Dalby to the Gold Coast

I would like to have visited the Cunnamulla area, to check out some of the better known birding sites in the area, but time available in between commitments did not allow for this to be planned. So instead we went only as far as Dalby and returned home via the Gold Coast, to keep an appointment for lunch with friends.

So on Tuesday 21st September we drove to Dalby via the Bunya Mountains. It’s not much further than the Warrego Highway, but does take a bit longer. At Dandabah, the tiny community centre of the Bunyas, it was blowing a gale and was about 10C, so no photos were taken and no walks attempted, but we did have lunch at Poppies Coffee Shop. The gale was still blowing at Dalby, with winds of 50+ km per hour, from the south west. So no Dalby photos either, but we did brave a visit to Myall Creek and I had a walk along the path beside the creek.

The attraction at Dalby was Lake Broadwater, 30 km to the south west. Had weather been normal we had intended to visit on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to maximise the opportunity for bird photographs. That didn’t work out, so we did not visit there until Wednesday morning. The wind had abated and the surface of the lake was relatively undisturbed.

We had intended to call at Lake Broadwater during our caravaning days, but never did. We found a surprisingly good camping area and lots of day use facilities along the shore line. We enjoyed a Thermos morning coffee with a view over the lake. But of the 180 or so species of bird claimed to be resident in the reserve we saw but a few. I did make a first sighting of the Grey-crowned Babbler but apart from Magpies and Pelicans there was few to see. A bit too late in the day, probably.

From the lake we returned to Dalby and then drove south east to Toowoomba, via Oakey and a lunch stop at the suburb of Wilsonton. It being September and school holidays, Toowoomba was in the grip of the colourful blaze of Carnival of Flowers.

As the gardens at Laurel Bank were almost on our path through the town they were our first choice. But alas! No parking spaces were available. So we went to Queens Park and lucked onto a spot right near the gate. We wondered if the displays might be damaged from the high wind on Tuesday but there was little sign of damage. But, as usual, an exquisite display.

We wandered through the rather crowded area and gave ourselves plenty of time to view the displays. But as you leave you cannot help but enquire of yourself “Isn’t there another photo that I should take?”

Warwick is an easy 84 km drive south of Toowoomba. But we diverged at Emu Creek to visit the Steele Rudd Memorial Park. Rudd’s real name was Arthur Davis, who later used his experiences as a youth on the “selection” as material for his book “On Our Selection” and some of his other work. He was quite a prolific writer of novels and plays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The old radio series “Dad and Dave” was based on his writing.

Surrounding Farmlands

The park is on the site of the house on the selection where Watson (Rudd) lived as a child. Recreated versions of the buildings of the day are on display, with a bit of farm equipment and numerous plaques that tell much of the story of his life.

The park is only about 1.5 km from the New England Highway and is well worth the effort to call. If you were diverging on a drive from Toowoomba to Brisbane, the park is on a road that leads to the Clifton to Gatton road that provides an alternative route from the Southern Darling Downs to Brisbane.

We drove on and spent the night in Warwick, where the temperature at 8.00 AM next morning was a mere 8C. So we lingered to a bit closer to check out time.

If time had permitted the previous day we would have called at Glengallan House as we drove past. This interesting piece of history is located about 15 km north of Warwick, beside the New England Highway, a couple of clicks past the intersection with the Cunningham Highway.

The mansion was built on one of the first grazing leases in the Southern Darling Downs. It has a long history and has had many owners. It fell into serous disrepair but was rescued and has been restored to some of its former glory. It is now owned by a trust purposed for its improvement. There is still a lot of work to be carried out.

Glengallan House Café

A café has been included in a reception building, with a gift shop and administration offices. It costs $10 to see through, and the tour is self conducted. Your effort is well rewarded by the picture that you will gain of life in the area in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. We had coffee before moving on.

We travelled to the Gold Coast via Killarney and Queen Mary Falls. I finally realised my ambition to walk down to the bottom of the Falls. The full walk was about 2 km and took about 45 minutes, including stops for photos. There is a good quantity of water flowing down the river at that point. Waterfalls are their own reward.

We then drove the mountainous and winding Spring Creek Road to Boonah and on to the Coast. We were lucky to have been able to do the drive, as roads between Queen Mary Falls and Boonah were to have been closed for major repairs. But because border closures have had such an impact on businesses in the area the work has been deferred.

We spent two nights at the RACV Royal Pines Resort at Benowa on the Gold Coast. On the intervening day we took a run up to Binna Burra. We hadn’t been there for a some time. The resort area and visitor facilities, of course, had been burned out in the interim.

The Visitor Centre/Café

The Binna Burra visitor area and other track head parking lots remains popular as access points to the eastern parts of the Lamington National Park. Groups of cars were parked at the start of walking tracks. At the visitor facilities, we secured the last parking space.

I walked the 1.2 km Rain Forest Circuit, during which I met a number of other walkers, some casual and some with back packs, as parts of the path are shared by other walks including the Border Track that links Binna Burra with O’Reillys Rainforest Resort.

The visitor area has been rebuilt since the fires with the old facilities renovated or replaced. It now has a modern appearance.

Our lunchtime view

The main change is that the original chalet building that was at the top of the mountain as you turned right at the T intersection has not been rebuilt. A large shed occupies that site. New luxury units have been built to the east of that area where they enjoy sweeping views of the coast and the privacy provided by a “Guests Only” sign. But you can see the top of the units from the road, just before you reach the resort entrance.

We had lunch in the café located in the visitor centre building, with coastal views through the vegetation, but views were obscured a bit by haze.

Binna Burra is always a pleasant place to visit.

Back at the hotel, room service sufficed for dinner. We couldn’t be bothered leaving the room, let alone the hotel. Increasing age has its effects.

With a lunch appointment at the Kurrawa Surf Lifesaving Club at 11.30 AM there was no hurry. Check out time was at 11.00 AM so there was plenty of time. After a leisurely lunch we made our way back to Brisbane along a pleasantly quiet highway.

Sunset Over the Mountains

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A Short Stay at Maroochydore

View towards the ocean

Our original plans for our annual trip to find warmer weather had been much more ambitious but a short lock down followed by a couple weeks of travel restrictions put paid to them. The plan had been to travel via the Warrego and Landsborough Highways to Winton to do the tours at The Australian Age of Dinosaurs, via the Flinders Highway to a stay on Magnetic Island off Townsville and then to return home via a couple of days on Daydream Island and finally two days ay Yeppoon. Some single nights in between some destinations, of course.

But the restrictions and the always imminent danger of a short notice lock down convinced us that it was not smart to stray more than half a day’s drive from home. Who, other than the wealthy, would risk lock down on Daydream Island?

So we settled on a newish hotel near Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore. Symphony on Beach, it is called. I read that as Symphony on the Beach and confused myself into thinking it was at Cotton Tree. Never mind. We are not great beach people anyway. Walking on sand gets harder as you get older.

Arrival at the hotel was later than expected due to an unexpected chore that required completion before we left home, so that settled the first day. We eat in and had a normal quiet night.

The first full day was Thursday. We had a quiet morning but went out in the afternoon, the destination being Maroochy Nature Reserve, near Bli Bli. It is a marshy and timbered area that runs down to the Maroochy River.

The parks people have build an extensive board walk from the end of ramped concrete paths at the visitor centre to the pontoon at the edge of the river, so it is easy to visit by road or boat.

Loop off the track to stream

Two loops run off the main track to allow viewing of special areas. All is wheelchair and walker friendly. It is probably about 1.5 km from carpark to river.

I walked the full length looking for birds, but only saw an Egret in the far distance on the river bank and another small bird that flew swiftly across my path and disappeared into the forest.

On the way back to our hotel we detoured to Twin Waters to view Maroochydore from a different direction. And to fill in time until dinner.

Sunset Day 1

Our hotel is near to the Big Top shopping centre. When Sunshine Plaza was built and then continually increased in size, Big Top, which was the original shopping centre in Maroochydore, was over shadowed. But it has come back as a food area with rows of eating places along the streets, just like Mooloolaba and parts of the Gold Coast. We went to a seafood restaurant called The Red Sea in Duporth Street. It was well priced, the food was excellent and there was plenty of it. And great service by keen young staff. A restaurant worth remembering!

Day two of our four day trip saw us on the road to Imbil, Kenilworth, Melany, Mapleton and back to Maroochydore. It was some years since we had visited much of this area. So, up the newish highway to the turn onto the old highway and then the roads into the Mary River Valley.

The main change to Imbil is the long grass growing over the railway line as a result of the Mary Valley Rattler no longer reaching the town. The station has been turned into the first tee of a golf course but the station buildings and the engine turntable have been preserved and an old steam engine and carriage stand on the old tracks, secured by a flimsy netting barrier.

The town was busy, with caravans driving through at irregular intervals. We saw many of them later at the Borumba Dam Camping area. We had coffee at the Rattler Café, served by a young man dressed as a farm hand.

Imbil was the terminus for the Gympie to Imbil tourist steam train known as “The Rattler”.

The track was badly damaged by the tail end of a cyclone. The rail line was reinstated only to Amamoor and the old Imbil station was set up as a museum, with an old steam locomotive and a single car standing on the track leading to the station. The strip along the old permanent way has been converted into a small golf course, with the first tee adjacent to the station building.

Bougainvillea Near Dam

Borumba Dam is a water impoundment on Yabba Creek south west of Imbil. It has been there since 1964 so is well known to SE Queenslanders. The wall is 43 metres high and 343 metres long and is of rock fill construction. Whilst primarily a water storage for irrigation and town supply, it is a popular fishing spot and location for other water sports. A caravan and camping park is located down stream from the wall.

After a drive to the dam, we went on to Kenilworth. The town was very busy so we had to find parking in a side street. The Bushtracker Caravan club was in residence at the showgrounds as were many other caravans, campers and tents.

Clearly, many visitors to the coast were having a hinterland day. The bakery closed right after lunch as it had sold all of its stock. We had lunch overlooking the main street, then visited the cheese factory to make the obligatory cheese purchase. We never come to Kenilworth without buying cheese.

Continuing our drive, we called at the Charlie Moreland camping area in the Imbil Forest Park. There were a few campers set up for the weekend. The gravel road in was in great condition.

From there it was just a pleasant drive through the valley and over the range to Maleny. The day was clear so we enjoyed great views of the coast as we drove through Montville to Mapleton. Then down the range and through the afternoon traffic congestion of Nambour and Maroochydore to Rhythm on Beach.

We dined in. We had leftovers to finish from the previous night. A better sunset with a bit of cloud to add interest.

High-rise units at Point Cartwright

We didn’t do much at all on day three. Coffee at Cotton Tree and a walk on the beach south of the river mouth was followed by lunch at the unit. Later we drove to Mooloolaba, grabbing a lucky parking spot overlooking the beach adjacent to the shopping and eating strip. Later we drove to the peninsula and stretched our legs with a walk to the end of the inner wall at the mouth of the Mooloolah River. Dinner in because we couldn’t bother going out.

Sunday was our last day. We had planned a drive to Noosa and despite threatening rain we stuck to our plan. A kind visitor pulled out of a parking space just as we began to look for one. A good start.

Noosa brunch – Truffle Omelette

The famous Aromas on Hastings was under serious renovation last time that we were in Noosa, so a delayed visit for brunch was the focal point of our visit. They were enjoying a busy morning with a short queue for tables. As we reached the front of the socially distanced queue, a table in the front row became vacant and was awarded to us. Coffee was available quickly but there was a 40 minute delay for food as the kitchen could not keep up with demand. While we waited for our food we received a visit from two Rainbow Lorikeets that landed briefly on our table and it started to rain. The meal was worth waiting for.

A quite spot in Noosa’s Hastings Street

Brunch done, we walked the length of Hastings street, pausing for a few minutes to stand out of a recommenced drizzle, drove down to the river mouth where there was no parking available and drove back to Maroochydore via Nicklin Way, the road along the coast.

The day was rounded out by a call at Sunshine Plaza for Galati and a return to our hotel for dinner. The final act was to drive home the following morning, happy that Brisbane had not been locked down while we were away.

An Uncompleted Hike

Gold Coast high-rise through haze

During our almost 40 years of residence in South East Queensland, Ruth and I have visited Springbrook Mountain in the Gold Coast hinterland perhaps half a dozen times. But our activities have never taken us further afield than the town and the several spectacular lookouts along the lip of the impressive (by Australian standards) precipice, much of which overlooks the Gold Coast coastal strip.

Rush Creek above the falls

Encouraged by the rating of the Twin Falls Circuit walk as “easy” and the enthusiastic writings of Springbrook devotees on a Facebook walking sight that I follow, I decided to give my almost 82 year old legs a bit of a workout. The circuit is 4.3 km in length with an elevation gain, or loss in this case, of 179 metres. Time to complete is stated on the All Trails app as 1hr 29min. My daily walk to Moreton Bay and back is about the same difference but with much more gentle and less change in altitude.

View into the valley

I had mistakenly believed that the Twin Falls Circuit was so named because within its length you encounter two waterfalls. I knew that the second was Blackfellow Falls but when I researched the name of the first I discovered that it, or perhaps they, were called Twin Falls. More in that later.

Twin Falls

We parked at the Tallanbana picnic area and with Ruth settled in the car with her knitting I slipped into my back pack and headed down the path, very conscious that I would need to come back up the path at the end of the walk.

The pool at the foot of the falls

Twin falls are on Rush Creek which rises in the highest part of the range near the NSW border and ultimately, I think, joining a number of other streams in Little Nerang Creek which then flows into the Hinze Dam.

The track is easy with most areas smooth going

The track is easy, well formed and well maintained. Streams that intersect the track are bridged of have concrete stepping stones. Hand rails are provided in most places where steep drops into the gorge would cause death or serious injury. Stairs, timber, stone and steel, are provided in a number of places. There are a couple of formed concrete ramps.

A very pleasant walk through the rain forest

The trail soon crosses Rush Creek immediately above Twin Falls, then continues on a slowly declining angle along the ridge to a point where is switches back on itself to start the descent to the bottom of Twin Falls. At this point you take a narrow path between two huge boulders and then follow a number of changes in direction until the falls are reached.

The track runs between two huge boulders

There, falling into the edge of a pool was the single fall of Twin Falls. It seems to only become twin falls after heavier rain, so when I saw it there was a single fall of water. That did not detract from its scenic beauty, but I would like to see in in full flow.

The track emerges between the boulders and is assisted by some steps

From the falls and pool the trail continues at the bottom of a cliff face to the left and a steep timbered slope to the right. The distance between the two sets of falls is about a kilometre. About halfway the track looses altitude via a succession of switch backs. It was at this point that I encountered a hiking couple coming in the other direction.

Part of the track runs along the base of a cliff

So I asked about the track ahead, as you do, to be told that it descended a fair distance, distance down that would ultimately become additional distance up later in the walk. I had been on the track for about an hour and had come about half way so concluded that the walk was going to take me about an hour longer than planned.

Considering the situation I decided to retrace my steps and leave Blackfellow Falls and the other half of the track for another day.

A look into the rain forwst

I spent the first 15 years of my life in the bush and have never lost my love of it, despite having spent the latter part in cities. This walk is a mix of rain forest and timbered ranges. Tall straight tree trunks emerge from rain forest thickets. Small streams and bubbling springs are located along the path. Stop and listen and you hear the calls of birds. Paradise!

This large nest may belong to an Eagle

Eating places close early in Springbrook because most tourists visit in the AM, but the Springbrook pub/café was open and had not run out of food. A couple of pies with cold fruit drinks hit the spot.

Purling Falls

After lunch we drove down the street to the Purling Brook Falls lookout. Later, and on the way home, stopped off at Wunburra Lookout for its panoramic views over the Gold Coast high rise, before taking Pine Creek Road for a drive past the Hinze Dam before descending to Nerang and the highway to home.

The upstream limit of the Hinze Dam

Birds at Deception Bay

A gathering of Gulls on an exposed sand bank

Last Wednesday was a sunny day and quite pleasant notwithstanding the cool breeze from the South West. But the shore line at Deception Bay is sheltered with winds from that direction. With the tide ebbing it was likely that wading birds would be there to take advantage of the drying floor of the bay, the exposed area increasing as the tide receded.

Deception Bay is deceptive. At high tide it appears to be a body of deep water but any but the most shallow draft vessel that moves outside of the dredged channel into Newport Waterways will soon learn of its deceptive nature. So while limiting for boats it is a great feed area for birds.

The first bird I saw as we drove along The Esplanade was a brown and white bird in the water, just off shore. I parked, grabbed the camera and walked towards it, but before I could get near to it someone buzzed it with a drone. It took off and vanished over the trees to the south.

Eastern Great Egret

As the tide ebbed further, more birds came in. Smaller birds included Silver Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Pied Stilts and Bar-tailed Godwits. Larger birds were represented by Egrets, both Great and Intermediate and White-faced Herons. This was by first opportunity to get a close look and a photo of the White-faced Heron.

Intermediate Egret
Eastern Great Egret
Eastern Great Egret
A group of Bar-taited Godwits
Brahminy Kite
Inbound Australian Pelican

Shorncliffe Pier

Shorncliffe Pier viewed from the beach

Shorncliffe Pier is, not surprisingly, at Shorncliffe in suburban Brisbane. It runs from the beach at Lower Moora Park, below Saint Patrick’s College. The current version of the pier was opened in 2016 after a complete rebuild. It is an attractive and popular structure with a broad timber deck, white timber railing, colonial street lamps and a resting shelter towards its outer end. It extends 351.5 metres into the waters of Bramble Bay, which is part of Moreton Bay. It is just a few kilometres north east from the mouth of the Brisbane River and provides a view of the operations of the Port of Brisbane. It is the longest recreational timber pier in Brisbane and one of the longest in Australia.

Shorncliffe Pier

Shorncliffe, and its neighbour Sandgate, were popular beach side suburbs in the early days of Brisbane and popular for day trips.

The pier is popular with walkers

The first attempt to build a pier at Shorncliffe was in 1885, but lobbying to the Queensland Government failed. In 1879 local hotel proprietor William Deagon built a jetty opposite his hotel. It was smaller than the current pier but large enough to have a tram track on it.

The pier through a modern sculpture

The last ferry to Brisbane ran in 1928 after mixed commercial success during preceding years. At that time the pier housed an amusement parlour including gaming machines and an open air picture theatre.

The pavilion on the pier

In 1882 a decision was taken that the jetty was not big enough and a company was formed to build a new pier. Between 1883 and 1884 the new pier, with a length of 260 metres, was built and later extend by a further 91.5 meters to its current length. The additional length made the berthing of ferries possible, facilitating travel between Brisbane and the bay side area. A small toll was collected at the entry to the pier.

A useful fishing platform

In 2012, lead by then Lord Mayor of Brisbane Graham Quirk, the Brisbane City Council decided to rebuild the pier, so it was closed to the public and rebuilt from the ground up. Or should that be from the sea bed up? The renewed pier design includes concrete and steel substructure and timber joists, decking, handrails and rotunda. There was also a larger hammerhead and a lower platform at the end of the pier, fish cleaning stations, water fountains, benches and light poles. The colonial style of light pole were retained. The removal works commenced in November 2014 and the new structure was opened on Good Friday, 25th March 2016.

The opening date was appropriate as the jetty is the starting point for the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race, conducted at Easter each year, which starts at 10.00 AM each Good Friday. The pier is one end of the starting line.

The pier is a popular tourist destination but these days visitors arrive by car rather than by ferry. Views of the Port of Brisbane and the shore adjacent to the Brisbane Airport are to the south and Boondal Wetlands, Bramble Bay and the Redcliffe Peninsula with the Woody Point pier and high rise, clearly visible to the north.  

Pied Cormorants each have their own perch

Earlier in the life of the pier an area between its southern rail and the beach was enclosed by netting to form a safe swimming enclosure. The netting and other parts of the structure have long since disappeared but the concrete posts remain to the delight of sea birds like these Pied Cormorants.

Patterns of waves

The foreshore has been improved over the years, as has the adjacent park area on the hill. It the shelter of shade trees and pergolas, several picnic tables with seating have been provided. Be early on a sunny day if you want a table, particularly at weekends. The street behind the hillside park offers some dining options. A coffee van is often to be found near the base of the jetty adjacent to parking area.

Winter bathers
Silver Gulls waiting ….
Port of Brisbane from the peir
High-rise at Woody Point from the peir

An Introduction to my Bird Photography Hobby

Australian Pelicans at The Entrance, NSW.
Pelecanus conspicillatus

I have been thinking about adding bird photographs to our blog pages for a while. I have been interested in bird photography for many years but did not own the lenses necessary to do anything about it.

Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae

My camera is a Canon 700D which I purchased in about 2015. It came with two kit lenses, a 18 – 55 mm primary and a 55 – 250 mm short telephoto lens. But changing lenses all the time is a pain in the neck so I mainly used the primary lens and cropped photos to bring distant subjects a bit closer. I mostly used the camera in one of the automatic modes as most photos were to support my travel blog text.

About a year ago I was able to obtain at a reasonable price a Sigma 18 – 250 mm telephoto lens. This was a great improvement but still placed me too far away from subject birds to achieve satisfactory results.

Then, on the principle of you can’t take it with you I went looking for something better and found a Sigma 150 – 600 mm telephoto. Used with my crop sensor camera I have an effective 900 mm reach. Much better.

Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

I also started to really study the capabilities of my camera and began to shoot in manual mode. I purchased a high capacity data card for the camera and began shooting in RAW at maximum megapixels (18) and converting RAW data into JPEG in Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.

During processing I identify the bird by using apps and field guide books. A handy aid to identification is the “Google Lens” phone app. Available from your phone’s app store, it allows you to scan a bird photo on the computer screen and gives you a selection of photographs to use in identification.

I also use Cornell University’s “Merlin” app and the “Australian Birds” app. There are other that you can try for yourself. I also have a copy of the Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds.

Sightings are recorded on an Excel spreadsheet where I record bird and variety and location and date sighted. My computer files are kept by location.

Future Posts

For the future I intend to post my better shots from each outing, together with some information on location and the featured birds. Unless I change my mind, of course.

But for now, here are some of the photos that I have accumulated to date.

Noisy Mina Manorina melanocephala
White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae

Red-backed Fairy-wren
Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus

Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida
Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris
Comb-crested Jacana Irediparra gallinacea

Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae – front view

Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae – rear view
Osprey Pandion haliaetus

Pacific Black Duck Pandion haliaetus

Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca
Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Black Swan with Cygnets Cygnus atratus

Royal SpoonbillPlatalea regia , Australian White Ibis Threskiornis molucca & Great Egret Ardea alba

Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia
Magpie Goose Anseranas semipalmata
Silver Gull Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita
Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea
Australian Wood Duck Aix sponsa
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus moluccanus
Australian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes

Images Copyright to Kevin Sheather

Relative Travel – Days 10 to 14

At breakfast, I confirmed with my niece that a left turn back at the main road, the Old Hume Highway, would take us through Camden and Picton.  I used to know that road well until it changed its character completely, when multiple suburbs were built along it and it ceased to be the Hume Highway.  But I forgot the second left turn at Narellan town centre.  We were crossing Peter Brock Drive at Oran Park before I realised my mistake.

We turned and allowed Google Maps to guide us over several country roads, including one called Sheather Lane, until we reached Camden. The Old Hume Highway then lead us over The Razorback to Picton, where we stopped for coffee. The wrong turn had cost us time, so the quickest route, out to the motorway and directly to Bowral, was needed to bring us to our destination on schedule. We didn’t want to be late for lunch.

The next call was very much of the reason for the trip. Ruth’s youngest brother lives with his wife in the beautiful eastern suburbs of Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands. Wallace and Virginia (Wall & Jinny) have lived in Bowral for many years. As time passed they bought the block in a then new area to the east of the town and built a nice house around which they have laid out beautiful gardens.

Our hostess with a regular visitor. Guess why it calls?

Sadly Wall is in advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease. Jinny is his devoted carer these days. We spent a night with them and left next morning. We had as pleasant a time together as circumstanced would allow.  It was pretty good.

Not only is Jinny a keen gardener but loves birds. Local birds know it as a good place for a regular feed. The current favourite is a Crimson Rosella that sits on Jinny’s thumb and eats out of the palm of her hand. Kookaburras call and laugh and other Australian native birds in the vicinity drop in.

For a couple of days we had been watching wet weather approach from the south. As we departed Bowral on that Saturday morning, it was clear that we were heading towards the front of the change. We reached Goulburn in slight drizzle. After coffee we took the Crookwell Road to the north, heading for a lunch stop at Bathurst. Beyond Crookwell the road passes through several kilometres of mountains, resulting in steep winding roads. It was on this section of road that the weather caught up with us. Heavy rain and gusty winds added to the challenge but there was not much other traffic.

Approaching Bathurst, we attempted to take a drive around the Mount Panorama circuit. It was not to be. From the foot of the serious mountains until the outskirts of Bathurst, road side signs warned of cycling activity in the area. We discovered that the centre for this Lycra clad event was the straight and buildings of the Mount Panorama racing circuit. Spectators were driving into parking areas and barriers protracted the track.

From Bathurst we drove through intermittent rain to Orange, Wellington and finally Dubbo, where we spent the night. The next day we followed the Newell Highway to Coonabarabran where we turned for Gunnedah.  We enjoyed views of lush green Western Plains, so different to the drought conditions of recent trips.   The grasshopper plague, part of which spread itself over the front of the car, was less welcome.  We progressed under sunny skies having temporarily left the rain behind. It really was a pleasant drive.   Morning coffee was taken at Coonabarabran and lunch at Gunnedah.

The lookout on Moonbi Hill

We joined the New England Highway at Moonbi after skirting to the north of Tamworth. This is quite a good alternative if you want to avoid Tamworth and interesting scenery, as the road runs through the collection of huge boulders known as the Moonbi Gap.  A short side trip took us to the summit of Moonbi Hill.  From there we drove to Armidale for the night.

The view Tamworth from Moonbi Lookout

Sunday 14th April dawned in Armidale with blue skies overhead but heavy cloud to the south west. We could have kept to the New England Highway by continuing north, but we figured that we could make it along the Waterfall Way and check out the area after recent rain, before more rain fell. So off we went.

Bakers Creek Falls are a series of smaller falls

There is a lot to see along this road but we stuck to waterfalls. The first call was at falls that we had not previously visited.  About 20 km east of Armidale you turn to the right into Old Hillgrove Road, which starts as a narrow sealed road but quickly changes to corrugated gravel.  The road leads down a hill, over an old wooden bridge over Bakers Creek and up the other side to a small car park hidden behind trees. A rough bush path leads to a surprisingly elaborate timber viewing platform that provides good views of the falls. It is a good spot and worth the roughish road.

Bakers Creek flows down this gorge from the falls.

From Bakers Creek Fall you can continue on Old Hillgrove Road to the historic mining town of Hillgrove, returning to the Waterfall Way via Stockton Road, that is now the main access to Hillgrove. We retraced our steps to Waterfall Way, having visited Hillgrove on a previous journey.

Wollomombi Falls viewing deck

Next up was the Wollomombi Falls. Just a few kilometres along the Waterfall Way the turn again is to the right. A sealed road leads for about a kilometre, through a farm, into the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.  It is then only a few hundred metres to the day visitors’ area located on the edge of the gorge. The falls can be viewed through the trees at the edge of the picnic area, but a better view is had by taking a short walk to a commodious viewing platform.

Wollomombi Falls

The falls, which are on the Wollomombi River, are a spectacular 150 to 230 metre drop into Wollomombi Gorge.  The elevation of the top of the falls above sea level is 907 meters.

At our last visit there was no water at all so it was great to see the falls flowing. Just downstream of the falls the Wollomombi River joins the Chandler River which empty into other rivers until the water reaches the Macleay River which flows through Kempsey and enters the Pacific Ocean at South West Rocks.

Not far along the highway, a turn to the left leads over a rise to the village of Wollomombi, where the general store provided acceptable coffee and with morning nibbles or lunch. It was too early for lunch so we nibbled with our coffee.

The top fall at Ebor Falls

Ebor is the next waterfall stop along the road but to get there you pass the turn on the right that leads to the magnificent views of Point Lookout and a trout hatchery that offers smoked trout. Today the views would probably be of clouds and fog. On the left you pass the Cathedral Rock National park and the road to Guyra.  Ebor falls are to the left before you reach the town. Views of the cascades in this impressive river are unfortunately marred by wire mesh barricades. As is so often the case, NSW authorities find it easier to erect a fence instead of maintaining tourist facilities. This is a very odd approach at a time when they are spending big on advertising programs to entice tourists to holiday in their own state. But we don’t do public tourist facility maintenance very well anywhere in Australia.

Barricades preventing access to the viewing platform
An example of deterioration
Both of the cascades of Ebor Falls

From Ebor we drove the undulating plateaux to Dorrigo where we headed to the Canopy Café at the Dorrigo National Park, for lunch. We took the mandatory walk along the Skywalk Lookout before returning to the car. As we returned to the highway the first sprinkles hit the windscreen but the deluge waited until we had descended the mountain to Urunga before it started. By the time we reached Coffs Harbour almost all of the deceased grasshoppers that had spread themselves over the front of the car were washed away.

A waterfall beside the road between Dorigo and Urunga

We stayed two nights at Coffs, in a small apartment a little to the north of the main area, with glimpses of the ocean. The heavy rain experienced over night withdrew sufficiently for us to visit the lookout on the mountain behind Coffs Harbour and to drive to Sawtell where we had lunch in a pleasant cafe in the main street. We checked out the observation points in the area before returning north along the road nearest the coast. Just a quick look in at the harbour area and back to the unit as the rain became serious again.

Observation deck at the lookout on the hill behind Coffs Harbour
A view from the deck over Coffs Harbour and the harbour
Boambee Beach near Coffs Harbour airport
Sawtell Beach and Bonville Head

The trip ended with the drive home from Coffs Harbour the next day. We had been away for exactly two weeks.

Relative Travel – Day 9 – Newcastle to Mount Annan

Sleeping water birds at a mini island in Tuggerah Lake, near The Entrance.

Our destination for the day was Mount Annan, near Liverpool, south of Sydney.  Tollways with 80kph speed limits now bypass Sydney.  You don’t see a single traffic light until after turning off the Hume Highway at Campbelltown.   With a mid afternoon ETA we had time to spare, so stayed east of the Newcastle bypass highway, travelling down the Old Pacific Highway until we turned further east to join the real coast road at Budgewoi.

Most of our drive was familiar, but not all.  We had intended to do a run into Caves Beach, just south of Swansea, but missed the turn in the new (to me) road arrangements south of the bridge over the entrance to Lake Macquarie.  But we did take a run into Catherine Hill Bay.  I wanted to see the old coal loading jetty, last viewed during an inshore tack when sailing a newly acquired yacht from Sydney to Brisbane, many years ago.

The historic Catherine Hill Bay coal jetty is under threat after damage from the bush fires in the area last year.
Catherine Hill Bay Surf Lifesaving Club overlooks the beach.

This was a coal mining area, of course.  As you approach the beach and jetty, you pass through streets lined by old miner’s cottages, many under renovation, probably reaching seven figure valuations as a result. We parked above the beach so that I could walk down a sandy ramp to the ocean’s edge to take some photos.

The entrance to Tuggerah Lake at The Entrance.
In past times Pelican feeding was a feature activity in Marine Parade at The Entrance. Pelicans still wait on a small adjacent island. They must have long memories.

We re-joined the highway via the southern access to the town, passing new houses, including large homes with ocean views and a new subdivision, down in a valley, with no views at all.   At Doyalson we turned in again to the coast, driving through Budgewoi, over the bridge that spans the narrow waterway that joins Lake Munmorah and Lake Budgewoi.  We then travelled through Toukley and Noraville to The Entrance  which we made our morning coffee and photo stop.

Residential accommodation on Marine Parade at The Entrance.

As we had approached The Entrance we both noticed water birds in Tuggerah Lake.  With morning coffee done, we returned the couple of kilometres to where we had seen the birds. I fitted my long lens and took a number of photos, including some with which I was reasonably happy.

The road bridge over the entrance to the lakes at The Entrance.
An Intermediate Egret showing some breeding plumage.
A Pied Cormorant out for a swim.

Retracing our steps, we drove through The Entrance to Long Jetty, on the eastern shore of Tuggerah Lake.  Long Jetty is both a suburb and a long jetty. I had heard of it in both forms and driven through the suburb a number of times.  Today we called to visit.

Water birds perched on the end of the long jetty at Long Jetty NSW.

The jetty is intended for foot traffic, with a hand rail on one side.  The timber deck is about a metre above the water. On the outer end of the jetty I could see a group of water birds, sitting on the rail.  My bird lens was not attached to the camera but the smaller one would do.  But on the spur of the moment I forgot to change the camera settings from general sightseeing to bird photography.  The result was photos of less quality than they could have been.  We live and, hopefully, learn and remember in the future.

A closer view of the perched birds on Long Jetty. Australian Darter and Pied Cormorants.
Long Jetty suburb at the shore end of the long jetty.
An example of what you get when you do not have correct settings on your camera.

We continued south, keeping as near to the ocean as possible, turning east for a better view of the coast whenever the opportunity presented.  Then we came to Terrigal and I realised that I had never been there.  I was impressed.  We drove through town to the bay where the launching ramp is located and where views are to be had over the bay, back to the residential and commercial development of the town centre.  This location provided views of magnificent sea cliff top houses, the kind that dreams are made of.

Part of Terrigal across the bay.

After a viewing and photo stop we drove around point Kurrawyba with its two headlands and then via the Scenic Highway to eventually reach Woy Woy.  There we did some necessary shopping and returned to the Pacific Motorway near Gosford to continue south.  So after crossing the Hawkesbury River and reaching Hornsby we were taken underground for a long sweep to the west on the M7 until we swung back east to the Hume Motorway at Casula.  It was then a quick and easy drive to Mount Annan, our destination.

The Skillion is the southern most of the two headlands on the point at Terrigal.

There we caught up with Ruth’s youngest sister Dorothy (Dot) and her family, including newly minted grandson Max. We also caught up with Max’s mum Deahna, our niece Madison, Madison’s fiancé Josh and Dot’s other half, Peter. Max’s dad had work commitments.

Luxury homes overlook the Pacific Ocean at Terrigal Beach.

After much talking and taking of refreshments, Peter took to the barbeque to produce the protein to accompany the other portions of the meal, previously prepared.  With a libation or two we all enjoyed a very pleasant evening, called to an earlier close than might otherwise have been the case by our hosts need to make early departures for work the following morning.

A final view of Woy Woy before we re-joined the Pacific Motorway near Gosford.

Relative Travel – Days 1 to 8 – Home to Newcastle

A three image panorama of Merewether Beach and suburbs further south.

With some embarrassment, I see that it is a year since I have added to our travel Web site www.mobilesheathers.com.  One reason for the delay is that we are less mobile, with advancing age and the disposal of our caravan and tow vehicle.  But despite Covid-19 we have made some excursions of several days duration.  I will start getting the site up to date with a report on our most recent trip south.

Gold Coast high rise from the Broadwater

We have, for obvious reasons, been reluctant to venture out of Queensland, due to the possibility of being locked out or needing to deal with the expense of getting back in.  With the prolonged period of no community Covid infections as encouragement, we took our courage in both hands and crossed that border at Tweed Heads, heading south.  What was the experience like, you may ask?  Well, very much the same as on previous occasions.  All the border closing gear had been placed out of sight, so all was normal again.  But, for how long?  The answer to that question remains unanswered, thankfully.

A distant view of the caravan park on the waters edge at Southport.

The decision to go south was brought about by an earlier decision to join a group from our Probus Club at the Broadwater Tourist Park at Southport, near Surfers Paradise, for a few days.  We do this periodically, at different locations, generally staying for three nights.  Normally, some of our group come with their caravans, while the other attendees take up residence in park cabins. This time, with inclement weather both with us and projected, we all chose cabins.

Boats in the Southport Yacht Club marina, viewed from the club in the early evening.
A cruising yacht complete with flower garden, moored in front of the Palazzo Versace hotel.

Our program included dinner at the Southport Yacht Club, a luncheon cruise of the Broadwater on a Sea World ferry and each evening a happy hour in one of the park camp kitchens.  The periods not organised were free time, but no one did very much due to disagreeable weather.  I did go for a wander during the first morning, with my longest lens on my camera, to photograph some local shore birds. Bird photography is my latest hobby interest.

Palazzo Versace hotel with the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort in the background.

So on Friday, day 4 of our travels, we crossed the border and drove a further 90 kilometres to Ballina, where we spent two nights with our longest time friends Joe and Thelma, who relocated themselves from Melbourne to Ballina a couple of years ago.  Renovations are complete on their house and have been very well carried out. The house is as new. We enjoyed a day and two nights with them, resuming conversations interrupted when we parted from them the last time. Thank you, Thelma and Joe.

Shelly Beach and the ocean at North Ballina.
A new eating location that was closing when we were there in the late afternoon. The photo of the beach was taken from here.

This brought us up to Sunday 7th March. The 8th March was my Brother Ivan’s 87th birthday, so we had a day to reach Newcastle and our accommodation at Merewether Beach. The only impediment to traffic flow on the Pacific Highway, between the Queensland Border and the northern approaches to Newcastle, are the multiple (is it 12 or 14?) sets of traffic lights through Coffs Harbour, so we made the journey in comfort and with ease.

We had lunch with Ivan and Marjorie at the Windsor Hotel in East Maitland on Ivan’s birthday.  He drove us there in their new Nissan X-Trail, having a few days previously passed his second “old persons” driving test with flying colours. We returned to their home to again resume old conversations. We stayed with them for a light evening meal and then returned to our digs.

The 87th birthday lunch. All participants looking younger than their years.

We arrived back at our motel too late to lodge breakfast menus, so next morning needed to embark on an excursion to find breakfast. We drove to Merewether Beach but all the Newcastle city workers who park there and walk to work for exercise got there first.  So there was breakfast but no parking.  A little further up the beach we found a venue and parking but breakfast was down a long and steep flight of stairs.  Closer to our motel we found a café that did the poached eggs and bacon to a turn and provided excellent coffee.

Merewether Beach. The parked out area is near the distant end.
Empire Park covers much of what I believe to be the actual hill named Cooks Hill, from which the suburb of the same name presumably takes its name.

The rest of the morning was free until we were due to meet Ruth’s eldest sister Judy and Alan her husband at 1.00PM, after they kept some previously made appointments.  We used this time to revisit familiar areas and to find some that were less so.  Judy and Alan arrived right on time. We enjoyed a leisurely (about 2 ½ hours) lunch at the pier which is part of the Queens Wharf Hotel, while we chatted and watched the procession of bulk carriers and tugs on the busy Newcastle coal port pass by.

A bulk carrier, probably coal, leaves the Port of Newcastle.
Newcastle Ocean Baths
A bulk carrier entering the Port of Newcastle.
Nobbys Head at the southern side of the port entry

There had been a severe thunder storm while at Ivan’s place the previous day. As we approached the expiry of our parking meters the signs were building up for a repeat performance.  This one was less severe.  We said our goodbyes and made it to our vehicles before the first drops fell.

Out luncheon venue. We were seated just to the right of the second pillar from the left.
A busy tug on the Port of Newcastle.
A bulk carrier entering port.
This view from water level could mean that you are in a lot of trouble.

With time to fill before we needed to be back at our motel, we set off through the rain on the 20 kilometre drive to Stockton Wharf. Our destination had been visible to us as we sat at lunch, about one kilometre across the harbour from us. The purpose of the drive was some photos of the unobscured Newcastle riverside precinct, from a distance.  The bonus was that the road took us very close to the shipping berths and the loading equipment that handles much of the freight volume that passes through the Newcastle port. The bad news was that rain was falling again , so no photos.

The bulk carrier side on. It has seven hatch covers. She is the MV Zonda, flagged out of Panama. The vessel is 229 metres long, 38.3 meters beam and a deadweight tonnage of 51,225 tones. She left port the following day, loaded with coal bound for Taiwan.
A panorama of the Newcastle waterside. The waterside building to the left is the Queens Wharf Hotel.

After a substantial lunch only a light evening meal was required, so we dined on previously acquired rations and went to bed to build up our strength for the drive further south the next day.

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.