New South Wales

Let's Travel - - CONTENTS - Words and im­ages by Na­dia Ansell

Be­sides its (in)fa­mous Elvis Fes­ti­val, Parkes NSW also cel­e­brates other hap­pen­ings. There is the CSIRO Ra­dio Te­le­scope, which was the sub­ject and lo­ca­tion of the 2000 Movie “The Dish” star­ring Sam Neill. The Henry Parkes Cen­tre, which also in­cor­po­rates the Tourist In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, has a new ex­hibit this year… ‘The King’s Cas­tle’… a walk through dis­play of a day in the life of Elvis at his Grace­land man­sion.

There are plenty of nice restaurants in Parkes, plus an added bonus dur­ing the Elvis Fes­ti­val is that the Parkes Ser­vices Club and Parkes League Club will give vis­i­tors a tem­po­rary mem­ber­ship for a gold coin do­na­tion and they serve up a smash­ing buf­fet meal in both of them!

Af­ter the fes­ti­val I de­cided to carry on up the Newell High­way to an­other must see des­ti­na­tion… The Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. Not so much a zoo as a wildlife park. Here the an­i­mals are free to roam and the vis­i­tors need a bike, golf cart or a car to get around the en­tire 6km cir­cuit. A num­ber of dif­fer­ent hands on en­coun­ters are on of­fer but you need to ar­rive early to book as they all sell out pretty fast. I opted to feed the gi­raffes whose tongues are al­most as long as their necks I dis­cov­ered!

The Old Dubbo Gaol in Mac­quarie Street of­fers ghostly night tours, giv­ing you the op­por­tu­nity to step into the shoes of a 19th Century pris­oner - if you are brave enough.

I wasn’t, in­stead I opted to hop back on the Newell High­way and make my way up to Coon­abarabran, home of the Sid­ing Spring Ob­ser­va­tory which houses Aus­tralia’s largest op­ti­cal te­le­scope. The site was cho­sen over 50 years ago for its low tur­bu­lence, high el­e­va­tion and low light pol­lu­tion, plus the fact that it is closer to Syd­ney than Cen­tral Aus­tralia. Towns in the area now use low sodium lights that don’t emit white light but put out just enough light at night for safety pur­poses. Sid­ing Spring has 14 tele­scopes in­clud­ing the only 40” te­le­scope for am­a­teur as­tronomers in the South­ern Hemi­sphere. It is open to the pub­lic from 9.30-4pm daily af­ter which the sci­en­tists ar­rive to carry out their ob­ser­va­tions of the night sky.

My ac­com­mo­da­tion for the evening was a bit fur­ther up the Newell High­way and in my opin­ion the high­light of the day. On the edge of the Pil­liga Na­ture Re­serve and 10kms off the high­way is Barkala Farm, home of the Pil­liga Pot­tery run by the lovely Maria Rick­ert, her two sons, Johannes and Bern­hard, and a team of cre­ative, friendly people… a nicer bunch you couldn’t hope to meet.

Maria is orig­i­nally from Ger­many and has been here since the early eight­ies. She and her hus­band fell in love with Barkala when they were back­pack­ing around Aus­tralia and used their last $500 of hol­i­day money to pay the de­posit to pur­chase it. That was the end of their back­pack­ing trip so they re­turned to Ger­many to sell their businesses over there and raise the rest of the cap­i­tal they needed to fi­nalise the deal. Af­ter a few set­backs and with two chil­dren in tow they fi­nally made it to Aus­tralia and Pil­liga Pot­tery was born.

Since then it has grown or­gan­i­cally, with five ac­com­mo­da­tion build­ings all hand built and crafted from lo­cal ma­te­ri­als, just like the pot­tery! My room for the night was in the farm­house, sit­u­ated over the sta­bles just be­hind the pot­tery and cafe. I was ex­pect­ing it to be rus­tic and pos­si­bly lack­ing a few home com­forts but I couldn’t have been more wrong! It was like stay­ing at Heidi’s Grand­fa­ther’s house in the Swiss Alps (from the chil­dren’s book by Jo­hanna Spyri)… ex­cept it was 30 de­grees Cel­sius!

The tall cathe­dral ceil­ings and mud­brick con­struc­tion kept it cool in­side and the big chunky bed with its sump­tu­ous mat­tress and soft linens meant I slept like a baby. In the bath­room there was a power shower to knock your socks off, I was pleas­antly sur­prised.

The other four ac­com­mo­da­tion build­ings spread across the 8,000 acre property are just as well ap­pointed. Some of them can be rented ex­clu­sively and come with well equipped kitchens and the same hand crafted su­per com­fort­able beds. The Stu­dio has the added ad­van­tage that it can be split into in­di­vid­ual rooms like the Farm­house or it can be hired out in­di­vid­u­ally, so many op­tions!

Free demon­stra­tions are held on pot­tery and there is pony trekking for the kids, a swim­ming pool, birdwatch­ing, walk­ing trails and a cafe. A stay at Pil­liga Pot­tery is like no other, Maria ex­plained to me that whilst most guest houses and ho­tels are cre­ated for the tourists, she has cre­ated Pil­liga for her fam­ily and their pas­sion is to share it. She has a con­stant stream of work­ers from around the world who come to help with the work and en­joy liv­ing as part of the fam­ily and it’s the same for the guests (with­out the work!). If you pre­fer just to do­ing your own thing you can self cater or you can ask for meals to be served in your ac­com­mo­da­tion, Maria is as flex­i­ble as you need her to be but just re­mem­ber you are 10kms from the near­est sealed road so if you are plan­ning to self cater, best pick up those sup­plies on the way there!

With so much to see and do around this part of the Newell High­way I would highly rec­om­mend an ex­tended stay at Pil­liga Pot­tery and I guar­an­tee you will come away with some choice items from the pot­tery shop, just as I did! This was my fi­nal des­ti­na­tion along Aus­tralia’s an­swer to Route 66. There was so much more to see and do but I just ran out of time. In the end, how­ever, one thing is for sure, just like Arnie, I will be back and I will be start­ing from Pil­liga Pot­tery!

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