Our stay in Armidale was extended by an unplanned day after an accident that occurred when I fell down a flight of stairs in the dark.
I had negotiated a half price deal for the last remaining room at Rydges Powerhouse Hotel in Armidale which was above the reception and office and accessed by an internal staircase. I woke around dawn and saw a beautiful sunrise out the window. Not wanting to disturb Jill, I walked over to the window in the open area in the dark with the intention of taking a photograph. I must have walked over the top of the stairs and fell down all fourteen of them with a loud crash when I hit the bottom landing in a mangled heap. I can’t remember much after that other than the door being opened by the duty manager, who heard the crash, and then being loaded into an ambulance and taken to the local regional hospital.
I spent about four hours in the emergency department being assessed and x-rayed. I hadn’t broken anything – I just had a sore neck, a lump on my head, a bruised lower back and a bad carpet burn on my left elbow (this hurts more that all the other things put together!). I knew that I was in good hands as the emergency doctor was in the Army Reserve and had seen two deployments in Afghanistan.
I was released at about 10.00 am and spent the rest of the day sitting around the hotel resting and recovering. I’m very grateful for the wonderful service by the hotel staff who removed all our things to another room on the ground floor, arranged a late breakfast for us (without charge) and stopped by a number of times during the day to make sure that I was OK.
As a result, we didn’t see much of Armidale. However it does look as though there are a number of buildings and houses with gorgeous architecture, sufficient for us to make a return trip sometime in the future.
This morning, I was feeling much better so we headed across towards the city of Dubbo. We were originally planning to take four days to get home but now we will have to do it in three. Regardless of whichever alternate route we chose, we needed to travel through Tamworth. This is the home of country and western music in Australia and of course, we had to stop by the Big Golden Guitar with its music store and adjoining motel. Even out here in the country, these places are as commercial as ever. It’s a long time since I have been through Tamworth and I was surprised at how large this city was. I imagine that in January it is exceptionally busy with every type of accommodation completely booked out for the annual Country Music Festival.
It is incredibly dry in this region. They are in their third year fo drought here and the land is parched. In one nearby town, water use is rationed to just 20 litres per person per day. The fields are dry and the farmers have mostly de-stocked their livestock.
There is hardly an an animal to be seen. Only the native emus seem to tolerate these dry conditions.
We stopped in the little town of Gunnedah for a coffee and a visit to the pharmacy to buy a change of dressing for the carpet burn on my arm. A very kind pharmacist removed the old one and redressed my wound.
From there, we drove to Coonabarabran which seems to be the star gazing capital of the country. This area is free of light pollution and the stars shine brightly. Some houses even have their own observatories.
On a tourist drive out of town is the Siding Springs Observatory. Its job is to explore the galaxy. The 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope there is the largest optical telescope in Australia. It is operated by the Australian Astronomical Observatory. A dozen other telescopes are also located on Siding Spring Mountain. A number of them are operated by the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Australian National University.
Siding Spring Mountain is part of the Warrumbungle National Park. This area is covered in many craggy peaks that are remnants of a large volcanic system from 130 million years ago – in Jurassic times when dinosaurs ruled the world. The volcanic crater here was around 70 kilometres in diameter with many sub vents and peaks,. These now stand out as volcanic plugs – the hard core of the volcano. Other outer parts have since eroded away, leaving these plugs as giant pillars across the landscape.
There seemed to be a little more feed in the paddocks as we travelled further south and stock numbers were a little higher. Even so, it was very dry and farmers rely on windmills to pump underground water and I’m sure many are buying feed for their animals.
This area is normally prime agricultural land. It is usually sown with wheat and other grain crops. It normally supports large herds of beef cattle and sheep. Some of the old homesteads are very grand, reflecting a past level of wealth that is certainly not present today.
We reached Dubbo late in the afternoon and checked into the Cattleman’s Country Inn – a comfortable sprawling place of over five acres with many rooms. We need a trail of breadcrumbs to get back to reception and the restaurant.