A Travellerspoint blog

March 2018

Glenrowan to Strahan

...and finally we get to Tassie

sunny 31 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

When we lived in Perth, we were told so often that we had to visit Tasmania but could never include it in any of our holiday plans, so in planning this trip we made absolutely sure that we could see as much as we could fit in of the "Apple Isle".

In order to get to Tassie we had to book the ferry from Port Melbourne but had to include an overnight stop in Glenrowan. Before leaving our cabin, we had visits from superb blue wrens and kangaroos. Once in the town, we felt obliged to visit the Ned Kelly museum and learn more about the legend, which is fascinating indeed. I can't quite subscribe to the hero status that is accorded to Kelly but it was a rough and tough era by all accounts. Certainly, Ned, has been, and continues to be, good for Glenrowan! The town itself, aside from a bit more commercialism, struck us as yet another very attractive and friendly small country town.

Superb blue wren

Superb blue wren

Two eastern grey kangaroos

Two eastern grey kangaroos

Ned Kelly - more than life-size!

Ned Kelly - more than life-size!

Replica of Ned Kelly's armour

Replica of Ned Kelly's armour

Replica of the Kelly family's house

Replica of the Kelly family's house

As we had time to kill before our ferry sailed, we enjoyed a pleasant detour to Gisborne where we were just in time to try out one of the many coffee shops in town. Thus refreshed, we continued on our way to Port Melbourne where we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania - after waiting in a long queue to board. Port Melbourne takes its name from the city of Melbourne which was named in 1837 after the British Prime Minister of the day, William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne. Lord Melbourne is probably equally known nowadays for his role in advising and mentoring the young Queen Victoria.

The crossing was fine and we arrived early enough in Devonport to have a great breakfast in town. Devonport's name has rather prosaic origins.
It is a port in the Tasmanian county of Devon, named after the English county of the same name. Originally we had planned to drive straight from Devonport to Mole Creek but then switched to Waratah but in order to do so, had to spend one night in Devonport. As a result we had a full day for an exploratory trip, through some fairly minor, but very attractive, country roads roughly south-west, then back up to Penguin (named in 1861 due to the observation of large numbers of little penguins) for a small shop. After shopping, we decided to take another scenic loop, down towards South Riana and back up to Burnie where we checked out penguin watching times and places. We returned to Devonport via the Bass Highway and checked into our very comfortable Discovery Parks cabin which was situated very close to the sea.

Our Discovery Parks cabin

Our Discovery Parks cabin

View of sea within about 30 metres of our cabin

View of sea within about 30 metres of our cabin

Tasmanian rural scenery

Tasmanian rural scenery

Tasmanian rural scenery

Tasmanian rural scenery

In order to get to Waratah, as we had found the driving quite easy, we took a 'scenic' (i.e., not per Gladys' instructions!) route to get there. We spotted an echidna by the roadside but it vanished after only a couple of photos. Still, great to see as our sightings of these creatures have been rather few. On the way, we found a magnificent lookout at Mount Roland.

Echidna

Echidna

Approaching the Central Highlands

Approaching the Central Highlands

Our trusty steed in the Central Highlands

Our trusty steed in the Central Highlands

View from Mount Roland Lookout

View from Mount Roland Lookout

View from Mount Roland Lookout

View from Mount Roland Lookout

A little further on we stopped at the lovely Cradle Forest Inn, near Moina, for some refreshment before continuing to Iris Creek for an amble by the water and to inspect the flowers which were verging on alpine types. We pressed on and stopped at Cradle Mountain and bought passes so as to save time on our return visit. Further along the road we found another lookout which gave superb views over the buttongrass plains of the Vale of Belvoir. Buttongrass is a form of sedge which forms tussocks which look very attractive but are not so hot to walk through.

Cradle Forest Inn

Cradle Forest Inn

Iris Creek

Iris Creek

Everlasting flower at Iris Creek

Everlasting flower at Iris Creek

White (alpine?) flower by Iris Creek

White (alpine?) flower by Iris Creek

Red seed pods on small shrub by Iris Creek

Red seed pods on small shrub by Iris Creek

Tilly at viewpoint over the Vale of Belvoir

Tilly at viewpoint over the Vale of Belvoir

View over buttongrass plains in Vale of Belvoir

View over buttongrass plains in Vale of Belvoir

Iris-type flower at Vale of Belvoir lookout

Iris-type flower at Vale of Belvoir lookout

At Waratah we had rented a house which had ample room for the three of us and was in a good position. The town itself is a former zinc mining town and is sited on the edge of Lake Waratah, with a waterfall right in the middle of town - a bit unusual. Waratah has been claimed to have been home to the largest tin mine in the world. Its name was probably given by the Van Diemen's Land Company after the Waratah River, a tributary of the Arthur River. The river itself was named after the wild flower and had Aboriginal origins. It is a quaint village and, to our surprise, was one which we felt would have merited a longer stay, in spite of having a rather damp climate. There is a lot to see for such a small and fairly isolated town with many other places of interest being within fairly easy reach. In the early evening we went to Burnie hoping to see little penguins coming to feed their young. On the waterfront we enjoyed a fish & chips meal and strolled around until dusk. At the observation area, we saw several of the young penguins, in and out of burrows, but unfortunately the parent birds did not arrive before it became too dark to see them - clever little birds!

Burnie was named in 1842 after the then director of the Van Diemen's Land Company, William Burnie.

Waratah waterfall

Waratah waterfall

Fun features on Burnie waterfront

Fun features on Burnie waterfront

Two little penguins in their burrow

Two little penguins in their burrow

Little penguin looking for food

Little penguin looking for food

Waratah was chosen primarily to serve as a base for a trip to Cradle Mountain as we were too late to book any accommodation at or closer to the mountain. Cradle Mountain itself is part of the Central Highlands and is comprised of dolomite columns. From the National Park Visitor Centre a shuttle bus took us to Dove Lake with its quartzite beaches and the magnificent backdrop of Cradle Mountain itself. We started to walk round towards Glacier Rock, with hopes of going further. Unfortunately, Tilly's sciatica was playing up and my knees and hip did not enjoy the deep and uneven steps so that is as far as we got (the joys of aging bodies!). Judith clambered up onto the rock (spry youngster that she is) and queued behind a forest of selfie sticks to get a photo or two. Dove Lake is truly beautiful and it would have been great if we had been able to either get there early in the morning or stay to late afternoon to enjoy the best light and obtain better photos - maybe we'll have to come back!

Dove Lake

Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain beyond Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain beyond Dove Lake

Glacier Rock beside Dove Lake

Glacier Rock beside Dove Lake

The Old Boathouse from Glacier Rock

The Old Boathouse from Glacier Rock

Dove Lake

Dove Lake

From Dove Lake we took the shuttle down to Ronny Creek and then set out on the Overland Track. This continues for over 80km to Lake St Clair so, as we didn't really have time for the return journey, we took a side route to the Waldheim chalets where we were lucky to see a couple of Tasmanian wombats in the open country. We had also seen a Tasmanian native hen, one of our first, although later we were to see many more. The track then headed uphill into a forested area where we had a short stop for a picnic lunch, closely observed by a couple of beady-eyed black currawongs. We then found Weindorfer's Forest Walk which took us through a wonderful area of rainforest of King Billy pines, pandani and beech trees, all rather like a fairyland or something out of 'Lord of the Rings'. Gustav Weindorfer had lived in the area and it was his and his wife's vision that led to the creation of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. His chalet was near the Waldheim chalets, at the beginning of the Forest Walk and gave an interesting insight into the lives of the early settlers, much hardier than most of us are today.

View from Overland Track - buttongrass plains and pandani

View from Overland Track - buttongrass plains and pandani

Tasmanian native hen

Tasmanian native hen

Tasmanian wombat

Tasmanian wombat

Tasmanian wombat amid buttongrass tussocks

Tasmanian wombat amid buttongrass tussocks

Tilly and Judith leaving the Overland Track and heading to Waldheim

Tilly and Judith leaving the Overland Track and heading to Waldheim

Black currawong

Black currawong

Tilly inside Weindorfer's Hut replica

Tilly inside Weindorfer's Hut replica

Weindorfer's Forest Walk

Weindorfer's Forest Walk

Twisted branches on Weindorfer's Forest Walk

Twisted branches on Weindorfer's Forest Walk

View from Waldheim over lake and buttongrass plains

View from Waldheim over lake and buttongrass plains

Strange fruiting bodies on small tree near Ronny Creek

Strange fruiting bodies on small tree near Ronny Creek

Once back at Ronny Creek, we took the shuttle back to the Ranger Station where we walked round the Pencil Pine Falls walk, through a mature rainforest of pencil pines and majestic myrtle trees among which I was delighted to find a pink robin, although the shadows were too heavy for a decent photograph. We felt that we had managed to fit quite a lot into the day and only wished for one more fine day to come back but this was not to be - we encountered some of Waratah's more typical weather and decided on an 'admin' day - we are fair weather walkers (or plodders!).

Pencil Pine Falls

Pencil Pine Falls

Pencil Pine Falls

Pencil Pine Falls

I had hoped to travel to Strahan by driving to Corinna, taking the cruise on the Pieman River into the Tarkine Forest and then using the ferry across the Pieman to get us back on the road through. However, the weather again dictated that this would be rather a wasted journey, so we took the more direct route via Zeehan after taking a few views of Waratah. We managed to dodge the showers to drive to and walk through the Spray Tunnel (an old mine tunnel) which is apparently home to glow worms, although we didn't see them, but as we came out the other side, a pink robin posed very nicely for me.

Zeehan gains its name from Mount Zeehan which was named in 1642 by Abel Tasman after his brig the Zeahan. In 1802, Bass and Flinders confirmed the naming.

Waterwheel by waterfall

Waterwheel by waterfall

Old bridge across Lake Waratah

Old bridge across Lake Waratah

Rosebery Lake en route for Zeehan

Rosebery Lake en route for Zeehan

Main street through Zeehan

Main street through Zeehan

Former School of Mines and Metallurgy in Zeehan

Former School of Mines and Metallurgy in Zeehan

Steve and Tilly near Spray Tunnel entrance

Steve and Tilly near Spray Tunnel entrance

Into the darkness

Into the darkness

And out the other end

And out the other end

Pink robin

Pink robin

Spider under cocoon-like web on tunnel ceiling

Spider under cocoon-like web on tunnel ceiling

Our journey continued to Strahan where we checked into some rather tired accommodation. Among the options we had discussed for our time in Strahan was a cruise which went through Hell's Gates into the open sea, back into the bay and on to Sarah's Island, of which more later, and then to the Gordon River. Having agreed this, we went into town and booked our tickets then went round to the other side of Macquarie Harbour and enjoyed a walk alongside the water, among trees in which we saw a good variety of birds.

Strahan was a latecomer in the naming stakes. It was established as a settlement in 1877 but only gained its name in 1892, after Major George Strahan who became Governor of Tasmania from 1881-86.

Out of the forest into scrubby land near Strahan

Out of the forest into scrubby land near Strahan

Old church in Strahan, now accommodation

Old church in Strahan, now accommodation

View across Macquarie Harbour to Strahan township

View across Macquarie Harbour to Strahan township

Waiting patiently for fish to be caught

Waiting patiently for fish to be caught

Grey shrike-thrush

Grey shrike-thrush

Yellow-throated honeyeater

Yellow-throated honeyeater

Posted by SteveJD 07:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Emu Plains to Glenrowan

...with Tilly and into a bit of family history

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

From Emu Plains, we made a couple of trips to the Blue Mountains (so called for the blue colour caused by the evaporation of eucalyptus oil from the forests below). Firstly we drove to the Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens at Mt Tomah, in somewhat better weather than when we drove through Mt Tomah on our way to Bathurst! As with other gardens, there were many plants, birds and butterflies to delight us and we ate our picnic lunch on a lawn, accompanied by blue wrens.

Black Jezebel butterfly

Black Jezebel butterfly

Waterlily

Waterlily

Bassian thrush

Bassian thrush

White-browed scrubwren

White-browed scrubwren

New Holland honeyeater

New Holland honeyeater

Superb blue wren

Superb blue wren

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

Cunningham's skink

Cunningham's skink

View over gardens

View over gardens

Sarracenia

Sarracenia

From the gardens we headed to Mount Wilson where we had a short but pleasant walk through the Cathedral of Ferns. We then continued on our circular route and, near Blackheath, we saw a sign to Pulpit Rock. The path was quite good but with many steps which tested my metallic joints as well as my stamina! All came through OK and although the weather wasn't ideal by then, the views were worth the effort.

Cathedral of Ferns

Cathedral of Ferns

Cathedral of Ferns

Cathedral of Ferns

On the way down to Pulpit Rock

On the way down to Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock

Panoramic view from Pulpit Rock

Panoramic view from Pulpit Rock

Judith starting the climb back

Judith starting the climb back

By this stage we were quite hungry but were surprised to find that neither Katoomba nor Leura had a restaurant that appealed to either us or had room, so we ended up with an excellent Chinese meal at Hazelbrook.

The following day we decided to head out to Echo Point and were horrified to find the changes since our last visit - no parking close by and crowds three deep at the viewpoint (mostly Asian tourists with forests of selfie sticks - yuk!). The last time we had been there, we had just driven up, parked, enjoyed the view then walked the 900 steps down by the Three Sisters. Progress? Mmmmm!

The Three Sisters from Echo Point

The Three Sisters from Echo Point

The Three Sisters from Echo Point

The Three Sisters from Echo Point

Having recovered from our disappointment, we moved on to Leura where we visited Everglades where our UK National Trust membership gained us free entry. The Art Deco house is minimally furnished but very interesting. Having complained about the density of tourists at Echo Point, the Everglades merited far more visitors than we saw on our visit. The gardens are the showpiece with formal areas laid out in tiers and large areas of bush garden. At the time of year we visited, the floral display was a shadow of what it would be in spring but there were birds and lizards to entertain us and Judith spotted one of the few native orchids which flower in summer. In trying to identify the orchid we asked a volunteer who later drew our attention to a diamond python which was resting in a tree, digesting its meal!

View from Lower Terrace

View from Lower Terrace

Female satin bowerbird

Female satin bowerbird

Statue in gardens

Statue in gardens

Large tongue orchid

Large tongue orchid

Diamond python

Diamond python

Agapanthus Terrace

Agapanthus Terrace

The Pool

The Pool

Leura's name has an interesting history and the Aussie Towns website offers the following: "No one is sure how Leura got its name. Some claim that there was a local Gundungurra word 'leura' which meant 'lava' but it is more likely that William Eyre, who subdivided the area in the 1880s, planned to name the settlement Lurline which was the name of his daughter. Somehow Lurline became Leura which became the official name of the town when the railway station was opened in 1891."

Time for fun in the Blue Mountains ran out and we had to head back to Canberra. We again travelled on Remembrance Drive and stopped at the Mackey VC Rest Area where we had some of the best 'on the run' coffee from a Driver Reviver volunteer. The citation for Mackey's VC reads:

"Corporal Mackey was in charge of a section of the 2/3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion in the attack on the feature known as Helen, east of Tarakan town. Led by Corporal Mackey the section moved along a narrow spur with scarcely width for more than one man when it came under fire from three well-sited positions near the top of a very steep, razor-backed ridge. The ground fell away almost sheer on each side of the track making it almost impossible to move to a flank so Corporal Mackey led his men forward. He charged the first Light Machine-Gun position but slipped and after wrestling with one enemy, bayoneted him, and charged straight on to the Heavy Machine-Gun which was firing from a bunker position six yards to his right. He rushed this post and killed the crew with grenades. He then jumped back and changing his rifle for a sub-machine-gun he attacked further up the steep slope another Light Machine-Gun position which was firing on his platoon. Whilst charging, he fired his gun and reached with a few feet of the enemy position when he was killed by Light Machine-Gun fire but not before he had killed two more enemy. By his exceptional bravery and complete disregard for his own life, Corporal Mackey was largely responsible for the killing of seven Japanese and the elimination of two machine-gun posts, which enabled his platoon to gain its objective, from which the Company continued to engage the enemy. His fearless action and outstanding courage were an inspiration to the whole battalion." Maybe crazy but selfless and utterly amazing.

We were delighted to be able to catch up with old friends from Rhodesian days, Colin & Nat, and put the world to rights over a refreshing cuppa.

IMG_0692_-_processed.jpg IMG_0689_-_processed.jpg

After a night's rest at Tilly's place, she joined us in travelling down to our overnight stop at Jindabyne (the name being derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'valley'.). On the way down we stopped at Bredbo and enjoyed and excellent snack at a creperie which was delightful and highly recommended for anyone travelling that way. Bredbo's name is another derived from an Aboriginal word, this time meaning 'joining of waters'.

Earlier in our travels we came across a pub which laid claim to having hosted Banjo Patterson who gained the idea for 'Waltzing Matilda' from local events. Now, at the other end of the country, we found that Banjo Patterson had stayed at the Bredbo Inn and is believed to have met a character who was the inspiration for his epic poem 'The Man from Snowy River' - we are following in great footsteps.

Once settled into our accommodation, Tilly and Judith went off to do some shopping and came back with gin and schnapps from a local distillery! Both proved to be excellent drinks.

Wild Brumby Distillery

Wild Brumby Distillery

It would have been good to have more time at Jindabyne but we had to press on towards our next overnight stop at Glenrowan. On the way we went through Thredbo and some truly magnificent scenery in the Snowy Mountains. There were vast areas where the trees were white on hillsides and we thought at first that there had been a die-back problem but it turned out that these were mountain ash trees which had been burned in bush fires. Fortunately they seem to recover from burning quite well.

Mountainside of burnt-out mountain ash

Mountainside of burnt-out mountain ash

Mountain stream

Mountain stream

Panoramic view from Scammell's Lookout

Panoramic view from Scammell's Lookout

Once out of the mountains, the temperature rose and by the time we reached Yackandandah, it was distinctly hot. Yackandandah's name has Aboriginal origins but there are conflicting theories as to which is correct, so suffice to say it is a very pretty small town. We scheduled a stop here as Judith's 3rd grand uncle (!!), Matthew Sharpe Rome, had emigrated from Scotland in the early 1850s and my family history research had found that he and his wife lived and died in Yackandandah and were buried in the town cemetery. We don't know why they emigrated but the spur for the move may have been the gold finds in the area, even though he was a pharmacist. In 1891 he was apparently still practising as he registered a patent for an antidote to snake-bite. We visited the cemetery and found a headstone for Matthew and his wife. We know that their first daughter also died in Yackandandah but it was too hot to go roaming through the cemetery on the off-chance of finding a headstone. Although Matthew and his wife lived and died in Yackandandah, they must have moved around as their children were born in Beechworth, Reid's Creek, Murmungee and Malakoff Dairy!

Yackandandah

Yackandandah

Gravestone for Matthew Sharpe Rome and his wife, Dianah (Richardson)

Gravestone for Matthew Sharpe Rome and his wife, Dianah (Richardson)

Our journey then resumed and we reached Glenrowan and Ned Kelly country. Glenrowan is named after two farmers, James and George Rowan.
More of our stay here in the next blog...

Posted by SteveJD 07:08 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Canberra to Emu Plains

...for New Year's Eve in Sydney amongst other things

sunny 30 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

While our Landcruiser was being serviced, Tilly took us out to Tidbinbilla which is a lovely reserve close to Canberra. Its name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘where boys become men’, referring to initiation ceremonies which were held on Mount Tidbinbilla.

We decided that we would get most benefit from walking around an area called the Sanctuary but on the way we stopped to see the restored ruins of Rock Valley Homestead which had been built in 1895 by George Green and his friend George Hatfield. Green and his wife Mary Anne lived there from 1895 and brought up their seven children there (two were born in the homestead). Although the building was extended from its original size, it must have been a rather cosy existence. Descendants of the family continued to live there until 1967.

Three eastern grey kangaroos

Three eastern grey kangaroos


The Greens' Homestead

The Greens' Homestead

View from the Greens' Homestead

View from the Greens' Homestead

The Greens' Homestead

The Greens' Homestead

The Sanctuary provided a very pleasant walk through attractive woodland surrounding various water features. During our walk we saw a red-bellied black snake (a volunteer ranger pointed it out to us and said there had been five of the snakes basking there until people scared them away!. We also saw skinks, brush-tail rock wallabies, turtles and a variety of bird life. Both on the way there and back, eastern grey kangaroos were numerous and great to see.

Red-bellied black snake

Red-bellied black snake

Red-necked wallaby

Red-necked wallaby


Butterfly

Butterfly

Pretty-face wallaby

Pretty-face wallaby

Long-necked turtles

Long-necked turtles

Cunningham's skink

Cunningham's skink

Tidbinbilla view

Tidbinbilla view

Tidbinbilla panorama

Tidbinbilla panorama

Tidbinbilla wildflower meadow

Tidbinbilla wildflower meadow

Tilly unfortunately had to work, so we took ourselves off to the Australian War Memorial which we enjoyed again. Years ago, we had visited and researched WWI soldiers who had signed an autograph book belonging to a friend of Judith's. The book had belonged to the friend’s aunt or great aunt who had been a nurse at Lewisham Military Hospital where she looked after Aussies and Brits who had been wounded at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

This time, we found the layout of the displays inside less easy to follow than previously, so we were slightly disappointed. Perhaps it just shows how old we are but previously the Lancaster was easy to access. Now it is in Anzac Hall which is, as far as we could see, in permanent darkness in order for a succession of films to be shown, at least one with appropriate lighting of parts of the Lancaster. This is quite entertaining and I am sure is designed to 'engage' the younger visitor but what about the older visitors who would like to simply see the aircraft in good lighting and, perhaps, sit down in a dark room to watch the films?! It's still a great place but we felt that something had been lost, or perhaps temporarily mislaid? We were impressed by the daily Last Post ceremony, particularly with the involvement of descendants of a soldier whose photograph can be seen by the long pool. The views from the steps are still excellent, looking down the long drive and across the lake to Parliament.

Statue in honour of mine disposal men and their dogs

Statue in honour of mine disposal men and their dogs

Last Post ceremony

Last Post ceremony

View towards Parliament

View towards Parliament

As Tilly still had to slave away, we drove to the Australian National Botanic Gardens where we had a great time wandering around the different areas of planting and enjoying the wildlife which evidently appreciated the plantings. In particular the displays of kangaroo paws were wonderful and were frequented by many very pretty little eastern spinebills. These little birds are, I think, one of the prettiest of the honeyeater family - I just wish they would keep still for more than a second or two! Towards the end of our walk we found a beautiful Macleay's swallowtail butterfly which we realised had become caught up in plant fronds so, after taking a few photos, we gently freed it and let it flutter off.

Eastern spinebill in kangaroo paw flowers

Eastern spinebill in kangaroo paw flowers

View in the gardens

View in the gardens

Bust of Joseph Banks

Bust of Joseph Banks

MacLeay's swallowtail butterfly

MacLeay's swallowtail butterfly

MacLeay's swallowtail butterfly

MacLeay's swallowtail butterfly

On 30 December, we left Tilly (and Tumble) and headed towards Emu Plains (near Penrith), driving along Remembrance Drive on which Rest Areas were named for VC winners with their citations and brief biographies being provided on centrally located information boards. We thought this a rather good idea and were interested to read the amazing citations.

On the way, we stopped at Goulburn for lunch at Trappers’, a well-known eatery and very popular to judge from the queues – quite rightly so, to judge from the food! Just across the road was one of Australia’s ‘big things’, the big Merino! Goulburn was named after Henry Goulburn, Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies - must have been an interesting Ministry!

Further on we came off the highway again to drive through the very attractive towns of Moss Vale and Bowral in order to visit the International Cricket Hall of Fame, formerly the Bradman Museum. Inside there are so many exhibits to look at and many films available to watch to remember the 'good old days' before pyjama cricket - harrumph! I could quite happily have spent the rest of the day there but we had to press on.

Bowral's name probably derives from an Aboriginal word meaning 'high and large'.

Poster of Sir Don Bradman congratulating Richie Benaud

Poster of Sir Don Bradman congratulating Richie Benaud

Scorebook page for 1911 Ashes match

Scorebook page for 1911 Ashes match

Back on the highway we approached our destination but Gladys then took us through some pretty uninspiring scenery to reach Emu Plains. I had originally thought we were booked into Penrith but that town is just across the Nepean River from where we ended up. Emu Plains was originally named Emu Island when the first British explorers saw emus on what they thought was an island in the Nepean River.

I'd love to find out even more about the bloke after whom the river was named. He was Sir Evan Nepean, 1st Baronet. He served in the Royal Navy before, at the age of 29, he was appointed Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the first of several senior positions in public service and, perhaps most importantly, he was a close friend of Arthur Phillip of First Fleet fame. In addition to the river, Nepean's name was given to a New South Wales hospital, the Nepean Highway and Nepean Point in Victoria, Nepean Bay in South Australia and Nepean Island in the Norfolk Island territory. Must have been a really good chap - just like one of his descendants, the actor Hugh Grant!

On New Year’s Eve, we had a few things to sort out in Penrith before catching the train into Sydney. (Penrith's name may have originated from a misinterpretation of the word 'Penrhyn' for the 'Lady Penrhyn', the First Fleet ship used to transport women convicts).

We walked from the station through to the Chinese Gardens by Darling Harbour, by way of Paddy’s Markets, a fascinating place although we resisted the urge to buy anything for a change!. The Chinese Gardens are an oasis of peace in the busy city and very pretty and well laid out.

Entrance to Paddy's Markets

Entrance to Paddy's Markets

Girl in Chinese costume

Girl in Chinese costume

View in Chinese Gardens

View in Chinese Gardens

Girl in Chinese costume

Girl in Chinese costume

Waterfall in Chinese Gardens

Waterfall in Chinese Gardens

Waterlily in Chinese Gardens

Waterlily in Chinese Gardens

We then walked through Darling Harbour and decided to carry on through to Darling Island Wharf for our viewpoint for the fireworks. At the Darling Harbour end of the wharf was a rather touching group of statues commemorating the various migrants who have made Australia what it is today.

Our first choice would have been Blues Point or a similar place across the river but we could not find out for sure when the ferries would run afterwards and the wharf proved to be fine. During the afternoon, we were entertained by the preparation for, and execution of, a Channel 10 report, presumably for the early news bulletin. More aptly and longer lasting was the toing and froing of ferries, cruise ships etc., on the river and coming to and from Darling Harbour.

Statue commemorating migrants to Australia

Statue commemorating migrants to Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge from our viewpoint

Sydney Harbour Bridge from our viewpoint

Sydney ferry

Sydney ferry

Pleasure steamer

Pleasure steamer

A busy harbour scene

A busy harbour scene

Channel 10 reporter

Channel 10 reporter

One of the sailing ship replicas

One of the sailing ship replicas

We enjoyed an early fireworks display at 9.00 p.m. for the children and then the full New Years' Eve display from midnight, although some, particularly from the Harbour Bridge, were partly masked by the smoke which inconveniently happened to drift towards us!. However, we didn’t miss much and we enjoyed the atmosphere of New Year in Sydney, even if the trudge back to the train through the masses of people was a bit of a dampener at the end of a long day!

Illuminated pleasure craft and the Bridge

Illuminated pleasure craft and the Bridge


And the fun begins

And the fun begins

Fireworks across the water from us

Fireworks across the water from us

Fireworks - with hands!

Fireworks - with hands!

Rope-lit boat

Rope-lit boat

Part of the finale

Part of the finale

The first couple of days of 2018, after the fireworks, were generally R & R and dealing with the shock of our friend Len, in Perth, letting us know that he had received an invoice for us for Judith’s hospital trip in Toowoomba - $1,256.80 – for about 1.5km in a paramedic’s car! Luckily, after my fun and games in Perth, we had taken out ambulance cover and, to our amazement, they paid the bill in full – good for Medibank!

Posted by SteveJD 08:02 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Pokolbin to Canberra

...by way of the Convict Trail to Christmas

semi-overcast 27 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Before leaving Pokolbin and the Hunter Valley, we visited the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard which offered some attractive views, then took a scenic route which took in the Great North Road. For much of the journey, we drove through national parks and forests, such lovely scenery and very relaxing. While travelling on the Great North Road, we were driving along what is known as the Convict Trail, as much of the original road was constructed by convict labour and many relics remain, such as culverts, retaining walls, graffiti and bridges as monuments to their labours.

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We hadn't realised at first that ferries would be involved but we crossed the Hawkesbury River at Wiseman's Ferry and had a very good lunch at Wiseman's Ferry Inn. The town was named after a former convict, Solomon Wiseman, who received a land grant and established the ferry service which continues to be used.

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The road then wound through the country to the extent that we had to recross the Hawkesbury, again by ferry, at Sackville. We then travelled across the top of the Blue Mountains National Park, ending up with an overnight stay at Bathurst. The scenery was, as far as we could see through the mist and rain!, very beautiful. The weather was such that there are no photos for this part of the trip!

The Hawkesbury River was named by Governor Phillip, in 1789, after the 1st Earl of Liverpool, Charles Jenkinson who, at the time, was the Baron of Hawkesbury in the Cotswolds.

The day we left Bathurst, we went to Mount Panorama and drove round the track. When we lived in Australia, we used to watch the Bathurst 1000 and were great fans of the late Peter Brock. Apart from driving through the pits and around the track, there were great views from the top of the mountain. We visited the National Motor Racing Museum before heading on to our next one night stop in Cowra. Inside the museum we were surprised to find a Mini which had won the Rhodesian Saloon Car Championships in 1969 (my first year of living in what was then Rhodesia).

Mateship was evidently established early in Australia's history as Bathurst was named, in 1815, by Governor Macquarie after the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (don't those two portfolios seem appropriate bedfellows?!), Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst.

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On the way to Cowra (the name derives from an Aboriginal word meaning 'eagle on the rocks - refreshingly original after the colonial administrators naming favours!), we saw a sign "The Town that Time Forgot" so we had to follow that and we found ourselves in an attractive little town, Carcoar, which had been bypassed and retains some lovely old buildings. Carcoar's name is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning either frog or kookaburra.

In case anyone wonders why we stopped at Cowra, this was due to my interest in World War II history. Cowra was the site of a prisoner of war camp and on 5 August 1944 over 1.000 Japanese prisoners staged a mass escape. 231 Japanese prisoners and four Australian soldiers were killed in the process. The remaining prisoners were rounded up quite quickly but the whole action left an indelible mark in the memories of Cowra folk. We visited the remains of the prisoner of war camp which was quite eerie and then drove down the hill to visit the most tangible sign of reconciliation, the Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre. The garden was beautiful and very peaceful and, as a bonus full of birds and skinks etc.

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Feeling at peace with the world, we drove to the Bellevue Lookout which gave excellent views over the city. The day ended with a drive down to an area by the Lachlan River so that we could see the murals that have been painted on the bridge supports - very interesting.

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Before leaving Cowra for Canberra, we had a look at the Peace Bell in Cowra. There are 23 Peace Bells throughout the world, all made from melted down coins donated by 106 countries. Cowra is the only centre to have a Peace Bell that is not a capital city.

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On our way through to Canberra, we stopped for a coffee break in Boroowa, a very pleasant small town whose name is believed to have its origins in an Aboriginal word for the bustard, and travelled through some attractive farming country, near Murrumbateman, with some rather good looking merino sheep (I am not a Kiwi but they looked healthy!). Murrumbateman seems to have a variety of claims to the origin of the name, mainly from Aboriginal sources, but the one I like best is that a local wit insisted that the town's name came from a regular customer ordering rum from a Mr Bateman at the local pub and calling out "More rum, Bateman (thanks to Aussie Towns website for this gem).

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In Canberra we stayed with our 'old' friend, Tilly and her Tenterfield Terrier, Tumbleweed, generally known as Tumble. Tumble was quite cautious at first but soon realised that both Judith and I were suckers! Even without moving from Tilly's home, we kept up with wildlife sightings, other than Tumble that is!

Canberra's name is generally believed to have its origins in an Aboriginal word for 'woman's breasts', relating to the two mountains Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie. I wonder what the pollies make of that?!

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Posted by SteveJD 02:17 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Coonabarabran to Pokolbin

...including Hunter Valley wineries

sunny 38 °C
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Before we left for Australia we had watched a programme called Sky at Night Down Under and it was based at the observatory in the Warrumbungles. Naturally we had to include this on our itinerary, hence the stop at Coonabarabran. For the derivation of Coonabarabran's name, I am going to cut and paste part of an entry from Wikipedia:

"Nobody really seems to know the source and meaning of the word Coonabarabran. It may derive from a person's name or from the Kamilaroi language word 'gunbaraaybaa' meaning 'excrement', translated earlier as meaning, 'peculiar odour', this possibly is a bowdlerisation. Another meaning is derived from an Aboriginal word for 'inquisitive person'. 'Coolabarabran' was the name of a station owned by James Weston in 1848."

Warrumbungles has a simpler and more obvious meaning from the Aboriginal word for 'crooked mountain'.

With so much about the Warrumbungles, our first foray in the area had to be to the park. Before reaching the park 'proper', we stopped at Whitegum Lookout which gave some great views over the Grand High Tops, Bluff Mountain and Exmouth (another peak), after a pleasant walk through Red Gum and White Box woodland into an area dominated by Narrow-leaved Ironbark and Scribbly Gum. We called in at the Visitor Centre and followed their advice to drive along the road and park to walk along the Wambelong Nature Track - even though it was by now quite hot. It was a lovely walk beside a creek with a close canyon of volcanic rock walls and we enjoyed seeing many birds and even a lace monitor, not a common sight on our travels. On the way there and back we saw some quirky postboxes at the end of people's drives. Judith has made a collage of a selection of these.

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On the way back to Coonabarabran we stopped at Siding Springs Observatory which was fascinating and gave more good views of the mountainous scenery. We walked up to the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and were allowed in to see the telescope itself, from the safety of a viewing gallery (safe for the telescope not us!). Inside we saw some great photos of star trails and Judith copied one, so don't be fooled! On our way in, we passed, in reverse order, boards with scale representations of Earth, Venus and Mercury. I understand the distances between the boards is to scale which is quite staggering as we came across board for Mars and Jupiter on our way back to Coonabarabran but the other planets had to wait until we left Coonabarabran - Saturn was between Coonabarabran and Binnaway (I do expect readers to check their maps!), Uranus some way beyond Binnaway, Neptune in Coolah and Pluto (not now regarded as a planet) nearly in Merriwa. Other boards feature planets on other routes out of Coonabarabran. I took photos of all of these, for the record but will only include a few for illustration.

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The next day, we drove out to Baradine where there was a good Forest Discovery Centre which provided an introduction to the Pilliga Forest which is renowned for its variety of birdlife. We did see a fair variety of birdlife but as it was hot and the 'wrong' time of the year, we saw fewer birds than we had hoped for, other than at one well-frequented waterhole. We took a few photos which were suitable for identification but not for publication!

On our 'planetary drive' we stopped at Coolah which lays claim to being the home of the 'Black Stump'. We found their claim nowhere near as convincing as Blackall's so did not waste time there but drove on to Merriwa where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch break. The countryside had been fairly varied from the mountainous Warrumbungles area to a large area of fairly flat pastoral country until we reached the Great Dividing Range. We crossed the range and were heading down into the Hunter Valley when, with about 50km to go to Pokolbin, Judith decided to pull over for a driver change and found a police car right behind her. He must have popped out of a side street as he hadn't been there before and, to my amusement and Judith's well-contained fury, he claimed that he had watched her on CCTV 'weaving all over the place'! With a big beast like our Land Cruiser on poorly maintained roads, it is very difficult to maintain a smooth and even course but Judith didn't argue but batted her eyelids and the cop departed. An amusing interlude. Once we got past the collieries, the Hunter Valley was very pretty.

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While based in Pokolbin (a lovely little 'village'), we visited Morpeth which we loved and even fell in love with a house on the main street - well out of our price bracket unfortunately! Just outside the town we went to an old water works which had some delightful parkland and interesting birdlife.

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Naturally we also visited a few wineries and a charming little town, Kurri Kurri, whose main claim to fame appears to be the many murals scattered through the town, mainly celebrating various local people. Recently (February 2018) they have added to their attractions by holding the Inaugural Mulletfest (that's hairstyle, not fish!). A few years ago the aluminium smelter closed down with the loss of 400 jobs and this is one of the ideas the locals have come up with to help their economy. They hope it will be an annual event and to judge from the news stories they will probably succeed. Sadly we have no photos of the Mulletfest but include a few murals and the rather attractive old hotel.

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The Army museum at Singleton was also a very interesting place to visit with some really excellent displays. Our last trip in Pokolbin was to a viewpoint behind the village - a dusty drive but worth it.

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Posted by SteveJD 03:14 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

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