The New England area is one of the best in Australia for bushwalking, a fact it is only now becoming known for. Within easy distance of Armidale you can do Dangar Falls, Wollombi and Chandler Gorges and Gara Gorge. These are all fairly dramatic canyons. Some over 1,000 feet near vertical.
Fondest memory: Walking around the rim or delving into the valley floors with the echo of crashing water somewhere on the granite below interspersed with bird cries or the rustle of an echidna takes you into a world away from all others. Take time out if you're there, sit down and simply take it all in for a quarter of an hour. We call it recharging your batteries.
Okay, so I'm using a little poetic licence here but it is springtime and it is the granite belt of Northern N.S.W.
Every year along the New England Highway there are wonderful splashes of colour. Usually white but some yellow and some purple as well. This is a spot I go past a lot not far from the Ben Lomond turn off and every year the paddocks all along this particular glen are painted white.
Fondest memory: It's a bit awkward jumping the fence but, hey, I'll do anything to satisfy fellow VTers. Just so you can get some idea of how pretty and rural it all is, though I have to admit I think it's a bit sad that 999 out of 1,000 people simply rush past in their cars without ever stopping to admire the wonders of nature.
Keen viewers will note the ring of dust around the car, slowly accumulating every time I bumped the car.
Fondest memory: The car had more dust on it than any other vehicle I had ever been in. Everything I touched sent a puff of beige drifting through the near still air. As the spare dropped from beneath the chassis or as the affected wheel nuts were turned, clouds of the stuff made me walk away seeking some relief. Bits of the talcum fine stuff were all over my black work trousers. It was awful but eventually the offending wheel was changed and I went and washed and drank from the clear and refreshing waters of the Nymboida River, famous for white water rafting.
Moving on I prayed that I wouldn’t get another flat and it was less than 10 kilometres of dirt later when I nearly stopped the car and got out and kissed the bitumen. A vestige of commonsense held me back. That, and the fact that I was running late for my next appointment in Maclean.
However, when I got in phone range near Grafton and rang ahead to apologize, it was the other party who was apologizing as he was going to be half an hour later than me.
I never did find Misty Falls Lookout!
Thus it was that I left Chaelundi Road, though just up the road I joined is a unique convict hewn tunnel, the only one of its kind in Australia. Eventually came around a corner to a delightful riverside spot called Buccarumbi where I pulled up to take a photo on the near side of the ford.
I was intrigued by the old water pipes that were midstream and filled with concrete.
It turns out they are the remnants of the previous crossing that was here, called a bridge as this one is though it's height above the river is, at times, negligible. When I restarted and moved across the concrete ford I sensed all was not well. Indeed, it wasn’t. I had a flat rear tyre.
Time was of the essence though and my original goal of Misty Creek Lookout in Guy Fawkes River National Park beckoned. I believed I would still have adequate time. The map appeared to show about 50km of possible dirt on Chaelundi Road that linked the sealed Armidale-Grafton Road to the Old Glen Innes-Grafton Road, the latter a bit of an adventure in its own right.
So I got into my station wagon and took off, reaching the turnoff at Dundurabbin onto Sheep Station Creek Road in half an hour. From here I was in new territory and my newly acquired map from the N.P.W.S. turned out to be next to useless. Key places signposted en route co-incided with nothing on the map.
At around 30kms I turned into Vista Point, a 100-metre deviation whereupon a panoramic landscape of wooded hills unfolded. This was part of Mount Hyland Reserve, one the the Forestry Commission's efforts. Genuine 180-degree views soothed the eyes with undulations and greenness though with no outstanding feature, the drifting clouds on this fine autumn day providing some movement in addition to the flexing red gum tips that flashed in the sunlight. I pondered on what a perfect spot and day this was for a picnic and regretted that I had not come prepared but, since it hadn’t been marked on the map, I could hardly be blamed for not knowing.
Fondest memory: I learnt things here. Things like this is the area where the Hastings River Mouse was rediscovered in the 1980’s when it was thought to be extinct. I learnt that the male Pouched Frog, Assa Darlingtoni, picks up eggs dropped by the female and carries them in two pouches until they become tadpoles. Just thought I’d share that with you.
A Forestry worker chanced by at the same time and I struck up a conversation with him, mainly interested in what lay beyond. His raised eyebrows, used when describing the road on which I was about to travel, were not reassuring. He pointed into the distance from whence he had come. A gesturing arm and an estimation of 30-40 kilometres of dirt including much bulldust was not really what I wanted to hear but, in the end, my sense of adventure over-rode my common sense and I decided to push on into the semi-known.
I didn’t tarry long there, managing two shots before finding my way back up through the cleft, beneath virgin white clouds commencing their billowing in the early afternoon updrafts.
Despite the pleasant autumnal weather, noticeable damp patches had formed on my shirt by the time the apex of the cliff face was reached. My handkerchief reverted to its not-uncommon role of wiping the sweat from my temple as I wandered on to the bitumen path seeking the trail for the lower cascade.
It was pleasing to see the number of young people taking it all in as well. No computers here, no T.V., not even a decent meal!
Again, an unmarked, though decidedly narrow trail was not what any normal bushwalker would rate as terribly difficult and I surveyed the top portion to a point where it was obvious that the remainder would not be any worse.
I pushed on with Guy Fawkes National Park on the left and Chaelundi off to the right.
It was to be nearly another 30 kms before I saw a house. Why on earth anyone would want to live this far from civilization is a mystery to me.
This was at a place called Dalmorton, which is where I reached the Old Glenn Innes Road but didn’t realise it until much later when I was able to look at a decent map.
It was to be at least 20 kilometres before I hit some bulldust. It was patchy, some times only 20 metres long, other times it was over 100. Steering, while in the zones, was well nigh impossible and my years of riding enduros in the bush had taught me skills that certainly came into use on this day. Keeping your momentum while drifting through 15cms of soft beige powder is not something for the inexperienced.
Another lookout and Hamburger Rock were passed and 40 kilometres rolled past on my speedo with no sign of tar or civilization.
Something about splashing water. Something about the Aussie bush. Something about gum trees and the native fauna. It works for me.
I then proceeded downstream over the rough ground to the ledge above the lower (but higher) falls. This was adrenalin-pumping stuff. A slip down this slope would project one into an abyss whereupon the services of the local fire brigade would indeed be called upon for retrieval purposes.
“There’s a worn track, very narrow and dangerous. Do you do abseiling or rock climbing?” Vince queried.
“Abseiling? Rock climbing? No, I don’t have a death wish, I just thought the slope was reasonable.” I retorted.
“There’s a two, maybe three day walk in from the valley. Are you a bushwalker?”
“Only a one day man. The thought of lugging a tent and bedding around as well as my camera gear is off-putting.”
The conversation was discouraging to say the least. I kept recalling the vision of the slope and still queried in my mind how hard it could really be.
I paid Vince for my lunch, a somewhat bland affair of cheap ham and tomato on a toasty doughy bread that I had found singularly unappetising, although it must be said the unusual Rose Grey tea that I chose to drink lent some excitement to my otherwise jaded palate.
My earlier choices of corned meat (“Sorry, but it isn’t cooked yet”) and ham and pineapple (“No, I don’t think we’ve got any pineapple”) having been negated it was only to be expected the residue would leave something to be desired.
I figured the sun should now be at an optimum angle for generous light to be splayed across the falls so I drove back to the first car park at Ebor Falls and burdened myself with my camera and tripod before commencing the 600m clifftop walk between the viewing platforms.
It would hardly have been 100 metres before I reached the point where it was obvious to the trained eye that others had diverged here. Although only a footprint wide it led to a narrow gap in the small cliff where, after peering at the descent for a minute it became fairly obvious that this was a minor obstacle rather than one to be feared and that it opened on the grassy slope after only about 10 metres.
Fondest memory: I breached the crevice and descended its 7 or so steps with relative ease and then started down the grassy decline thinking how grossly exaggerated the tales of dead bodies and abseiling had been. It was certainly an unnecessary cautionary tale for the upper gorge, though caution is indeed advised and those of unsure footing and/or fear of heights need not apply.
The reward of a special angle for the photograph was forthcoming though and, for a time after that, I opened a can of drink, sat down and soaked up the atmosphere of this special place.
“We’ve brought two dead bodies out of there…………………no, make that three dead ones and one live one,” Vince mused after I had questioned him about the possibilities of getting to the bottom of the gorge at Ebor.
“I work with the local fire brigade you see. It’s something we have to do sometimes.”
“Really, that steep eh? I thought it looked fairly easy.” I said, reflecting on the view from the lookout.
Glen Innes, like most of the reasonably sized towns in the New England area, has a museum. This particular one is called History House, a rather simple but definitely to-the-point name.
One thing many of them have is room, lots of it; so invariably they have space to store items such as you see here.
The prominent wheel is an "Albion" horizontal steam engine which came from London & Colonial in 1886 and was used to power a local sawmill up until the 1960's whilst on the left is a winch that was used in the same mill but originally was a ship's winch.
Fondest memory: The museum is open in winter from 10-12 and 1-4 weekdays and 1-4 on weekends. Summer hours are the same for the morning session but 2-5 in the afternoons.
On a tranquil evening in Bingara the Gwydir River presents a reflective surface. The Gwydir in this part of the country is fed by water from Copeton Dam, ironically a dam that's only been near full once in its entire history of a few decades. Thus there is always some sort of flow for the farmers to utilize for irrigation.
It's also a good river for fishing but, watch out for the snags.
Bingara is situated on the Manila Road out of Tamworth, just over an hour from that city.
Initially this is just another photo. The devil is in the detail.
Here I am wearing the jumper I bought from the wool shop in Armidale. How appropriate seeing as I am only about two blocks away from where the shop is!
Next notice the brown stream. It's actually chock a block full of leaves since there has been no rain worthy of mention for months.
Then you can see what you can do to brighten up what would be a dull little bridge and turn it into an eye-catcher.
Yes, when you know more about what you're looking at, it came become a little interesting.
I think I mentioned this elsewhere but, if you haven't got the message yet, I am a fan of parks.
Every town and village in this area has at least one park and, the larger towns have several.
This particular one is in Armidale, between the Tourist Information Centre and the RSL Club. It offers a few sculptures, the fountain and some nice trees. When it rains, unlike the three years before I took this shot, you might also get some lovely green grass. For the time being though, they have to put up with the parched reality of drought.