Archive for October, 2012

279. Sunday 28th October 2012. From Coonabarabran to Gunnedah, Tamworth, Armidale and finally, Guyra…

29/10/2012

Monday 22nd October

Domestic duties was the order of the day. That and a bit of relaxing and doing nothing. No sightseeing. No gathering information about Coonabarabran.

Tuesday 23rd October

Last night I missed what I thought was the first episode of Series 23 of The Amazing Race. This morning I discovered I have missed the first three episodes! I spent the morning watching the missed episodes by downloading on the laptop. I will probably regret this action as the download of those files impacts on my monthly download allowance.

Other than watching those episodes today was much like yesterday although I topped up the fresh water tank and prepared for a travel day tomorrow.

Wednesday 24th October

After a morning of ensuring all batteries were re-charged I called in to say good-bye to Aunt Maude and after topping up with diesel I was on my way by 2pm. The trip via the Oxley Highway to Gunnedah was interesting as the hilly, thickly wooded countryside soon gave way to longer rolling hills and then flat grazing and wheat fields. The deep red outback type soil turned to a sort of yellowish orange soil and then a grey and finally black soil the closer I came to Gunnedah. The flat landscape is dotted with pyramid shaped hills, some worn more than others. These are the remnants of old volcanic plugs possibly much older than the volcanic plugs in the Warrumbungles 150 Klms to the west. Originally I drove through the town and planned to camp about 13 klms on the Tamworth road at a place called Red Bank. After a bit of on-line research I found the Council operated campground at the Showgrounds, after being closed since November 2011 were re-opened in August this year. The decision to close was not appreciated by members of the travelling public especially as the cost was $12 per night compared to $31 per night at the caravan park. It seems Gunnedah has found a new lease on life with coal being mined nearby and suddenly the town is feeling the wealth. The caravan park can charge whatever it feels because it is filled with mine workers. As with many mines these days, workers are fly in fly out so they do not spend much money in the town. Certainly they do not spend their money at the places travellers spend their money. Lots of politics came into play but as travellers by-passed the town in a sort of grey nomad wave of protest it seems local shops noticed sales were down and pressure was put on council to entice travellers back. It seems odd that the town is classed as RV Friendly but council went out of its way to make it RV Unfriendly for a while.

High on a hill on the western approach to Gunnedah, The Bureau of Meteorology operates a weather radar and other weather collection data installations.

The railway line is 200 metres from camp and I sure hope the trains settle down for the night.

Thursday 25th October

Some time after I crawled into my doona cocoon for the night the noise (grunting, shunting, rattling clanking, banging, whooshing of empty one way full the other way coal trains) from the railway line must have stopped as I fell asleep and woke this morning to the relative quiet of the highway. It is interesting to note that passenger and freight train lines were closed  some years ago but with the re-opening of the mines the freight line has been re-opened. One hundred klms to the west, the railway line to and through Coonabarabran is closed.

The author of the Australian poem, My Country, was Dorothea McKellar, who lived much of her life in the Gunnedah District.

Dorothea McKellar, famed poet and accomplished horsewoman, faithful to the custom of the day, rode sidesaddle.

http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/

Most Australians would only know the second stanza of the poem which begins…I love a sunburnt country… In fact that is the stanza I know and although I was aware there was more to the poem I have no idea what the other stanzas are. The full poem, subject to copyright is shown at the above official website. I visited a sculpture of Dorothea in the Anzac Memorial Park.

Another person with a passing link to Gunnedah was Breaker Morant the soldier sentenced to death by Lord Kitchener during the Boer War. There is a sports park in town which to me is strangely named Kitchener Park but even more strange is the park internal roadway is called Breaker Morant Drive.

A full history of Breaker Morant can be found here   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaker_Morant

Gunnedah calls itself the Koala Capital of Australia but I have seen many Koala’s  in the last 12 months so did not feel like paying money to see them again.

On the western entrance to town is Pensioner Hill. The legend goes that about the time of WWI pensioners built humpies on the hill and many lived there until they and or their offspring were eventually re-located by council some years later. I understand the last three humpies were still occupied on the hill sometime in the 1960’s.

On Pensioner Hill you can follow the yellow brick path to the lookout. The path winds through native gardens and sandstone sculptures.

Well look at this. Frank has found another trig.

Gunnedah seen from the lookout at Pensioners Hill.

I even found the Commercial Bank of Australia building, now a solicitors office.

Wonderful old Town Hall building undergoing restoration.

On the eastern side of town is Porcupine Hill, so named not because of the animal but because of the Porcupine Grass found in pockets near the top of the hill. Some remnant rainforest trees and plants are also found in pockets on the hill and according to the scientists the grass points to a time when this area was even drier than it is now. The rainforest points to a time when the area was much wetter than it is now. See   http://www.visitnsw.com/destinations/country-nsw/tamworth-area/gunnedah/attractions/porcupine-lookout

(I somehow doubt the explanation for the name as being aboriginal as porcupines do not exist in Australia)

The lookout gives views across the Liverpool Plains to the horizon.

Looking east across the Liverpool Plains from the Porcupine Hill Lookout.

The people camped beside me are in town with their portable ice skating rink. They have two rinks which they pack into containers. The other is still in Forbes. It takes four days to set up and four days to dismantle and they usually stay in towns for 5 weekends before looking for their next town. They say they have packed rinks every weekend and almost all the patrons are children and teenagers. They supply figure skates as part of the admission price. The whole operation is run by two people except for setup and packdown when they hire a local labourer. Naturally they are popular wherever they go in the outback towns as most people have never been ice skating and the novelty lasts for 5 weeks… enough to make their money and move on to the next town.

I took a walk around the main shopping centre and found a number of empty shops with for sale or for lease signs in the windows. Regardless of the closed shops, the town looks busy, healthy and prosperous.

Friday 26th October.

Before leaving Gunnedah I went for a coffee and was stopped in the street by a young Aboriginal man. He is a member of the Kalimaroi tribe who once roamed these plains, their ancestral tribal lands extends from near Coonabarabran to Tamworth and lands to the north and south. The tribe totem is the Red Kangaroo and he is not allowed to kill or eat any part of that animal. His dream is to have a rig like ours so he and his wife can travel and see the coast of Australia. Although he is a Kalimaroi man and their tribal lands extend almost to Coona, when questioned he admitted he had never been to the Sandstone Caves less than an hour drive from his home. The caves are in another tribal land influence and he cannot go there to a sacred place unless invited and accompanied by tribal elders. Yet I was able to visit alone.

Packed up and drove the long and arduous 73 klm to Tamworth along the Oxley Highway. Tonight I am again in a caravan park and will stay here tomorrow night as well. The drive was through flat countryside dotted with the golden grain, wheat almost ready for harvest. The ground looks very dry and it is hot outside. Also dotted around the distance are those pyramid shaped hills. Given they are the remnants of long ago volcanic plugs, could this flat expanse of land be the long ago bottom of a caldera long since worn down by time and the elements?

For lunch today I had dry SAO crackers with Swiss cheese, roasted capsicum, fresh tomato slices, cracked pepper and salt. I was reminded that as a child mum always took a big supply of SAO when we went camping. As kids we made our own lunch consisting of SAO as a base with a slice of Kraft Cheddar Cheese, a slice of Garlic sausage and topped with tomato and pepper n salt. I cannot seem to find Garlic sausage in the Deli anymore. Does anybody else remember the wonderful garlic sausage or in second place the Devon sausage?

Saturday 27th October

In the morning I took a walk around several of the main streets which form the shopping district of Tamworth.

Peel Street, the main shopping street in Tamworth.

The main shopping and business precinct of Tamworth seen from Lookout Hill.

From the poorer end of Peel Street is the Courthouse Hotel.

 

Old post box found at the Tamworth Electric Light Company.

Old Rail Bridge across the Peel River. No longer in use.

 

I was surprised I could not find any of the old bank buildings. Perhaps they have been facaded so they no longer look like a bank. I also took a drive to the top of Lookout Hill and then across town to The Golden Guitar Country Music Museum. All very interesting but did I want to pay an admission fee to see wax facsimiles of country music singers all the while with Slim Dusty singing about the lights on the hill in the background? I think not. Instead I used the admission price to go to the movies tonight. Tamworth is a big busy inland city best known as the Country Music Capitol of Australia. The annual music awards are held here the week of the Australia Day Awards and holiday, 26th January. Although I saw a few shops closed and empty, the city is alive, vibrant and seemingly wealthy.

The Big Golden Guitar Tourist Centre.

The Tamworth Country Music Hall of Fame building. Well cared for and maintained.

 

The crumbling and dirty old Regent Theatre is also used by the Country Music Awards to display awards, memorabillia and even used as a music venue during the awards week.

The Peel River runs through the main business precinct of Tamworth. Within less than 1 klm of the city shopping centre the river runs through rural properties and older areas of the city.

 

Older run down houses seem to dominate in the rural outskirts of the city.

Less than 1 klm from the CBD on the banks of the Peel River are about a dozen of these structures. They do not seem to be abandoned but I could not establish what they are used for.

 

Sunday 28th October.

Today I drove the Oxley Highway through the small historical towns of Bendemeer and Uralla. Most of the trip was climbing through the Moombi Mountains Range and on the other side the air became thick with smoke from bushfires. The delightful New England city of Armidale is on the slopes around the Dumaresq River and it was here that I turned off on the New England Highway and started the climb into the mountains and over the notorious Devils Pinch on Black Mountain. I arrived in Guyra for lunch and soon discovered that outside the air conditioned comfort of WWWGO it was windy and cold. (fellow travellers warned me it will be cold in Guyra, even in summer) I needed my warm jacket once more.

WWWGO beside Mother of Ducks lagoon at Guyra.

Guyra is 1330 m above sea level, 500 m higher than Mt.Beauty (where I left from a month ago) and 500 m lower than Mt.Bogong. It can snow at any time of year in Guyra and nearby Black Mountain. Since leaving Mt.Beauty on 26th September, WWWGO has travelled 1,400 klms winding through south, central and north western NSW. That equates to only 45 klms of travel each day! I have gone from the cool/cold mountains across dry and arid plains to cool/cold mountains again. It last snowed in Guyra two weeks ago.

It seems the higher the altitude combined with colder climate, lichens have a tendency to grow on anything which does not move. This magnificent old tree beside the lagoon supports a huge lichen colony.

Viewing platform at the Mother of Ducks lagoon, Guyra.

 

Unusual sights department. A typical home made motorhome with a not so typical home made slideout.

By sundown the temp had plummeted and an even colder wind blew up. All I can do is hunker down for the night within my doona cocoon.

278. Sunday 21st October 2012. Dubbo through to The Warrumbungles to Coonabarabran and hugely changing countryside…

21/10/2012

Monday 15th October

Apart from spending a good part of my day at the Western Plains Zoo I re-visited the freedom camp site at Terramungamine with the intention of finding the aboriginal rock grooves. As it turns out they were reasonably easy to find but badly signposted. Not one sign anywhere along the highway, the turnoff to the campsite or the campsite itself. In the end I just walked along a track beside the river and found a sign at the site.

Duuuh!

The one and only sign at the site of the Aboriginal weapon and tool making groove site.

I drove all this way and searched for the site to find The Grooves.

Perhaps the National Parks people are trying to keep visitor numbers down and quite frankly once at the site there is very little to see.

On the return trip to Dubbo I saw a set of satellite dishes on a hilltop. Although it looks impressive it seems it belongs to a little known rural telecommunications company.

Telecommunications array.

Tuesday 16th October

In the morning I drove in TERIOS to Wellington about 50 Klm from Dubbo. Wellington is another Heritage listed town but regrettably I was running out of time to explore.

Interesting but weird sculpture at the entrance to the Wellington Caves road.

Closeup of a part of the sculpture. It reminds me of a creature from the movie, Day of the Triffids.

Interesting but not weird tree also at the entrance to Wellington Caves road.

The mission today was to visit Wellington Caves.

Fibreglass Diprodoton, the skeleton of which was found in Wellington Caves.

These are unusual caves in that they are privately owned and operated and at one stage a phosphate mine was undertaken.

Entrance to the phosphate mine below the original opening to a limestone cave above.

The caves and mine contain many bones including that of a Diprotodon a huge car sized ancient relative of the Wombat. I only had time to visit the mine tour from which I learned that the phosphate (bat guano from a million years ago) was intermixed with limestone and as a result was somewhat low grade. The guide had no idea why there were such extensive tunnels in the hillside if such low grade product was virtually useless. What were the miners doing underground 100 years ago? The mine and caves were closed for 80 years and only re-opened to the public this century.

The skeleton of another animal, Thylacoleo, a Marsupial Lion were found in this mine.

Plaster model skeleton of the Marsupial Lion found in the mine.

On the way back to Dubbo I diverted onto a gravel road to Ponto Falls expecting to see umm err a waterfall or two. I arrived at a section of the Macquarie River where the river widened and rushed across a shallow section canoeists call a “gravel race”. It was by any standards a low grade gravel race. I was disappointed there was no waterfall.

Tonight while washing up in the camp kitchen I was approached by a strange man wearing a fishing jacket. Instead of fish hooks, lures, sinkers and other fishy stuff this man had several mobile phones (one for Australia, one for incoming Indonesian calls, one for outgoing Indonesian calls, another phone for Malaysia and so on), his glasses, pens, scissors, notepads, bulldog clips and all connected to his jacket with neck straps. He claimed to be a Christian healer and travels overseas curing people from such things as cancer, broken bones, sleeplessness, hatred or anything else he could think about on the spur of the moment. The other people in the kitchen beat a hasty retreat leaving me with my arms in suds at the mercy of the healer.

Dubbo and Wellington have lots of interesting natural and other attractions just waiting for me to explore. Regrettably I am moving further north so I will have to explore another time.

Wednesday 17th October

While it is fresh in my mind I want to give a pat on the back to the Dubbo City Holiday Park. Yes it has some items which need attention but overall the experience was good. As I do not usually stay in van parks I should mention this is the first park, ever, which provides a full level concrete pad. Not just a half pad to use as a flat space for an awning or annexe but a full pad to park on and still have awning/annexe space. Each space is separated by small trees or shrubs. Not totally private but enough to delineate space and provide some shade. They also provide a good clean well equipped camp kitchen which has and enclosed section for inclement weather and an outdoor section for good weather. There is a Sunday night happy hour with a sausage sizzle and a musician. They also have a car/caravan washing facility beside a dump point. They are also the cheapest in town.

I left Dubbo this morning with mixed feelings. On the one hand I wanted to stay and explore the area and the many natural attractions it has to offer. On the other hand I do need to get further north and I do want to see The Warrumbungles.   (http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks/parkhome.aspx?id=N0035)

I arrived in Gilgandra for coffee and after weighing up the attractions to visit I decided to travel another 90 klms to Coonabarabran and a further 35 klms to Warrumbungle National Park.

WWWGO in camp at Warrumbungle NP.

The Warrumbungles is an area of former volcanic activity and is well known for fossil finds. Interestingly the drive from Coonabarabran through a delightful valley showed many small backyard telescopes. These scopes are owned by amateur star gazers, dedicated scientists who sometimes work from home and individuals who offer public access…for a price. I booked into a powered site inside the park and settled in for the night.

The trip from Gilly to Coona showed a marked change in the countryside. From flat plains to long gently rolling hills to increasing ranges and finally out to The Warrumbungles and the short steep hills and mountain ranges had WWWGO back to 2nd gear at times.

Thursday 18th October

This morning I set out with the best of intentions to walk around Split Rock, a massive monolith visible from many places throughout the park.

Split Rock.

I wore I long sleeved shirt and carried lots of water and a broad brimmed hat. Within 30 minutes the 34° heat and loose rocky, steep pathway slowed me considerably. Either I was dehydrated or my hypertension was kicking in but I felt unwell and discretion is the better part of valour so I slowly walked back to the car-park.

I met this mother Kangaroo with Joey on the path from Split Rock.

From White Gum Lookout I was able to identify the grouped trio of landmarks with Crater Bluff on the left, Belougrey Spire in the middle and The Breadknife on the right.

Belougery Spire

Next on the list was the Siding Springs Telescope something I have wanted to see for a number of years.

Siding Springs telescope seen from the campsite at the Warrumbungle NP.

Although I was able to see the telescope, access was not available except by postcards in the gift shop.

Biggest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. Siding Springs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siding_Spring_Observatory

A unique giant solar system model commences at the observatory which is the SUN. At locations throughout the nearby towns are models showing the distance from the sun. For example Mercury, Venus and Earth are on the same mountain. The planet Pluto is at Dubbo 90 klms away.

http://www.solarsystemdrive.com

The first sign showing plantes stretching out from the sun. The telescope is the SUN.

MERCURY is located in the observatory car park.

VENUS is located a few hundred metres outside the carpark.

EARTH located half way along the winding road to the observatory.

SATURN located a few klms north of Coonabarabran.

NEPTUNE is located way out at Gilgandra, 90 klms from the SUN.

Friday 19th October

I drove to Coonabarabran this morning to collect my mail. It has not arrived so I need to stay, at least until the mail arrives, perhaps Monday. I visited my aunt Maude and discovered my cousin Bob and wife Dianne were there as well. They had been travelling Queensland and broke their journey to attend a funeral in Cobar then return home for a few days before returning to Queensland to collect their caravan. Bob arranged for me to put WWWGO on his property and camp there while waiting for the mail.

Tonight we joined the house-sitters, Adrian & Maz for drinks on the verandah.

Saturday 20th October

I received an email this morning and I want to share it with you. I also want to thank Linda C for sending it to me. Let me set some background. In Australia we have many animals which are killed on our roads…Kangaroos, Emu, Wombats, Fox, Camel, Wild Pig, Horses, Cattle, Sheep and well almost any type of animal which is capable of wandering onto a road. Many of these animals cross a road where they want to cross a road. Sometimes they frequently cross in areas on a regular basis. So regular in fact that local traffic authorities place warning signs so motorists are aware to be prepared to take evasive action. The link below will take you to a YouTube presentation from the USA but the information can apply in any country. Without explaining any further I suggest you open the following link in a new tab and then, like me, shake your head and wonder that these people walk among us and even more frightening, they breed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CI8UPHMzZm8&sns=fb

In the morning I drove to Baradine to see the Pilliga State Forest and particularly the Sculptures in the Scrub.    http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/pilliga-national-park/sculptures-in-the-scrub-walking-track/walking

The road to the Dandry Gorge site is along 33 klms of gravel road which became narrower as I drove, full of potholes and deep bulldust ruts. I had not seen another car since leaving Baradine so decided to turn around, explore Baradine

Baradine Hotel

and then drive back to Coona via a back road from Baradine to the Gulargembone Road and then to Bugaldie and on to Coona.

Siding Springs Telescope seen from the other side of The Warrumbungles near Baradine.

One of many farmhouse ruins seen along the road to Baradine.

In the afternoon, from Coona, I drove 33 klms along the Newell Highway until I found the Yaminbah Trail turnoff. (The site is deliberately not signposted on the highway as requested by and out of respect for, the local aboriginal communities) A 1 klm reasonable gravel road ended at the car-park to the Sandstone Caves in the Pilliga nature Reserve.    http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/Pilliga-National-Park/Sandstone-Caves-Walking-Track/walking

A sign told me the track was a 1.7klm loop and would take an hour. An hour? Once I found the caves and wandered around absolutely stunned it took longer than an hour. These caves are huge and I tried to image what it may have been like 1,000 years ago, sheltering perhaps hundreds of people.

Caves Pathway.

Wall of sandstone at the beginning the caves.

There are some sacred cave paintings and some sites where sharpening and shaping of stone axes, spears and axes was carried out.

Sharpening and shaping grooves in sandstone.

It felt awesome to be able to see this site, for free and without guides and other cultural restraints. That explains why there are no other signs along the highway or in Narrabri or Coonabarabran advertising the site. There is one simple low to the ground sign, Yaminbah Trail and unless you knew what was at the end of the trail most people would just drive past. I must thank the Kate at Pillaga Forest Discovery Centre at Baradine for the information and rough maps to find the site. I might mention that it was a very hot day with temps around 34° and I started my walk after 3pm. I took a 2litre bladder of water to ensure I did not dehydrate. I also wore a hat which quite simply was a must. Members of the local Gamilaraay Aboriginal community have done a great job of preparing walking trails and interpretive signs along the loop track around the sandstone outcrop.

Sunday 21st October

The last day of the week. Clouds rolled in during the night and light rain fell during the day along with a drop in temperature.

Today we went to the Coonabarabran Bowling Club to see the annual Yabby Races.

http://www.about-australia.com/events/coona-yabby-races/

Last year the event raised $17,000 in one afternoon with the funds going to a local charity. Yabby races are a bit like cane toad races, or frog races or cockroach races. First there is an auction of the creatures, they are put in a central starting grid and when the grid is raised the first creature to hop, crawl, slither, or scuttle off the edge of the circular table is the winner. Of course there is side betting and raffles and lots of drinking. The auction and subsequent racing is noisy but by the third race silly amounts are bid for the yabbies. $300 for a yabby to race in a game of chance was pretty much the norm. One particular race the first place prize money was $1,100, second was $300 and $150 for third. The charity got around $300 for that one race. There were 8 races on the afternoon with auction bidding increasing with each race. People came from nearby towns including a coach load from Tamworth. All in all it was a noisy fun afternoon and a local charity benefited from it all.

277. Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo visit over two days…

15/10/2012

Western Plains Zoo Dubbo.

Thankfully it was another fine sunny day to complete my two day visit to the museum. Actually I feel I should have started earlier and stayed until I was kicked out. That way I would have seen more. As it was I know I missed some exhibits. Meerkats is one.

The zoo is set on 300 hectares and is a mixture of native bush, special gardens and parklands. There are themed picnic areas, paved roads, designated parking near enclosures and gravel pathways. Even driving and parking there is still a good deal of walking required and you really would need two days to do the visit justice.

The animals I photographed are listed alphabetically and in the case of more exotic species a Wikipedia link is shown. The list is by no means a full tally of all the animals at the zoo, just the ones I saw and photographed – in focus.

I hope you enjoy these photos of some of the animals at the zoo as much as I enjoyed the visit photographing the subjects.

Addax

Young Addax.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addax

African Elephant

African Elephant. The Asian Elephant is a lot smaller and is in serious danger.

Look at that lovely face.

African Lion

Banteng

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banteng

American Bison

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

This was not an exhibit it simply flew into the hippo feeding station and asked to be photographed.

Cocky’s are noisy, cheeky and destructive birds but also very loveable.

Dingo

Emu

For our overseas friends who often have trouble pronouncing this name it is not EE Moo. It is correctly pronounced Eem You.

Galapagos Tortoise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gal%C3%A1pagos_tortoise

These creatures are huge and must be so burdened with carrying around that weight of shell but hey they live to be up to 200 hundred years so they must be doing something correct.

Look at the size and thickness of those toenails. That would be tough job for the zookeeper/podiatrist.

White Handed Gibbon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibbon

Giraffe

Goat

For some reason I did not make any notes on what type of goat this is and it is not listed in the zoo map. Perhaps a rock goat?

Sigh!

Greater One Horned Rhinoceros.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_rhinoceros

White Rhinoceros.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_rhinoceros

Common Hippopotamus

Although a herbivore the hippo lives in harmony with crocodiles and if provoked those teeth and huge mouth can crush anything which gets in its way. The zookeepers treat it with respect and do not enter the enclosure while a hippo is there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippopotamu

This particular hippo is called HAPPY. Just look in his mouth and those grinding teeth, bones and tusks. Hippos are treated as dangerous animals and should never be approached. I was fascinated with the exhibit.

Persian Onager

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onager

Siamang

Double click on the photo to enlarge full size. You can see a tiny young Siamang being comforted by its dad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siamang

The Siamang are noisy by nature and their loud calls always attract a large crowd and they play to the crowd. The noise would soon drive you crazy if you lived in the jungle with them. The YouTube video shows them in action.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3cD1Nd302k

Sumatran Tiger

To make the tiger work for its food and so that it does not get bored with routine the food is placed in a sack and hoisted to the top of a pole. The tiger climbs the vertical pole and chews through the bag to get the meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumatran_tiger

Last but by no means least…

Zebra

276. Sunday 14th October 2012. Forbes, Parkes, Dubbo and a trip to the zoo…

14/10/2012

Monday 8th October

Woke to a fine sunny day tempered by a cool southerly breeze. You know the type of day I mean. Anywhere in the shade is cold while anywhere in the sun is comfortable. I emptied the black water cassette and drove around Forbes picking up useful bits of information. Did you know a bad boy bushranger lived and died here? Like all bushrangers his story has grown as the telling increases. There were then and are now, people who believed he was just a poor misunderstood boy who got in with the wrong crowd. Hmmm! Have you ever heard that before? He is credited with hundreds of robberies, armed of course and came to an end in a shootout with Police on 5th May 1865 aged two days short of his 28th birthday. Forbes the town started life as a gold rush town (and attracted bad types such  as Ben Hall), and like West Wyalong it seems the streets were made to avoid trees so there are a number of zigs and zags in the main street. At one time there were 40,000 people living in a tent city. Like many of the other towns I have visited, the passenger trains no longer stop here but freight trains continue to zoom through.

On the outskirts and various places around town I have seen the signs that Forbes is an RV Friendly town. On the evidence seen so far – 86 motorhomes or caravans parked beside Lake Forbes, rigs driving around town and water taps placed strategically where camping is permitted for self-contained rigs and a Dump Point – I have to agree it is RV friendly. I can walk to the shopping centre and main street with an easy 10 minute stroll.

Tuesday 9th October.

Most of the rigs were gone in the morning, headed off to the Bedgerebong Country Music Festival. Only 6 rigs remain.

The sun shone and the cool breeze continued and for the first time in a long time I sat outside in the sun and read a book.

In the morning I drove to the cemetery (yeah, yeah, I know, I always visit cemeteries) and visited the site of the grave of the bushranger, Ben Hall

The well maintained grave site of bad boy bushranger Ben Hall.

and discovered nearby, another two graves of famous by association, persons.

Kate Foster

The well maintained grave of Kate Foster (nee Kelly)

was sister of the infamous Ned Kelly, bushranger from around Glen Rowan and Beechworth in Victoria. It seems Kate married a man from Forbes and at some point she drowned in the Lachlan River.

Even more remote by association famous was Rebecca Shield the great grand-niece of Captain James Cook the man who is credited with discovering Australia. No matter it was discovered 40,000 years before by the Aboriginals.  I digress.

In the afternoon I visited Gum Swamp

Gum Swamp

and its bird blind. This swamp is a happy hangout and breeding ground for all manner of birds, not just the water birds. The swamp can be seen from the highway an attracts 9 species of duck although to be honest I had trouble telling them apart except perhaps for smaller ducks which seemed to be chasing each other across the pond either in a game of “catch me if you can” or perhaps a mating ritual. Of course there were not just ducks but from my perspective I was impressed with the huge dead trees partly submerged and more impressed with the very large eagle nests high uppermost branches of the trees furthest from any bank.

Wednesday 10th October

One of many footbridges over Lake Fobes.

In the morning I visited the McFeeters Motor Museum where 62 cars are on display, 42 of them owned by the McFeeter Family

McFeeters Motor Museum.

A 1953 Austin A50 Convertible. My first car was an A50 Sedan with an MGB sports motor.

(I suspect the family is a well-heeled sheep grazier) The huge shed was purpose built to house the display of cars from around the world with the oldest being 1905 and the youngest a Kia / Alpha experimental prototype sports car. Only 6 were built and never went into production and the other five cars were destroyed. I enjoyed wandering amongst the old cars especially the early models which were so intricate and have a grace and charm lacking in most modern vehicles.

My passengers are Grace and Charm.

Model T Ford.

Now this convertible really appealed to me.

Next I wandered the main streets of Forbes looking at the historical buildings and statuary.

Forbes Courthouse.

Fountain in the Forbes Courthouse/Post Office Square. The fountain is over 100 years old and still operational.

Forbes Post Office.

The guy driving this car with the large oversized and illegal bull bar was not happy about having the photo taken. The bull bar is so low it scrapes when driving down slight inclines.

Late in the afternoon I found the old Commercial Bank of Australia building, now a real estate office. Inside, many of the dark timber counters, partitions and staircase has been retained as has the strongroom.

The original Commercial Bank of Australia branch of Forbes.

Thursday 11th October 2012.

The rain woke me at 3am and I could not go back to sleep so read until tiredness took over. Dawn arrived cold windy and wet. The rest of the day was much the same.

I continued along the Newell Highway a main thoroughfare for big trucks from Adelaide and Melbourne heading to Brisbane. I drove to Parkes a huge drive of 34 klms and set up camp at the showgrounds. It is a bit primitive but with the cold wet weather having shore power will be a bonus. I took a walk along the main shopping centre looking for the old Commercial Bank of Australia building. After speaking with an historical society lady it seems the old building was torn down and the site is now part of a shopping mall. The local council is not interested in historical sites. I found Parkes to be busier and less friendly than Forbes. Although a bigger town it looks untidy compared to Forbes which boasts a tidy town award.

Parkes is named after Sir Henry Parkes, often referred to as the Father ofAustralian Federation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Parkes) A larger than life statue of Henry Parkes is in the main shopping street.

Sir Henry Parkes.

Australian readers will no doubt remember the film The Dish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dish  which is a fictionalised version of the true events of the radio and TV signals being received from Apollo II and Neil Armstrongs walk upon the moon. Nasty looking black clouds smudged the distant hills as I drove out to the CSIRO Radio Telescope better known as the dish. This thing is huge and at 64metres stands out in the near flat land just outside Parkes.

The Dish as seen across the fields of wheat.

The Dish up close.

The locals I spoke with welcome the rain claiming they have not had any worthwhile rain for many months and are quite happy if it buckets down. Much of the showgrounds is hilly red soil and turns quickly to a thick red mud after rain.

Late in the afternoon the sun briefly came out of hiding so I drove to the highest, steepest hill in town to a War Memorial site.

Parkes War Memorial.

Looking across the Parkes basin from the War Memorial site.

As the afternoon and evening rolled on, it got colder and colder. I was dressed in layers, including long johns and the heater was blasting away.

This is Spring,…isn’t it?

On the news tonight there were reports of snowfall in the Adelaide Hills and a Victorian town.

Friday 12th October

Woke to a bitter cold morning. I leapt out of bed, turned on the heater and crawled back into the warmth of the cocoon formed by my body and the doona during the night. I found this little weather report from one of the Alpine Centres but all centres had a similar report.

“Time and Date: Friday 12 October 8:57am

Today:

It’s Snowing! Winter just won’t stop. Heavy, dry snow has been falling since yesterday morning and is expected to continue today. “

Hmmm! No wonder it is cold. The wind is coming straight off the southern alps. As well as cold a light drizzly rain is falling. It also snowed in the southern highlands, Bathurst, Katoomba, Orange and Guyra. The Great Western Highway near Bathurst was closed and three hundred vehicles were stranded in the snow.

Saturday 13th October

It was a biting cold wind which greeted me as I hooked up TERIOS this morning.  Continuing along the Newell Highway to Dubbo I stopped first at Peak Hill and while looking for the original Commercial Bank of Australia building

The original Commercial Bank of Australia Branch at Peak Hill. The new tenants, CentreLink and Aboriginal Council sure need to do a bit of cleaning, tidying and maintenance.

I found a sign to a free open cut mine experience. This gold mine started as a simple vertical shaft in 1889. The mine closed in 1918. A new approval was granted in 1993 and open cut mining commenced. The new open cut is 100 metres deep, 600 metres long and 300 metres wide.

Peak Hill open cut gold mine.

I enjoyed the self-guided tour walk but I was on a slight timetable so will somehow have to do the remaining trails another time.

Peak Hill is another of those western towns struggling to survive.

Old Holden motor cars in storage in a disused garage workshop.

The shops are old, most are closed and crumbling.

Carrington Hotel at Peak Hill.

Although on a major highway truck and domestic travel route there seems little to entice travellers to stop.

The Club Hotel at Peak Hill.

I met the 92 year old barber who has lived here for 86 years. He still cuts hair in the old short back and sides style and even at $7 a haircut business is slow. At present I am in the long, thick and unruly hair style so passed on the opportunity to contribute to the local economy.

The countryside has changed from open flat grain crops to thick brush and hills which become frequent, steeper and longer.

Driving into the City of Dubbo is a huge contrast with busy shops, lots of traffic, including traffic lights (I have not seen lights since Wagga Wagga 300 klms further south)

In the afternoon I called on John Riley, a fellow blogger      http://yeoeleven.blogspot.com.au/ who is camped at Terramungamine Reserve about 15 klms to the north of Dubbo. John and I have kept in touch via blog comments, Skype and mobile calls and it was a great opportunity to meet him.

Sunday 14th October

I visited the Dubbo Western Plains Zoo (http://taronga.org.au/taronga-western-plains-zoo)

Entrance to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo.

I have been wanting to visit the zoo since before we started on our full time travels in September 2010. It is a shame Donnis is not here to share the trip with me.

Composite photo of waterway at the main entrance to the zoo.

The zoo is a 300 hectare site where the animals have enclosures much closer to nature and plenty of room to move around and none of the traditional miserable concrete cages with bars.

Lots of covered observation decks are provided around the zoo grounds.

The zoo is open and to get around the 300 hectares you can walk…yeah right…ride a bicycle yeah right again…your own or hired, hire an electric cart

Electric zoo carts.

or drive your own vehicle. I drove TERIOS. Most of the power to run the zoo is provided by a huge bank of solar panels which cover an area larger than the roof area of three good sized houses. It was a hot day…yay about time… and by the end of the day I was worn out. I parked TERIOS in parking bays and walked around several exhibits then move the car and do the same thing again. In reality I managed to get halfway around the zoo so I am going again tomorrow as the ticket is valid for two days. I enjoyed my day and in fairness to the zoo, myself and my readers I have decided to make a separate blog post in a couple of days just on the zoo. That way if a zoo is a bit boring you can skip my next post Or you can enjoy the photos dedicated to the zoo visit.

For those regular readers who have noticed trig points, I have found another at the zoo,

Trig Point.

This trig point came with a brass plaque explaing why trig points are used and where they are sited.

275. Sunday 7th October 2012. I get a little further North each week…

08/10/2012

Monday 1st October

I woke to a temperature of 5°!!!

I had expected when I moved away from the mountains and Spring had arrived it would be warmer. So far that has only been the case for a day in my most recent travels. The heater struggled to warm up the inside of WWWGO enough that I could eat breakfast without shivering uncontrollably. I planned to move to Ariah Park (pronounced AREA) around 90 klms north west of Coolamon. Instead of just driving the straight line via Wagga Road I headed west on the Canola Road which parallels the railway line and passed through the towns of Ganmain,

Way back in the heyday of the Golden Grain harvest (wheat) Gainman was a thriving town and the local pub, the Farmers Home Hotel was a reflection of the wealth of the town. Now, sadly, the wealth has gone, the town is in decline and the pub is just crumbling having been abandoned some years ago.

Matong and Grong Grong.

At Grong Grong as with all the towns along this stretch of railway line, passenger services no longer operate or if they do it is only once a week at widely spaced stations. For example there is a station at Coolamon and the next is Griffith 150 klms to the west, no longer stopping at the small towns. Most towns have kept the station buildings as an historical site. Grong Gong lost not only the station building but all the platforms and other associated infrastructure. All that is left is one of the signs.

(Doncha luv that name? Grong Grong!)

The Royal Hotel at Grong Grong is still active and the two styles of architecture reflect changing times and financial stability.

The land for the most part is flat and stretches away to the horizon in all directions. Most land is cultivated with wheat, canola, barley and lupins. At Grong Grong I picked up the Newell Hwy through to Ardlethan the home of the original Kelpie dog

Ardlethan lays claim to the home of the breed of dog known as a Kelpie. Another town in Victoria claims ownership of the breed but only Ardlethan is on the Purebred Register.

Towns in the area seem to have had a puritanical streak in the population and hotels and liquer licenses were opposed. This building started life as a Coffee Shop with accomodation. When you think about the cost of building and maintaining a large building like this you would have to sell a lot of coffee and in such a small town that would be a big ask, to cover expenses. Ardlethan was once a thriving community, with railway station and many silver and gold mines in the district. The building became a pub somehwere along the line but this is another closed pub and the building is falling into ruin, much like many of the other buildings in town.

By contrast the London Hotel on the outskirts of town and on the other side of the railway tracks is doing great. Mind you, town is small and you could walk from one end to the other in a few minutes.

and from there drove through to Ariah Park

Campsite at the sportsgrounds in the town of Ariah park.

the home of Wowsers, Bowsers and Peppercorn trees. Ariah Park lives in a self-proclaimed 1920’s time warp. Most of the shops are closed and window spaces have become window dressed with items of furniture, clothing, food and artefacts from the 1920’s including old petrol bowsers. Each window or yard display uses a different theme of the 1920 lifestyle. The story of the wowsers goes something like this. It seems that sometime in the early part of the last century the local publican was disliked. Some citizens tried to obtain a liquor license to open another pub. Of course the publican opposed the application and had enough support from the community (locals say he enlisted the support of the strong Methodist Church group of teetotallers to take the matter to court. He and the Wowsers won and to this day there is only one pub in town and believe me it is struggling. The petrol bowsers came later as did the imported Indian Peppercorn Trees. I walked around the town and in the space of 200 metres, the length of the main street I counted 10 very old bowsers. It was sad to see the degeneration of all these towns and the local agriculture no longer needs manual labour and many of the wheat silos are no longer used.

Tuesday 2nd October

For such a small town, Ariah Park has about 10 of these old bowsers lining the street. Of course none of them operate and most seemed be outside any store which wanted to sell fuel.

Look at the price of the last sale it was in dollars and cents which makes it after 1966 when Oz converted to decimal currency but is in gallons which is before Oz completed metrification in 1988. There it sits, locked in time mocking our fuel prices of today and a reminder that once upon a time the price of fuel was not a daily topic of conversation.

I used today to do nothing. Well, not all nothing. I did drive into town and walk around looking at the empty shops and feeling even sadder than I felt yesterday as I looked at the other old towns falling further into oblivion. I walked into a grocery store to buy some milk. The huge barn like interior had so little stock I thought at first it must be a museum store. Even the milk in the fridge was out of date! Two other couples had arrived in their caravans yesterday and we struck up a conversation and enjoyed happy hour together. The day was sunny and hot but as the afternoon shadows crept in after 4pm a chill breeze arrived.

The street and central park diving the road was planted with Peppercorn Trees imported from India. Strangely it does give the feeling of an Indian background especially on hot days.

Wednesday 3rd October

Decided to stay another day and move to Temora tomorrow.

Thursday 4th October

Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to Temora I go.

The plan was to do a grocery shopping trip, top up with diesel, empty the toilet cassette and set up camp for the night at the showgrounds. I got all those things done and moved into the showgrounds. I must mention the showgrounds campsite at $15 per night must be one of the worst I have encountered. The showers or toilets appear not to have been cleaned, at least in this financial year, the campsites are a long way from the toilets and there is no lighting at night, except for a switch inside which you can turn on and off. That is no help when you are walking in the darkness. I thought I would move on tomorrow to West Wyalong but after discussion with other campers I have a new plan in mind.

Friday 5th October

In the morning I watched the harness racing trainers put the horse through their paces on the track.

Harness Racing or Trotting as it is commonly known is big in Temora. Training goes on every morning. Note the little puffs of dust kicked up by the hooves but not by the wheels.

As part of the new plan I drove back to Ariah Park to camp for another two nights. WWWGO is parked in the same before I left yesterday. The plan is to stay here two nights so I can visit the Temora Aviation Museum  ( http://www.aviationmuseum.com.au/ ) and see the air show on Saturday. Admittedly it is a 35 klm drive each way but it is better than staying at the Temora Showgrounds and cheaper than staying at the caravan park.

Today was very hot. I dressed in shorts and singlet and thought if this is spring, summer is going to be very hot.

Saturday 6th October

Overnight the temperature dropped and a few spasmodic drops of rain fell. The aviation museum was interesting as we the flying displays of a half dozen planes. The theme today was “from trainer to fighter”. For some reason I thought there was an annual air show but the museum has air displays on the first and third Saturday each month. Of all the planes on show and in flight the one I enjoyed most was the Spitfire.

SPITFIRE. Nuff said.

Its clean lines, sleek appearance and throaty exhaust note would appeal to any aircraft enthusiast. It seems the most difficult task in flying the Spitfire is landing. The nose must be kept up to avoid the prop hitting the runway which means the pilot cannot see over the nose and has to watch the runway via peripheral vision. Just look at the photo and you can see why vision from the cockpit is so difficult.

BIRD DOG. All aircraft enthusiasts please forgive me if get the names of the planes incorrect.

PIPER CUB.

HARVARD???

RYAN STM 32?

TIGER MOTH

I seem to have a fascination with old houses. When I was a kid we called them “haunted houses” and scared ourselves silly. Now I am more interested in knowing the history of the house and why it is abandoned.

From the highway, zipping past at 100kph this house still looks “norma”. It is far from normal and gradually returning to mother earth.

Sunday 7th October

Daylight Saving madness began today. As I started to pack ready for departure I developed a bad nose bleed which brought my activity to a halt for an hour while trying to bring it under control.  Finally at midday I was away to join the Newell Highway and follow it to West Wyalong. I found a busy town with food shops and bakeries open on a Sunday.

Once, when I worked for the Commercial Bank of Australia I knew the location of all 138 branches in NSW. Alphabetically! Here is the West Wyalong branch now sadly abandoned, even the local council no longer uses it.

A vast difference in comparison with Temora with all shops closed Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed a walk along the zig zag main street which according to history was originally built that way to avoid chopping down any trees. That is a pity as 120 years later the trees are all gone anyway.

The Globe Hotel. One of about eight in the short stretch of zig zag main street.

Doncha just love the name some wag has given this business? It is Thoms Building on Thoms Corner so the business gets called Thom Dick & Harry.

Gold was found and mined at nearby Wyalong but later as the gold gave out West Wyalong was established as the centre for the grain industry. When a railway line was proposed, both towns fought to have the station in their bailiwick. Common sense prevailed when the station was agreed on midway between the two towns and Central Wyalong was established. Another pity really as only goods trains run here now.

I found the showgrounds where I intended to stay the night but the price has jumped to $15 per night and the dustbowl and unfriendly looking caretaker and his three wild dogs convinced me it was not a place to stay. Besides, not one motorhome or caravan was camped there. That was enough for me so I set course to Forbes another 90 klms to the north. On the Newell Highway I saw my first serious hills in the distance. For several days since leaving Mt. Beauty the land has been mainly flat, disappearing into the distance with crops. Now the hills and the varying countryside, including wetlands has provided welcome change in the driving routine.

Forbes is another town among many in NSW, Victoria and Queensland which sprang up as a result of gold being found, prospected and coaxed from the earth. No wonder Australia was known as an El Dorado 150 years ago.I arrived on the outskirts and found many fellow travellers camped on the banks of the Lachlan River in a free campsite.

Camped beside the Lachlan River at Forbes. You can see the river to the left of WWWGO.

No power, no toilets, no water, no lights, no showers but a wonderful spot. Most of the other people camped here are waiting for the gates to open on Tuesday at the old racetrack 34 klms out of town for a Country Music Festival.

Hmmm!

It costs $60 per person until Sunday but no power or tap water or showers. There will be lots of good music. Will my batteries and solar panels keep me going that long?

Lots of Hmmming and Hmmming before I make that decision although one camper gave me the negative when he cranked up his generator, at sundown, with  little consideration for other campers. Two other lots of campers also said they were going to the festival and yes, they would be using their generators.

Why the #2%^ don’t they use the genie in daylight hours and charge up the batteries when people are not trying to settle down for the night?

DO NOT FORGET YOU CAN ENLARGE ALL PHOTOS BY CLICKING AND AND EVEN LARGER VIEW BY A SECOND CLICK.