Croissants and a black coffee would be my breakfast as I lay on my deathbed. Of course, that is if there was a decent bakery folding proper laminations and a coffee brewer that understood a balanced extraction. Of course, that would have to be walking distance from wherever my last breath was to be taken.
This breakfast also has happened to be the catalyst for several nice adventures during the past year. One of the more memorable happened as we were driving home from Brisbane to Sydney. We had spent the night in an over-crowded and humid caravan park in Yamba and woke to grey skies and southerly winds. Maya had always wanted to eat the bread from Goldfish Bowl Bakery where a team of break-away wood fire artisan bakers had set up residence in the unlikely town of Armidale.
The fact that there was speciality sourdough in Armidale of all places was enough to pique curiosity. We drove away from the coast but 45 minutes later we realised it would be an illegal speeding hustle to make it before the bakery closed. Instagram messages were exchanged and an agreement was struck - they would save us a loaf of rye and a few pastries if we could make it there before they finished cleaning.
As we drove through the hinterland, we also drove away from clouds and into the dry country heat. I saw several good waterfalls and scenic stops on the way but there was no time for touristing. We managed to arrive and secure our wood-fired goods and a couple of cold brew coffees. Feeling victorious, we enjoyed a picnic by a shabby council built skatepark and filled our stomachs with our delicious bounty. It wasn't until we had finished eating that we realised it was only 1:30pm and we were four hours from the coast and six hours from Sydney.
Now let me back-track to the night before and a conversation with an ambitious and disgruntled checkout clerk from Woolworths...
Before we had set up camp in Yamba, we were buying food and wine from Woolworths, where our chosen checkout clerk desperately wanted to share his weekend plans with someone...
"What are you doing this weekend?" he asked me with surprising directness, as he dropped my tomatoes into a bag. "Camping in town and then heading off home in the morning. And you?" I replied, looking to see if the tomatoes had survived and noting thankfully that the next object to be thrown on top was lettuce. "Well, I'm going to buy a new camera lens and then go and shoot the biggest meteor shower of the year. It peaks tomorrow." The clerk informed me smugly as if I should have known, which I probably should have. He handed me my goods and looked away as I tried to press him about this astrological event. He succeeded in ignoring me, so I left.
Strange guy I thought.
I had completely forgotten about this exchange...but here we were 1:30pm on a Saturday, six hours from home, no work shifts and nothing but clear skies above. I told Maya about the conversation and we started making plans to drive another four hours inland to the stargazing capital of New South Wales: Coonabarrabran.
The first time we drove into Coonabarabran, we realised we drove the wrong way to our campsite and immediately drove back out. Our first night was spent in the Pilliga State Forest at Pilliga Pottery. It was strange and kind of cultish out there but we had a whole paddock to ourselves and were allowed a small fire in the overly dry region. We readied ourselves to watch the sky rain stars, but in reality it was a stray shooting star every fifteen minutes or so - if you were looking in the right direction. I saw four and Maya saw zero that night however the star-laden night skies were insane. We fell asleep and awoke to a wave of heat and bird chatter. The pottery served up a surprisingly decent coffee to wash down our breakfast of left-over bread and then we headed into town to pick up supplies before heading back out again, to set up camp in the wondrous Warrumbungles.
Coonabarabran on a Sunday was quiet and quite uneventful. We walked around, amused by the novelty cosmic branding of the local stores. The most eventful thing that happened was seeing a pony, illegally tied up outside a school, enjoying the well kept lawn. As the sun climbed higher, we hopped back in the car and made our way out to the Warrumbungles. The road was lined with several private observatories and the largest to-scale map of the solar system in the world. A giant sign with a half sphere model announced that we were travelling past Jupiter. Driving through space was turning out be extremely hot but amusing enough. Eventually the road began to wind around dramatic rock structures and we entered the Warrumbungles National Park. I can't remember driving past Mars unfortunately.
All around the campsite, reminders of the 2013 bushfire still remain, though there is new growth sprouting up alongside charred gums. The heat was unavoidable, the creeks were dried up and the midday glare hazed away all details. We slept in the shade and waited for the sun to fall slightly before heading out to explore the beautiful landscapes. We hiked to one of the most famous rock features in the park; the Breadknife, before returning for another evening of wine and star wars.
From our tent, we had wide open skies and The Milky Way felt close enough to touch. The stars seemed to vibrate as if they were waiting to spill secrets and the promise of that meteor shower was quietly delivered. We sat silently absorbed in our wine and our thoughts, waiting hopefully for a shooting star and eventually we began tallying them up. By the time we finished our bottle of local merlot, Maya had seen nine meteors and I only seven.