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 11 – 27th January – Beyond Katoomba

Another cold night bur no fog this morning – only cloud cover but higher cloud than yesterday. By mid-morning the cloud burned off leaving us with a clear sunny day.

The Court House at the Hartley Historic Village

The Court House at the Hartley Historic Village

The long since unlicensed Newnes Hotel, now a museum and kiosk.

The long since unlicensed Newnes Hotel, now a museum and kiosk.

We went further afield today. Travelling west we passed through the remaining Blue Mountain towns, down the steep Victoria Pass, made a brief stop at the Hartley Historic Village, passed through Lithgow and on to a small place called Newnes. Newnes is at the southern border of Wollemi National Park. It is a very popular camping place, particularly with 4WD owners as a river crossing is necessary to reach the main camping area.

The camping area is surrounded by sandstone topped mountains.

The camping area is surrounded by sandstone topped mountains.

Layout of the processing plant is shown on the information board.

Layout of the processing plant is shown on the information board.

But Newnes has historical significance. In 1906 the Commonwealth Oil Company commenced building a shale oil mine and refinery just down the Wolgan River from the site of the town which was built by the company and named after its Chairman. The product was transported to Sydney by rail over a purpose built railway that joined

Old photograph of the processing plant.

Old photograph of the processing plant.

the Government rail system between Lithgow and Bell. The line ran through difficult country and included two tunnels. The line has been out of commission for many years and the rails removed but one tunnel can be driven through on the way to the second that has become home to a glow worm colony.

Old rolling stock waits for restoring to its original condition.

Old rolling stock waits for restoring to its original condition.

The refinery was apparently quite sturdily built as substantial relics remain. To tour them requires about 2 hours walking over a path not designed for new knees. We started out but it soon became obvious that we would run out of time, so turned back to the car.

 

 

Gates by the road side announce the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.

Gates by the road side announce the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.

The Wolgan Valley was the centre of a controversy not long ago when a hospitality company from the Middle East was granted approval to build a rather lavish resort and spa primarily, it seemed, for their own nationals. Some locals and others were not happy with the arrangement and the matter raged on Sydney radio for a while. The resort was built and is operating but it can’t be seen from the road, which incidentally, is now sealed to about 200 metres past the front gate of the resort.

Looking north along the valley from the top of the cutting that descends into the southern end.

Looking north along the valley from the top of the cutting that descends into the southern end.

The valley is beautiful. It is narrow and follows the stream that flows through its centre. The mountains that form the valley rise steeply and are capped with sandstone cliffs that display most attractive colours. Apart from the national park at the lower end of the valley the remainder is farm country with cattle and sheep. Maybe a return visit with the caravan one day so there will be time to do the walk and soak up the history.

 

Wallerang Power Station is powered by local coal.

Wallerawang Power Station is powered by local coal.

 

Ruth on Clarence Station platform. This is part of the currently suspended tourist rail operation.

Ruth on Clarence Station platform. This is part of the currently suspended tourist rail operation.

We returned to Lithgow, pausing to photograph the Wallerawang power station. Lithgow is a coal town and is surrounded by coal mines. Instead of returning via the Victoria Pass we took the Chifley Road to Bell, stopping in to the currently dormant Zig Zag Railway. It is out of commission due to damage sustained during the Blue Mountains bush fires last October. We deviated from the

Hartley Vale from Mt York Lookout.

Hartley Vale from Mt York Lookout.

Darling Causeway that follows the railway between Bell and Mount Victoria to drop down into Hartley Vale, returning to the Great Western Highway at Little Hartley.

We spent the afternoon looking at the iconic lookouts and waterfalls of the western Blue Mountain Plateau. These included Mount York, Mount Piddington, Govett’s Leap and Govett’s Falls and Evans Lookout and drove out onto the Narrow Neck Plateau that divides the Jamison

Govetts Leap Falls and cliff face.

Govett’s Leap Falls and cliff face.

and Megalong Valleys. This last feature was a bit of a dead loss as, after experiencing easily the worst road on this trip we discovered that there is not much to see without embarking on long walks. Walks of various lengths were required to reach the lookout point from the various car parks.

View from Govetts Leap Lookout

View from Govett’s Leap Lookout

 

Another view from Govetts Leap Lookout.

Another view from Govett’s Leap Lookout.

 

So that was our day driving. After a bit of a rest in the sunshine by the van I went for a walk to look for the Katoomba Falls. We had tried to find them yesterday but had turned

The main fall at Katoomba Falls.

The main fall at Katoomba Falls.

back because of steep stairs. They are indeed at the bottom of steep and rather rough steps. The main falls are near the road, only about 300 metres from the caravan park. The Katoomba Creek then runs through a very pretty gorge and over a series of smaller falls and rapids until it plunges over a cliff into the Jamison Valley.

 

The final run of Katoomba Creek before it drops into the Jameson Valley.

The final run of Katoomba Creek before it drops into the Jameson Valley.