Before our 10.00 am checkout we took the elevator to the roof garden on 15th floor. That vantage point provides views of the area, including the Sir Kingsford-Smith Airport.
Enjoying reduced traffic, we headed north through Sydney suburbia. As we approached the Hawkesbury River we were experiencing caffeine withdrawal so we turned into Brooklyn, to the Brooklyn Corner coffee shop, across the street from the Brooklyn Hotel.
A solitary coffee drinker at the next table struck up a conversation with us, probably after seeing our Queensland registration plate. He had just returned to his old hometown after forty years living in the Brisbane suburb of Windsor. He lives in Mooney Mooney, where we had lunch the previous day. Coffee cups empty, he headed home, and we returned to the car to resume our journey.
Our day end destination was Cessnock, but we turned from the highway at Calga and took the road through Central Mangrove to the historic town of Wollombi, a very pleasant drive of 78 kilometres, through mostly farmland and bush. Near the locality of Bucketty, the road that we were on intersects with the old Great Northern Road. The Great Northern Road was the first road ever built between Sydney and Newcastle. It was convict built so is over two hundred years old. That’s old for a structure in Australia. Some road works, particularly culverts, have been preserved and memorialised. Although they no longer carry the road they are intact and serviceable.
The road from Calga to Bucketty is George Downes Drive. Together with the Northern end of the Great Northern Road it still provides a useful link into the Hunter Valley. The road appears to be popular with motor bike riders, as it is part of a circuit to and through the Hunter Valley wine region and back to Sydney via the M1 Motorway. Calga to Wollombi provides lots of those sweeping curves so beloved by motorcyclists.
Tourist traffic has kept Wollombi a viable town. Two roads lead into the wine region from there, either via Broke or directly to Cessnock.
Wollombi has a number of eating establishments in its main street, plus a tavern at the southern entrance. There are two historic churches and an old wares shop with an aging but stately Bentley for sale at the entrance. The town also has one of the best constructed and maintained amenities blocks at its rest area, that we have seen in a long time.
We left Woolombi along Wollombi Road that runs beside and crosses Wollombi Brook, a stream that ultimately makes its way to the Hunter River. Broke is a small town on the fringe of the wine area. We passed many vineyards and wineries with their supporting infrastructure. I love the disciplined order of vineyards, particularly when they are set out on undulating ground, the rows forming parallel threads of green. It is particularly so now, as the vines are set with juvenile bunches of fruit.
We reached our cabin in Cessnock via queues of traffic caused by road works on the only access street. We had replenished our supplies for a quiet night in after reaching town, so didn’t have to experience the delay a second time. The following morning, as we approached the exit road to execute a right hand turn, we were confronted by a line of banked traffic reaching out of sight to our left. But as the traffic control lights changed to green a kind lady at the head of the stream of traffic signalled to us to enter. We appreciated the kind gesture.
The previous night we had decided to start our day with a visit to Mount Sugarloaf, the mountain behind Newcastle on which the television transmission masts are located. The shortest route from Cessnock took us over country roads. At one point we passed the large decorative gates of the homestead on a grazing property. We could see a waterway behind the house as we turned a bend in the road and drove up a hill. The increased elevation provided a view of a huge modern house built on the edge of a very large dam. Not far from the main house, also on the water’s edge, was the remains of an old brick building, possibly the original homestead. It was such a tranquil scene that we continued to look at it for several minutes. The featured photo at the head of this post is our view after driving past the property.
It is many years since we had last visited Mount Sugarloaf. We found it is virtually unchanged. Despite the views over the Greater Newcastle area, including the Port on a clear day that it provides, no work has been done to turn it into the tourist attraction that it could undoubtedly be. I passed on the walk to the summit. It was a bit steep for my old legs.
To cap things off, visibility was not good due to a heavy haze, as the photo below demonstrates.
There is more to come from the activities on this day. That will be part of the next blog post.