I got up about 8.30 after a very solid night’s sleep. John slept later. We both felt much better than we’d expected to – very impressive. However, a quiet day in camp was called for – walking to the toilet was enough activity today.
John spent much of the day doing things on the lap top.
The currawongs of the Park were very enterprising. Yesterday, it was surprising to find a pair way up high on the top of Lughs Throne, trying to part us from some of our lunch. We were not so silly as to leave food unattended on the table at camp, but this morning discovered one thoroughly investigating the contents of our grey water bucket. Yuk.
For me, today was notable as the day I actually started work on my first-ever patchwork quilt. Cutting out the pieces at home, before we left, didn’t really count……Today, I sorted the pieces into 96 little piles, that would eventually become 96 hand sewn pattern blocks and then a whole quilt – all made by hand. There were little heaps spread all over the bed, bench and stove cover. After gathering them up systematically and stowing them safely, I sewed part of the first patch. Momentous event!
John decided he would cook us a BBQ tea. We spread baking paper on the metal plate of the fireplace near us, and he cooked sausages, tomato and zucchini on that, and spuds in foil in the coals under. It was all very nice.
Today was son’s 35th birthday, so we phoned him with birthday wishes. Each year at this time, I muse on how he nearly got to be a month older. My doctor, roused from sleep in the early hours of the morning to attend the imminent birth, arrived still dressed in his pyjamas, did the necessary – including the paperwork – then departed. It was just luck one of us realized, later that same day, that the date had been entered as 5th of the 4th.
I wrote postcards, checked my emails, and read till bedtime. John played computer games till late.
We discussed whether we wanted to stay longer and do some more walking. There was no shortage of interesting seeming tracks, but we decided that we’d mastered the best walk of all, and after the Grand High Tops, others might be an anti climax. Time to explore elsewhere.
Our little electric fan heater had been playing up on this trip. The fan had been slow to start going on the occasions we had used it. Last night it actually glowed red all over! Quite scary. It had been our camping heater for over twenty years, graduating from tent to van, so it had done well to last this long. But now we would have to buy a new one, first chance we could, with mornings so cold.
Decided to walk the Burbie Canyon Trail, before lunch.
Called into the Visitor Centre to book some more nights. There was a different lady on duty, who was much more helpful. At her suggestion, we bought a NSW Country Parks Pass, for $45. This saved us the $7 day fee charge, bringing the daily fee down to $20. She even deducted the $21 of day fees we had already paid, from the cost. Since it was quite possible we could be visiting other NSW Parks within the twelve months, this could save us money. At worst, we’d be out of pocket $10.
Parked Truck in the little parking area, beside the main road through the Park, then set off on a narrow walk track that followed Burbie Creek up through a little valley – the canyon. The walk up the canyon was really pretty. Dead cypress pines were hung all over with pale green lichen strands – looking almost like decorated Xmas trees.
After a km turned left onto the Burbie Fire Trail, a gravel vehicle track – very smooth walking – that took us up steadily uphill for a km, to Burbie Gap. That section gave us quite a little workout. The Trail then turned left and took us down along Belougery Creek for a bit more than another km, to Camp Wombelong, back on the main road. From there, we had to trudge about 700 metres back along the road, to Truck, completing the circuit. The road walking was less pleasant, but there were few cars and being in the bush was enjoyable. In all, almost 4kms walked.
We both pulled up ok after that walk. John was very pleased with how his hip managed. After overhearing other campers talk about the Breadknife/High Tops Walk, he was determined to do it tomorrow.
After a late lunch back at camp, we had a leisurely afternoon. I wrote postcards to the grandchildren, and did some sewing.
About 4pm I walked up to the shower block, hoping the water would still be warm – solar heated! They worked on a sensor, where you swiped your hand across the sensor and then got 5 minutes of water – and the sensor was not within reach from the showers! The water took over a minute to warm up before I could even get under it, but I managed a very fast hair wash.
We again had happy hour sitting round our little camp fire, watching the stars begin to appear in the sky.
I made a tea of chicken noodle soup from a packet, enhanced with bean shoots, grated ginger and beaten egg, followed by corn cobs. Healthy?
Last night, as expected, was very cold indeed. It got down to 3 degrees in the van. There was little incentive to get out from under the warm doona.
Eventually, needs must, and once I’d crawled out of bed, up I stayed. It was well before John surfaced. I sat outside writing up my diary, drinking coffee. Then went for a walk around the campground, had a good study of the walks booklet, maps and tourist information.
Breakfast and lunch happened fairly close together, this day!
John wanted to know the details about the walks available. I suggested we try some of the easier ones, to see how we would go. But then he looked at the maps and decided we would have to try the Breadknife/Grand High Tops walk while we were here. We did the Grand High Tops Circuit Walk in ’97 and I remembered it as tough, and I was a darned sight fitter back twelve years ago!
As it was too late today for even him to start out on the more ambitious walk, I did get him to agree to some more moderate ones, first. After all, we were here for at least a few days, no point in killing ourselves at the outset.
So we set off to do the two nearby short “Nature Walks”. Drove around to the Visitor Centre to do the Gurianawa Track, a 1km loop from there. It was an enjoyable little walk, giving views across the flats and to the peaks.
It was designated a wheelchair suitable walk, so was a very easy one to walk. The highlight here was when John spotted a very pretty, golden, streaked little bird in some bushes. He correctly guessed that it was a Golden Headed Cisticola – he is really good a bird ID’s. We had seen one before, but not very often.
Drove back around to the day use area at the Canyon Picnic Area. Stopped by Wambelong Creek there to look at some birds. These days, it was getting hard to spot a bird species that we hadn’t seen before – apart from the really rare, elusive or remote ones – so seeing a Diamond Firetail drinking at the creek was a real highlight. Alas, could not get a decent photo of it though.
The creeks here seem to only have occasional waterholes at the moment, so that affected the chances for bird spotting. This area seemed to have missed any significant recent rains.
The Wambelong Nature Track read like it was going to be really interesting, following the creek through a little gorge, with some notable volcanic related features. However, part way along the walk, the track was blocked off, for safety reasons. so we ended up doing a back track instead of a circuit. I think we thus missed the best bits.
That was enough to start to loosen up the legs again.
Set our camp fire in our fire pit and had happy hour to ourselves, after which I cooked up some fish and french fries for tea.
Ever the optimist, John decided to have a fiddle with the TV and was delighted to discover that, not only was there TV here, but the picture was excellent – and on all channels. I was not so delighted.
The night sky was full of stars, so it was going to be another cold night.
THURSDAY 30 APRIL GILGANDRA TO CAMP BLACKMAN 135kms
I woke early, to another chilly morning.
Took my coffee, radio and diary writing materials over to the camp kitchen, where I could sit in the sun and listen to the ABC news without disturbing anyone.
We left the park about 10am, and drove back over the Castlereagh River bridge, into the town, to stock up on some supplies, given last night’s change of plans. Then, back across the river and northwards again.
The Newell Highway north of Gilgandra, had narrower road lanes, fewer passing lanes, and was hillier than further south. This meant greater potential for us to be having a tail back of trucks and other travellers – never pleasant. However, it was not too bad, and John did manage to pull right over in a couple of places, to let others through.
It was a very scenic section, almost park-like in places, with distant hills.
We had one coffee stop, at the Spire View Rest Area. With a name like that, I was expecting a great outlook, but it was not a stand out.
At the very helpful Visitor Centre in Coonabarabran, I bought a walks guide for the Warrumbungles, a map of the National Park, and postcards – of course.
The Timor Road into the Warrumbungles was sealed, but narrow, winding, hilly. One steep uphill section had us down to first gear, and a downhill run saw us in low range. We had not travelled this road before – on our previous visit, we had used the “back” route, through Tooraweenah. It was more demanding for the driver than we had anticipated. But it was really lovely – farmland for much of the way, but always with the rugged, often conical mountains looming around every turn.
Passed the turn off to the Siding Spring – one of the world’s significant astronomical observatories. It was set up here after Canberra’s development caused there to be a lot of light in the sky at night. Out here, the skies are clear for much of the year and there is no light pollution.
Managed to find a place to pull off the road a bit, in order to collect some firewood before we reached the National Park. Having a roof rack with a mesh base made wood collection easy – just had to throw it up there and it would stay put. We did not need a great deal of wood as we tend to have small fires for some cooking and atmosphere, rather than the great, wasteful bonfires that some campers seem to need.
First stop in the Park was the Visitor Centre. It was modern and featured some interesting displays, but the staff member on duty came across as disinterested and unhelpful, fortunately not our usual experience in National Parks! She was an aberration.
This was not a cheap park, we found. We were pleasantly surprised to find there were powered sites to be had, but these cost $20 a night, plus a $7 a day park use fee – $27 a night in all. For that, apart from a place to park, and power, there was a central ablutions block that provided hot showers and flushing toilets. So, the fee was probably not too excessive.
As we drove into Camp Blackman, the camp area did not seem familiar. There had obviously been major changes since 1997. Initially, we came to a newly developed area for caravans: power posts, neatly laid out gravelled bays – quite close together, dividing beds with plantings that would, one day, provide some screening between sites. Not quite what we were seeking, in a National Park. Fortunately, John did not settle for that, and drove on further, before committing ourselves. We crossed a creek and came to an older section that was much more to our liking. Two large areas, amongst trees, along the creek, had two or three power posts each.
We set up in the further clearing, at some distance from the only other rig there, by a power pole and fireplace/BBQ. Some distance up a hill was a rota-loo toilet, clean and not very smelly, and closer than the main ablution block near the groomed area.
From our site, there were some views of the main peaks of the Park. It was very pleasant, we thought, and much nicer than the new area we’d first come to. A real bonus was the discovery that there were four bars on the mobile phone – therefore, we had internet too.
Set the rig up fully for a several day stay. Had a late lunch, then went walking out onto the nearby cleared flats, following a rough track. Apart from exercise, we were looking for photo chances and bird life. We did find numbers of kangaroos and emus but not as many birds as I would have expected.
The Warrumbungles are the remains of a major centre of volcanic activity, dating back more than 13 million years ago, caused by the tectonic plate containing eastern Australia passing over a “hot spot” deep below. The slow drift of this plate over the hot spot caused a chain of related volcanic areas, from what is now Cape Hillsborough (the oldest one) south to Mt Macedon, the youngest – although there are younger remnants beneath Bass Strait. Subsequent erosion has left the resistant volcanic plugs that solidified in the old lava outlets, standing stark above the surrounding landscape – the main features of the Warrumbungles. And that’s the geography teacher in me, talking!
This Camp Blackman area was, in pre-National Park days, the site of the Blackman family’s homestead and farm buildings, and the open flats had been crop land on their “Belougerie” property, which became part of the Park in 1969.
Further out along the flats walk, some white observatory domes at Siding Springs could be seen up along the ridge line.
Today was a sunny day, but tonight would be cold. We’d been told there was frost in Coonabarabran last night. I heard on the radio that Melbourne had its coldest April night for fifty years and that it was minus 15 degrees at Charlotte’s Pass in the Snowy Mountains. I was glad that we did not, after all, visit the Canberra part of the family – we’d have been there now. Brrrr.
By dusk there were some more vans in our clearing, and a camper trailer, but all at a good distance from each other. That could be the drawback to this older area – no delineated sites.
We joined some neighbours round a campfire, for happy hour. Both couples were on short breaks, from homes near Sydney. The imminent retirement plans of one set had been put on hold, due to decline in the value of their superannuation – an increasingly common story these days. The other – younger – couple were preparing for an indefinite trip and were very interested in finding out about work opportunities for travellers, and the jobs we’d done.
It was a pleasant evening in a great spot. The night sky was brilliant with stars. It was wonderful to be back in the “bush”, even if it did come with bells, whistles and a price to match.