The Best Laid Plans
New South Wales, Australia
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
Or roughly so the poem by Robert Burns goes.
And indeed, our long-weekend goal of visiting the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo remains unfulfilled.
Leaving Sydney on Friday afternoon, we head out west and within 4 hours of rush-hour and long-weekend traffic combined, we enter the town of Bathurst, made famous by a motor racing circuit built on the nearby Mount Panorama. And it’s here that our plans begin to unravel.
I glance down at the temperature gauge in the dashboard, only to discover the needle rising skyward. We stop and call NRMA Road Services and are shortly joined by the Bathurst representative who advises us to stay the night and get the vehicle fixed in the morning at the local NRMA approved garage.
We check into a local motel, whose manager seems grumpy from being disturbed but softens up by the morning’s breakfast service.
Saturday morning sees us gently driving the vehicle around the corner to the garage as arranged the previous night. We wander around the service-town streets of Bathurst for a couple of hours and, after breakfast, we return to the garage to a repaired car and a fairly reasonable bill.
We head off westward again and, happy that the vehicle is now fully operational, decide to continue with our original plans of visiting the Parkes Radio Telescope on the way to Dubbo.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back now, it wasn’t the best decision.
One and a half hours later, after passing through the town of Orange, we arrive at Parkes and head for the Dish, approximately 20 kilometers north of the town. And here’s where the next thread unravels from our neatly woven plans.
The vehicle overheats again on the access road to the radio telescope. Undaunted, and using the 10 litre water bottle I had purchased earlier in the day as an insurance policy, we let the engine cool, top up with water and continue to the visitors centre of the Dish.
We limp back into Parkes and make another call to the NRMA. After realising that there are no garages or anything else open until Tuesday, we decide to spend the night at a local motel before attempting the long run back to Sydney the next morning. We book the last available room at the motel as the manager tells us that this weekend is the busiest of the year with the Parkes Picnic Races and other family activities held earlier that day. We wonder how successful these were, given that it is raining heavily, perhaps for the first time in several years. Either way, it would have been a novelty for the young children in the region who had never experienced rain before.
Despite the cloud of doom hanging over our trip thus far, we enjoy a tasty and value-for-money meal at the motel’s restaurant. Walk-ins are usually no problem, however this weekend requires an advance booking.
Sunday morning and we head off on the long journey home. Long indeed. We manage to limp into Lithgow, having travelled a mere 200 kilometers in 8 hours of driving, stopping, cooling down and refilling.
We leave the car at the NRMA approved repairer in Lithgow and catch a country train into Sydney. Three hours and countless stops later, we finally pull into Central Station. Home at last. And we still have Monday to relax.
Not quite the long-weekend getaway that we had in mind. But an interesting adventure that will be embellished and retold for years to come.