So no Japan trip last year and who knows if we'll be able to go this year? But who would expect to find a piece of Japan in country Dubbo?
The Shoyoen Japanese Garden in the Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens was surprisingly authentic, one of those unexpected gems we are more used to finding in random Japanese locations than in our extended Australian backyard.
Huge koi carp suck at the sky, hoping for food. Beyond them, a stone lantern and, hidden away, a pebble garden, the raked curves marred by footsteps.
At the other end of the gardens, a waterfall and a tea house, two waiting rooms with benches besides it. They appeared to be constructed in the Japanese way, without nails. The miniature fan leaves of the ginkgo trees offering shade from an increasingly hot day.
But for the bone dry heat of the Australian interior I feel like I could be in Japan. It is a pity that the tea house is closed, possibly only open for special events. I could quite easily imagine taking tea, or maybe a bowl of noodles, inside.
Behind the Japanese gardens is a sensory garden. B discovers a daun kesum shrub with a scent that immediately makes me hunger for assam laksa.
No such foods to be had here.
Our zoo ticket is valid for two days, so we decide to drive back out there to try to catch some of the animals we missed in the heat of yesterday.
This time we drive around the park and we are in luck. The rhinos laze around together and the four cheetahs are out. There is even a male lion lying in the shade. The lemurs wave their stripey tails and the gibbon pair stare bored.
What makes it worth the return visit is the pair of howling siamangs. Hoot, hoot, hoot, they can be heard from a distance. Swinging, drinking and hoping. Great fun!
Though it is brand new our car cannot find our next destination, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Experience, on its GPS. Lucky for Google's Android Auto integration.
The Experience takes you through the incredible history and services off by the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We are greeted by Betty, a walking frame bound volunteer with a long association with the service. She was even friends with the famous Nancy-Bird Walton, for whom Qantas' first A380 was named.
The RFDS pioneered radio communications, telehealth and the School of the Air in the bush. It is amazing to think how the descendents of these services have played such a huge role in many of our lives, even in the cities, during the pandemic. And at the height of the lockdowns, it was often only RFDS aircraft operations at normally busy Sydney Airport.
There is a King Air 200 on display, along with a fuselage display with augmented reality and a seductive video of drifting clouds out of its windows.
The Fox Moth biplane out in the cafe is interesting too, the nose housing room for a patient and doctor, but the pilot sits exposed on top.
The food in the cafe is pretty good too. The others had fish and chips, but my soba salad was really delicious and a nice little connection with our first destination of the day.
It is too early to return to the motel, but the day is scorching now and we don't feel like being outside. The Western Plains Cultural Centre is free and air-conditioned. There are some impressive HSC artworks on display, a travelling concrete art exhibition that is surprisingly interesting and a small museum of local history that has some fascinating artefacts.
The forecast gives a few days of fierce heat in the region. It's entirely not unexpected, but I stupidly only have black t-shirts left to wear. So I pop into Kmart for some cheap alternatives.
That's enough for the day, and enough of Dubbo.