Month: August 2017

567. Sunday 20th August 2017. At home, painting, a dragon and a birthday boy…

Tuesday 15th August

Visited friends Ray & Lynne here in the village. They have built a Bali like garden, complete with a line of fruiting banana palms as a quiet place in their back yard. A number of bird species visits their retreat including the never still Sunbird who come into the yard looking for nectar and insects. Also constant visitors are a number of Australian Water Dragons.

150817 dragon
Australian Water Dragon is at home on the garden furniture.

Those dragons have a diet of small insects such as ants, spiders, crickets, snails and caterpillars. When they get bigger, so does their prey. An adult includes small rodents such as baby mice in their diet, although insects are still most commonly consumed.

150817 dragon2
An almost imperceptible breath or heartbeat shows these are alive and not a rubber copy.

The dragons also like being hand fed bacon or raw mince meat. They will sit for hours just for hours, looking like a carving while waiting for something to eat. Ray really does have them eating out of his hand. They are beautiful stately creatures and contrary to some beliefs they make ideal pets around the home…outside of course. Although, if you have an ant or spider problem inside, these guys will take care of it.

150817 dragon1
Getting upclose and personal. They are lovely to look at.
150817 dragon3
So close my camera beeped that I need to change to Macro and manual focus.

Saturday 19th August

It has been a quiet week apart from doing a bit of gardening, riding the bike and staying up to date with doctor, optometrist and audiologist appointments.

Today we drove to Brisbane for a 13th birthday party for grandson Chris. Chris had a couple of friend, two grandmothers and three aunts to help him celebrate.

Chris has been chosen to receive specialist Rugby League training clinics conducted by the Brisbane Broncos over a four week period in September. This is a programme set up by the Bronco’s to select potential young players. If he shows he has talent, ability and apptitude in the training session he will  then be invited to further training including social skills, money management and alcohol and drug avoidance guidlines. If he is chosen he then becomes a part of a young Broncos training scheme with assistance for schooling and further education. Chris is talented and I hope he has the focus to work with the talent.

190817 birthday
Happy birthday Chris. You look tired from all that celebrating and or football training.

Sunday 20th August.

At last, at last, at last. We started painting the interior of the house today. We bought paint from Masters Hardware a few days before they closed for good on 11th December last year. The paint has been sitting quietly waiting for us to get started. There have been a few times the pain cans have whispered to me but for the most part they have just sat in the corner while the lids have begun to show signs of early rust. Well today was the day we opened up a can of ceiling paint which goes on pink and dries white. Great stuff except I thought the pink colour would stay pink a while longer. Today we started painting the cornices in preparation to rolling out the ceiling. Tomorrow we tackle the lounge room, dining, kitchen and the master bedroom and all going well start rolling the ceiling.

That has been our week.



566. Sunday 13th August 2017. Donnis is home, Nuff said…

Monday 7th August

A big day starting with a 4.30am start.

I left for Brisbane Airport about 5.45 am and was not surprised by the volume of traffic on the M1. As I got closer to Beenleigh the traffic grew heavier and the speed limit if 110 Kph was down to 100 Kph. Crossing the Logan River where the official speed limit is 100 Kph.  I was soon jolted to a slow 90 then 80 and soon the traffic stopped and started until I was past the Springwood exit when suddenly the speed jumped to100 Kph and the numbers of cars reduced. Once joining the airport exit the stop start began again but soon it was back to a cruising 100 Kph. Despite the stop start and changing speeds I still managed to get to the airport at 7am and stopped for breakfast at McDonalds. I watched Donnis Air Canada plane arrive, on time, via my Samsung A3 with the FlightRadar24 App. Hmmm! The plane sat on the tarmac for 17 minutes before taxiing to the terminal. What was that all about?

Collected Donnis and she explained that 4 hours into the 17 hour flight the man in the seat behind Donnis projectile vomited at least 4 times during the flight. The plane sat in isolation on arrival while health officials boarded the plane and took the man for questioning. He claimed it must have been the tomato sauce on the past the airline served him. Nobody else got sick.

Next the cabin and passengers were sprayed with disinfectant, seat covers removed, toilet bowl was removed before the plane was allowed to taxi to the terminal and passengers could disembark. Donnis commented that the man was dry heaving during the flight and he could be heard throwing up in the bathroom. There was no sleep for passengers and it was a bad flight.

090817 crane
A big block of units were being built next door. They are finally dismantling the huge crane. The biggest crane in Oz was called in to take down the pieces.
090817 crane1
First job is to remove all the heavy concrete counterweights. These men are waiting for the hook to remove each weight, one by one. Firts they had to find a way to remove and relocate a huge eagles nest which was home for a family for the last four months.

Wednesday 9th August

Tonight we attended a Wine & Cheese night at our clubhouse where the dress was Black and White. Had a wonderful night of good company, cheeses and other accompaniments, wine and then we played some good ole Rock n Roll (and some Line Dancing) and the dance floor got crowded. A great night enjoyed by all.


The rest of the week has been quiet with Optometrist, Doctor and Hearing appointments as well as a walk along the beach getting back into a routine…of sorts..

090817 pelican
This Pelican was following a fisherman on the beach. The tourist with the camera kept getting in his way.

090817 pelican1090817 pelican2090817 pelican3

090817 shoes
Busloads of Asian tourists arrive at the beach daily. They take off their shoes here then run into the surf and get wet fully clothed. They have fun.

We we are planning another bush walk / climb in a couple of weeks.


565. Sunday 6th August 2017. Looking for a big rock…

Monday 31st July

Today we leave Coonabarabran and head back to Port Macquarie via a different route. As the route would take us through Gunnedah we thought we would catch up with Tony’s brother but he had appointments which could not be broken. We also planned to catch up with my nephew Grant but we could not reach him either.

310717 sunrise
Sunrise and on our way from Coonabarabran to Gunnedah.

So the route was through, Quirindi then on to Wallabadah.

310717 wallabadah
Clear flowing water at Wallabadah Creek.

Tony wanted to explore Wallabadah Rock or as it is also known “Rocks”. It seems this “rock is classified as the second largest monolith in the southern hemisphere. A quick Google search reveals there are several locations with rocks claiming to be the biggest or second biggest monolith in Australia. Semantics on how monoliths were formed etc aside, Wallabadah Rocks does win the title of second largest despite grudging acceptance by other contenders. Wallabadah Rocks is located entirely on private property. There is no National Park boundary within cooee so entry is by invitation only. Once more, Google came to the rescue, this time via Google Maps.

310717 farm
No sense stopping at this Chilcott Creek farmhouse for directions. The sign said Keep Out. Love the old fireplace chimney though. Corrugated iron chimneys were common in the early days of opening up of land and building a house.

It got us to within a few Klms of the location but once again we came up against private property. Tony was able to throw around a few names of people he knew when he lived in the area. The farmer gave us permission to enter his property and general directions on how to reach a nearby hill from where we could get a good view.

310717 rock
Wallabadah Rock (or Rocks depending on your location.

The Prado got us as far as it was possible to go before new growth, fallen trees, rocks, creek crossings and thick bush told us we had reached the end of the line.

310717 car
Come on Tony just a little bit further. A little bit further is about all we could take the car. From here it was up up up, boulder strewn, fallen trees and gullies. The Prado took us as far as it was able

Even hiking as far as we could go would still only give us a view of the monolith. There would be no hiking on Wallabadah Rocks today. The rainforests that snake up Wallabadah’s weather-formed gullies have never been studied by biologists, and earth scientists have only recently dated the plug of the extinct volcano at 45.5 million years. The rock would have been formed from molten material that cooled in the throat of the volcano. Still it was fun 4 wheel driving through the cattle property.

310717 rock3
Wallabadah Rock. It looks like sheer cliffs.
310717 rock2
Zoom in for a closer look. Those rock faces are actually millions of barrel size rocks. Very similar to the rock faces we saw at Bundellah Lookout on Coolah Tops which I wrote about last week. Not surprising they look similar. Although they are about 150 Klms apart as they crow flys they are both part of a chain of ancient volcanoes.
310717 rock1
Volcanic Erruptions in this area was 33 – 45 million years ago, The volcanic structures in Coolah Tops last errupted in that same time period as they are both part of the multiple volcanoes in the Liverpool Range.

Leaving the farm we joined the New England Highway near Murrurundi after driving along a back road – Chilcotts Creek Road – serving farms in the area. We continued to Singleton where once again we struck out through back roads, joining the Pacific Highway near Taree and on to Port Macquarie. It was a long day of driving having left Coonabarabran at 8.30am and arriving at Port Macquarie by 8.30 pm.


564. Sunday 30th July 2017. Surfers Sunrise, Barrington Tops, Coolah Tops and Warrumbungle climb…


Tuesday 25th July.

I have been promising myself for weeks to get up early and visit Surfers Paradise for some sunrise photos.

250717 ship
Sunrise Surfers Paradise

Every morning I wake around 7am because I am warm and cosy under the doona. Why get out of a warm bed to go to the beach? For some reason I woke at 4.30 am and was unable to get back to sleep despite the aforementioned warm and cosy. I dressed quickly. It was still dark and the temperature was 7 degrees. My clothes felt like they were frozen.

250717 morning
The sand pumping ship as Surfers paradise.

Down at the beach the sun knew I was waiting, freezing, despite warm clothes, a beanie (a Tuk actually) and snow gloves. Good old Sol hid behind horizon cloud so I would stay chilled.

250717 surfers
High Rise at dawn

250717 surfers1

Eventually I realised it was a choice of waiting for the sun to rise above the cloud and be chilled to the marrow or hightailing it back to the car with the heater turned on. Hightailing won.

250717 tower
Dawn breaks

Thursday 27th July

After a Social Club Committee meeting I was on the road by 10am. Google Maps, as always tells me it is a 6 hour drive to Port Macquarie. Stopped just south of Grafton for some lunch which I had packed before leaving. Google Maps does not know about the roadworks which are ongoing all the way from Ballina to Port Macquarie a distance of 376 Klms. In only a few places do speed limits of 100 or 110 Klm PH apply. The rest is 80, 60, 50 (through small towns) and 40 Klm PH in School zones. I arrived at Port Macquarie at 5pm and will stay with Tony tonight then we begin our boy’s road trip in the morning.

Friday 28th July

Tony suggested we take a scenic drive through Gloucester,

280717 gloucester
The town of Gloucester nestled in the foothills of Barrington Tops.
280717 sign
Stopped at Gloucester for a coffee. In one short block Gloucester had seven coffee shops.

Barrington Tops, Merriwa and a host of even smaller places to arrive at Coolah where we will stay at the Black Stump Motel.

280717 motel
The Black Stump Motel. Despite having booked two days previously and they were expecting us it took 10 minutes for somebody to show up at the office. Next day another couple arrived and were ringing the bells and nobody came, I suggested they get a cut lunch while waiting. Eventually staff did arrive. Once upon a time the end of civilisation was here in Coolah. Land grants did not extend any further west than here. In those early days some grants of land were descrided as being within a certain distance of a “black stump”. Therefore reference to a place being remote it is called beyond the Black Stump. Coolah trades on the name at many shops.

It is an average motel by good motel standards but is average by average standards. No meals. No breakfast but they do point the way to the hotel 200m up the road.

The trip up, through and over Barrington Tops was an experience. It was about 60 Klms of mostly well graded gravel road, narrow in places with several cattle grids and one very large gate to be opened to leave the park.

280717 gate
To exit Barrinton Tops this gate must be opened and closed by all traffic.
280717 barrington2
After exiting the Barrington Tops Tony waits for me, the gate closer, while parked near a very steep hill around 1,000M above sea level.

At a height of 1,500m above sea level it is quite high in the clouds. It is thickly timbered. It was very windy and cold. It snowed here three weeks ago and some of the cloud looked threatening enough to bring on snow.

It didn’t.

The narrow almost single lane along a steep ridge line wound around and down offering spectacular views across the valley and on to the next part of the Great Dividing Range.

280717 barrington
Exiting Barrington Tops looking across the valley.
280717 barrington1
The slow steep descent frpm Barrinton Tops to Copeland along a narrow, winding gravel track.

There are many options of adventure in the park but we had no time to stop and look. Our first stop was Gloucester which owes its fortune to timber cutting and sheep grazing. We only had time to pick up a coffee and get on the road again and next big town was Scone where we stopped for a quick lunch. The entire trip today has passed through some wonderful country leaving the way open for future visits.

Saturday 29th July

The temperature dropped down to zero overnight. Tony had left a damp chamois in the car overnight and it was frozen this morning.

I travelled over 1,000 Klms to find an example of horizontal Basalt Columns. No, we did not find them as they were even further away. Next on the list was Lava Caves. Again not found as National Parks no longer maintains a trail or even advertises the caves. Also, not found were some basalt columns from which 200 core sample were drilled in 2011. Those core sample confirmed the last magnetic pole reversal occurred some 40 million years ago. I had packed a detailed list of how to find these locations but left them in the motel.


We drove to Coolah Tops National Park which is mostl;y about 1,000m above sea level. There are lots of campgrounds inside the park, one cabin built in 1937 set in what can only be described as an alpine pasture.

290717 hut
Brackens Cottage built 1937 and set up for serious hikers. It contains 5 spring bed bases, a rough wooden table and bench seating and the biggest indoor fireplace I have ever seen.

Several kangaroos were grazing nearby. On the drive up the steep winding gravel road to the park saw lots of birdlife, flocks of goats, a fox, kangaroos and a wombat.

The plan today, after not finding the caves and columns was to look for The Pinnacle Lookout near which was supposed to be an ill- defined track to take us to the basalt columns and lava caves. Naturally in situations like this where we left the mud map back at the motel we took a wrong hiking trail. After an hour of walking with no sign of our objective we turned back.

290717 gums
I believe these are Snow Gums but they may be Ghost Gums. Maybe an eagle eyed arborist can tell us which one they are.

On arrival at the car park we were surprised to find another three carloads of people also looking for the caves.

290717 liverpool
Bundella Lookout looking across at ancient volcanic craters and plugs in the distance of the Liverpool Plains, breadbasket of NSW wheat growing.

This time we found the Pinnacle Lookout which basically is a rock formation with sheer 300 metre walls jutting out over a valley. In places the rough track was little more than a metre wide with the rock edge showing the fall to the valley floor below. There are no fences or safety barriers here. While Tony managed to carefully walk as far as possible and sit on a convenient rock I took photos.

290717 pinnacle1
My friend Tony sits on a rock at the edge of The Pinnacle with a steep 300m drop on three sides.

Finding I had mobile phone signal I was able to call Donnis in Canada and show her a live video of our location.

290717 pinnacle
Tony returning from his perch on The Pinnacle. It was at this stage I discovered I had phone signal so called Donnis in Canda and showed her video of our location.

The Pinnacle is not a hike for the faint hearted or those nervous of heights. That said, the view of the surrounding countryside, which is all volcanic in origin, combined with the precipice all around made for a breathtaking view of the Liverpool Plains. Being so close to the drop off was also breathtaking.

Next we looked for the trail to the lava caves. NSW National Parks is not promoting the caves so there are no signs or notices to tell you how to get there. The other groups of people had no luck either despite scrambling over steep rock falls and thickly wooded hillsides and steep cliffs.

We took a long walk to Norfolk Falls which at this time of year has no water flowing except for small amount which was still loud enough show where it was located. The track was 500 steps down to a viewing platform. The 500 steps climbing back up was tiring.

290717 camp
Well set up camp at Cox’s Creek where we expected to see Basalt Columns. Later we found out the waterfall (where there was no water) runs over the columns. Pity we did not search a bit further.

All up we hiked for about 4 hours today. We were so glad to get out boots off when we arrived back at the Black Stump.

290717 telegraph
These are original telegraph lines which once upon a time were the only “modern” means of communicating in the outback.

Sunday 30th July

Wow! Wow! Wow!

We drove from Coolah to Coonabarabran

300717 coonabarabran
Coonabarabran once boasted a thriving rail service as did hundreds of outback towns. Sadly most have been closed for years.
300717 baker
many old stores in Coonabarabran are empty and abandonned. Most businesses are confined to the main street and a few metres down a few side streets. That said the most amazing ornate Chinese Restaurant with the biggest menu choices is right here.
300717 coonabarabran1
Bakery door at Coonabarabran.

where we had coffee at a newly opened, popular, funky coffee lounge called Feathers. Great coffee wonderful atmosphere, home style cakes etc.

From there we drove out to the Warrumbungles a range of extinct volcanic plugs, sometimes called “jumpups”. The Warrumbungles suffered a devastating bush fire in 2013.

The fire destroyed much of the National Park, destroyed farms and homes and even threatened Coonabarabran and the Siding Springs Observatory. It has taken a couple of years but new growth is taking over but evidence of the fire is still very much prevalent. The huge steep rocky plugs are part of the Warrumbungle National Park and several steep walks are available mostly for the experienced, fit, fearless and may I say foolhardy hikers. Naturally Tony and I can be described by at least one of those descriptions. We therefore chose the steepest climb called Belougery Split Rock walking track and did it in the reverse direction.

300717 split
Belougery Split Rock. Or challenge for the next 3.5 hours.

Split Rock was formed by volcanic activity about 70 million years ago. The volcano erupted through  a base of sandstone rock. The resulting dome of molten rock bubbled up to the surface clogging the source vent creating the Split Rock. Looking back we think that was a wise decision by error.

300717 goats
These wild “mountain” goats are ideally camoflouged to hide in the rocks. We disturbed the entire flock of about a dozen goats within 30 metres of starting our hike. A big male with black wool was always last, ensuring the herd was safely moved before he joined them.

We walked the steepest hardest part of the climb going up.

300717 track
One of many tight steep places we had to follow.

We are doubtful how we would have coped coming down such a challenging slope.

300717 resting
Not only resting but this was the point we shook hands and agreed to continue the hike as going back was now out of the question.

The distance was shown as 4.6 Klms and to allow 2.5 to 3.5 hours. It is assessed as a Grade 4 in the Australian Walking Track standard which has a maximum of 5 grades. We did it in 3.5 hours and were totally exhausted with sore muscles and aching joints. The views, when we had time to take our eyes off the rock track, were stunning.

300717 split1
Getting closer but the track moved up and away and around the split.

Climbing up rock faces we could not see how steep the climb was until we stopped for water, a breather and photos.

Once on the peak we were able to see the surrounding valleys and other volcanic plugs.

300717 breadknife
The Breadknife and Grand High Tops. Note the charred remains in trees in the foreground.
300717 bluff
Bluff Mountain in the Warrumbungle Ranges

We also saw the steep drop offs we had to climb down. We needed to be careful where we put our feet while at the same time we were using a hiking pole, it also had to be carefully placed. Some sections were very steep and difficult to climb from one level to another. Other sections were over steep, slippery open rock faces some as much as 10 metres tall. Even climbing up to some caves above the track where we stopped for an apple and a drink was a challenge in itself.

300717 cave
Just one of dozens of caves on Belougery Split Rock. No doubt the caves are the results of air pockets in the lava.
300717 cave1
Tony wonders how to climb the two metre ledge to the caves.

From the caves we could see the Australian Observatory at Siding Springs. (no time for a visit on this trip)

300717 telescope
From the caves we were able to see Siding Springs Observatory.

The summit is 770m above sea level.

300717 down
We have finally reached the summit where we look down into the split.

Coming down some of the steep sections which were over smooth volcanic rock my knees would tremble with the sheer effort of maintaining control. We were oh so glad to finally reach a reasonably flat, obstacle free walking track leading back to the carpark.

300717 finish
We were ever so pleased to find this sign at the end of our walk as we came along the track in the background. I did commence this walk, alone, in 2012 but had to stop due the heat in October and the only person in the area. The slippery rock surfaces and steep incline could lead to accidents.

For the last 800 m we talked about wanting a cold Solo Lemon drink. Tony had some in his Waeco Fridge. By the time we reached the car our clothes were drenched in sweat.

300717 caves
Belougery Split Rock is dotted with dozens of caves.

Tonight we went to an ornate Chinese Restaurant in Coonabarabran. A wonderful dinner with a couple of beers and we will sleep well after two days of tough physical activity. Considering the trip was only planned on Monday this week it has all come together perfectly. Yesterday we had stunning clear blue cloudless skies. Today was overcast and a chill breeze cruising through the valleys. It needed to be cooler for our hike.

Looking forward to next year when we try some of the other hikes.