Destination Tasmania – Part 16 – Southern NSW, Canberra and Home

14th to 18th March 2020

We awoke to a view over Lake Hume and a chilly morning with blue skies. Great touring weather but the tour is almost over.

The plan had been to stay at Corryong or Khancoban the previous night and drive the Alpine Way to Jindabyne that day But we had not reckoned with the Bush Fire Relief Fun Day to be held that day in Corryong, or the weather. There was not a bed to be had in that area so we ended up at Hume Weir, as reported in the previous post. And despite our clear morning the forecast for Thredbo was snow above 1,400 metres, rain and temperatures ranging from zero to 6C. The chill wind was a north easterly, blowing from where we had intended to be. It felt as if the snow was already falling.

So we started the day by taking a look at the Hume Dam retaining wall and floodgates (pictured in the previous day’s post). The floodgates don’t appear to have been used recently. Then, rather than spend the day with the tedium of a four lane highway all the way, we added a side trip.

The bridge over the Murray River at Bellbridge, Victoria

We crossed the Murray River proper over a rather magnificent iron bridge just north of the dam, back into Victoria, at the small town of Bellbridge. The road that we had travelled the previous day followed the inlets on the south side of southern arm of Lake Hume that swing back into Victoria, the inlets created by streams flowing in from the south. Today we followed the NSW/Victorian border, which is the southern bank of the Murray, initially following the south bank of the northern arm of the lake and then driving mostly within sight of the stream.

Trees that have died while inundated by the waters of Lake Hume now line the banks of the clearly defined original stream.

After 95 km we crossed the Murray at Jingellic, pausing there for coffee. It is a place that I had wanted to see, after passing signs on the Hume Highway that point towards it, for the better part of 60 years.

There is not much to the town. It has just a few houses, a general store, a show grounds that double as a low cost caravan park and a pub. We missed the pub. It was down a side road out of sight.

Mount Alfred Gap Lookout rests on a summit on the Victorian side of the border with NSW, provides picnic facilities and a view of the Murray valley. And a fine sculpture of a Wedge tailed eagle.

The countryside is beautifully green with mobs of cattle, mostly dairy cows, grazing on the lushness. Periodically, we came upon caravans parked right on the river bank. We passed the last of the backed up water well before we reached the point to which the water had backed in earlier days.

The view from Mount Alfred Gap Lookout

Just before we crossed the river at Jingellic we started to pass through extensive burned areas. Whole mountain sides of bush and pine plantations had been scorched. Jingellic had not been missed by much. Fires north of there, near Tumbarumba, were reported on news broadcasts as being quite severe with that town largely evacuated.

Jingellic General Store

We returned to the Hume Highway at Holbrook, an inland town known as the home of a submarine. One of the Japanese subs that attacked Sydney Harbour during WWII was on display in a park for as long as I can remember. But the Japanese sub has gone and been replaced by the top half (cut off at the waterline) of HMAS Otway, a decommissioned Australian submarine.

The top half of the HMAS Otway on display by the roadside at Hollbrook, NSW

I can’t find what happened to the Japanese sub but I think it is in a museum somewhere. Or was it returned to the Japanese? Can someone tell me?

The Hume Highway was not carrying much traffic so we made good time, pausing at Gundagai for lunch and arriving at Canberra just as rain started to fall. We were booked into Canberra for two nights. There are always things to see in Canberra. A visit to the War Memorial is never a waste of time so was on the agenda.

Canberra is a widely spread city. Our accommodation was at a hotel at Gungahlin, in the outer northern suburbs. We had a drive of near to 20 km to our first visiting point.

Parliament House from the Telstra tower

Two nights in Canberra meant a sleep in. Partly to let the clouds drift away and partly to be a bit lazy, we spent the morning in, delaying sightseeing until after an early lunch.

Telstra Tower viewed from the car park at the summit of Black Mountain.

If you want to see all of Canberra there is only one place to go and that’s to the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. This rocky peak is located in the middle of Greater Canberra. It rises to 812 metres above sea level. The Telstra Tower is at the top. Two levels of observation decks are accessible by elevator. This vantage point allows for a full overview of Canberra, its suburbs and the surrounding hills and countryside.

Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin

I took a series of photos giving views all the way around from the top open deck. A selection appears below.

View to the south from Telstra Tower. Government House is located on the peninsula on the lower right.
A view to the south west. Note new suburbs under construction
The high rise by the smaller lake is the suburb of Belconnen and its surrounds.
The view to the north east from Telstra Tower
Mount Majura provides a eastern boundary for Canberra suburbs.
Canberra city area. Canberra airport can be seen at the centre right of the photo.

We then visited the Australian War Memorial. We normally spend some time there when we visit Canberra. There are normally changes and new exhibits, particularly if we have not visited recently.

The central courtyard at the War Memorial is flanked by the galleries that record the names of the fallen. Note the remembrance poppies that can be seen beside names in the gallery to the right.

I didn’t take any photos of the displays but only some outside shots. Because we were there towards the end of the day we were able to stay for the daily closing ceremony. We had time for a quick afternoon tea break at the conveniently located Poppy’s Café. We had to be quick as they were about to close.

Family members and those laying wreaths wait for the start of the ceremony.

Each day a different service person who lost their life during hostilities is featured. Their photo is displayed and their story told by a currently serving member of the armed forces. Often relatives of the fallen service person are present and take part in a wreaths laying ceremony. The National Anthem is sung and the last post sounded. The ceremony is held in the central court near to the reflective pool and the eternal flame. It was a very moving experience.

The photo of the honoured service person of the day with wreaths placed during the ceremony.
The final message at the pedestrian entrance to the car park.

We had planned to spend a couple of days at daughter Briony’s unit in Sydney, as she was away for a few days. But with the seriousness of the corona virus situation becoming clearer, we had decided to give up on that plan and head home.

Our interim destination became Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands, to visit Ruth’s youngest brother and our sister-in-law. We had an invitation to lunch. Following this very pleasant occasion we departed mid afternoon for Katoomba, to spend the second last night of our trip.

Travel via Katoomba was a longer way home but we wanted to see fire damage in the Blue Mountains. We had heard that fire had burned very close to the Three Sisters. There was no sign of fire damage from the Great Western Highway.

It was drizzly and cold when we arrived at the motel so we deferred visiting Echo Point until next morning.

Big mistake! Next morning dawned with a thick fog over the mountains that hung well below the altitude of Katoomba. We didn’t break out of the fog until well on the way to Lithgow.

We spent one more night along the way at Moree, arriving home about mid afternoon on Wednesday 18th March.

In all we had driven just over 10,000 km and had been away for 50 days. The distance Melbourne – Devonport – Melbourne did not register on the odometer, of course but was a further 436 km each way.

Would we visit Tasmania again? Yes! But realistically, at our age, we don’t expect to have the opportunity again.

Sydney 2017 and the “Big Birthday Bash”

We have just returned from a 20 day excursion to Sydney. A visit to Sydney for daughter Briony’s birthday celebrations (she likes to refer to it as her “f” birthday) had been intended as the first part of a rather longer trip, but circumstance necessitated a return to Brisbane for a few days. We hope to set off again around the middle of March, unless something else happens to derail the plan.

The foot bridge near the mouth of South West Rocks Creek

We left Brisbane on 27th January for Maclean, on the Clarence River, where we paused for a night to call on Ruth’s youngest sister Kathy and her husband Barry, who live in the area. We then had a couple of days set aside for the Gloucester and Barrington area but high inland temperatures persuaded us that it was much smarter to stay on the coast.

The result was two nights at South

The same bridge with the tide out

West Rocks, which increased to four nights when we saw how hot it was to be at our intended next destination, just to the north of Newcastle. So we opted for temperatures in the low 30s instead of the low 40s. We used the time to enjoy sea breezes, check out South West Rocks and the adjacent area of Trial Bay. We drove out to Smokey Cape where I climbed up to the lighthouse to take in and photograph the 360 degree views.

Dredging at the mouth of South West Rocks Creek

The actual South West Rocks at South West Rocks. The town’s name was derived from the instruction giver to early ships captains to “Anchor with the rocks to the south west”.

View over Trial Bay to the old prison on the point

The beach side caravan park. We were at a different park.

The old Trial Bay Goal, formally the home of convicts.

Smokey Cape lighthouse

Secluded bays to the north of the lighthouse are accessed mostly by walking tracks.

The view to the south of the lighthouse towards Hat Head

We spent the next evening parked in my Brother Ivan’s driveway at Woodberry while we enjoyed hospitality provided by Ivan and Marjorie, his wife. Next day, a lunch stop at West Wallsend allowed us to spend time with Ruth’s Sister Judy and husband Alan and one of Ruth’s cousins and husband. Then it was on to Sydney to our space at the Lane Cove River Tourist Park on the edge of the Lane Cove National Park, at suburban Macquarie Park.

Bennelong Restaurant at the Sydney Opera House

All this brought us to the day. February 3rd is Briony’s birthday. Don’t tell her that I told you, but counting this one, she has had 40 of them. This was a BIG one.

We made our way to Briony’s Erskineville unit, arriving just before lunch. With Briony and her house guest Tiani, over from Perth for the celebrations, we made our way into Sydney for a delightful lunch at the Bennelong Restaurant at the Sydney Opera House. Excellent food and service, outstanding views and the reason that we were there, made it an event to remember.

We had great views of a cruise liner from the restaurant.

Time then for a bit of a rest while the guest of honor visited the hair dresser and then it was time for the main event. Briony had booked an upstairs room at the Rose of Australia Hotel at Erskineville. The event was a cocktail party with finger food. The 75 guests, about 20 of whom travelled from Brisbane for the occasion, were adequately provided with both food and drink. For us it was an evening of meeting friends whose names we knew from Briony’s interaction with them on Facebook and renewing some old acquaintances. We met some of Briony’s Sydney friends for the first time.

The general restaurant and bar area at the Opera House.

The following day Briony had arranged for bare foot bowls and lunch at the Erskineville Bowls Club but the day was hot and only the hardy saw the game to its conclusion. I retired to the shade and a long cool drink after bowling only two ends. Ruth had opted to be a spectator.

 

 

The lighthouse on Barrenjoey Headland at the northern end of Palm Beach.

We then had two quite hot days to get through before we left Sydney to go further south. The first we split between lunch at a local shopping mall and a drive to Palm Beach. The air-conditioning in the car was almost as good as the cool of the shopping mall but had the additional advantage of the fantastic views of and from Sydney’s northern beaches.

Luxury homes overlooking Palm Beach

Our ferry at the Brooklyn ferry terminal.

On the second hot day, the Monday, we had booked a cruise with the Riverboat Mailman on the Hawkesbury River. An air-conditioned passenger catamaran fulfils the twin functions of providing an informative and scenic tour of part of the river north of Brooklyn and delivering the mail to a number of small riverside communities.

Naturally decorative rocks on the shore of Long Island Nature Reserve near Brooklyn

The tour lasts for three hours, includes morning tea and lunch and includes delivery and collection of mail to the small river communities whose only access to the outside world is by the river. Mario, the skipper, provided an interesting and at times humorous commentary about the history of the river and life upon its banks. The passage of the boat provided cooling breezes that supplemented the AC and made life on the upper deck tolerable, but only for short periods. The mercury was at around 38 Celsius.

The road bridges over the Hawkesbury near Brooklyn. The new highway bridge is on the left.

A small community on the river

A real estate investment opportunity at Marlow, the most distant mail drop of the day.

A derelict oyster wharf near the site of the former Sheather’s Wharf.

When the cruise finished at 1.00 pm we still had half of a hot day to deal with, so we went in search of Sheather’s Wharf. We had seen a photo in our local pharmacy’s calendar of this jetty. Not everyone has a wharf in the family. Naturally we wanted to see it. Alas, it is no more but appears to have been demolished relatively recently to make way for a marina and restaurant. I photographed its poor relation near by to give you the idea. If you want to see the real thing simply Google “Sheather’s Wharf” and you will see it in all its splendour. If I were to reproduce the photo here I would probably be breaching someones copyright.

Fog obscuring the view near Patonga.

Because I had never been there before, we drove on to Patonga. This small hamlet is located on a beach on the northern shore of the Hawkesbury. Glimpses of Barrenjoey Headland are to be had from the right spot. A passenger ferry service links the town to Palm Beach.

The surprise to me of the area was the thick banks of fog rolling in on such a hot day. There was not much wind so the fog was rolling in slowly, obscuring the scenery as it rolled.

Point Perpendicular would you believe? It is located just north of Kiama.

The plan had been to move on to Camden for three nights before heading home, but the weather intervened again. Temperatures in the low 40s were predicted for the days that we were to head back north so, as a compromise, we decided to stay on the coast and booked six nights at Shellharbour, just south of Wollongong.

 

Kiama harbour and headland

So on Tuesday we drove to Shellharbour. After packing up in drizzling rain we drove through a thunder storm as we crossed Sydney’s near western suburbs and then, at the top of the range before descending to Wollongong, we struck fog so thick that the road side warning signs instructed us to turn on our hazard lights. That has never happened to us before. It was a bit spooky driving down a very steep gradient with no visibility and have sets of flashing lights coming out of the fog behind us and disappearing again into it ahead of us. Thankfully we were on a divided highway.

The view from the Shellharbour Caravan Park.

The caravan park at Shellharbour is on a headland and rather exposed. On Tuesday evening a rain cell made its way up the coast from the south and tipped torrents of rain onto us for about three hours. There were reports of flash flooding next morning but we didn’t see any excess water as we made our way to Bowral.

Ruth’s youngest brother Wallace and his wife Ginny have been residents of Bowral for many years. We have visited them many times before but never via the Macquarie Pass. Bowral has an altitude of 680 metres while Shellharbour is at about 10 meters, so it is a sharp ascent. Part way up, the rain started again and the fog came down. No divided highway today but the winding road was mercifully quiet.

We spent a pleasant day with Wall and Ginny and many mutual experiences were relived. We than took ourselves off to visit Ruth’s younger half-sister Dorothy and her husband Peter, where we enjoyed dinner and the company of their two daughters and one boyfriend and spent the night in a comfortable air-conditioned room.

The Brackens are a working family so it was an early start to be out of their way as they commenced their day. Our next call was with retired friends who live in a retirement complex on the northern beaches of Wollongong. Marion is a friend from Ruth’s childhood. I have known her and Cliff, her husband, since their marriage. They stayed with us on their honeymoon trip to Tasmania all those years ago, when we lived in suburban Melbourne. Again much reminiscing! How good those old times were! That’s how we remember them, anyway.

Hampden Bridge in the Kangaroo Valley, inland from Kiama.

We now were faced with a hot Friday and weekend, before we made our way home. Friday was spent partly shopping, partly sitting in the sea breeze and the rest in the relative comfort of the caravan. On Sunday we opted for the AC in the car again and went for a drive. First to Kiama and then inland, over the coastal range to Kangaroo Valley and then up the escarpment to Fitzroy Falls. The walk to the falls, although short was warm, with the temperature around 38. I walked on another 800 meters to another

Fitzroy Falls up close …

viewing point for the falls and wondered part way if that was a wise move, but I made it back without harm.

We lunched and then returned down the mountain by a different road, calling in to an excellent lookout that provided views over the coastal plain around Kiama before returning to the van via the rather attractive rural town of

… and from a vantage point gained by a hot 500 meter walk in 38 degrees.

Jamberoo, with its streets lined with flowering trees and its quaint brick churches complete with square battlement topped steeples.

 

 

 

 

A view over the coastal plane near Kiama.

Formally a church, this historic building is now a restaurant.

This cliff foot Sea Cliff Bridge spans the breakers beneath.

The weather cooled on Sunday and was much more pleasant. Initially we drove north along the coast to Stanwell Park, past the many historic coal mining towns and over that stretch of highway built out over the ocean around the foot of the cliffs. We did that drive from both directions with the action video camera in operation. The results are attached for you to see.

Busy Manly Beach

From Stanwell Park we drove up to Helensburgh, parked the car and caught the train to Sydney. Circumstance had prevented us from going afloat on Sydney Harbour and we had never before travelled into the city from the south by train. The tip took an hour to Circular Quay where we caught the ferry to Manly.

Manly was a popular place that day. The crowd on the ferry was reminiscent of a morning commute. But the sun was out and so were the pleasure craft. Having sailed my own yacht on Sydney Harbour I derive much pleasure from watching the variety of craft on its waters.

Another cruise liner at the Circular Quay passenger terminal.

The beach was busy with a couple of surf related activities under way which partly explained the crowds. We found a vacant table on the footpath at a restaurant within view of the beach and within reach of the sea breeze, where we dined on good old Sydney sea food.

Lunch over, we made our way back by ferry and  at Circular Quay, took a walk to see the cruise ship “Voyager of the Seas” that was in at the adjacent cruise liner birth. Then we were back on the train to Helensburgh.

The south coast of NSW near Wollongong as viewed from Sublime Point.

On the way back to Shellharbour we called in at Sublime Point for that stunning view of Wollongong and travelled down Bulli Pass to remind ourselves why we do not use that road when towing the caravan.

On Monday morning we were homeward bound! We spent Monday night with my Brother near Newcastle to make up for the night that we had missed on the way south.

Although I had lived in the area in my early years I had never been on what was the Old Pacific Highway that ran through Gloucester and Krambach to Taree. These days, it is called The Buckets Way. So this time we did the detour. Much of the road needs maintenance but parts have been rebuilt. It is quite a pretty drive.

Two more nights spent one each at Old Bar, near Taree, and Ballina and we were home again, just before lunch on Thursday.

Here is the video of the drive along the Sea Cliff Bridge near Wollongong.

A Drive Along the Sea Cliff Bridge