Jules Lund took to the road to visit Dubbo Zoo in the central west of New South Wales. His drive wasn't all about visiting the animals he was also curious to see the Animals on Bikes Sculpture Trail which runs along Banjo Patterson Way for 120km between Molong and Dubbo.
Animals on Bikes Sculpture Trail
Forty-five sculptures have been created by locals, ranging from small letterbox creations to sculptures 2m high. It was the idea of local Christine Weston. Little towns in the area were suffering and she thought the trail of sculptures would attract tourists and she was right. The trail has even attracted international interest and press.
Cumnock & District Progress Association organised welding classes through TAFE Outreach for the farmers' wives, rent-a-farmhouse families and local enthusiasts who were keen to learn a new skill and create a masterpiece.
Apart from being a lovely thing for local families to be involved in, sculpture spotting is a good way to entertain bored youngsters in cars.
This historic country town in the hills of the Macquarie Ranges has a population of just 1570. It's at the centre of a rich farming district producing wheat, fruit, wine, sheep, wool and cattle. The main street is National Trust-classified and has many buildings from the 1800s.
Molong is the self-proclaimed gelato capital of Australia. It's run by Giovanni Di Francesca and his son Robert and if their name is anything to go by they would know all about the delicious Italian ice-cream.
The Di Francescas use all-Australian produce and is sourced locally as much as possible. Fruit from local orchards, strawberries from Orange and macadamias come from Byron Bay, a little further afield.
Apart from making up ingredients for discerning gelato makers they have a shop front attached to the cafe. Choose from 30 delicious flavours any day of the week.
Only 24km further along Banjo Paterson Way is the little town of Yeoval, population 310. Yeoval's greatest claim to fame is that one of Australia's most famous poets, AB "Banjo" Paterson, spent his early childhood on a local property. There is a Banjo Paterson Memorial Site in the centre of town.
Western Plains Zoo
Home to more than 1000 animals, this is where you can see the animals while on wheels. The 300-hectare park is a wild and wonderful slice of Africa in the heart of New South Wales. You can drive, walk, ride your own bicycle or rent one and take a 6km loop that winds through the zoo. There is also 15km of bush trails meandering through Australian bush with lakes and waterholes.
There are no fences or visual barriers between you and the animals, so it really is an open-range zoo. They are more active in the morning so it's a good idea to visit early.
If you love cheeky-looking meerkats you can enter their enclosure but they must be the one to make the move if there is any touching to be done. These African native animals are curious little critters and communicate with a wide range of calls. Their teamwork ensures survival. Females take turns overseeing a creche as other are out fossicking.
Jules was chuffed to come face-to-face with the lions at feeding time. Sisters Njeri and Shinyanga were born at Mogo Zoo in southern New South Wales in 2002 and were joined at Western Plains Zoo by the male Jasiri who was born at Melbourne Zoo.
If you've never visited Western Plains Zoo, one look at their website will have you putting it high up on your wish list. If you have been already there are probably new additions to meet.
Jules has been to Africa several times and visited game parks, but has never had the privilege of being so close to animals as he was in the middle of New South Wales.
If you have a favourite animal, here are the best times to visit them as they are fed and various talks are given:
10am: black rhino shuttle every 20 minutes until 11.45am
11.30am: hippopotamus feed and talk along the fence near the Sumatran tiger
12.15pm: otter talk and feed
12.30pm: African elephant talk and meet Yum Yum and Cuddles
12.35pm: siamang apes feed except Wednesdays
12.55pm: cheetah talk fastest animals on earth
3pm: giant Galapagos tortoise not the fastest animal on earth