Tag: Gloucester

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

LOTS OF PHOTOS THIS WEEK.

Tuesday 25th July.

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

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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.

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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.

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High Rise at dawn

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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.

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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,

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The town of Gloucester nestled in the foothills of Barrington Tops.
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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.

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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.

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To exit Barrinton Tops this gate must be opened and closed by all traffic.
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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.

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Exiting Barrington Tops looking across the valley.
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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.

Sigh!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Coonabarabran once boasted a thriving rail service as did hundreds of outback towns. Sadly most have been closed for years.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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One of many tight steep places we had to follow.

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

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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.

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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.

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The Breadknife and Grand High Tops. Note the charred remains in trees in the foreground.
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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.

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Just one of dozens of caves on Belougery Split Rock. No doubt the caves are the results of air pockets in the lava.
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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)

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

The summit is 770m above sea level.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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