Before I stopped doing regular Bobby Dazzler trips, I was a bit reticent about giving a detailed account of my itineraries for fear that lots of people would start using them, and the splendid isolation of travelling on lonely Outback roads would be lost. I probably needn’t have worried.
Anyway, there’s no longer need for that concern, so here are a few of my Sydney to Uluru secrets – feel free to take advantage of them. Bear in mind that there are all manner of options and alternatives that might make the trip more enjoyable for your particular set of circumstances, personnel and interests. I am writing about a trip for four adults in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
For readers who have no expectations of ever getting to Australia, this account may be the closest you’ll get to ever doing a road trip to Uluru. Enjoy!
Day 1: Sydney to Parkes (370 km)
I’ve found it helpful to make the first day a bit leisurely, to allow time for picking up passengers, packing the car, etc. We follow the Great Western Highway (A32) as far as Orange. If passengers are for any reason unfamiliar with the route we are taking, they will probably enjoy some detours along the way, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains (first crossed by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson in 1813, maximum height about 1200 metres) being a must. Echo Point on a fine day is breath-taking, and riding the Scenic Railway likewise (but maybe daunting for some). Unfortunately “The Edge”, a famous giant-screen movie about the Blue Mountains, which was for many years screened every day in Katoomba, is no longer showing.
Blackheath’s a good spot for morning tea – turn right into the main street, and try the Victory Theatre Antique Centre and Café (the collection of antiques and all manner of old things is enormous!) Also “Trains, Planes & Automobiles” if you’ve got any interest in toys, especially toy trains, is a fascinating shop. And just 2.5km out of the town is the famous Govett’s Leap — not to be missed. “A story, almost certainly apocryphal, recounts how a bushranger named Govett was being pursued by the police. Determined not to be taken alive, Govett spurred his horse over the cliff and dropped 450 m to his death on the rocks below.”
Back on the highway, just as you approach the steep descent of the Victoria Pass, there’s a dirt road turnoff on the left to a lookout – well worth a squiz at the spectacular views.
Then on across the Central Tablelands of NSW to Bathurst, the oldest inland town in Australia, and site of the famous Mt Panorama motor racetrack. (If you’re a petrol-head, you can drive around it when there are no races on.) Turn left into William Street, the main street, where there are some attractive old buildings, then right into Russell St to see the magnificent Court House. And did you know that in 1836, Charles Darwin was visiting Australia, and “hired a man & two horses to take [him] to Bathurst…to get a general idea of the country”? Even today, by the time we reach Bathurst, city dwellers are starting to feel they’ve shaken off the urban shackles. Continue on Russell St to rejoin the Highway.
It’s a pleasant run through gold-fields country (see the evidence in the village of Lucknow) from there to Orange, which is maybe time for a lunch stop – plenty of options available. (Maybe get some take-away food, and eat it in the beautiful Cook Park in the main street.) It’s worth taking a run through a few of the side streets (particularly on the northern side of the main street) to see some very elegant old country houses. Just as you’re leaving the town, veer left off the highway onto the Escort Way, then 27 km later, turn right onto Henry Parkes Way. You’ll notice at that junction a stone monument marking a significant point for Sir Thomas Mitchell’s early exploratory expeditions.
The inscription reads:
From this vicinity Sir Thomas Mitchell`s Second Expedition proceeded on April 7, 1835 to the Darling River,
His Third Expedition on March 19, 1836 to Australia Felix (Western Victoria),
And his Fourth Expedition on December 15, 1845 to Tropical Australia (Central Queensland).
As you pass through Manildra, you’ll become aware you’re now in wheat country – the silos totally dominate the town!
Parkes is a pleasant country town, named after Sir Henry Parkes, the “Father of Federation”, whose statue graces the main street. If you need to book accommodation, I recommend the Clarinda Motel, 72 Clarinda St, on your left as you’re coming into town. The phone number is (02) 6862 1655. For your evening meal, there are a number of dining options in town, but we often go to the Parkes Leagues Club in the main street.
Although Day 1 has not even taken us off the bitumen, most people find it an interesting and enjoyable start. Tomorrow we hit some dirt roads on the Western Plains, so get a good night’s sleep, and be ready for adventure.
To be continued.