Lessons learned from the Koala Capital…

You’d think I would have learned a thing or two from my Camino…

Traveling back by car from the week’s work up in Queensland, I wanted to stay at Gunnedah – principally because I wanted to stay in the Koala Capital of the World.

Gunnedah - Koala Capital

I don’t like koalas – every time I’ve tried to cuddle one I’ve come away requiring first aid.

That’s not the point though in deciding to stay in Gunnedah. There’s something wonderful about the extravagance of the claim – the Koala Capital of the World – that appealed to me. The fact that there was not one koala to be seen, other than on bullet riddled road signs, only made the trip more memorable.That, and the Spanish “parmi,” which was part chicken schnitzel, part pizza, part decaying vegetable matter purporting to be salad.

The previous night, I’d gone online to book in Gunnedah. There was only one motel available, and it was $130 a night. Pretty damn stiff, I thought, for a country motel, even if it was in the Koala Capital of the World.

I doubted there was a Koala convention on in town, or that it was mating season for koalas, in which case Gunnedah would most probably be full of gawky onlookers wanting to take photos of koalas copulating. I’m sure that if you video-ed two koalas copulating, particularly in the fork of a gum tree, and you put it up on YouTube, you would go viral.

Nope. No mating season. No bonking koalas. It was just a regular Sunday night, and a standard double room would cost $130. So, I booked, somewhat regretfully.

We drove in and the motel, despite saying that it was ideally located, was actually about fifteen minutes walk into town. Twenty minutes if you’re a pilgrim and you’ve got a crook knee. It was ideally situated to Deepka’s Indian Restaurant next door, and Central Chinese  next door to that. It seemed we were in Gunnedah’s Restaurant Row.

Our motel room was cramped and right beside the highway. Eighteen wheelers rumbled past, trembling my cheeks. Both sets. The advertised flat-screen tv was on a drooping tilt, as though it had just had a stroke. The airconditioner, when you turned it on, sounded llke a Spitfire just about to take off from an aircraft carrier.

Did I say the room was cramped? Double bed, not Queen sized, but still  big enough to take up 85% of the floor area. The other 15% was not large enough to do a Downward Dog.

The bathroom: I’ve seen better bathrooms in municipal albergues where if you donated €5 for the night, you’d think you were being generous.

All this for the grand sum of $130.

Jennifer and I took a walk down towards the town. As we walked, I counted half a dozen other motels, all closer into the centre of the town, all with Vacancy signs out front. Why hadn’t they been on Booking.com and the other websites I checked?  I know why. They charge too much in commission.

Courthouse hotel

We found a pub and had our celebrated Spanish parmi, which lifted our spirits but lowered our stomachs. Then we walked back. I decided I would ask at one of the other motels what their prices were.

I spoke to Evan, who ran the Billabong Motel. Evan said his rooms were $99 a night. And he told us proudly that he had the cleanest rooms in Gunnedah. This presumably to clean out koala poo each morning.

We chatted to Evan, and it turned out he was a serious traveler himself. He said he never minded where he slept. It was only a bed. He always chose the cheapest place. Hostels and YMCAs. More money to spend on other things, like meals and transport, he said. And most times the cheapest places gave you the best experiences.

The cheapest places give you the best experiences. So true.

We looked at the Courthouse Hotel, which is where we had our celebrated Spanish Parmi. They had rooms. $45 a night, bathroom down the hall. That’s where we should have stayed. That would have been an experience.

Driving back to Mudgee, we saw cattle on “the long paddock.” The long paddock is a bushie term for the grass beside the road. Evidently the stockmen are moving the cattle some two and a half thousand kilometres from Queensland down to Victoria, to richer pastures. There were about 1200 cattle in 4 separate mobs.

Cattle on road

Now back in Mudgee – I reflect on the lessons learned. Don’t be afraid to just rock up to a town and wing it. I did that all the time on my Camino. I let my PGS guide me. There will always be a room. There will always be a bed.

Even in the Koala Capital of the World…

Koala sign

5 thoughts on “Lessons learned from the Koala Capital…

  1. Go to Phillip Island, Bill – it’s crawling with koalas and reasonably priced motels, and of course the very cute penguins. All you have to do is be prepared to share with lots of tourists trying to get out of the way of the pesky koalas!! Don’t know about Spanish Parmi and wilting salad, but you can’t have it all 🙂


    • I remember going to Phillip Island once with a tv producer who was a bike fanatic, and all he wanted to do was go see the Phillip Is racing.

      I remember the island as being very beautiful though – and yes, the penguins. Never saw any koalas though. They must scurry away and hide when they see me coming!!




  2. Bill –

    Sorry about the room experience!

    But I have to say that I am plain mystified why no rock band in Oz ever named themselves the “Bonking Koalas” – that would have been righteous, dude.

    Now that my 60’s youth is showing, it’s back to work.



    • haha – now THERE’S a name

      I think someone once made a very bad film about koalas that dropped from trees onto people’s heads and ate their brains out.

      Sadly I never got to see the film, however the concept has stayed with me and I am now always nervous when I walk under a gum tree



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