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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
We we are planning another bush walk / climb in a couple of weeks.
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.
So the route was through, Quirindi then on to Wallabadah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been promising myself for weeks to get up early and visit Surfers Paradise for some sunrise photos.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Barrington Tops, Merriwa and a host of even smaller places to arrive at Coolah where we will stay at the Black Stump Motel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On arrival at the car park we were surprised to find another three carloads of people also looking for the caves.
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.
Finding I had mobile phone signal I was able to call Donnis in Canada and show her a live 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.
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.
Sunday 30th July
Wow! Wow! Wow!
We drove from Coolah to Coonabarabran
where we had coffee at a newly opened, popular, funky coffee lounge called Feathers. Great coffee wonderful atmosphere, home style cakes etc.
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.
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.
We walked the steepest hardest part of the climb going up.
We are doubtful how we would have coped coming down such a challenging slope.
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.
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.
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.
From the caves we could see the Australian Observatory at Siding Springs. (no time for a visit on this trip)
The summit is 770m above sea level.
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.
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.
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.