We knew that the gorgeous weather had to end sooner or later and were so glad to have had warm sunny days however Tuesday morning it was overcast as we moved on heading toward Coonabarabran. We travelled slightly north back toward Barraba and then turned off west through the continually changing roads both in surface and scenery. We saw some lovely rock formations as well as plenty of Spring flowers then acres and acres of canola and maize growing just gorgeous with the bright yellow and green.
We had seen on the map when planning our route that we could drive past a closed mine but on our way we saw a sign advising that the mine road was now closed. It soon became clear as this was on old asbestos mine – interesting history talked about here http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/woodsreef-asbestos-mine
On to the Oxley highway we pulled off for lunch at the Garrawilla NP, this would be a nice place to overnight sometime if we are looking just for peace. We lingered over lunch listening to all the different bird songs many of them remained hidden so were unable to identify them. With darkening clouds we arrived at Coonabarabran and fuelled up, we calculate that W3 is doing 20km to the litre which isn’t quite as good as Rob would like. On our way to the Warrumbungle NP we pulled off to go to Siding Spring Observatory but it was just before closing time of 4pm, we weren’t too fussed as have been there before. Just managed to make it to the new (temporary due to the extensive fires in January 2013) info centre in the NP before this also closed at 4. There was a warning of rainfall over the next few days but this didn’t deter us from booking 2 nights camping total of $40 for us and our vehicle.
Rather than stay at the large campground with the hot showers we elected to continue down the road to Camp Wambelong where there was plenty of grassy space next to a fast flowing river this had recently been in flood and was severely washed out in a number of places. It rained on and off overnight but remained quite mild so come morning we donned our hiking gear and set off to do our first proper bush walk in many months. This started along a lovely bush trail in the drizzling rain with many river crossings but thanks to Rob’s help we both kept our feet dry. We walked through the Burbie Canyon then turned toward Belougery Split Rock this was quite a steep climb with awesome views of many large rocks and also distant views of pastures to the east and the road and large campground to the west. The cloud was still low although the rain stopped for most of the way which made the walk all the more enjoyable. Not terribly many birds but a few kangaroos and also signs that the goats we’d seen near camp also climb quite high on the mountain. We realised very quickly just how destructive the 2013 fire had been even melting the track reflectors and not only burning down most of the trees but also scaring many rocks. The new growth is particularly beautiful at this time of the year with many different flowers to see along the path. Thankfully my sore toe from Yamba didn’t give me too much grief but Rob will attest to the fact that I was even slower and more cautious than normal.
Back at camp we relaxed then late afternoon went for a walk down to the main camp crossing on the old bridge seeing lots of kangaroos and cockatoos having their evening meals. The weather had been fine for the last few hours but just 5 minutes from our camp coming back along the highway it poured with rain the heaviest we’d had all day, now isn’t that just typical. We still managed to cook on our outside BBQ that Rob had recently got working and enjoyed dinner outside with intermittent showers.
Next morning as I looked through my little window the sun was shining and the kangaroos were grazing what a lovely start to the day. We were heading off to check out a couple of the campsites in our free camping book but our plans changed fairly rapidly when we found that some roads were closed and others were near to impassable although we’d not had terribly much rain there was the flow on effect from further north. The National Park Road was closed as Gumin Bridge was flooded, so we started heading up the Gumin-Wingidgeon Rd but this was already pretty messy and the clay/sandy road was very rutted although we weren’t having having too much of a problem with W3 in 4WD Rob didn’t like that we were cutting the road up so we did a u turn back then headed through to Coonamble then up to Pilliga staying at the Artesian Bore for the night. A great place to spend a night with 4 other travellers relaxing in the hot baths. The drive up the bitumen had been lovely with the yellow and purple flowers and stopping for lunch Rob had a chance to wash down the vehicle in a river while I photographed a flock of emu. We also passed many crops including acres of chickpeas, we only knew that was what they were with chatting to others in the hot pool.
More rain overnight and the water had risen quite considerably with a small camper now having his wheels in water. Apparently he and one of the vans had already had to move with the rising waters the previous night. Others in the group had been here last year when there were about 40 campers but now the area is mainly under water making it quite beautiful and attracting many birds, so only room for 10, at the most, campers. A few locals also came to bathe last night and as one said all this rain causes minor loses but big long term gains.