington. See previous comments re environment and drought. Ditto for Menindee Lake.
- Taking the long way to work via the riverside paths. Seeing water in the river is refreshing to the soul during drought.
- Visiting Broken Hill and its amazing mining history and sculptures in the desert.
- Taking part in a mountain bike race in Orange. Riding to Mudgee. Joining up with the local Bicycle Users Group and making friends. Having my bike stolen (due to neglecting to lock it while having Friday night drinkies at a bar in town). OK, that’s a lowlight, but it didn’t slow me down, as my new friends lent me velocipedes.
- Hanging out at the Monkey Bar. It’s a craft beer kind-of-place, where you get to try interesting beverages, like tzatziki-flavoured sours. Or over-hopped yuppie beers, as a cynical home-brewing afficionado would put it. But it was fun, and a nice place to spent an hour on Friday afternoon.
Learning some funky street and place names. At the beginning we just made up easier options, calling Wingewarra Street “Winnebago Street”, Bultje Street “Bolchie Street”, and Bumblegumbie Road “Bumblebee Road”. Now we can roll them off our tongues like true Dubbonians. And I’d like to think that in some little way, we are.