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 2014 – Day 12 – 28th January – Megalong Valley Plus

I have wondered for years what is in the Megalong Valley. The answer is – not much!

We started the day with a visit to the business district of Katoomba to collect mail and do some shopping. That done, we packed lunch and headed back to Blackheath, from where the road descends into the Megalong Valley.

The historic Explorers Tree

The historic Explorers Tree

On the way we made a call at a historic site known as the Explorers Tree. As the  photograph shows, the tree is now a stump, but it’s significance is that it was marked by explorers Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth in their first crossing of the Blue Mountains. Obviously it needs some TLC.

Eight kilometres of sealed, narrow and winding two way road leads to the tiny town of Megalong and for a surprising distance beyond, given that it leads to a dead end.

Shady café in Megalong.

Shady café in Megalong.

The Megalong Valley is another area of former shale mining, but that was long ago and there are no obvious signs of it today. The area is mostly rural with a little tourist activity. There are a couple of horse trail riding operations and a surprisingly successful cafe/restaurant, judging by the number of laughing and chattering people seated at tables beneath shady trees. Through the town are

Shale mining memorabilia.

Shale mining memorabilia.

at least three free camp areas with toilets provided, which seem to be favoured by motor homes.

Back at the top of the mountain we turned left to visit Hargreaves Lookout and in so doing drove through the Shipley Plateau area that the tourist brochure claimed to be worth visiting for the orchards there. Obviously the material was written a long time ago and no one has bothered to update it. There is really nothing to see. Prominent signs lead to one apple orchard that clearly has been closed for years.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath from the Megalong Valley.

The Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath from the Megalong Valley.

Viewing area at Echo Point.

Viewing area at Echo Point.

So, feeling that we had given the Blue Mountains a pretty good going over we came back to Echo Point to once again view the Three Sisters. We had one of the clearest views possible on what was a near perfect summer afternoon. And, unlike most other sisters that I know, they do not look a day older. On the way back to the van we took the short stroll

Classic view of the Three Sisters.

Classic view of the Three Sisters.

to Cliff Lookout where we had excellent views of the Skyway, Scenic Railway and the newer cable way that also runs to the valley floor. We also saw where Katoomba Creek plunges into the valley from a different view point and Ruth caught a glimpse of Katoomba Falls.

The Skyway car passed over on our walk.

The Skyway car passed over on our walk.

The complex at Scenic World

The complex at Scenic World

 

Where Katoomba Creek takes its final plunge.

Where Katoomba Creek takes its final plunge.

This visit to the Blue Mountains has been mainly about looking at iconic tourist sites. I would like to return for long enough to do some of the many walks, particularly those that run along cliff tops or descend into the valleys.

And where are the best mountain views? Govett’s Leap, without a doubt!

A Different Way There ….. and Back – Post 4

Day 15 – 10th April – Mudgee to Woodbury – 310 Km

Day 16 – 11th April – Woodberry

The run to Newcastle was pleasant. The road is good but hilly, so a bit slow towing the van. The coal mines at Ulan seemed larger than last time. We took a morning tea break where the Ulan Cassilis Road meets the Golden Highway and stopped for lunch at a small park in Singleton. We arrived at Woodberry mid-afternoon.

Woodberry is just off the New England Highway, just north of the Hexham Bridge over the Hunter River on the Pacific Highway. Ivan is older than me by about six years and is very active for his age, still caravanning, gardening and wood turning. He recently distinguished himself in the wood turning area by winning this segment at the Newcastle Show.

We spent most of the time just catching up, but he did take us to meet a lady with whom I used to walk, with others, to the Boolambayte School about 65 years ago. The walk was mostly across farm land and bush tracks and was 7 km each way. Neither of us has suffered for the exercise. Indeed, we both should have kept the exercise up! Boolambayte School no longer exists but used to stand by the road now known as The Lakes Way that runs between Bulahdelah and Forster on Lake Wallace.

Ivan and Marjorie (his wife) live just a couple of hundred metres from the main north coast railway line, which is the main coal carrying line from the Hunter Valley coal mines to the Port of Newcastle. Trains of up to four locomotives and 100 wagons ply the line day and night, a train passing every few minutes. Rather interesting sleeping in the caravan in their drive way. But we got enough sleep … between trains.

Day 17 – 12th April – Woodberry to North Ryde – 146 Km

Ruth has a sister who lives with her husband at Hamlyn Terrace, near Wyong just north of Sydney. We had lunch and a chat, partly about our respective travels. They are more ardent travellers than we are but love to travel by train where possible. Their next trip includes Townsville to Mt. Isa which they are doing now in case the service is closed.

We came on to Sydney after lunch and established ourselves at the Lane Cove River Caravan Park. After setting up, we drove to Erskineville (Ersko to the locals) to see our daughter Briony’s new unit, where she has only been in residence for a short time. After delivering a huge bag of Tupperware that we had been storing she took is for a short stroll to where the action is in King Street for a meal in a noisy pub. But the meal was good, particularly the chips. Then home to the van for a good night’s sleep. I have managed to pick up a cold so my sleep was not so good.

Day 18 – 13th April 2013 – North Ryde

Briony was busy today so we had a day to do washing and to catch up on some work responsibilities. The weather continues to produce days in mid 20s and cool to cold nights. It is ideal weather for travelling. Long may it last!

Day 19 – 14th April – Eastern Sydney Coast

The plan was to spend time with Briony. We decided on fish and chips for lunch from the take away at Doyle’s famous sea food restaurant at Watsons Bay. It was a warm day with blue sea and sky so half of Sydney’s population seems to have had the same idea. Not to worry! Let’s drive down the coast until we find a place where we can park. It was a popular beach day and no spot was to be found as we drove past those well known eastern beaches. Finally we gave up and went instead to Eastgardens shopping centre (a big one) where we found a Japanese restaurant and a very tasty and inexpensive meal.

The trip continued south to La Perouse, past Port Botany and onwards until we crossed the Georges River. We turned west returning to Erskineville via the Princes Highway.

La Perouse & Botany Bay Entrance

La Perouse & Botany Bay Entrance

I’m sorry folks, but as I was driving and there were not many opportunities to park I do not have many photos.

Day 20 – 15th April – Blue Mountains & Jenolan Caves – 351 Km Round Trip

Briony doesn’t have a car so we asked her if there was anywhere she would like to go that was not readily accessible to her. After overnight consideration she asked “Is Jenolan Caves too far?”  As it happened Jenolan had been in our original itinerary but we had cut it out to make some other things fit in.

Caves House at Jenolien

Caves House at Jenolien

Caves House through Autumn tints

Caves House through Autumn tints

We collected Briony from the Kiss N Ride at North Ryde station and dived into Sydney peak hour traffic. We were travelling in the opposite direction to most of it but it was bad enough. But the worst part was crossing the Blue Mountains. Most of the distance from Penrith has a top speed of 80 kph but there was road works going on in many parts with speeds down to 40 kph in many places. I almost envied explorers Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth.

The result was that the trip out took almost 3½ hours. But we don’t get to have long conversations with our youngest daughter very often and besides, Adam Scott winning the US Masters took up some of the journey.

The Grand Arch leads to the cave entrances

The Grand Arch leads to the cave entrances

We arrived at the cave precinct at about 11.00 am, booked a mid-day cave tour and went off to have a late morning tea at the Caves House cafeteria. Caves house looks the same as I recall it from our visit on our honeymoon almost 51 years ago.

A good example of a shawl formation

A good example of a shawl formation

Briony and I did the combined Imperial and Diamond cave tour while Ruth sat it out and continued work on the latest trauma teddy. There are a lot of steps in all the caves. The one we chose had about 500 but even the easy caves have at least 280. Ruth doesn’t feel very confident about dealing with steps these days.

A Pillar formation

A Pillar formation

The cave was magnificent. The tour was of 90 minutes duration so there was a lot to see. The cave contains several long galleries that are lined with a constant succession of stalagmites, stalactites, columns, shawls and all the other features that are seen in limestone caves. On the lowest level of the cave an underground stream of the purest and clearest water flows beneath the walkways. We were told that divers descend 100 metres in the stream and could go further if they could dive deeper.

Another shawl formation

Another shawl formation

We emerged none the worse for wear at the conclusion of the tour and went for a late lunch and a much needed cup of coffee. I handled the cave without problem. The cave was a medium standard cave so on that basis I would be prepared to try a difficult cave next visit. Some say that the more difficult caves have the best features.

More formations from the cave

More shawl formations

More shawl formations

More formations from the cave

 
More formations from the cave

But a word of warning! If you visit the caves try to avoid a group that contains a shutter happy Japanese tourist who wants to photograph his wife and children against a background of everything. Try even harder to avoid a group that contains two of them.

Three Sisters and storms

Three Sisters and storms

Briony had tried to see The Three Sisters at Katoomba a few months ago but they were totally obscured by cloud. To correct that misfortune we decided to visit Echo Point on our way back to Sydney. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived and storms were sweeping over the mountains that are visible from Echo Point, but The Three Sisters were clear of visual obstruction so Briony had a clear view.

Ruth, Briony and the Three Sisters

Ruth, Briony and the Three Sisters

We were disappointed with the support facilities at Echo Point. They do not do justice to the superb view that Echo Point provides. This place is a true Australian tourist ikon.

We did the Cliff Drive to once again take in the magnificence of the views. Towards the end of the drive we turned off into the Narrow Neck lookout and met a sight that we did not expect. We looked down and there was a small car, complete with P plate, with its bonnet resting against the very last tree that could stop it from going over about a 500 foot precipice.

It is a long way down!

It is a long way down!

We could not tell if occupants were still in the car and it was far too dangerous to climb down. So we called the police who took details and asked us to wait until someone arrives but called back shortly after to let us know that they knew that the car was there and that a tow had been arranged. It seems unlikely that anyone would have been injured badly but the occupants are some of the luckiest people on earth. Or should that be still on earth?

It was dark by the time we reached the outer suburbs of Sydney and the onset of rain did not help matters. We decided that a quick and easy evening meal was the way to go so just before reaching Briony’s unit we detoured to collect some KFC which we helped Briony demolish. We then returned to the van for a well earned night’s sleep.