Tag Archive | travel

Easter adventure – driving south 

The Pacific Highway is a different beast from that of my childhood; even from that of five years ago. 

In my childhood it was a narrow, windy road with tall trees right next to the road. Me S and I were once nearly wiped out by a logging truck that crossed to our side of the road. Another time one washed a wave of water, from rain that covered the road, over us, so we were blinded. On a narrow crest and curve!

Now for much of it, it is two lanes both ways on separated roadways. Safer. But boring. And by bypassing towns, you don’t just come across interesting places to stop. 

Hence our mid trip cuppa was at an awful stop. The first town we passed through was packed. Because it was the first interesting place to stop! And everyone wanted to stop. So, of course, Mr S didn’t want to stop. 

We tried the first roadside rest stop, one that signs from the start of the highway in NSW has advertised as future rest stops. Surely that must indicate the stop must be large, have good facilities and be attractive? OMG. It was so bad, we drove off. 

Mr S had taken over the driving, and he didn’t notice what may have been a suitable place off the road. Or did he just not want to cross the highway? He took the next road side stop on our side of the highway. It was bleak. Mozzies started to attack me. Mozzies the size of flies. Huge buggers! And then it started to rain. I hid in the car. Mr S stayed outside and fed the mozzies. 

Arriving in Bellingen, where we planned to stay for two nights, was like arriving in Nirvana. Lush, green, and sunny. The town was full of hippies and hipsters or weekend hippies. 

Our accommodation, on the main street, was above shops – a masseuse/naturopath, an alternate bookshop and a locally-made Nepalese-inspired clothes shop. Of course! What else would you expec  in a large rustic building in Bellingen! 

With large front and back verandahs, our accommodation was a spacious retreat. Rustic and arty. And it was all ours. Well except for one room off the back verandah which was used by a masseuse or acupuncturist. We couldn’t see but heard the music and smelt the incense. 

Morning view of the misty mountains from my bed.

Mr S, breakfasting in our kitchen

Back verandah

Back verandah dining table. All ours. Looking over the shops. With a spot like this, why would you go to a cafe for breakfast?


The first night we drank and ate in the pub. The food was gross. So the second night we bought the makings of our own antipasto spread and enjoyed the feast in our flat. 

Cauliflower pakora, lentil and pumpkin patties, prosciutto, cherry toms in fig balsamic vinegar, artichokes, semi dried tomatoes and olives, and French bread.

The pub. Nice beer. Meh food.


We spent the day walking around the shops, along the river, around the town. This is cafe paradise, if you’re into cafes. We’re not but we visited one for a chocolate milk shake and another one for a toasted roast pumpkin, creamy feta, spinach and dukkah sandwich. The afternoon was beer and chatting on our verandahS – time spent on both verandahs, enjoying the different views. 

We’d never seen these birds before. A quick internet search, blue-faced honey eaters, described as “pugnacious”. So accurate. They shooed off other birds to eat the scraps from the outdoor tables at the cafe.

Very yummy roast pumpkin, spinach, feta and dukkah toastie

Lots of choices of places to eat. Bellingen, cafe territory.

Mr S walking down steep path, which we walked up by mistake. The chain would be needed if it was raining. I needed it for the way up.

Old emporium.


We visited the town museum, gold coin donation entry. It has a few interesting pieces but is very cluttered and not well laid out or described. The volunteers here are going for quantity. I don’t think they want to throw anything out but really don’t have the space for it. (By the way, the Uralla museum is also run by volunteers, and while having a much bigger space, have realised space between exhibits is as important as the items exhibited. Without the space and labels, it all just becomes stuff.)

We had a five hour trip home. Time for more Dad’s Army and Agatha Christie radio plays. And, of course, a stop for a cuppa. This stop was off the highway. The toilets were built by volunteers from the local community. Not sure about the tables and playground equipment. I can see the spot will be well used by travellers. It was clean, with a playground for kids to play, somewhere to sit, an information display to read. We watched a family exercise their dog in the field you see behind Mr S. The area is removed from the highway noise but only a short way off the highway. Good for those who hate deviating off the route too far. I hope the local community don’t regret building this and that travellers treat it well. 

The sun had a bit of bite. We were grateful for the shade of the shelters. It was about 25°.

Hedge of fuchsia bottlebrushes in flower along the rest area, separating it from the road.


Mr S and I are universal in enjoying our adventures. A friend pointed out to me that I am lucky to have a partner who enjoys the same “adventures” as I do. And she’s right. 

What awaits us next break? It’s snow season, so not much guess work needed. 

While Sydney swelters

This is the fourth summer holiday in a row we have escaped some of Sydney’s heat and humidity for a bit. Not to the beach. Not the great exodus north. 

This year we went south. Again. 

First stop Canberra. OK, being inland it can get hot but it doesn’t have the humidity of Sydney. And we were there for museums so revelled in air conditioning. 

We saw the National Portrait Gallery which has this painting of Captain Cook. 


On loan to the gallery was the death mask of Ned Kelly. It was ghastly. You can see the indentation of the rope from his hanging. I don’t know how I feel about it. Should it be displayed? It’s not like a painting or photo. It just seems too invasive of the man. 

Then we walked over to the National Art Gallery. It was late and we’d seen enough art in the Portrait Gallery but we went straight to Sidney Nolan series on, yes, Ned Kelly. (My interest continues!) We exited through some nineteenth century Australian art. 

That evening we stopped for some pre-dinner drinks at a popular but unimpressive pub. The weather was perfect for sitting outside. Then we had dinner at a contemporary Indian which was not your normal premade jar curry. Very fresh and and flavoursome. 

Day two was the real reason for our visit to Canberra. The exhibition at the National Museum of Australia from the British Museum: History of the World in 100 Objects. Boy it was crowded! And for good reason. It was very interesting. Those Pommies collected/stole some amazing objects. Mr S says that there was no stealing as so much was actually in The British Empire so they owned the objects anyway. (This is all meant tongue in cheek. I know for some the topic is serious.)

I am not sure that I agree with all the objects as representative of the history of the world. Either way it provokes thought and discussion. The continual creativity and ingenuity of mankind! This is why I rail against dystopian novels that have us reduced to fighting and scavenging. We always have done much more, even when subsistence living. 

We walked around the rest of the museum, starting with the novel rotating theatre. All up we spent nearly four hours there!

It was a day of museums. After lunch we went to  the Australian War Memorial. A few hours is not enough here. The World War One galleries are a must. They have been massively overhauled since I last came here. Mr S and I agree, its better than the British Imperial War Museum. 

In the WWII exhibit we stood on the model of a Lancaster bomber while it went on its raid – very moving. 

Mr S always has to see G for George. (Dam busters is a favourite Sunday matinee movie of his.) They’ve built a new exhibition space to incorporate more audio-visual narratives. We have to go back for this as we missed it. We closed our visit with the Last Post ceremony. Every afternoon they recite the Ode, play a tune on the bagpipes, read the biography of one of the too many who have died, lay a wreath and of course play the Last Post. On our day the brief biography was a man who died in the Cowra POW breakout. He manned the guns to stop the Japanese from escaping, until he was overpowered and killed. It’s so hard to understand why we keep killing one another. 

Can’t Segway in any meaningful way from that, so straight onto dinner. I picked the restaurant ranked one on TripAdvisor, Pomegranate. It was divine! I had the best ever zucchini flowers stuffed with the softest cheese and then Balmain bugs. And the dessert!!! Three scoops of sorbet: coconut, orange and passionfruit, and raspberry and pomegranate. 

The next day we went to Lake Crackenback Resort just below Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains. On the way we stopped at the only physical store of an online retailer, Birdsnest. I had to visit as I love how this online store gives you options to see clothes worn by models of different sizes! 10,12 or 14. How cools is that? I bought two dresses. Cool and flowing, perfect for back in Sydney’s heat. And the dress comes with pockets. I love a dress with pockets!!!

I bought one in blue and one in pink.


At Lake Crackenback the weather was perfect. Cool nights, mild and sunny days. One windy and rainy night that only made sleep more peaceful. It’s when it doesn’t get cool at night that the heat becomes unbearable! 


And ahhhh, the peace and quiet! Kangaroos at our back verandah. 


It was like a sports and rec camp for middle class adults. We walked 18km to the top of Kosciusko, did some cross-country Segway riding, swam, and relaxed. 

The Lake was perfect for swimmimg


We will definitely return and stay longer, try some mountain biking and river sledding next time. 

Our villa under the blue sky and at the base of the National Park


I could live there for a month!

On a previous roadtrip I wrote about how surprisingly green the countryside was. This trip the countryside was its normal grey and browns. So for you Dar, this is what the fields normally look like. Apologies for the bluriness and reflections, as this was taken from the car while driving at 100km/h. 

Bimbling about

We chose to drive home from Queensland inland down the New England Highway, rather than the more travelled coastal route. 

The towns are more interesting and picturesque; more natural and less aimed at tourists. 

First stop the cute town of Boonah where a movie’s still called a flick. We bought an old-fashioned cream bun and vanilla slice and the shop assistant called me “love” and “darl”, even though she was at least 25 years younger than me. 



We stopped at Ballendean for our picnic lunch. Under the shade of a kindly tree, planted to commemorate the building of the community hall in 1916. If only we could go back 100 years and thank the citizens of the time. 

The old train station buildings have been turned into amenities blocks for passing travellers. See the little flap in the photo below? Any guesses what it was for?

Hint: the toilet is behind it. 

Second hint: while the flap is no longer used, it harks back to pre-sewage connection days. 

We were stopping for two nights in Tamworth. It took us the day to get there. 

There, and along the way, were flowers, butterflies, birds (some scary, many colourful) and interesting buildings. 


We stayed in a lovely BnB, full of interesting antiques and art work. It is so nice having a lovely presented breakfast of several courses. We much prefer spending our money on this rather than eating at a noisy, crowded cafe, not to mention having to get out to go to a cafe. We had the sitting room to ourselves. The first night was cool enough for a fire – you can just spy it in the top right shot. 



About an hour and a half out of Tamworth, on the final leg home, we stopped at Burning Mountain. I’ve noticed the sign several times over the past two years. Is something actually burning? Or is it just a name?

Top of Burning Mountain


Turns out it is burning. And has been for thousands of years. A coal seam 30 metres underground. The fire moves slowly and as it does the vegetation is cooked and dies and regrows, the soil changes colour from chemical reactions, large fissures open up, and in places the soil is cooked as hard as bricks. A steep 2km walk took us to the top where the smell of sulphur and the barren ground in the above photo indicates the current site of the fire. It was really interesting. Mr S, who doesn’t believe in stopping, (I’m worried if I fall asleep he’ll continue right around Australia) found it worth the break in the journey so soon.

On the freeway entering Sydney, it felt like we’d been away for weeks. We feel soooo relaxed. 

Where to next? I haven’t planned anything for the summer break. I should start on the September trip to France. But for now I will just prepare myself for the onslaught of work. 

Rainforest 

There’s a primordial power, majesty and spookiness about rainforests. 

The trees are so tall and so straight. I’m in awe of their age. 

Photos of trees often don’t give you the sense of the size. But how about this one with cars and Mr S for perspective?


Mr S and I went for a walk on a skywalk, a structure that takes you into the canopy. You could see through the grate to the ground. The skywalk swayed but not as much as the cantilevered one that looked down on the creek. 

In the photo below the centre tree is growing on a small rock in the creek! How can it be supported with such a small root base? It’s like it is balancing on a ball. Can you see the base right down the bottom middle of the photo? The second photo gives a closer view of the tree balancing on a ball! 


A second walk through another section of rainforest was in order. I love the shapes of the strangler figs, the strange growth on trees, the burnt out sections of trees and the enormity of trees. 

The roots formed a natural sand pit or wading pool

The roots always seem too shallow to support a massive tree


I was on the hunt to see a platypus in the wild. The sign said the area was restricted to protect the platypuses. But obviously platypuses don’t read and didn’t know they were meant to be there. We saw none in the waterhole even though it was just before sunset. 


Let me tell you, a rainforest at dusk is a spooky place. The rustling in the lead cover by unseen things, the strange squawking. We hightailed it out before it was totally dark and headed to view the sunset over the caldera.   


It’s a magical place. The rich volcanic soil (that you can see in the photos with the horses) makes the mountain perfect for gardeners. My mother’s garden grows wild in a tame way. (Wish my garden would grow the tame way! Lol) 


It’s a perfect spot to read, and snooze, and day dream, and chat, and mindlessly surf the Internet, and watch the birds in and around the bird feeder. It’s strange how quickly the days pass when you are relaxing and going at a much slower pace

(Oh and apropos of nothing to do with rainforests, I bought some Queensland-y clothes. Bright and light and colourful. As two items had tiny holes in them, I got them free!!! Apologies for my poor styling. I do these clothes no justice. The one with the pink fringe is a shawl-like open cloak-y thing. So unlike me. But I will waft around wearing it. The sequinned top is so me. I know, I know. I am meant to be decluttering and saving for my year off and my travel and my renos.)

One of these things is not like the other one

Remember the Sesame Street song? 

One of these things is not like the others, 

One of these things just doesn’t belong,

Can you tell which thing is not like the others 

By the time I finish my song?


All these were taken on the median strip at Mt Tambourine. Queensland is known for the strong right-wing Christian groups. It tickles my fancy to see the Jesus banner next to the three witches. 

High point of the trip

Before we headed home, we had a treat. 

Our students were to play inside the Anglo-Australian observatory (that’s the BIG one) at Siding Springs perched on the Warrumbungles, mountains that are the remenants of a volcano. 

It was amazing! The sound. The experience. The place. 

We got to walk on the walkway around the top of the building. On the metal grate! No, I didn’t look down. The wind was blowing so strong. And it was freezing!

Here’s a snapshot of the actual telescope. With a bit of the theme of Star Wars. Of course!


We got to look at the sun through a special telescope. (Not really that exciting. It looked like a very smooth moon – all white. No solar activity going on.)

The clear air and no light pollution make this area fantastic for star gazing. The two clear nights we had were awesome. Horizon to horizon of stars. Clouds of stars showing the Milky Way and other galaxies. I saw two shooting stars one night. A nightly experience. The stars over Sydney are a poor wan imitation of the night sky of the north-west. The night sky alone is worth the travel. No where on the east coast has its like. 

Sharing the joy

We lost the blue skies on Day Three. But that was OK. Our kids were working with kids and adults from Coonabarabran and Baradine for a whole day workshop, ending with a concert with around 100 people in the audience. Some of my students tutored the younger kids. The small towns can’t offer the music programs my students have access to. 

I was still amazed by the green fields on the drive from Baradine to Coonabarabran. 

Main street of Coonabarabran

 

At the tiny Sunday markets (about a dozen stalls) I bought a couple of teapot cosies for our new teapots. Mmm. One only had one hole. 


The sun returned for Day Four. Our accommodation was the site of the old race track. (Sadly another loss of the dying small town syndrome.) The brass players had some fun on the old stand by the finishing post. Horses kept in the paddock in the centre of the old race track were interested in the trumpets. Did they feel the energy ? Remember race calls from earlier generations? 

As a mob they took off. Not in fear. But jubilantly.  


Two students went over to the horses. I thought the horses would run away, as horses do when you want to catch them to ride. The horses must have realised the humans were not carrying bridles; they let the two pat them. Maybe they were bored? Maybe they longed for some contact? A good ride even?

Two concerts for the day – at the small hospital come hospice and the Bowling Club at Baradine. We broke the day up with a walk around “town”, games of lawn bowls and a visit to the National Parks Discovery Centre. So many of the buildings are empty or in need of repair. Many no longer used for their original purpose, as the population declines – the fate of many small rural towns out west. 


I loved the yellow flowers blooming along the verges.