Travel News – New South Wales

Bushman’s Rest, Lake Cullulleraine – Weethalle Showground – Narrabri – Scarborough (South Australia – Queensland)

23/12/16  Saying goodbye to our camping buddies Charles and Joy at World’s End Reserve, we followed the Goyder Highway east through rolling hills, golden fields of wheat and endless sheep pastures. The Murray River soon appeared on our right, and from the top of the Golden Limestone Cliffs, we looked out on the swollen river. Flood waters had breached the banks and spread out through the river red gums on the broad floodplain to the far cliffs. It was wonderful to see the mighty Murray so full and replenished by recent rains. There was a downside to the flooding, though. The many scenic bush camps dotted along the river were under all that floodwater.

Consequently we motored on, following the meandering river east and crossing it just beyond Renmark via the Paringa Bridge. This heritage listed bridge has a single railway line in the centre (now disused), with a narrow road lane on each side of it. A lift span allows river traffic to pass underneath. The road lane felt very tight for the Kruiser and we were glad it wasn’t any wider.

A little way down the road, we crossed into Victoria, intending to stay at a bush camp on the border. The Landy, though, was showing an outside temperature of 38C and rising, and we opted instead for a powered site. We spent the night beside Lake Cullulleraine at the Bushman’s Rest Caravan Park with the aircon keeping us cool and comfortable. The next morning was overcast with a forecast of rain. It was our wedding anniversary and we stayed on a second day beside the lake to celebrate.

img_3089Between the small towns of Goolgowi and Rankins Springs on the Mid Western Highway, we were happy to sit a long way back from a caravan that was travelling along at our pace. Suddenly, the van tilted and pulled over to the roadside, having lost a wheel. We stopped and gave them a hand to find the wandering wheel, got their details and went ahead to Rankins Springs to arrange a tow vehicle to get them into nearby Griffith where the broken wheel studs could be replaced. We were the first on hand to help them, and two other caravans pulled up to offer help as well. Aussies are a great bunch, quick to pitch in and do what they can when someone’s in trouble, especially for travellers on the side of the road.

That night, we camped in the showgrounds of the small town of Weethalle, among a group of rustic buildings facing a white-fenced trotting track sitting idle between infrequent race meetings. A local contact person was very helpful in opening up the facilities and making sure we were comfortable for the night.

From Lake Cullulleraine in upper Victoria, we had three big motoring days that took us home by Christmas Day, firstly 547kms to Weethalle in New South Wales, then 578kms to Narrabri where we stayed the night with Deb and Stu, and the final leg of 611kms to home. North of Narrabri, broad sheets of water lying in the paddocks and across the road at one point was evidence of recent rains. We’d crossed three State borders in four days to spend the festive day with family.

Since commencing in 2014, we’ve travelled 65,740kms with the van. Here are some facts about our overlanding to WA this year:

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“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – The Landy 

The Landy

The Landy and Kruiser

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Northern Territory, Travel News - Queensland, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hay To Hamilton – Mallee Country (New South Wales – Victoria)

10/05/16  Heading west from Hay in NSW, we crossed the Murray River into Victoria at Tooleybuc via the quaint historic bridge that was designed to rise up to let paddle steamers through. Regrettably, none was to be seen, of course, but it wasn’t hard to picture one churning down the river, bellowing smoke from its stack and steam from the whistle.

With the scenery mostly unchanging and monotonous, podcasts and albums had copped a flogging on the drive. Before leaving home, I’d stocked up on a lot more “Conversations with Richard Fidler” podcasts from ABC Radio which we’d found great for passing the time while we tootle down the road.

Further south on the Sunraysia Highway (sounds like the road is sponsored by a dried fruit company, doesn’t it), we overnighted at a camping ground in the small Mallee country town of Lascelles. It was a pleasant spot, and very conveniently located beside the old Minapre Hotel. We were both knackered after the long drive and, up for a meal cooked by someone else, we tucked into a delicious home-made steak and roasted veg dinner, washed down with cold beer and good conversation from Wally, the publican. The population of the town was 44, Wally could name each one, and he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else because it’s a great lifestyle. Good on him.

South of Lascelles the following day, the country changed and we were soon passing through very picturesque sheep and cattle grazing country with the Grampian Mountains in the background. From dead flat and dry to green mountains, it’s amazing how the country quickly changes.

There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want – Calvin, Calvin and Hobbes

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hay (New South Wales)

8/05/16  The drive from Billabourie to Hay was a rather miserable affair. We woke to rain and drove all morning through rain, through the towns of Hillston and Goolgowi on the Kidman Way, then onto the Mid Western Highway to Hay in the western Riverina region of south western NSW. Not only was the weather dreary, the landscape was even drearier. Out this way, the country is as flat as a table and stretches on in every direction. Oncoming vehicles could be seen three days away. Fruitlessly, we spent our time seeking out a semblance of a hill. And there are only four trees in that part of the Riverina. I know because I counted them. There was almost a fifth, but it turned out to be a fence post. Even the sheep looked dismal which I could sympathise with because, after all, who takes pleasure from wearing a woollen jumper in the rain. Still, the cattle seemed happy in their leather gear.

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It’s been raining on and off in the Riverina for about a week, which is good for those about to sow, and not good for those about to pick, yet good for those growing meat, but not good for those travellers who might drop a wheel off the edge of the hard stuff and onto the soft shoulder of the road. It didn’t happen to us but we saw many signs of where it had happened to others on the rather narrow Mid Western Highway. That plus the rain plus lots of water lying on the road made for a not very relaxing or enjoyable trip.

So, rather than the showgrounds as planned, we overnighted in Hay at the Big4 caravan park. Both of us had had enough of sploshing around in mud, and quite looked forward to pampering ourselves with paved pathways.

Life is like a jar of jalapeno peppers. What you do today may be a burning issue tomorrow. – Anon

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - New South Wales | Tags: , ,

Billabourie – New South Wales

7/05/16  Once in a while you come across a camp that ticks all the boxes. Billabourie was one of those camps. It’s a working farm that also operates a great little camp ground in a stand of old timber beside the Lachlan River, north east of Hillston. A few powered spots were available but we chose to stay on solar and located a bit further away for privacy. We set up a few metres from the river’s edge and had a magic view of the water and the surrounding park-like grounds shaded by huge old River Red Gums. Best not to camp under these majestic trees as they self-prune their very large branches which would make a mess of anything underneath. The two awnings and the groundsheet went out, and we made ourselves comfortable in this very picturesque spot. What a magic place.

We had our first camp fire this trip and couldn’t have found a better location for it. A breakfast of bacon and eggs on the fire kicked off the next day and we sat around the remains of the fire enjoying the scenery and silence, the morning birds our only companions. Two other vans were there when we pulled in but they left early the following morning. From then on, we had the place to ourselves. Di whipped up a damper/scone combo in the camp oven that went down very nicely with a dollop of butter and Tony A’s yummy homemade rosella jam. And I did a camp oven lamb roast that had to be my best yet, hands down.

The nights were cold, the mornings crisp and the days beautiful. The Kruiser is well suited for cold weather living, the diesel heater keeping us snug-as-a-bug inside first thing in the morning until the sun came up enough to bring some warmth.

I did a bit of lure fishing, which is my term for extricating lures snagged on tree roots, overhead branches and hidden underwater obstacles. You could almost hear the fish scoffing between my colourful outbursts. They certainly need not tremble at the sound of my name. No worries; they’ll be that much bigger next time I go snagging lures.

Enjoying a morning cuppa overlooking the river each day, it was just too easy to go with “Maybe we’ll stay another night”, and our planned one-day stopover at Billabourie stIMG_2890retched out to three.

Unfortunately, the final day turned grey and overnight rain softened the bush track for our departure. Nevertheless, the Landy was up for some mud puddling, and when we eventually reached the sealed road the front of the van was wearing a red mud face mask.

 

There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot! – Anon

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Bourke – Cobar (NSW)

4/05/16  Travelling south from Cunnamulla, we crossed into New South Wales and spent two days in Bourke. The grey rain clouds cleared on the second day leaving sunny blue skies, and we dried the canvas awnings after the previous few days’ rain. Di took the opportunity to do a cook-up, producing a large curried stew that’ll give us a few meals, and a yummy roast in the Weber. That used most of our vegies which would otherwise have to be thrown out when we get to the quarantine area a little further south.

Packing up camp for the next move was a particularly slow process, largely from a general lack of motivation aided by lots of coffees, and it wasn’t until 10:00am that we were on the Kidman Way again heading south to Cobar, a short hop of 160kms.

Many caravans and motorhomes were on the road at this time of year, migrating from Victoria to flock in their warmer northern nesting grounds. My index finger was wearing out from offering up the obligatory “single digit wave” to oncoming travellers. I also like to intersperse this with the “four digit wave” to those who appear more worthy. Motorhomes can be quite responsive to “the wave”, particularly where the female passenger gives back an enthusiastic two-handed wave. It’s like “Hey, caravaners hardly ever wave at us in our motorhome, and that guy just gave us the “four digit wave”, and I’m going to let him know I really appreciate it!”

Against the trend, we were among the crazy few heading south, enjoying the pleasant days and cool nights after a run of very high temperatures starting in September last year in NT through to when we left home ten days ago. The wet weather brought a drop in temperatures, and welcomed relief from the very hot days. We’d been looking forward to a cool change and wintering in the van.

On the outskirts of Cobar, we free-camped on the bank of Newey Reservoir, among the shady pepperina trees. The waterfront view from inside the van was priceless. We watched ducks feeding in the shallows, a majestic white egret patiently stalking fish and a rather regal pelican cruising lazily past our camp.

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“Tourists went on holidays, while travellers did something else. They travelled.” – Alex Garland, The Beach

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Arrawarra (New South Wales)

11/02/2015  The drive today from Hallidays Point to Arrawarra seemed long, our pace slowed a number of times because of roadworks to widen sections of the old single-lane Pacific Highway to double-lane. Just north of Kempsey, we turned off the highway and followed the Macleay River to the quiet coastal town of South West Rocks. We wanted to see the Trial Bay Gaol that sits on the point above the old breakwater.

The stone gaol is a picturesque ruin built in the 1880s to house prisoners who constructed the breakwater, and was also used as a World War I internment camp for people of German descent who were feared to be enemy sympathisers. The gaol is surrounded by rocky foreshores and sandy beaches, and immediately around it are picnic areas and facilities for caravan camping. We thought we’d check out the camping sites as a possibility for the night, but the rates were very high for what was provided.

So we travelled on a further two hours to our next option, Darlington Beach Holiday Park, on Corindi Beach and near the small town of Arrawarra. We stayed for three very relaxing days, and felt totally spoilt with access to a lovely pool, golf course, restaurant and bar, surf beach right behind us and kangaroos and wood ducks wandering around right next to the van. Hardly like camping at all. While we were looking forward to getting back to Scarborough to see the kids and granddaughters, this was also tinged with a degree of reluctance as it would mean a break from our travelling lifestyle. We could see that after not too long back at home, we’d be itching to get moving again.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - New South Wales | Tags: , , , , ,

Hallidays Point (New South Wales)

9/02/2015

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Heading further northward, we camped for the night on a powered site at Beachfront Holiday Resort at Hallidays Point. A two-minute walk from our van took us through the vegetation at the top of the beach and down onto the sand of Black Head Beach. We had a swim in the surf and went back to the pool for a rinse off and laze about. Later, while cooking our snags and lamb chops on the BBQ near the van, we met a couple from the Netherlands who were travelling around Australia for 6 weeks in a hire car and camping in a very small tent. They were having a ball and absolutely loved our country, the scenery, the people and the wildlife. I agreed wholeheartedly with them. Why travel overseas when there is more to see of our own country than could possibly fit into one lifetime!

We were tempted to stay another day but packed up. In the process, a sudden sun-shower hit and I left rather soaked. I think the rig wanted to stay as well, because the first two times we had to brake to a stop, the ABS kicked in and Di and I gave concerned looks to each other. The brakes were fine after that, though. I think the Land Rover was just acting up like an old horse that wanted us to know it wasn’t happy moving again so soon. Fair enough too, I guess. It plays a big part in our travel adventures so it should be able to have a say in things as well.

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Port Stephens (New South Wales)

8/02/2015  Normally we don’t ring ahead to check on the availability of a site as there’s usually plenty available.  But being now on the NSW north coast which is much more popular than inland areas, and now relying on powered sites, we thought it prudent to call ahead. We wanted to organise a site at a caravan park at Port Stephens, an hour north of Newcastle, where we’d reintroduce ourselves to the South Pacific Ocean. To further complicate matters, it was a Friday and the dark clouds of the weekend beach crowds were building up on the horizon. The first park we called was booked out. The second one had only one site left, with an attached ensuite, available for a three-day package price. Sounded good to us! Booked in for the three days. Lots of time to smell the roses. After arriving at Shoal Bay Holiday Park and setting up the van, we strolled down to the beach. As we exited the sandy path through the vegetation at the top of the beach, the view presented to us was just stunning. I’m not sure what word would best describe the colour of the blue of the water – azure, would probably come closest. The water was crystal clear, the rocky shoals on the sandy bottom dappled the water with myriad shades of blue and the two mountainous heads astride the narrow inlet from the ocean stood guard like rocky sentinels as a backdrop to the bay. Six or so yachts rocked calmly at their moorings not far offshore, and to top it off nicely, as we walked down onto the beach, a dolphin was swimming slowly by just metres offshore in front of us. How idyllic was that…

Each morning and afternoon we were visited by the local rabbits, who were fairly tame and some were quiet enough to hand feed.

On one of our day trips to explore the area we visited Anna Bay and then onto Stockton Sand Dunes where the sand on Stockton Beach varies from hard to soft packed and changes daily with the changing winds and weather. The dunes are the largest continuous mobile sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.

The three days were spent looking around the area at the many nearby beaches, and swimming and lying on our beach. We both agreed that it would be quite easy to live at Shoal Bay.

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Gulgong – Singleton (New South Wales)

05/02/2015  From Gulgong, we took the Ulan Road to connect through to the Golden Highway and then eastwards to the coast via the Hunter Valley. This is one of the best routes from the interior of the state to the coast, relatively unimpeded by mountains of the Great Dividing Range and other obstacles. This route took us into the beautiful Hunter Valley characterised by the many horse breeding properties with kilometres of black timber rail fencing enclosing acres of lush green lawn-like pasture that looked good enough to pull up for and eat. Just as we had gotten used to kilometre after kilometre of verdant pastures, we came over a crest of a hill to be confronted by the first of many coal mines located in the valley. The contrast of what we now saw to what we’d just passed through was like a scene from the apocalypse – high black hills of coal swarming with lumping great dump trucks moving over it like ants on a gigantic ant nest, and wide swathes of surface strip mining that extended for kilometres. It is beyond me why they are still digging this stuff up in this day and age. And in such a beautiful place as this as well! It was like Eden meets Dante’s Inferno!

At Singleton, we were fortunate to get a camp site at the showgrounds as the circus was in town and their Big Top and vans and gear took up most of the area across the main show ring from us. The local RSL across the road served up a great meal and drinks, and a $10 win on the Keno (i.e. money back only). With the occasional deep lion roar through the night, we could almost have been camped on the grass plains of the Serengeti being lulled to sleep by the sounds of the wildlife. No after-dark strolls to the amenities block that night!

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Wagga Wagga – Gulgong (New South Wales)

4/02/2015  From Wagga Wagga, we continued 40kms north on the Olympic Highway to Junee where we pulled over for a leg stretch. The town has retained many magnificent old buildings that give a hint of what life would have been like in the late 1800s. We could easily imagine an enthusiastic young porter whose job it was to pull the chain and ring the bell on the platform of the ornate railway station, announcing the imminent arrival and departure of the next north- or south-bound mail train.

We stayed that night in Young, 100kms distant along the highway, and the following night in Blayney, 140kms further on and just west of Bathurst. Our intention was to travel to Scarborough via the Pacific Highway along the NSW coastline. While I prefer quiet bushland settings and the country scenery, Di is much more a water-baby at heart and had been missing sand between her toes and sunburn on the beach. So, to miss the traffic and crowds that tend to be drawn to coastal areas, we planned to hit the coast further north beyond Sydney.

15kms before reaching Blayney, we turned off the highway to Carcoar, population 218, located in a small green valley, straddling the banks of the Belubula River. The town has been classified by the National Trust due to the number of intact 19th century buildings. It was fascinating to walk around the town, but equally fascinating to find none of them open, not even the pub. The town apparently bustles with tourist activity on weekends; but not Tuesdays, apparently.

The old general store with its walls still lined with the original shelving had its doors open, but was unattended, and we started to think we’d stumbled into a ghost town.

While we would have preferred a pub lunch, as we walked down the main street, we had a feed of plums followed by apples from fruit trees growing on the footpath, and followed this with a bunch each of muscat grapes from a vine growing next to the Stoke Stable, built by convicts in 1849. Not a pub lunch, but better for us and free for the taking. Thinking about it, though, there may have been not too dissimilar reasons why some of the convicts found themselves in Carcoar at that time building a stone stable.

From Blayney the next day, we took the Millthorpe road to meet up with the Mitchell Highway. Millthorpe is a lovely little town located between Blayney and Orange with a population of about 700 people. It comprises grand buildings, heritage architecture and a streetscape that has remained largely unchanged since the early 1900’s. The entire village is classified by the National Trust and the village centre has cobbled, bluestone bordered streets.

Beyond Orange, we stopped at Molong for morning tea and a refuel, and found a lovely old two-storey commercial building in the main street that the owner informed us was for sale. The price was reasonable and our thoughts went to what a lovely Grand Design it would make, but we resisted the urge and continued on to Gulgong, a 19th-century gold rush town in the Central Tablelands, where we stayed overnight at the showgrounds with a small mob of sheep grazing nearby.

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Gulgong has a population of around 1,800 people and has retained much of its 19th century character, particularly the broad shady balconies on the many of the two-storey commercial buildings. With the advent of the automobile in the early 1900s, balconies that extended over footpaths were generally removed in most towns to avoid the problem of vehicles reversing into the balcony posts that were located at the gutter edge. Fortunately, Gulgong resisted this trend and has retained most of the lovely second-storey balconies on its many commercial buildings. You can get a very good impression of what main streets looked like in the 1800s if you replace the cars with horses and carriages. A montage of goldrush-era Gulgong street scenes was used as a backdrop to the portrait of Henry Lawson on the first Australian ten dollar note (which was in use from 1966 until replaced by a polymer banknote in November 1993). Novelist and bush poet Henry Lawson lived briefly in Gulgong as a child in the early 1870s and the town and surrounding district often feature in his works.

We spread the wealth with an enjoyable lunch and drinks at the Commercial Hotel and camped for the night on power at the showgrounds.

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