New South Wales I
When we lived in Sydney over 27 years ago, we visited towns both north and south of Sydney. We made a few forays to the Blue Mountains, which is west of the city. But, we never made it deeper into the state except for a trip way, way west to Broken Hill and Wentworth.
We can't say that any more.
Thanks to our friends Nancy Fox and Bruce Arnold, we have now spent time in Dubbo and Orange. Dubbo is the location of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which is a satellite of Sydney's Taronga Zoo. Nancy had arranged for us to "glamp" at "Zoofari Lodge" for a night. At first Ron had visions of pup tents that smelled of wet canvas. Food would come out of a can (think of Dinty Moore Beef Stew) and we would be issued canteens that dispensed plastic-tasting water.
The "tents" are world-class hotel rooms with A/C, fridges, showers, choice of pillow softness, beautiful bed linens, comfortable beds (no cots, thank you), a beautiful deck to sip a glass of wine and watch ostrich, giraffes, various African antelopes and zebras as they walked around the savannah munching parcels of chow left for them. Dinner was in a "guest house." Instead of mess-kit sludge, we ate salmon, lamb, pork belly and chicken. No one had to do KP (clean-up) after the feast. Instead, we piled into a bus, which drove us for a night meeting with an Asian elephant, a rhino and a pair of lions. The hippos decided to take the night off.
The next morning, before the gates to the zoo had opened, we hopped in the bus again. First stop: feeding the giraffes. We held some carrots and these long-necked gentle animals bent down and ate the orange roots with their blue prehensile tongues. While they ate, we learned a lot about them. For example, those weird looking things on the top of their head are horns for fighting. So much for being gentle.
We met an adolescent rhino. When the Dutch first saw the beasts they referred to them as "wit" or wide-mouthed. The Brits then renamed them "white" rhinos and "black" rhinos. We watched as this rhino kept swiveling its ears. It turns out rhino hearing is quite good.
Next stop was the elephant barn where we watched the large animals gently lift-up their legs so their toenails could be cleaned up and trimmed. Yes, a spa morning for the elephants.
The hippos that ignored us the night before came out for a morning feed with a keeper. These massive animals waddled out of their pond and slowly closed in on some food parcels. We were told how sensitive their skin is which is why they tend to stay mostly submerged most of the day.
The Dubbo zoo also has a group of Bongos, a beautiful brown (with white stripes) endangered rain forest antelope. These animals have long horns and a beautiful brown and white mane that extends down their backs. One of the goals of the zoo is to try to give some of the endangered species a safe environment to breed and live. Besides the Bongos, the zoo has such other endangered species as orangutans, lemurs, Southern Corroboree Frogs, Sumatran tigers, rhinos, and the Przewalski's Horse (Mongolian) among others.
After breakfast, we packed our bags and drove to Orange, a lovely country town.
Just outside Orange we went to one of Bruce's favorite vineyards, Printhie. The area has some elevation, which is beneficial to its white wines, such as Pinot Gris and Riesling. Dave Swift, one of the owners, gave us a bottle of sparkling wine, which was a delicious blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Kathy enjoyed the reds and rosés. Ron decided the vineyard was one of the best of the trip and asked Dave to please consider selling his wines to the US. If you ever see the wine, you know who to thank.
Nancy booked a cottage at Mayfield Vineyard, which was about ten minutes outside of Orange. Kathy, one of the owners, describes it as "country cottage accommodation" with "rustic charm." That means you get chickens on the veranda and freshly laid eggs for breakfast.
One of the reasons for going to Orange - aside from the wines and good food - was to enjoy a performance of the traveling Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. The talented players used original or replica instruments and performed French and English (early and mid-18thcentury) music. Almost every performer talked about their instruments so the performance was educational as well.
As we drove back to Mayfield that night we could see a massive thunderstorm well to our east. Sydney got torrents of rain. Orange, which needed the water, got nothing except a good light show.
The next morning we headed to Nancy's country home in Mount Wilson. We had a lunch break at Millthorpe, another lovely (much smaller) country town that catered more to tourists than Orange. This meant we had to wait for a table to open up at a local eatery.
By the time we left Millthorpe rain was falling for the first time in many weeks. It continued to rain all the way to the Blue Mountains. Much to Ron's chagrin the heavy rain kept the wombat population in their warrens. Nancy drove her SUV up and down the road outside her home in an effort to see these nocturnal marsupials. Kathy ended up spotting a young wombat that streaked into the vegetation but Ron missed it. Nancy did her "drunken" drive crossing from one side of the road to the other looking for wombats. Ron tried singing wombat lullabies. As the great bard once wrote: wombat, oh wombat, where art thou? However, sadly, we had no other wombat sightings.
The next day it cleared enough for Nancy to give us a tour of her gardens which include Yuzu trees, a citrus that has long spines protecting them from the birds. In 2011 Nancy convinced a grower in Queensland to sell her some trees. Two years later a bush fire destroyed most of the orchard. But, Nancy persevered and the remaining trees started fruiting in 2016. Nancy found eager buyers at Japanese restaurants in Sydney. We saw lots of green fruit as we walked through the orchard, so the 2019 harvest should be good. The fruit is usually used as a seasoning or as a marinade.
In restaurants we have seen Yuzu mayo and Yuzu pepper salsa. We enjoyed a glass of Yuzu Choya (a Japanese liquor) with Nancy and Brucen.
Nancy gave us a tour of Mount Wilson, a picturesque community of about 80 homes that has spectacular views looking down at the lush, deep gorges. The village is famous for its cool climate and exotic private gardens, which are frequently opened to the public in the Spring and Autumn.
Off in the distance was Sydney, where we once lived. We would leave the next morning.
New South Wales I