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.

A Different Way There …. and Back – Post 3

Days 11 & 12 – 6th & 7th April – Dubbo

We stopped over in Dubbo for three nights to see the Taronga Western Plains Zoo. We have heard good reports of it for years, and have often driven past on our way to and from Melbourne. This time we decided that we would visit it. So after attending to chores and some of the other things that keep the ship running we had lunch and drove out to the zoo. It is only a short distance from the caravan park.

Zoo Enrty

Entry gate to Zoo precinct

To say that the zoo has been well done is an understatement. After spending over seven hours there I can’t think of any significant improvement to the way that it has been developed. The most common way to see the exhibits is to drive around and park at each enclosure. Some walking is necessary to see all of the exhibits but most can be seen from the road. Alternatively you may hire a golf cart or a bike. Or bring your own bike, if you like.Garaffs 2


The road traverses the park in a series of sweeping loops. This arrangement lends itself to the curved enclosures that provide a good view of animals, even when they think they are hiding. Enclosures are sunken below the road level. Fences are at the foot of mounds constructed between the road and enclosures so that when you get out of your car you ascend the small mound. The fence of the enclosure is right below you at the foot of the mound. You are not overly conscious of the animals being caged as you watch them.


Some enclosures have observation decks and the African Viewing Tower allows observation of several enclosures. The zoo covers 300 hectares of open-range country with exhibits built among the scattered scrubby pine trees that are native to the area. Other trees have been added as required.

Black Rino

Animals are mainly from Africa and Asia but there is a good display of Australian mammals with the koala as the central exhibit. At home we have koalas in the trees over our side fence but we don’t get the views provided to visitors to the Western Plains Zoo. The wallabies in this enclosure are so tame that children, yes and this old child, were patting them.


Friendly Wallaby

We spent about two and a half hours there on Saturday and most of Sunday. The cost for an adult to gain access on two consecutive days is $44.00. Excellent value when compared to the entry fee for theme parks in the Gold Coast area.

Dubbo is a very substantial inland city with a population of more than 40,000. I don’t think I have ever seen a town with so many motels. Where do the people come from to fill them?

Day 13 – 8th April – Dubbo to Mudgee – 128 Km

Again under almost cloudless skies we set off on the short trip to Mudgee. The road leads through more grazing country but with a few more hills than we experienced in the Castlereagh valley. We passed through a couple of country towns, the most interesting of which was Goolma.

Looking for a toilet break we found a small stand alone three door structure surrounded by a number of story boards setting out a great amount of information about the attractions to be found along the route that runs from Singleton through Mudgee, Lithgow and Oberon to Canberra.  It was a great example of the kind of promotion that is helping to build tourist numbers in rural Australia.

Loo with Story Boards

Small Town Memorial

Toilets and War Memorial at Goolma

Opposite, on the other side of the road, a small memorial to lives lost in two World wars and Vietnam has been built. The number of names from such a tiny town is surprising. I guess it is an indication of the higher density of the farm population of the era and the number of farm boys who went to the war.

Parked under shady trees

Under shady Autumn trees at Mudgee

Mudgee is trying to be a tourist town but falling at some hurdles. It is a leafy town after the style of Bright in Victoria but has some distance to go before it reaches that level of sophistication. There are lots of vineyards and as Mudgee is a reasonable week end drive from Sydney or Newcastle it is attracting the latte set in large numbers. It promotes itself as a wine and food centre but on a Monday evening when we wanted to go out to celebrate Ruth’s birthday almost nothing but pubs and clubs were open. With the weekend over most hospitality establishments were taking a couple of days, or nights, off. We did finally find a restaurant open and enjoyed a superb meal.

Day 14 – 9th April – Mudgee

We have been having trouble with fittings coming off the cables from the antenna to the TV. Some unsuccessful DIY on my part!  Last night while looking for a restaurant we saw a Jaycar shop so were on their door step first thing this morning to see if they could put more permanent fittings on. They were able to do so and the result seems to be most successful.

After a haircut (for me) and some shopping (for Ruth) we set off to look at the area, which means look at wineries. I am never enthusiastic about wine tasting when I am not interested in buying. As this was the case today it only took a pushy cellar door attendant and a bad white wine to destroy our motivation. We decided to drive around the area instead, looking at the vineyards from the road and generally getting the feel of the place. There is a great deal to see in the surrounding area. A longer visit in the future could be on the cards.

Wide Streets of Mudgee

Wide streets at Mudgee

St Marys Church, Mudgee

Saint Marys Church, Mudgee

After lunch we decided to visit the neighbouring town of Gulgong. There are two main roads that link Mudgee and Gulgong. The Castlereagh Highway is a distance of 26 km and Henry Lawson Drive is 30 Km. Yes, this is Henry Lawson country. Lawson was born in Grenfell but spent a great deal of his early life in the area and in Gulgong in particular. The good folk of that town have recognised his former citizenship with a fine museum. It provides a fascinating snapshot of life in Australia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s.

Henry Lawson Museum

The Henry Lawson Centre

Mudgee was built to service rural industries. Its streets are wide enough to turn a 20 animal bullock team. Gulgong is a gold rush town. It was surveyed with its streets following the tracks lined by miners’ tents and shanties. Streets are consequently narrow. In some places when cars are parked on both sides of the street the thoroughfare becomes one way at a time.

Gulgong's Narrow Streets

Narrow streets of Gulgong

Modern business in old buildings

Modern business in historic buildings

During the 1980s it was realised that changes to Gulgong were destroying a historical treasure so restrictions were put in place. Now a modern society lives and works in a town that is over one hundred years old.

On the way back to Mudgee on Henry Lawson Drive there is a monument to Lawson, built on the site of the old family home. The fireplace still stands. History is around every corner in this area.

Lawson's childhood home memorial

The memorial on the site of the Lawson family home