Category Archives: Australia

Inland route: Bowral to Port Macquarie

Just for a change, instead of going straight up the coast from Sydney to Port Macquarie to visit my Dad, we veered inland, spent a week in Bowral and then headed to Barrington Tops National Park. Not the conventional route by any means.

On leaving Bowral we headed for the botanical gardens at Mount Annan. These are located in the far western reaches of Sydney and, as we live in the far south, this is not our usual stomping ground. The gardens are huge and consist of a number of extensive walking tracks. It was the middle of the day and very hot so we had lunch at the cafe, followed by a stroll through some of the closer displays. Lunch was good and the outdoor dining of the cafe very pleasant, however, being a coastal dweller, I have forgotten the joys of inland, rural life: flies, flies and more flies!  Aeroguard would have been a definite bonus. We’ll have to come back in late winter to try the whole gardens, sans flies.

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Mount Annan

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Vast areas of walking tracks, Mt Annan

On to Dungog, the town nearest to where we were staying at Chichester Dam. We passed through Clarence Town with our teeth almost rattling in our skulls the road surface was so bad! We thought this to be a one-off – until we reached Dungog, where the main road through town was just as bad.

Luckily we had picked up a glossy booklet of the area in Bowral, as, despite arriving at the Visitor Centre a full 15 minutes before closing time, it was locked up tight.

The Barringtons Country Retreat was somewhat of a Fawlty Towers experience. The website says it is under new management, so maybe this will change. We had arrived in the early evening secure in the knowledge that it had a restaurant, only to find that it was closed for refurbishment (a fact that had been omitted when we booked) and we had to turn around and bump our way 20 km back to Dungog to find food. The RSL club had good food at reasonable prices and we ended up eating there on about 3 occasions. A myriad of other, mainly small problems were encountered, but despite these we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The accommodation was rustic, to say the least, but it was set in such beautiful and tranquil surroundings that all glitches were forgiven. Each morning we sat on the verandah, totally relaxed, watching the wallabies, the horses and the birds.

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The King Parrots were quite tame and if you offered them food they would climb right onto you.

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Two wallabies and a brush turkey. If you look carefully, the back wallaby has a joey.

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The verandah of our cabin complete with parrots. 🙂

We had seen posters advertising the Dungog show, and as it had been about 25 years since we last went to the Sydney show, we thought it would be fun to go. It was! As it was hot we spent a lot of time in the grandstand watching horse events including a very entertaining muster, the grand parade and a display of vintage tractors.  We wandered into the chicken display tent just because it was there, not realising what a vast range of chickens there are, and how interesting they can be! Some of them were absolutely huge and the roosters were very noisy. Quite a cacophony.

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Grand parade, Dungog Show.

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Vintage tractor

The farmyard display had miniature goats, very cute, a positively enormous sow that had recently given birth and totally frightened us when she stood up and looked as if she was going to trample all her tiny piglets! There were two alpacas. One had just been shorn and we were given a sample of the wool. It is so soft and light, really beautiful stuff. The black alpaca was waiting to be shorn and was truly a sight to behold.

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Newborn piglets, blissfully unaware of their impending danger!

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Check-out the dreadlocks.

Then there was the piglet racing; no, not the newborns. One minute there was a huge mass of sleeping piglets, the next, after some imperceptible signal, they were clamouring and squealing loudly and incessantly at the starting to gate, raring to go. Then the gate opened and the piglets bolted around the track, had a congratulatory feed at the finish and went back to sleep! Lots of fun.

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Bliss.

Our glossy booklet enticed us with pictures of beautiful rivers amongst rocky outcrops and native forests. It also told us that the roads to Barrington Tops were accessible by all vehicles. Don’t believe everything you  read! After a very long, tiring, dusty and bumpy trip, that our car did not enjoy, we abandoned any thought of cool, soothing water, went for a reasonable walk and returned to our verandah with the wallabies. I was so disappointed I almost left then and there for Port Macquarie!

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Check out the distances on the road sign – we were a long way from anywhere!

Abandoning my glossy booklet, I pored over a smaller brochure outlining bird-walking trails, which I had picked up at the RSL. I found a walk along the Williams River which sounded promising; so we stayed.

Firstly, being so close to Chichester Dam we thought we ought to have a closer look. What a beautiful spot! This, alone, was enough to satisfy my need for water and it was right on our doorstep! No need for the wild goose chase of the previous day at all.

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Beauty and tranquility.

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View from the dam wall.

The drive from Chichester Dam to the Williams River goes out along the Salisbury Road. I have now been to three places called Salisbury: in England near Stonehenge; the capital of Rhodesia (now Harare); and the tiny hamlet, nowhere in particular in NSW. The drive, though, was very pretty with all the spring-flowering.

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Large stands of flowering paperbarks served as wind-breaks on the farms

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The Silky Oaks were just magnificent.

On to the Williams River picnic area, a great spot where we had lunch before heading out on the Blue Gum loop trail, a 3.5 km walk through a beautiful Sydney Blue Gum forest. This was a really gorgeous walk with towering trees and exquisite river vistas. An absolute must-do if you are in the area. There is a swimming hole, but it was down a steep track and we stumbled on it right at the end of the walk and it was too much effort – even for me, the water-baby!

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Amazing trees – so tall and straight

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1. Path through the Blue Gum forest. 2. Creek crossing. Difficult to play “Pooh-sticks” here!

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I promised water! Waterfalls and pools …

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Babbling brooks …

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More water and fascinating rock formations.

Definitely a case of saving the best till last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bowral in spring

“The flowers that bloom in the spring,
Tra la,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —”

The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan

For a good dose of both flowers and sunshine, Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands, is a great place for a short break or a week or two. The well-known attraction of spring-time Bowral  is the tulip festival, which, despite two spring visits, we’ve never managed to see! At least on our first trip, there were still tulips in Corbett Gardens and they were stunning. On our recent trip in early November (still spring by the way), all the tulips had been dug up and most of the beds were bare.

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Tulips, Corbett Gardens, Bowral 2006

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Corbett Gardens still had some blazing colour but, alas, no tulips. You can see the bare earth where they had been. (? Sweet William) 2014

But there is so much more for the nature lover in Bowral and surrounding areas. There are fabulous walks and views, lots of wildlife and, in spring, an assortment of open gardens exhibiting a range of magnificent blooms including some quite exotic species not usually found in Australia. This time we visited the Chinoiserie near Mittagong after seeing a vase of peonies in the visitor information centre. I have never seen such huge flowers in my life. Bowral was also having an exceptional season for roses, with absolutely beautiful displays in abundance.

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Chinoiserie Gardens, Mittagong. 1.Yellow American tree peony 2.Opium poppies 3. General view of garden 4 & 5 unknown but very pretty and 6. watercourse

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One of many stunning roses, Chinoiserie.

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Just a few roses, Berrima

Nearby Berrima, is a quaint and historic village established in the 1830s. It is well-known for its historic gaol which, we hadn’t realised, is still in commission today. The town trades on tourism these days and has a plethora of cafes, and arts and crafts shops to potter around. It is ill-advised to visit on Melbourne Cup afternoon as all the shop-keepers have closed up and gone to the pub! For a splurge try the Magpie Cafe, just walking through the door will have you drooling!

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Inside the Magpie Cafe, Berrima

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Elegant outdoor dining, Magpie Cafe, Berrima

Fitzroy Falls is a 20 minute drive from Bowral and is a popular  destination. The walks are along easy trails and the wild flowers in spring are spectacular. Unlike the ostentatious displays of the exotic flowers, the native flowers are often very small and you need to be attentive to  appreciate them. We saw large stands of flowering isopogon (drumstick) which were impressive. I’ve only ever seen them in isolation before. Take a walk on both sides of the river as the vegetation is very different.

We also had the best hot chips ever at the cafe at the visitor centre!

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Fitzroy Falls

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Wild flowers. Unsure of most of them but the yellow flowers are the isopogon or drumstick plant.

If you are lucky, and observant, you may see a range of wildlife too. On our most recent trip to Fitzroy Falls we found a very busy lyrebird, had an incredible encounter with an echidna which snuffled right up to our shoes before deciding we weren’t edible …

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Echidna testing out the shoe!

… and spotted a (rare) glossy black cockatoo which excited the Rangers considerably when we showed them the photo! We also spotted two water-rats swimming across the river, too distant to photograph. They also excited the Rangers as they were unaware of the presence of a pair.

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1. Glossy black cockatoo, Fitzroy Falls. 2. Echidna, Fitzroy Falls. 3. Crimson Rosella, Mount Gibraltar. 4. Lyrebird, Fitzroy Falls. 5. Mountain Dragon, Box Vale Track and 6. Long-necked tortoises, Lake Alexandra Reserve, Moss Vale.

The Box Vale Track is a 9km return walk along the, mostly flat, dismantled rail line  which serviced the Nattai Gorge coal mine in the 19th century. The walk passes through several cuttings and a tunnel 84 metres long. It was a good walk with lots of wild flowers, the occasional Rosella, obvious signs of wombat activity and the cutest little Mountain Dragon that allowed itself to be caught.

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A cutting along the Box Vale track.

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Looking through the tunnel.

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Mass of native colour. Click on the picture for a better view, the flowers are tiny. Box Vale walk.

As we merrily dance and we sing,
Tra la,
We welcome the hope that they bring,
Tra la,
Of a summer of roses and wine,
Of a summer of roses and wine.
And that’s what we mean when we say that a thing
Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.
Tra la la la la,
Tra la la la la,
The flowers that bloom in the spring.

Ah, they don’t write songs like that anymore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adelaide and Murray River

Adelaide, to Sydneysiders, is little more than a large country town – with suburbs. I am always amazed at how small it is. I like it, though. It is an attractive city with a well laid out grid pattern, beautiful old stone buildings, the Torrens River and LOTS of parkland. Adelaide has a huge termite problem which caused them to build in stone rather than timber from very early days in the colony. Many of these have endured and they lend a charm to Adelaide that other cities lack.

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Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island – South Australia

Why were we going south for a winter holiday? Well, frankly, an opportunity arose and I took it, but according to many, winter is the best time to visit Kangaroo Island, despite the next stop being Antarctica! Better, I say, than the relentless heat of a South Australian summer, where temperatures regularly and persistently top 40° C and heat stroke and sunburn are real dangers.

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