What do you do in Australia with three days off work and nothing to do? You grab a willing friend and hit the road with a tank full of petrol and no plans. Where did the road take us? From Sydney to the mid-west of New South Wales, where livestock is the lifeblood and the bartender knows you’re from out of town because he knows everyone else’s name.
I’m designated driver today while my friend drifts in and out, working off his New Year’s hangover. This suits me just fine because I can sing as loudly as I want along to The Doors with no complaints.
Anywhere in Australia, it’s going to take some decent hours to start seeing a change of scenery. Three hours later we’ve only just made it out of Sydney and into the Blue Mountains.
Another hour and we’re finally getting into new territory. Although I will miss the blue-hazed mountains and picturesque main roads, I feel like the expanding fields of farmland, covered in dry grass and sparsely spread trees mean we’re getting closer to nowhere. We’re definitely out of the city now, and into the places where farming forms the heart. Everywhere you look are cattle and sheep, oh and roadkill.
The road took us to a Yetholme truck stop, featuring every porno mag ever and not much else, then through the original gold-mining town, and my birthplace, Bathurst. This is a town worth spending a day or two in just to check it out, especially if colonial history and trying your hand at panning for gold is your jam, but we bypassed in search of somewhere new. And we found it in Orange.
Orange is actually quite large, clocking a population of just under 40,000, but it still feels like a country town. A country town that is slowly becoming recognised for its food offerings and wine production. It’s a town you hear mentioned quite often living in Sydney, but this was the first visit for us.
I’m done with the car for today so we follow the highway through the main stretch of town in search of somewhere to stay. There are several options but we pull up in front of Hotel Orange.
Ok yes, we were initially drawn in by its low cost ($70 for a double room), but we stayed for its history. Hotel Orange is actually the first established in Orange, way back in 1890 (don’t worry it’s been done up since then!).
The few rooms are basic, just beds and hanging space with a shared bathroom and basic shared kitchen facilities, but it’s everything you need, at least for a night. It also appears to be the only nightclub in town come the weekend, which could be a positive or negative depending on how keen you are to party with the town’s teens and very early 20s.
“Just warning you,” the manager told us as he showed us the room, “it’ll be loud until about 3.00am, it’s a Saturday.”
Well if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
While the food looks pretty good where we’re staying, we head outside to explore the area and end up at Percy’s Bar & Kitchen. It’s very trendy looking (dare I say, hipster-esque) and there’s a very cute singer/songwriter serenading us, but mostly we were pulled in by the fact this is where most of the locals seemed to be.
I am stuffed. Completely done. And Mr. Soulful Guitar has stopped playing. Also the crowd has dispersed. Time to go.
What was that about Hotel Orange being loud until 3.00am? The music may be booming but where are the people? There’s just one table being used, and they all look about 18.
But hey, it’s not even midnight yet, maybe this town just gets started later. Plus there’s a Woolies (one of Australia’s main grocery stores) down the road. Yes, yes we do need a snack run. Come at me chocolate and two-minute noodles!
After Woolies we drove around town looking for other signs of life…of which there was next to none. But did I mention we had two-minute noodles and a couple of drinks? So back to our accommodation we went.
There was one more group of teens. That was it. Upstairs next to our room was the dance floor, with party lights and music, but no people. In defence of Orange I do believe this was an unusual Saturday night. It was the 2nd of January, most people were probably away on holidays, and it still wasn’t quite midnight yet.
Not that it mattered, if you have no-one to join, party on your own! Not only could we clearly hear every song from the comfort of our own shared living room, we could party with our noodles in hand.
We crawl into bed and let the booming R’n’B shake-your-booty tunes soothe us to sleep.