Near Parkes.

Near Parkes.

Can there be any other nation which has a national symbol as prone to getting hit by cars? That was the question that obsessed us as we barrelled down the highway heading West from Sydney.

We were heading to Parkes, on a road-trip. Just the boys this trip, which feels very strange. Equally strange for us was heading up the Bells Line of Road out of Sydney, something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It’s both notable and quite astonishing how quickly the dense multi-national city of Sydney gives way to rural backlots that come across like a strange combination of Tudor England and somewhere in Nebraska. Who is it that thinks that half-timbered houses are a good look in Australia, especially next to enormous modern kit homes.

Driving further, though, you start to hit small townships leading up to Bilpin which look like authentic working properties. Bilpin, home of many apples, looked fabulous with the trees in bloom. Everywhere we looked there were pink and white blossoms, interlaced with rather desperate exhortations to come and try home cooked apple pie. It was too early to be stopping for pie though, so we pushed on over the Blue Mountains to Lithgow.

Stretching our legs in the park in Orange.

Stretching our legs in the park in Orange.

Lunch in Lithgow was a meat pie from a roadside cafe, with very clearly no accent over the ‘e’, and then it was on the road again heading out to Bathurst. The most striking thing about this part of the drive was how green everything is. We guessed that this was the product of a rainy August, but it certainly didn’t match with the newspaper reports of continuing drought – which clearly much of NSW is still suffering from.

The actual driving once past Lithgow was so easy. There was hardly any other traffic on the roads and the speed limit was 100 or 110km/h almost the whole way. It made for an easy and relaxing drive while we listened to podcasts and contemplated the great questions of the day.

We didn’t stop in Bathurst, but pushed on to Orange instead. There we had a run around a lovely park and then walked the mainstreet in search of coffee and afternoon tea – which we duly had while watching the locals go about their business. Knowing that we still had another 100km to drive we didn’t stay long after  getting a sugar boost.

The last 100km from Orange to Parkes was dominated by yellow fields of rapeseed and by the continual splatter of tiny bugs against the windscreen. There were so many bugs that it sounded like light rain falling and we started to worry that the windscreen cleaning fluid would run out well before the supply of insects would. Finally through the smeared windscreen we sighted Parkes and the Station Motel, our home for the night.

So on day one of our road trip we did 350km in six hours including stops which was not bad going, and came through happy and not too tired. We’ve seen some views and this is the furthest West the kids have been so there’s much that is new for them. But the enduring theme for us will be the amazing number of dead kangaroos and wallabies by the side of the road. We’ve decided there’s a lot to be said for having a mythical national symbol.