Day three stated with a quick bite to eat for breakfast, a few photos of Armidale Tourist Park to update their listing, and then we ventured into town to explore Armidale. Made a brief stop at the recently re-done information centre to chat with the lovely local old dear and garner some insight in to what's to see and do. "Stay away from the pink roads, purple's ok and greens your best friend,” she told us. Using the map key for explanations, these are essentially four-wheel drive, unsealed, and tourist-drives respectively.
We visited the New England Regional Art Museum, where we were greeted with a really interesting tour also known as “How to Spend an Afternoon in Armidale;
"With the autumn leaves burning yellow outside we wandered in from the crisp clean air to investigate Armidale's New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM). The 'regional' bit is really a misnomer - I've seen worse in capital cities. The collection was first-rate (think Nolan, Drysdale, Streeton and Tom Rorbert's - Mosman Bay - apparently it's popular without the older crowd), on rotation from an impressive permanent mid-century Australian collection. This coupled with progressive, interactive, travelling, and up-and-coming artist sections and I was really impressed.
There's a print Museum downstairs for those nerdy graphic designer types like me, a large park to let the kids loose, an independently run restaurant - Neram Harvest (call ahead on (02) 6771 2907), and a large community garden down the back for the impoverished backpackers in need of some fruit or veg to supplement their travellers diet of fresh-air and alcohol.
Guided tours include a visit to the extensive storeroom downstairs and are a steal at $11. I feel smarter and somehow more Australian at the same time (oxymoron I know), but again advanced bookings essential on (02) 6772 5255. So if you need a break from one of the five national parks in the surrounds, or if the waterfalls are just running dry, don't miss the NERAM. Accordingly, we stayed way over time and didn't leave for Moree until 12.30!
Travelling North West out of Armidale, we jumped on the Thunderbolt's Highway, named after the infamous Captain Thunderbolt, a bushranger who once roamed these parts. Stopped in Bundarra, a thoroughly awesome little town. Arrived during rush hour (apparently) - half the street was full for a wake… The people were still happy to talk our ears off though.
The town is a throwback to an earlier era. From the old brick buildings, rusty farm machinery, and the traditional afternoon tea spread in the local hall, the place has it all. The general store doubles as the local cafe, Centrelink office, post-office and the bank. The toilet out the back takes you past disused spider-web encrusted stairways and shelves, interspersed with derelict Freddo Frog display stands and branded Coke refrigerators.
Lunch at the General Store involved a range of sandwiches named after Australian birds - you can have a willy-wagtail, a honeyeater, etc. and each comes with free conversation for the duration of the meal. Super tasty and complete with locally made chutneys and definitely recommended. We left feeling like we'd experienced an honest local Australian town. Not flash, just welcoming, friendly, and genuinely interesting.
Still running behind time we left at 3.15 for Bingara and its restored 1936 Roxy Art Deco theatre and their orange tree boulevard, hand-picked only one day a year by the local kids – a memorial to WWII veterans.
Jenny’s Upcycled Experience
There’s this antique house-wares and furniture shop called The Upcycled in Bingara, where a girl rings a small bell outside the shop in the hope of attracting customers – Super cute. I guess she must be the daughter of the owner. She approached me and said “Hi, I haven’t seen grey people in the town before.” I stood there for a second and replied “Did you mean me? Well then I am glad that I’m the first grey person you’ve met! I’m quite yellow though, see?” I put up my sleeves and showed her my skin colour. She kindly replies “well, grey and yellow, they’re quite the same” she smiled and skipped away continuing to shake her shiny ceramic bell.
You’ve gotta love the country. Politically incorrect? No, not really, just a sweet little girl saying what she’s thinking- It was refreshing, actually!
We then finished the drive in a mad dash across to Moree. Phoned ahead to Gwydir Carapark [sic] just out of the main drag, where we lazed in their artesian pools after dinner. Chatted with the grey nomads and compared stories about how best to avoid roo accidents on the road at dusk, a lovely way to spend the evening.