295. Sunday 20th January 2013. From the mountains to the sea and back again. Bushfires, heatwaves and chilling rain…

Monday 14th January

The storm last night seemed to go on and on with almost constant lightning and outside was lit up like day. The storm included heavy rain and strong winds. Regrettably I could not photograph any lightning as I simply could not click fast enough and could not go outside in the driving rain. Trust me it was a wild night. Radio reports during the morning advised some places had wind gusts up to 137Kph and on one farm on the other side of Armidale reported several concrete power poles were snapped off at the base. During the first hour or so of our drive we saw evidence of fallen trees and branches near the highway.

Sadly the news of the bushfire at Coonabarabran was even worse in that on Sunday alone, 40,000 hectares of land was burned out, 35 homes, 50 sheds and farm equipment were destroyed. Sixty personnel at the Siding Springs Observatory were evacuated to Coonabarabran. The fire is still out of control and with worse conditions expected later in the week, there are fears as to how bad The Warrumbungle and Barradene districts will fare.

At the end of last post, 294, I made the following comment.

“Tomorrow the forecast is for a cooler day by about 10°, almost perfect for our plans to drive to the coast but I will not pre-empt what we will be doing except to say I write up a report next week. Hopefully it will be worth the 6 hour drive each way.”

I can now comment on what that was about. We had arranged to drive to Toukley on the NSW Central Coast to view a house listed for sale. We also planned to look at a few other houses and retirement villages while in the area. Toukley is on Tuggerah Lake which itself is part of several lakes in the area. (Tuggerah Lake, lake Munmorah, Mannering Lake, Colongra Lake and Lake Macquarie) The house we planned to look at was disappointing as were another two shown by the agent. The final house inspection was of an older basic built, fibro cottage near the ocean beach at Noraville. Although I never entertained the idea of renovating an old house, the location of this one caught Donnis attention and her infectiousness spread to me. If we could get the house for the right price…

In the afternoon we drove to nearby Norah Head Lighthouse.    http://www.norahheadlighthouse.com.au/

It was here several events occurred. We stopped at a lookout and heard a helicopter making a few passes overhead. As we got closer to the lighthouse we found the action was centred here. That was when we realised we had left my good camera back at Guyra, sitting on the table where we would not forget it as we left the house.


We also found Donnis backup camera had a flat battery. Result, no photos of some of the wonderful scenery in the area.

On arrival at the lighthouse there were 4 Police cars, 5 Ambulance vehicles and a lifeguard vehicle all at the top of the cliffs while a helicopter hovered above the rocks. It seems a boy fell from the cliffs and was being rescued. We do not know the outcome but do know the boy was airlifted to hospital. The old lighthouse has been beautifully restored and looks great on the cliffs.

We stayed overnight at a motel at Budgewoi on the narrow channel of water joining the north and south halves of Tuggerah Lake.

Tuesday 15th January

We took an early morning walk on Jenny Dixon Beach.


and  https://www.google.com.au/search?q=jenny+dixon+beach&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=26a&tbo=u&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=e

This involved a climb down the steep staircase built into the cliffs. This is a wonderful rugged beach, very popular with families but the climb up the staircase is a bit taxing. Our leg muscles were left tired and shaking for 15 minutes afterwards.

We re-visited the old house at Noraville twice during the morning and discussed various thoughts on a renovation. Afterwards we visited a retirement village at Lake Munmorah and although the facilities and quality and even the price of the house we saw were attractive, we both feel it is simply too isolated for us.

The visit was intended as a fact finding project and a getting to know a location before committing to anything. Overall the visit was positive and we came away feeling good about the area. I lived here many years ago and although I no longer know anybody in the area I love the location and the rugged coastline with lots of walking and photographic opportunities. The area…including Toukley, Gorokan, Noraville, Norah Head, Halekulani and Budgewoi …is only about two hours by road to Sydney. As well the railway station at nearby Warnervale is linked with Sydney so a trip to the big smoke would only cost $2.50 return. We plan to re-visit the area later in February and spend about three nights while looking at other properties and for Donnis to feel comfortable. We have no plans to stop travelling but do need to have a new home base as it is unlikely we will ever return to Airlie Beach to live.

We left the Central Coast at 2pm and arrived Tamworth at 6.30pm and stopped for dinner at a Thai Restaurant. It was hot and humid in Tamworth and the next few days are predicted to be heatwave conditions with hot westerly winds, not good news for the fire-fighters around Coonabarabran. On the news we heard a tent city has been established at Coonabarabran for the 300 fire-fighters and their support. On arrival at Guyra a light misty rain was falling and it was bitterly cold. We were back in winter jammies and two blankets on the bed tonight.

As I visited Coonabarabran and the Warrumbungles as recently as October I am familiar with the area where the fire is raging. I recall thinking at the time how dry the countryside was and how quickly a fire could spread.

On a personal note we heard my aunt Maude who lives in Coonabarabran had a fall on Saturday and is back in hospital.

Wednesday 16th January

A quiet day in downtown Guyra. We spent the day relaxing.


Today was the first day of the Guyra Lamb and Potato Festival.   http://guyra-lamb-potato.com/

We took a quick look in the afternoon and noted a small car engine locomotive takes people on rides along the original rail lines.

The little rail car.

The little rail car.

Apart from that the festival location looks to be no more than a local Sunday Markets which runs for 10 days.

Part of the market stall type area spread along the side of the New England Highway.

Part of the market stall type area spread along the side of the New England Highway.

Perhaps there will be a street parade and bands and solo singers scheduled for the weekend.

Speaking with a few stall holders they told us the highway location for the festival provides good parking and attracts visitors using the highway, especially those on their way to and from the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

Thursday 17th January.

It was grocery shopping day in Armidale. We visited Bunnings Hardware and priced items to establish a ballpark cost for renovating an old house.


I am still in two minds about buying an old house and renovating because no matter what we do we still end up with an old house. On the positive side the location is close to Sydney, rail and air transport and although it gets hot in summer the heat and humidity does not get as high nor for as long as our home in tropical Mackay north Queensland. The house itself is only 500 metres from the ocean and receives lake and ocean breezes. The area is well served by medical facilities and shopping centres abound. The freeway to Sydney makes travel quick and easy. We also read today that Wyong Shire Council has just announced it will re-enter the bid for a second domestic airport for Sydney. If the bid for the airport goes to Wyong Shire, house and land prices in the area will increase.

It was a hot day throughout the state today with temps above 37° while in Guyra it never got above 30°.

Friday 18th January.

Temps in the state were high to very high and bushfire conditions made a turn for the worse. We had loosely planned to travel to Tamworth tomorrow to experience the Tamworth Country Music Festival. With temps expected to increase even further tomorrow we will have to check the weather forecast in the morning and decide in the morning.

Note to self. Pack the cameras tonight…just in case.

Saturday 19th January

The hot weather this morning made the decision for us. We did not drive to Tamworth.

Iain T, our neighbour called over to see us about 10am. It seems the rest of the family had gone to Armidale to shop but they could not get back into the car. The driver side door lock barrel just spun around. The car ignition system was linked to the door lock. Unless the door could be unlocked, the car could not be started. Ian had a spare wireless key to open the door but needed a lift to Armidale. We drove him to Armidale and the electronic key opened the door and allowed the car to be started. He drove off to the locksmith while we had a walk around the shops and came home in time for lunch after which a big storm rolled in, plummeting the temps below 20°. Lightning, thunder, hail, strong winds and tropical rain moved in. Winter jammies and an extra blanket on the bed tonight.

Whew! This is summer??? It is too cold and changeable.

A thick fog had also rolled in to replace the rain, thunder & lightning.

Sunday 20th January

Woke to a fog but the cold temps from last night had turned mild during the early hours this morning. The wind had died during the night and what was left was low lying cloud. Something the locals call “gooty”. It is not rain but the moisture within the cloud is deposited on trees shrubs, houses and anything else which stands still for a few minutes. A person suddenly finds themselves drenched. Later in the morning a cool breeze sprung up and the cloud drifted away leaving a cool overcast day.

We decided it was not a good day to be on the road today. Basically it was too wet and visibility especially here on top of the range, was limited. However we went to have another look at the Lamb & Potato Festival. Boy, was the place jumping.

200113 jumping

Cars parked all up and down the highway, in side streets and even the main street of Guyra. A walkway across the disused railway line joins the main shopping street with the highway. People were queued to buy Lamb & Potato meals and snacks.

Too many people waiting to buy a lamb and potato lunch.

Too many people waiting to buy a lamb and potato lunch.

Cute and simple puppets on strings. Marionettes?

Cute and simple puppets on strings. Marionettes?

Surprisingly most of the tent vendors were busy with customers. If nothing else it was good for a walk up and down the highway and people watch.

After dinner the rain returned in earnest.


Did we miss summer?


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4 Responses to “295. Sunday 20th January 2013. From the mountains to the sea and back again. Bushfires, heatwaves and chilling rain…”

  1. Pam Wright Says:

    It’s so hard to read about wildfires in the summer. So much damage! We had terrible fires last summer here. Hope things turn around soon.

    Too bad you are having such wet, cold weather for your summer. Is this usual for your area? We had nights in the 20’s (F) last week, had to disconnect the water. Days only got the low 50’s. But that is over and we are into the 70’s with very low humidity…beautiful.

    Love the street market! Never heard of a Potato and Lamb dinner. We don’t eat much lamb here generally.


    • frankeeg Says:

      Hello Pam, your comments and questions are interesting. Thank you. Bushfires here in Oz are generally part of the summer scene. This year is worse than some years. The fire at Coonabarabran is still n ot under control. It has burned out 52,000 hectares (about 13,000acres) of land and 53 houses have been destroyed. Farm sheds destroyed are in the hundreds and stock killed by the fires is counted in thousands. This is our first visit to Guyra but after talking with the locals the summer conditions here are normal. We are 1,330 metres above sea level and the highest point in the state outside the alpine regions. Therefore summers are cooler and winters are…cooler again. Luckily we will not be here in winter. We will start travelling again in mid February so saty tuned for new locations.
      Australians eat a lot of lamb, in fact it was once a national meat but chicken is much cheaper and is now the number one meat. A roast or baked lamb dinner is still common in Australian homes. Usually served with potatoes and three other vegetables plus gravy and…yummo. Growing up we always had baked leg of lamb at least once a week while lamb chops, lamb short loin chops and lamb cutlets were usually on the dinner menu at least once a week.


  2. shan Says:

    Hi Frank and Donnis, Please feel free to call David when deciding about renovations as he can give you a good idea on cost and value of reno versus buying or building. love to you both. Shan


    • frankeeg Says:

      Thanks Shan, will do that. As mentioned, we are “just looking” and have no plans yet. We are getting a “feel” for an area and really we would prefer a new or near new home.


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