Saturday, 4 November 2017

80th Birthday and Highway One home

A mid morning start to go the short hour and a half to Tea Gardens to catch up with family and celebrate three family birthdays. We stayed at the Country Club again, as we are members and can stay two nights with or without power for free. The meals are great in the club, but this time we only had drinks and snacks (and coffee for Peter) as the evening meal each night was with family at their holiday units.
We didn't do a lot of sight-seeing as time was enjoyed with family. 
 We did frequent the local Ice Cream Shack.
It had great coffee and chocolate milkshakes, and the kids loved the variety of old style lollies.
I did have time to visit the local quilt shop and bought a couple of scrap bags for my hexies. We had a wonderful time, as we always do with family, but after two short days we all made our way in different directions to head home. You can read about our previous visit to Tea Gardens here.
Our first stop was to Bulledelah to top up with water, and visit the dump point then up the Pacific Highway to Coopernook. This is another place we have been to before, not far from our favourite caravan park at Croki.
Coopernook is 24 km north of Taree, and the pub is located on the old Pacific Highway, on the Lansdowne River. It was established as a river port in the 1830's, when settlers began to arrive. it was proclaimed a village in the 1890's. The name Coopernook is derived from the Aboriginal word for 'elbow', reflecting the elbow of the river where Coopernook was established.
The hotel was built in 1928, and five years later a two lane steel bridge was constructed. Behind the hotel was once a golf course, and beside the hotel was a working dairy farm that closed in 2014. This is the boundary fence between the hotel and the dairy farm.
In 2006 the town of Coopernook was by-passed in 2006.
There are over 300 km of waterways in the Manning area, and Coopernook was one of many shipping ports along the Manning  River and its tributaries. This is all that remains of the old wharf.
We had time 'up our sleeves', so decided to spend two nights at Coopernook. Here is our van the second day. The dairy farm is behind the van and the site of the old golf course is in the background. There were three other vans the first night, and only a backpacker camper the second night. Camping is free for patrons of the pub.
We had a drink the first night, and lunch the second day. Lunch was great. 
I had fish and chips - of course - and Peter had steak.
After a walk along the river to the old wharf, we headed to a new camp in Coffs Harbour. We have often stayed 20 minutes north and south of Coffs, but never in Coffs itself - too expensive - however we saw on Wiki-Camps a sports club near the airport that has $10 a night camping, so thought we would try it. We only stayed one night as we had to get home by Thursday, and it wasn't bad. There were many vans already there, so all the shade had gone. Luckily it wasn't a hot day. We had a lovely dinner at the sports club and watched a little of the footie practice. Great place to come back to and spend more time exploring Coffs Harbour.
Leaving in the morning, and not quiet sure where we would stay the last night of this trip, we continued along what I consider to be the loveliest part of the highway, soon to be by-passed. We pass many old farm buildings and wind our way along the great rivers. I think once the new highway is opened we may still use this road occasionally. 
We had a look at a few different free camps on the way north, and stopped for the night behind the Billinudgal Hotel. Again, there were already a number of vans there and a lot of backpacker campers. We had a drink at the pub, spent two minutes walking up and down the main street (it is not very big) 😃, and spent a quiet night. This is the back of the pub, and the view from the van.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Continuing along Fossickers Way to the Hunter

After leaving Bingara, we continued down the Fossickers Way to Tamworth, and Spotlight – well, they had batting at a half price sale. We had some lunch and then drove a further 54km to Wallabadah First Fleet Memorial Gardens. There were already a few vans there so we couldn't get beside the river. We found a level spot, paid our $10 donation, had a walk around the gardens and was attacked by the local magpie.
We wondered why the memorial was so far away from where the First Fleet landed. Apparently it was the idea of a First Fleet descendant who lives in the area and is supported by donations.
We stayed one night and decided to spend the next two nights in Cessnock, in the heart of the Hunter Valley. We set up in the Cessnock Showgrounds and headed to get some groceries. We stayed here in the showgrounds last January, in hot 40+degree temperatures, and bush fires. This time it was bush fires plaguing the area, and many areas around N.S.W. We did see some smoke in the far distance. 
The following day we headed 30 kms to the historic town of Wollombi. Last January we didn't have time to explore the village, but on this day the aim was a walk around Wollombi and buying some nice Hunter Valley wine for my Auntie's 80th birthday party.
A local winery in the main street of Wollombi had a centenary quilt on display - bonus!
Wollombi has many early sandstone buildings. The towns name is said to be an Aboriginal name meaning meeting place, or meeting of the waters. There are a number of Aboriginal sites in the area, but most are not marked or sign-posted. We only found two markers and both were a general 'indigenous lived in this area'. The development of Wollombi is linked with the construction of the Great North Road from Sydney by convict labour, including my ancestor Isaac Perrett. It was at Wollombi that the road continued on to Patrick's Plains – now Singleton, and branched to the north-east to Maitland and later joined to the Newcastle road. There are many small caves on the sides of the road that were used as shealters to both the local aborigines and the convict workers.
The road was started in 1826 and completed in 1831. There are bridges and walls still remaining from the convict times, but again lack of signage meant that we could not find any. Some of the land was granted before the road was built, but after 1830 many more acres were granted. The village of Wollombi was set aside in 1833 to serve the travelling public along the Great North Road. The first inn in Wollombi was the Governor Gipps in 1840. George Gipps was the Governor of the Colony from 1838-1846.
St Michaels Roman Catholic Church was built in 1840, and was moved to its current site after the 1893 floods.
The police station and courthouse were built about 1866 and today are used as a museum.
We visited a few wineries and a micro-brewery before heading back to the van for the night. A lovely area, the Hunter.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Gem on the Gwydir River

It was hard trying to decide whether to stay another night in Texas as it was so lovely, but we decided to head towards Warialda and the Fossickers Way. I had chosen a few different sites at both Warialda and Bingara, so after filling with petrol, getting some more meat, and getting Peter's coffee fix we headed south. Warialda is about 126km from Texas on the Bruxner Highway to Yetman, then on the Warialda Road to Warialda. We stopped for a photo of the bikini tree just outside of Warialda. In Warialda we headed straight to the information centre, only to find it was closed. By this time we had decided that we would go the extra 35km to Bingara, but drove around to look at the free camps at Warialda. There is one behind a pub which is where we will stay next time, as the town looks lovely with many historic buildings. The other free camp is fairly open, and we stopped there for lunch, which I had prepared earlier.
We drove down the Alan Cunningham Road to just before the town of Bingara to the Bingara Riverside Camping Area. So many vans already there and such a lovely spot. I know, they are all lovely spots, but Australia is beautiful!
We found a lovely spot right on the river banks with lovely neighbours. We had drinks around the campfire and then dinner. There is phone reception but no TV, so the satellite is getting another workout. It was cold overnight, so the heater also got a workout. We decided to stay at least two days.
The following day we drove into town. There is a dump point and water available ($1) to top up the vans. Being Sunday, most shops are shut so we had no trouble getting a parking spot.
While looking at the beautiful architecture of the closed Emporium, a local lady, Brenda, started telling us all about the history of the town. She has lived here all her life and was a wealth of information. Across the road from the Emporium is Peter's Milkbar and the Roxy Theatre, lovely examples of art deco. This is also the location of the information centre. We walked up and down the main street enjoying the different styles of pressed tin awnings, all of which I could make a quilt pattern from. The town has a 'soundtrails' audio tour that one can download which is good. However, not when one wants to do the town tour there and then. We will download the app when we get home and have better wifi coverage. We walked up and down liking what we saw, but didn't know the history. Peter had look at XXXX beer - $53 a carton. He said he will wait for Tamworth.
The Roxy Theatre complex was built in 1936 by three Greek immigrants from Kythera. It operated as a theatre until 1958, and was restored and re-opened in 2004. It now houses the tourist information centre, a Greek heritage in Australia Museum, an old style milkbar as well as the theatre and cinema. One of the back buildings also doubles as a cooking training venue.
There is also a street lined with orange trees and an orange festival is held every July. No one is allowed to pick the oranges until one day in the festival when the school children are allowed to pick all the oranges. We must be here too early in Spring as the trees do not have any buds yet. The trees were planted by the Bingara RSL Sub Branch in 1946.
We drove up to the Batterham Lookout and it is well worth a visit. No caravans as it is a very steep climb. It is named after a local historian who did much to promote Bingara. We also drove to the Living Classroom site. One can see the beginning of this project with greenhouses and bunkhouses erected and some planting have already taken place. It will be a great place to visit in years to come.
There is an old ore stamper battery in a picnic area south of town. It is all that remains of the All Nations Gold Mine, established in 1860, and closed in 1948. The discovery of gold in 1852 bought many settlers to try their luck. This may be where the McDougall's from Texas came to find their fortune. Today there are many places around Bingara that one can fossick for gems.
Bingara was named by the local Aboriginal people who would camp at a shallow point of the river that they called this camp Bingara, meaning creek. The local Aboriginal peoples were the Kamilaroi. Explorer Alan Cunningham also camped in the same spot in 1827 and as this was the largest river he had seen since the Hunter Valley he named the river Gwydir after his benefactor in Wales, Lord Gwydir. The first squatters came in 1834, the first being 'Bingara' property, established by George Hall. By 1840 a township was forming and in 1852 it was officially surveyed. During the 1850's gold was discovered in many place around Eastern Australia, and in 1873 diamonds were found.
Bingara is a lovely heritage town, that we will return to. The Myall Creek Massacre occurred not too far from here. We will visit that memorial next time.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Road Trip 5, 2017.

Our next trip was a short trip via Fossickers Way to Tea Gardens to celebrate a family birthday. We left later than we had planned, but only had to drive about 100km to Heifer Creek at Fordsdale. This is a spot we have often driven past on the way to and from the Darling Downs. There were already a few vans there when we arrived, so we set up beside the creek on the right hand side. There is no phone or normal TV reception so I was glad we had satellite TV. It was a quiet and a place we would go back to.

The next day we decided to drive to Texas, on the Queensland / New South Wales border. We drove via Stanthorpe on a road less travelled, and we are glad we did. Texas is a lovely little town, and almost everyone we passed said hello or smiled. Our first stop was the information centre, and the lady there was very informative. We walked up one side of the street and down the other. The council has placed historic information boards outside the buildings in the main street. I wish all towns would do this as history is so important.
Texas is on the banks of the Dumaresq River, as is our camp, and the town is a RV friendly town. There are toilets and showers in the town, and a lovely area has been set aside for self-contained vehicles. It has no facilities, but is picturesque and is a donation camp. Texas is also the first official motor cycle friendly town in Australia.
The beginnings of Texas lie in the establishment of a station about 1840 by the McDougall Brothers. They left their land in the 1850's to try their luck in the goldfields, and when they returned their land had been taken over by another settler. A legal battle followed and it was some time before they could reclaim their land and the McDougalls named their property Texas after the similar dispute between Texas USA and Mexico (1836).
The original town of Texas was closer to the river, but after the floods of 1890 and 1921, the township was moved further up the bank to where it is now. A few of the original buildings remain on the original site, including the original Texas Station.
The primary industry is sheep and cattle grazing, but breeding and a variety of other industries are growing. Historically, tobacco was a main industry,as was rabbit processing. Although tobacco growing and processing no longer exists in the area, many tobacco drying barns can still be seen in the area. Also in Texas is a historical rabbit works. The factory was established in 1928 and employed many town folk during the depression. Rabbits were in plaque proportions in the early days and the rabbit works would send the dead rabbits to England. After the demand for rabbits declined in England, they were sold around Australia. In 1950's, the rabbit skins were sold to Akubra and other fur markets.
Our campsite was lovely and not too far from the river, so we decided to stay an extra night. We went back into town and had morning tea before going the lookout. As lookouts go, this one is not that good, so we headed back into town to see where the up coming country music festival will be held, and then back to town to get some meat from the local butcher. It was so good and tender, that even I – the non meat eater - enjoyed it, so we went back again the next day to stock up on some more. We were very fortunate to have met a lovely man at the council who told us a lot about the area, and the history. We were looking at the photo display in the art gallery, which is in the same building as the library and council offices, and when looking at the 2011 flood photos we wondered where the race course was and this lovely fellow left his desk and proceeded to show us where things were and tell us more of the history.
A lovely place, Texas. We will be back, and stay longer next time. Meals at the pub were great as was the wonderful meat from the butcher.

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Magical Place for a Wedding: Fraser Island

About ten years ago we took our daughter and her English boyfriend to Fraser Island for a week. Little did we know back then, that ten years later we would all be on Fraser Island again to celebrate their wedding.
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
But this trip was all about the wedding.
It was wonderful to finally meet the 'new to us' English family, and everyone got on so very well.
December 2007, on a walk up to the lookout at Kingfisher Resort, Martin said "This would be a great place for a wedding"
... and here we are ten years later, at the Lookout.

Known officially as White Cliffs Lookout, it is 1.2km from the Sand Bar. It is located on top of a hill surrounded by eucalyptus trees. Days before the wedding Beth and Martin walked up the track and down the other side to Dundonga Creek, and Martin saw a dingo - the only dingo anyone saw this week.
So, here we go...our pictorial story.
We all arrived by car, or plane and bus to River Heads to board the car ferry that would take us the 45-50mins to Kingfisher Bay Resort. 
Kingfisher Bay Resort was started in 1989 and opened in 1992. Peter remembers watching the clearing and the construction of the resort during those years, when he was there on fishing trips.
Some guests arrived the next day, so we spent the morning at Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie or Boorangoora, is a perched lake, which means it is situated above the water table. This means that the water is mostly rain water. Fraser has many perched lakes. The sand is so fine and the water so pure one can clean their jewellery in the lake, and we did.
After catching up with family and having a lovely dinner (and cocktails) at the jetty and the Sand Bar, the following day was the day of the wedding.
We had a wonderful time. The food was great and had an Australian theme. Dessert was wonderful and I went back for seconds. Well done to the resort staff for the setting up and running of the wedding and wedding party. Everything was wonderful.
It has been four years since we have been to Fraser, and although it is still one of the most beautiful places on earth, it just got too expensive. When we were both working we would go once or twice a year, and a couple of years we went three times. We would usually stay at Eurong Resort and then Kingfisher Bay, although sometimes we hired a house and stayed only on the Eastern Beach side.

So on the last day we did a road trip to Eastern Beach.
First stop of Eurong Resort to get lunch at the bakery - still has great pies. We saw so many pods of whales and they were close to the beach too. We have often been to Fraser this time of year and have always seen whales, but so many and so close it was great to watch.
After stopping to watch the whales a couple of times, we then headed north up to the Maheno wreck.
The S.S. Maheno was wrecked on Fraser Island by a cyclone in 1935. She was built and launched in Scotland in 1905 and made regular voyages between Sydney and Brisbane. It also sailed around different Eastern Australian ports and New Zealand. It also made regular sailings between Sydney and Vancouver. During WWI it became a hospital ship and played a part in the Gallipoli campaign loading casualties off ANZAC Cove on 26 August 1915. She carried many Australian and New Zealand patients from the battle fields back to Australia and New Zealand. After the war she went back to passenger service. In 1935, while under tow to Japan to be converted into an ice breaker, the tow ropes broke under the strain of the cyclonic winds. The S.S. Maheno is protected under the Commonwealth's Historic Shipwreck Act of 1976. A lot of the ship is now under the sand and it would be too difficult the remove.
We then headed further north to the Pinnacles, a natural sculpture of coloured sands formed over thousands of years, and then retraced our tracks back to Eli Creek. 
For the end of winter the weather has been exceptionally warm, which was great for the wedding, but it was too hot to walk through the sands to the Pinnacles, so I stayed in the car whale watching.  
Eli Creek was crowded when we arrived as there were three bus loads of people already there. It was a great place to cool off and the kids loved playing with the frizz-bee.

 When driving along the Eastern Beach Highway - SAND - there are many washes or little creeks of fresh water running from the hills to the ocean. Eli Creek is the largest of these creeks and changes course regularly. When driving one must be careful not to fall into the deep sections of the creeks course. There is a board walk that takes one to a section of the creek that is passable and one can then float down the creek in the fast flowing water. Great fun in Summer.
 It has been four years since we have been to Fraser, and although it is still one of the most beautiful places on earth, it just got too expensive. When we were both working we would go once or twice a year, and a couple of years we went three times. We would usually stay at Eurong Resort and then Kingfisher Bay, depending on the tide, although sometimes we hired a house and stayed on the Eastern Beach side.
What has changed? 
Not a lot. More Dingo fences, less dingoes sighted.
There are a lot of historical sites, as well as natural sites. The sandblows are continually moving. Eli Creek continues to amaze. Noticably missing is the large Satinay tree in the top photo. We stopped at Pile Valley and could not see any trace of the big tree.

Everything is expensive on Fraser, 4wd car hire, petrol, bus tours, accommodation - well motel rooms are reasonably priced, but if you want a kitchenette to prepare food - expensive. Food is mostly good and reasonably priced meals can be found. At Kingfisher we usually get  motel room when it is three of us, when there is more we like the Satinay Villas. We have stayed in the Cooloola villas which were fine, just s little too far to walk up the hill from the resort. This time we stayed in a Banksia Loft Villa, which again although an easy walk down hill to the resort, was a long up hill back. It was also very dated with broken furniture. With 6 of us, we would have rather stayed in a Satinay, which we have stayed in with 5 or 6 people many times before. Although they are further from the resort it is all flat walking, and much preferred - not to mention $100 cheaper per night.
It was a little sad that all the guests were so spread out around the resort. So we often missed each other.
P.S. We would NEVER take the van there - too much sand!!