Tag: Basalt Columns

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.    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-28/nsw-coroner-unable-to-find-cause-of-coonabarabran-bushfire/6809016

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.


501. Sunday 17th July 2016.Baking, Fingal Heads and Binna Burra…

I should have made a big deal out of last weeks post.After all, 500 posts is a milestone. Considering I do at least 52 posts in a year perhaps as many as 55, I have been writing this for more than 10 years. So, did I go and open a bottle of champagne and toast to the next ten years? No! Instead I had a cup of tea and two choccy biscuits.

Congratulations FrankieG.

Monday 11th July

Today was a mix of overcast and sunny.

What better day to do a bit of baking.

Zucchini Savoury Rice Muffins

Sultana Cake

Mini Baked Passionfruit Cheesecake Cups.   I had some left over Cream Cheese and some frozen passionfruit pulp and some oat cake biscuits and these were the main ingredients as well as caster sugar in the pantry and butter and an egg in the fridge.


My first cheesecake and it was so good.

In the afternoon I went crazy with the Magic Bullet blender. I put in spinach, cucumber, carrot, tomato, parsley, garlic and ginger.

Yechhh! It was so thick and pulpy and bitter. Perhaps I should have used a juicer but it still would have been bitter. I filtered the green mess and put the juice in the bullet and added a green apple. The pulp went into the garden. The taste? Better now that I added the apple but what am I going to do with the rest of the spinach. (It is not my idea of an enjoyable drink) Perhaps I can cook the spinach with a bit of ricotta cheese and make something tomorrow?


Wednesday 13th July

Today I drove over the border into NSW to have lunch with Errol, Nicole, Amelia and Hannah. It is their last day at Hastings Point before they head home to Wollongong. Before leaving Hastings Point we stopped at Lake Cudgen which is behind Cabarita Beach. For some reason the locals like to call it Cabarita Lake while locals at Cudgen call it Cudgen Lake. Go figure! It is a small lake which seems to be surrounded along the foreshore by Melaleuca forests (also known as Paperbark Trees) which are currently in flower.  On the lake and near shore is a thick growth of what appears to be a type of bulrush.

130716 cudgen
Cudgen Lake. At one stage big lumps of money were poured into creating resorts with jetty’s and designated swimming locations. All are now weathered and ready to collapse.
130716 cudgen1
The last remaining pieces of a jetty at Cudgen lake.

We drove along the coast towards Tweed Heads to have a little walk and lunch at Kingscliffe. After lunch the girls wanted to go back to the caravan park for kids club while Errol and Nicole opted for a spa.

This was my opportunity to look at Fingal Head (named after the Celtic God Fingal) which lies between the Tweed River and the sea. Once, all this area was part of the now extinct Tweed Volcano, where lava, flowing into the sea, cooled more quickly forming hexagonal shaped basalt columns.

130716 basalt
This is weathered example of basalt columns at Fingal Heads. The island in the Background is Cook Island, also columnular basalt. The island is named in honour of Captain James Cook who passed this way in 1770.
130716 basalt1
Basalt Column cliffs at Fingal Head. Almost the entire headland is made of these columns with an overlay of later lava which is itself overlaid with thin soil.
130716 cook
Cook island

The columns here are called the Giants Causeway.  Similar basalt columns around the world, such as in Ireland and the USA are also called the Giants causeway. Probably the most famous example of Columnar Basalt is Devils Tower in Wyoming USA. It was the often used setting and a part of the plot in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

Also located at Fingal Headland is an unmanned and automatic functioning  lighthouse which was built in 1879.

130716 lighthouse
Fingal Head Lighthouse.
130716 lighthouse1
Still operational, unmanned Fingal Head lighthouse with a Trig Point. Trig Point was erected in 1872. Trig Points are no longer used as GPS has made mapping and location pinpointing much more accurate.

Today the lighthouse out buildings and lighthouse keeper cottage are gone with only the foundations still intact. The lighthouse sits atop the steep basalt column cliffs and from here,  can be seen the Tweed River entrance, Tweed Heads and Coolangatta looking north along Fingal  Beach.

130716 fingal
Fingal Beach looking north to the entrance to the Tweed Rive, Tweed Heads and Coolangatta.

To the south lies the long expanse of Dreamtime Beach and the town of Kingscliffe. One of my favourite trees, the Pandanus

130716 dreamtime
Fingal Headland with the iconic Pandanus Trees looking south across Dreamtime Beach to Kingscliffe.
130716 dreamtime1
Pandanus and cliffs looking to Dreamtime Beach.

has a strong foothold on this weather and salt exposed headland where the only other plant in this area which flourishes are grasses.

Today, the medium sized swells were crashing against the vertical basalt columns and were probably the reason so many people were sitting on the rocks watching the sea. This would be a wonderful place to visit when the huge storm waves are battering the coast. Today a small pod of dolphins were cruising in the deep water just off the base of the cliffs.

In 2010 Donnis and I visited a similar basalt column area called Sawn Rocks in Mt Kaputar National Park near Narrabri in western NSW.

2010 sawn rocks
A fine example of mildly weathered hexagonal basalt columns.Mildly weathered in this case is a few million years give or take a few more million years but this example in Kaputar National Park, western NSW near Narrabri, known as Sawn Rocks has not been eroded by the salt ocean and pounding waves over milenium.
2010 sawn rocks1
Some of the columns have broken and fallen to the base of the cliffs. They really do look as though the rock has been “sawn”.

The features in this park are more visibly stark and pronounced as they are not subject to the same weathering and action of the sea as is the case here at Fingal Heads.

Strange clouds gave the Tweed Rive and the twin towns of Tweed Heads (NSW) and Coolangatta  (Qld)in the distance, a  brooding outlook.

130716 tweed
Looking along the expanse of the Tweed River with the towers of the twin towns of Tweed Heads (NSW) and Coolangatta (Qld)
130716 tweed1
A calm backwater f the Tweed River at a location known as Cave Point.

Thursday 14th July

Good friends Tony and Dawn arrived for an overnight stay before heading off to the Sunshine Coast tomorrow…for a holiday!

Friday 15th July

After Tony and Dawn left I also left for Binna Burra in the Lamington National Park on the Great Diving Range. Sister Enid and husband Ken have a weekend planned with friends to do a couple of walks in the rainforest. They are staying at Binna Burra Lodge.              http://www.binnaburralodge.com.au/

150716 lodge
Binna Burra Lodge.
150716 hut
Some of the slab sided cabins with shingle roofs.

I took an extra jacket as a precaution against the cold front moving in from NSW. Although I expected it to be cold I did not expect snow although snow was forecast for parts of NSW above 800 metres. Binna Burra is also 800 metres above sea level but it only snows here infrequently.

150716 birdhouse
This once delightful bid house has not seen birds in a long long time. The spiders have taken over.
150716 playground
This children’s playground has not been used by children in a long long time. I guess the spider webs which drove the birds away from the bird house also drove the children away.

The lodge was built in 1930 and has been added to over the years. The original buildings were of slab timber, roughly hewn with a cedar shingle roof. Rooms share facilities. The 40 Klm drive from the coast took almost an hour. The road is steep, winding and narrow. In some places it is one way only with blind corners.

150716 hill
Valley view along the road to Binna Burra.
150716 retrieval
The steep hillside is a great place to fly gliders. It is not such a great place if the glider crashes.

The old lodge has a separate accommodation of modern buildings with facilities. The new buildings do not blend in with nature and are a jarring counterpoint to the original buildings.

150716 view
The newer cabins do not blend into the hillside.

There is also a camp ground managed by the National Parks. I chose not to go on any of the walks as I have been suffering high blood pressure for a month including a constant headache for almost two weeks leaving me a bit light headed and at this altitude slightly out of breath.

I had a time of near panic when I realised my precious Panasonic Lumix FZ200 camera was missing. We had left the nearby barbecue and picnic grounds to drive to the lodge when I noticed the camera was missing. I drove back to the picnic grounds, retraced our steps but found no sign of the camera. I reported the loss to the teahouse then drove to the lodge to make the same report there. Sister Enid and friend Jack insisted we go back to the picnic grounds and have another look. I thought it was a waste of time as it was more likely anybody finding the camera would keep it. We split up looking at the toilet block, the barbecue pit and the picnic table. I heard Enid calling me that she had found the camera. It was a few metres away from the table where I had last placed it. The camera was on the ground beside a rock and its location was such that it would not be easily seen. We speculated the pesky thieving aggressive Scrub Turkey could have tried to take it. (earlier a turkey jumped up onto the barbecue table and stole a tub of butter Ken had placed there. He and Enid chased the turkey and managed to recover the butter but the turkey kept the lid) Perhaps. Once they found it was not food it would have been abandoned. Personally I think the camera and case was simply too heavy for a hungry turkey to carry. I am inclined to think there was some sort of human activity involved. Either way I was grateful we found the camera.

Be still my beating heart. Next time I will padlock the camera to my arm…

Just kidding