Barraba to Pilliga Hot Springs

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.

Pics to Glen Riddle

From Seelands to Glen Riddle

Well the family holiday went past all too quickly it was great to all be together for the first time since #2 child had joined each family. Our daughters still get on well together which is great and also have partners who have slotted into our family so well even if they think we are just a little crazy at times. The grandchildren all have strong but different personalities and this helps them to play well together with, of course, play for power rearing its head every now and then. The best thing about our family is we all enjoy our food and playing together whether it be kayaking down the river, throwing a frisbee or going bush walking. And for the adults a few wines and beers after the children are asleep complete with games never too serious of course. I hope you enjoyed the photos they seemed to tell the story better than I could.

Saturday morning arrived and we all headed off in separate directions Tracey back to Kempsey, Cherie to Brisbane and Rob and I to continue our mini holiday. We turned off the Gwydir Highway on to the Old Glen Innes Road following the Boyd River, the first 40km on bitumen then gravel through farmland with great views of the river sometimes calm and quiet other times rough as it went over craggy rocks. We had read that there was a tunnel with a height of 3.33 meters so weren’t too sure whether we’d fit through but thought we’d still do the old road and turn back if need be. We were pleased to see the road sign advising the tunnel was actually 3.65meters. And with caution we made it through. This road was the main route between Grafton and Glen Inness prior to the Gwydir Highway being completed in 1960 there are a few old buildings left at Dalmorton with history boards at the campground telling of the presence of aborigines going back at least 600 generations.

Continuing on we kept an eye out for a river camping spot, we’d seen a few others camped in remote locations and a couple at the campground, we found the perfect site at 29deg 50′ 19.1″ South 152deg 20′ 43.3″ East. We shared the site with a few cows, crows, birds of prey, a tawny frogmouth owl and the highlight a platypus who swum by right on dusk. A beautiful clear night by the campfire and a sunny morning to enjoy watching more birds and a huge goanna on the other side of the river.

We continued west on the Old Grafton Road stopping for a very leisurely morning tea by the Mann River after this the road became very corrugated where 15km seemed to be the ideal speed 😟. There was then a 15km area of bitumen near the Mann River Nature Reserve Campground then more gravel as we climbed back to the Gwydir Highway to back over 1000 meters. Before long we again turned off the highway taking a back route through farmland with plenty of lambs and calves frolicking by the roadside. We even saw a small emu who was quite happy to pose for photos but what amused us even more was the cows across the road who couldn’t help but rush down to take a look. Before long we came out to the stand of Celtic Stones on the fringe of Glen Innes we had a quick look, nothing much to see so headed off toward Inverell.

We decided to take a back route, of course, via small old tin mining towns of Elsmore, Old Mill & Tingha to our destination of Copeton Dam. Interesting to discover that Australia’s first tin mine was in Elsmore opening in 1871 and mining has continued on and off since then. Tingha is a cute town with character and even some new buildings unlike most settlements in this region. Arrived at Copeton Dam to discover it was very full, so full that the track round the edge was impassable but we found a perfect spot (29deg 54′ 38.2″ South, 151 deg 0′ 50.2″East)overlooking the dam. Lovely to sit and watch the birds, fishermen, kayakers and people in boats enjoying the water. We went for a short walk as the sun was setting but kept getting blocked by swampy patches due to the high level of the dam. Another nice evening with a glass of red and spag bol cooked over the fire, not too cold which is a nice surprise.

Monday was another day of perfect weather and relaxed driving, it is so nice not to feel we have to get on the road early then rushing all day just knowing what we don’t see this time we can always come again unlike our last 2 trips to America where we were always trying to see as much as we could in our limited time.

Back out of Copeton Dam turning right down Thunderbolt Way and then via a minor road to Fossickers Way stopping once again at lovely stream crossing for an early lunch and a doze in the sun for me 😄. On the way we passed a disused asbestos mine, the road used to be open running right down the side of the 4 mine pits but now appears to be permanently closed. We had a rather long stop enjoying the town of Barraba buying a few things we needed and some that we didn’t know we needed. Only a few more km south was our turn off to Glen Riddle Recreation Reserve which is on the Manilla River at the top of the Split Rock Dam. A huge reserve with toilet, rubbish bins and shelters. There were a dozen or so others staying here in their caravans but plenty of room for us each to have our own space.

A few more pics from Family Hol

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Looking down the river just out from our property

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Cherie the speedster

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Love that these 3 are so close in age

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Asha & Tim at morning tea during the number 22 tourist drive

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Tim has taken a liking to Stu’s canoe I think it is the electic motor that has the attraction

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peaceful morning

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Darcy found a jelly fish at Yamba, she then shared it with the others by breaking it into pieces

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A special moment with Papa

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Lots of water dragons on the edges of the Clarence River

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Me and Rob enjoying a paddle with Cherie to take the pics

Family Holiday at Seelands

Heiffer Creek, Sundown NP & Torrington

It has been a few years since we holidayed with both our daughters and their families each time we tried the planets weren’t aligned and we couldn’t find dates that suited everyone. Finally jackpot and we’d booked an Airbnb homestead at Seelands just out of Grafton right on the river – sounds perfect.

Rob & I decided to leave Brisbane a few days earlier so we could take W3 to some new back roads. Our first stop was at a free campsite that we’d passed a few times on the Warrick – Gatton Road there were half a dozen other campers there already but as we could cope with a steeper hill than most we had the lovely spot right down by the water. A peaceful night listening to the frogs, 2 types competing but not intruding on us. Next morning we sat with the map app and the map books and planned our drive for the day – main aim being to keep off the highways. We were successful with just a few minutes on the New England Highway we turned off at Allora checked out the free campsite at the north of town and had a quick wander round the few shops. Then it was down many dusty roads through farms with cattle, goats and sheep. Saw very little traffic as you’d expect and even once we arrived at our next campsite, Broadwater Campground Sundown NP, there was only one other couple camping. Had a nice walk down to the Permanent Waterhole before getting a good fire going to cook dinner.

Next morning continuing south we again passed many farms and this time also old tobacco farms with the drying sheds making for some good photos. We crossed the causeway over the Mole River then up into the hills with amazing views before meandering our way to the Blatherarm Creek campground in the bolder strewn Torrington State Recreation Area. Initially this was to be a morning tea stop but the peace and beauty of the rocks, trees and lovely tracks were just too tempting and we decided to stay the night. Some kind campers had left a good stack of wood so after walking a few trails and trying unsuccessfully to take some photos of birds we lit the fire and relaxed with a few beers and dinner cooked over the coals. It had been windy off and on and as evening fell grey clouds came across. Initially we thought the weather was going round us but suddenly high winds and rain hit. Quickly we took in the awning and shut the windows a snug night indoors for us but not so for the other campers who arrived late in the evening in a car with a tent as their accommodation.

We awoke to a cool and still grey morning as we headed off there was a tree across the now slippery muddy track. We drove first toward the old township of Torrington then east to Deepwater where we stopped at the bakery for the longest ever donut (Kiwi style) scoring 8 out of 10 according to Rob. We took the shortcut road onto the Gwydir Highway missing Glen Innes completely. Morning tea was on the shortcut road by a lovely stream. Heading east on the highway we enjoyed the drive and tried to check out some of the National Park for future camping opportunities but no they were all closed due to the continuing high winds. Before we knew it we were nearly into Grafton turning off on Rogan Bridge Road to our Airbnb for the next 7 nights.