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.

Sydney 2014 – Day 2 – 18th January – Grafton to Ebor via Dorrigo

Just to clarify. We did not share the facilities in Grafton with greyhound races. They had been on the night before. Instead we had a quiet night with little traffic and one train in the distance. We slept through anything else that happened.

The road from Grafton to Dorrigo runs through Coutts Crossing and then follows the Nymboida River into the mountains. The Nymboida canoe centre is on this road. On this river very game (or silly) people do heroic things in canoes and kayaks in white water.

Nymboida Canoe Centre

Nymboida Canoe Centre

No activity there today. There is probably not enough water coming down due to dry conditions. There are extensive facilities for visitors including camping areas, cabins and caravan sites. Just past the canoe centre and on the banks of the Nymboida River stands the quite new looking Nymboida Hotel, which appears to offer all the normal facilities for travellers and those who want to linger a bit longer.

Armidale Road

Armidale Road and power lines – both going up! Roads never look as steep in photographs.

Then the climb up the mountain starts. The road is narrow and winding. It mostly runs through thick bushland with the occasional cleared rural areas. While not an ideal road to tow a caravan it is quite safe if taken slowly. This is the Armidale Road which joins the Waterfall Way about 10 km north east of Ebor. We left this road at Tyringham and took a short cut through North Dorrigo to Dorrigo itself. Again some steep climbs but by this time we were driving through cleared farming country with rolling green hills almost a far as we could see.

Canopy Caffe Alfresco Area

Outdoor dining area – the Canopy Café, Dorrigo National Park

Sky Walk2 Sky WalkThe National Park is the key attraction at Dorrigo but as it was lunch time when we arrived we decided to try The Canopy Cafe. An excellent meal! Ruth’s club sandwich was big enough to feed more than one club member and my chicken, mushroom and sundried tomato pasta was to die for. And the chips? Made from Dorrigo potatoes, of course.

The main attraction at Dorrigo National Park is the Sky Walk, a sort of cat walk that extends out above the rain forest on the escarpment and provides stunning views over the forest, mountain ranges and down the Ballenger River valley to the Pacific Ocean.

Forest, Mountains & Sea

View from Sky Walk

Knee Test in Progress

Knee test in progress

To give Ruth’s knee the promised workout we did an 800 meter rain forest walk with some downhill and up hull sections. The knee passed with flying colours.

Danger Falls

Danger Falls is a popular swimming spot

This is the Waterfall Way after all, so for our first waterfall we took a short drive north of Dorrigo to Dangar Falls. We had been there before but this time there was much more water in the river so it was worth the effort.

Dorrigo Main Street

Main street in Dorrigo


Another unique feature of Dorrigo is that it is the largest railway graveyard in Australia. There are hectares of rolling stock and engines standing on the lines around the rail depot which was, in its day, was the end of the line. The track is so winding that the section to Dorrigo was recognised as the slowest section in all of NSW Rail. I think there were great plans for the collection of railway equipment but there was not much sign of action as we drove past.


From Dorrigo we then proceeded along the Waterfall Way to Ebor. This piece of road has no flat sections. You are either ascending or descending and the grades are quite steep. But it is only about 47 kilometres so we were soon at the Ebor free camping area. We have only two caravan neighbours but for a while we had about 450 neighbours of the four legged variety. A local farmer was moving his herd between paddocks and was temporally holding them near the gate to the free camp.

Ebor Street

The leafy main street of Ebor


Fussypots at Ebor

Fussypots café at Ebor


Four Legged Neighbours

Four legged neighbours











Talk about noise! But he drove them via a stream for a drink and then moved them on to a paddock further away. We are fairly quick on the uptake, so two of our neighbours joined us for drink. Can’t let the cattle have all the fun!

So we three caravans have been joined by the farmer’s horse for the night, while he has driven home in his 70 series Toyota utility with his three cattle dogs on the tray. We really are in the rural scene.