Tag Archives: Parkes

Day 41 – Telescopes and Volcanoes

Leaving Coonabarabran in the morning, I headed west into the Warrumbungle National Park. This is a mountain range formed as the remnants of an ancient extinct volcano – with the hard igneous rock jutting out sharply in strange eroded patterns.

The first feature of this area is the Siding Spring Observatory, home to over a dozen large telescopes including Australia’s biggest optical-spectrum telescope, clocking in at 3.9m lens diametre.

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Further in to the park, I pulled off the road and did a 12km hike up into the range to see the more spectacular formations. It was hard going at times, with a total elevation change of just over 500m! The low areas still bore the scars of devastating bushfires 18 months ago, and a lot of the facilities and trails in the area are still closed.

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From the top of the walk, there was an amazing 360 degree panorama over the entire park. The first feature is called the breadknife, and is only a few metres wide yet easily 100 metres tall.

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I encountered another bloody snake on the way back down – this time a red-bellied black snake. Very poisonous, but fortunately unlike brown snakes they’re not at all aggressive, and will almost always slither away.

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Back on the road, I was passing through the lush farm land of New South Wales’ central west.

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Rolling through many towns including the major centre of Dubbo, I arrived at my aim just on dusk – the Parkes radio telescope, known as “the dish”. This site was made famous during the moon landings, as the site to actually receive and re-broadcast the astronauts’ transmission.

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I found a room for the night in Parkes, a town strangely obsessed with Elvis – they have an annual Elvis festival and gathering of impersonators every year.

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