So, why is the Western Plains Zoo located in Dubbo? Because it’s the closest bloody environment to Africa they could find in Australia. – Hot, Dry, & Dusty, but not so flat. We had been looking forward to today for some time. A visit to the Dubbo Zoo was to be a highlight of the trip, we had been selling it to the kids for a while. And whilst it was a highlight, it will definitely not be forgotten easily. Before we started the trip, we appointed Michelle ‘Minister for Research’. Her job was to find out what locations we would be visiting, what to do there and how best to do it.
‘Lets Ride the Bikes’
After hours of research she decides it would be a great idea to ride the bikes around the Zoo. Being a loving and devoted husband, I place 100% trust in her decision, especially as I am thinking Dubbo is nice and flat, how hard can it be to ride around a Zoo. The day starts with the usual preparations, but we are expecting a hot one, so we pack extra water, 3 litres in a container with ice, it should keep us going all day, and a can of baked beans for the kids. Nice and easy for lunch. We decided to take the Tag-A-Long for the kids to ride in and Michelle decided that it would be a great idea to pack it full of supplies as well. Now you have to remember we have two healthy kids, who both weigh their fair share, add to this lunch, picnic rug, camera, hats, sunscreen, water etc etc, we are now the equivalent of a Vietnamese family of seven on a moped out to do the weekly shopping.
But I don’t complain, ‘I am the man’. I can do this. Even if I have not ridden a bike in ages, my legs can handle it.
100kg later, we head off for the 5km ride to the Zoo. “Sealed bike paths all the way” she tells me. ‘Very nice of the Dubbo Council.’ I think, except they forgot to take out the bloody hills.
Flies, Flies, & More Flies
So here we are in 35 degree heat, riding bikes in the hot sun, trying to get up hills, and then, the flies. Flies are everywhere in Dubbo, I have not ever seen this many flies in all my life. And they were intent on entering every available orifice on my body, mouth, nose, eyes, ears, you name it they got into it. I had to shut everything to avoid chewing on them, but it was to no avail, in the end, I decided the extra protein would only help me up the hills.
We take the long way…..
So, 2km from the Zoo, the forward scout, who by this stage is miles ahead, mainly because she doesn’t have to carry a load, sees a sign with an arrow on it, “This way”, she says. I dared to question, and even headed in the other direction, but she was off on her way, and once again being the trusting and devoted husband I decided to follow without question. She was happily riding along with a smile on her face without a care in the world. We were going downhill at this stage, so I was OK too, but then then I saw it, the other side of the hill. We may have well been in the Perisher snow fields looking at the size of this thing.
The downside of going down, we have to go back up. But I was determined to get to the top, without stopping. Low gears, up we go, it was a struggle I tell you, one eye closed, all breathing apparatus half shut, and the added fear I could not lift my arse off the seat in the event the flies found the only remaining orifice left on my body. But I made it, legs like jelly, no breath, there we were, at the top of the hill and by my calculations only 1km to go to the Zoo entrance. I was having so much fun, and we weren’t even there yet.
I get to the top and see our leader, stopped in the middle of the track. ‘Unusual I think to myself, not like her to wait for me’.
Then I overhear her asking a local for directions to the Zoo.
“Back that way about 3km” he answers.
Not impressed. I didn’t need to say much, I knew what was coming. So we turn around, back down the mountain and back up the other side. Oh well, at least we have nice cold water. Ooops. Crash! What was that? My dearly beloved, crammed so much stuff into the back of the Tag-A-Long that the weight of it forced open the back panel and all our belongings, including the 3 litres of water, hit the concrete pavement. Yep, a split right down the side, and water leaking everywhere. So much fun and we are not even there yet.
We Finally Get There
So, 3 km later, all uphill, we finally get to the Zoo, parched, soaking wet with sweat, and decorated in flies. They gave us a map of the Zoo! Over 15 km of track. “All Level?” I said to the lady. She just smiled back at me, “Enjoy your day” The first exhibit was the Wild Dogs, I was glad to get off the bike and stop for a while. But we were both so exhausted, we couldn’t give a flying toss about Wild Dogs. They could have been singing and dancing for all we cared, I just wanted to collapse. But, we were here for the kids, so the show must go on. We both dismount and nearly fall over as our legs are like jelly. Henry, who sprained his ankle yesterday, says, “Carry me daddy.” How can I refuse?
“Look kids, African Wild Dogs.” “Where are they Dad?” Jade asks.
About 100m from where we are standing, asleep under the shade of a tree we see four Wild Dogs, doing exactly what I should be doing. Sleeping in the shade of a tree. We have ridden all this way to see these things and they are so far away from us, you need a telescope to see them. Then if you did get to see them, they weren’t even moving, they were asleep for God’s sake.
We forge on, seeing exhibit after exhibit, Giraffes, Rhinos, Tigers, each time the hills between get steeper and steeper, each time more flies try to enter my body. But we are having fun.
MORE FLIES & NO FOOD
Hot, bothered, tired, it is approaching lunch time. Ah, a rest. A chance to get off the bikes and have something to eat. There is a sign up ahead, ‘Milk Bar’. Then in the small print we see it, a sign saying ‘The Milk Bar is only open on weekends’. By this stage we are about 5 km into the Zoo, and the only available food source, apart from the Hippos lunch, is back at the front entrance. So now we add hungry to the list. But, hey at least we can feed the kids, we bought them baked beans. So, Michelle tries to open the tin, and would you believe it, the ring top comes off in her hands. “Great” she says, “now what?” “Don’t worry” I say, “I bought the Swiss army knife”
HOT BAKED BEANS…Mmmmm
She goes off to the toilet with Jade, and proud as punch I find the appropriate can opening tool and plunge it straight into the can of baked beans, which of course have been tossed around on the back of the bike in 35 degree heat for the last few hours. A loud popping sound is heard as the can, explodes, all over me. So now I have warm baked beans all over my face, shirt, shorts, hair and hands. I was so happy. Henry thought it was hilarious and started to lick it off me. Michelle returned to find me covered in baked beans and of course supported me by helping to clean me up. NOT. I had to do that myself. Trouble was, I now had dried baked beans all over my shirt, which of course attracted more flies.
Baked Beans Man
So with half the Zoo left to go, we did the only sensible thing we could do. We went back to the caravan park for a swim. They give you a two day pass, so we finished it off the next day, in the car that is. Needless to say, the Kids had a great time, and it was a very memorable trip.
The kids had a ball.
On a positive note, the Zoo itself it is very beautiful, and a great way to see the animals in their natural environment, but we would not recommend it on a bike, when it is above 30 degrees. We enjoyed a few more days in Dubbo, and it was here that we met another traveling family.