Saturday, 14 April 2018

Weeks 7 & 8 - The Scenic Way Home

As we head into our final weeks of our 4-5 week trip - LOL - now weeks 7 & 8, our last day of the Easter Break we left to head towards Bathurst. I have a few camps chosen and the first one at Bathurst was ok, but not ideal. We went to Mount Panorama as Jonnie wanted to see the track. We found an open level space and un-hitched the van. Peter and Jonnie did a couple of laps @ 60 km, and I did some sewing. Hitched up again we went to the second free camp on the other side of Bathurst and there were still so many vans there, so we kept going. We ended about 50 km out of Bathurst at Lake Wallace, Wallerawang. This has to be one of the best free camps – and it is free, not donation.
There is a lot of open space along this side of the lake. One amenities block with hot showers, plenty of bins and a dump point. In 1836 Charles Darwin visited the area and stayed at the Wallerawang Homestead – not in the middle of the lake – and observed platypus. To this day I have never seen a platypus in the wild.
It's over 35 years since Peter and I have been to the Blue Mountains and some things have changed – the roads are much better – and some things remain the same. The first crossing of the Blue Mountains was in 1813, and the road to Lithgow, about 10 minutes from Lake Wallace, was built in 1815 as the lands around was being settled. The area was the traditional home of the Wiradjuri people, and there are over 400 Aboriginal sites in the area. We stayed three nights. One day Peter and Jon went to the Jenolan Caves $40 per adult. Other campers were also going and they had booked, so we booked also. It is about a 45 minute trip from Wallace Lake, depending on traffic. It took Peter and Jon a little longer as someone 'came up the down road' which stopped the traffic. As the road is narrow, there are certain times for going up or down. The mornings are mostly down. After lunch they toured the Lucas Cave.
We also spent a day exploring the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains got their name by the blue colour the mountains look from a distance. The 'blueness' is enhanced by the large number of eucalyptus oil droplets released by the gum trees. The mountains were formed about 170 million years ago when volcanic forces below the earth forced the rock strata upwards. The caves, valleys and cliff faces have been formed by the weathering of the softer shale and coal rocks. We drove to Echo Point and the Three Sisters first – a magnificent view and heaps of tourists. Later in the day we found a better view of the Sisters from Eagle Hawk (below) along the scenic Blue Mountains drive.
According to Dreamtime Legend, three beautiful sisters, Meehni, Wilmlah, and Gunnedoo, were in love with three brothers from a different tribe. The brothers decided to kidnap the sisters and a tribal war took place. The Kuradjuri (clever man) turned the sisters into stone with the intention of turning them back after the war. Sadly the Kuradjuri was killed in the battle and the sisters remained stone.
We had lunch at the Katoomba Falls park which was lovely.
Heading back to Lake Wallace we pulled up at the famous Hydro Majestic. I would have loved a high tea there overlooking the valley, but at $55 each it was well out of our budget. We stopped at Govetts Leap at Blackheath to look at the views over Grose Valley. There are some short walks from here and covered picnic tables. A bit of trivia -Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of Australia 1913 - 1914, lived in Lithgow. His story is an interesting one - Google it 😊.
If one has never been to the Blue Mountains a ticket to Scenic World is a must. It includes two cable car trips to see the magnificent views of not only the Three Sisters, but the whole valley; a steep train ride down the mountain; and many many walks to and from the rides, including an abandoned mine with recreations of a miners hut.
We woke up the next morning to the fridge not working, so after a few phone calls it was decided that we needed power to top up the batteries. I guess it didn't help that we spent the last few days under the shade of trees and over Easter we let Jonnie play Playstation – because the batteries were full. Guess the batteries needed more sun to top up. So anyway, we needed to have power for at least one night. We were going to stop in two different places on the Putty Road, but decided to go the whole of Putty Road to Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.
We left Lake Wallace and promised we would return to explore some more. We checked with the info centre to make sure the roads we planned going on were ok for caravans, and headed along Bells Line Road, past the old Zig Zag Railway to Kurrajong. We should have stopped at the Zig Zag Railway, but as we were now travelling further than we had originally planned, we thought it better to keep going. The Zig Zag Railway was opened in 1869 and it zig-zagged along the edge of the Lithgow Valley. Interesting place, a definite place to visit next time.
One of the many arched viaducts along the old Zig Zag Railway.
The views were amazing, sadly not many places to stop and look. We reached Kurrajong, and to cut out some of winding Putty Road we headed up Comleroy Road – very scenic. Turning onto Putty Road, the next stop was Grey Gums Cafe. This is where we had planned to spend the night, and it is certainly a great 48 hour stop over, with great food (and big servings) at the cafe. We had lunch and a break for Peter – we had been driving for almost three hours – and back on Putty Road. We had planned this part of the trip so we would not be on Putty Road on the weekends as the road is a haven for motor bikes on the weekends. Turning off and heading towards Broke, we saw many signs for an Italian Festival at Broke in two days time, but when we got there, there was nothing – strange. Continuing on to Cessnock, past many wineries, some of which we intended to visit the next day as we were staying two nights in Cessnock. WELL, when we got to the showgrounds we both said “oh no” - it was packed all around the grounds. Obviously something on. We went next door to the caravan park and they were also full – and very rude! So we kept heading north to Singleton and got the last power and water site $25. The Singleton showgrounds are quite good, and not too far from Cessnock, but we decided only to stay one night and keep heading home. Jon is keen to get home now.
Left Singleton and arrived at Wallabadah First Fleet Memorial RV camp for lunch, and decided to stay rather than head to Chaffey Dam. So lovely here. Jonnie had a look at the memorial. This is a $10 donation camp for 1-3 days. Water is available and toilets and hot showers. We have been here a few times before, but it was the first time for Jonnie. The next day was another longer drive than we usually like, but as the boys were keen to get home we skipped a few good camps. We often stay in Mother of Ducks Lagoon free RV camp at Guyra. It is situated on a golf course and the across the road from the sports club. We always have dinner at the club when we stay here, and this time was no different. There was a wedding function going on so the food wasn't as good an usual, but still good for the price. The next morning there was a knock at the door and a man wanted to ask a few questions about our van. It was so sad. He and his wife had picked up a new (bigger than ours) Jayco Silverline van from Coff Harbour Jayco during the week. This was their first trip after retiring and yesterday his wife died!!! So sad. So he now wants a smaller van just for him. I hope Coffs Harbour Jayco do a good deal for him. He still seemed to be in a daze after the death of his wife. So sad - this is why we do as we do. Enjoy life NOW, one doesn't know what tomorrow brings.

We had another long drive to the Queensland border and Wallangarra Lions Park. This is a free park, but since it was school holidays the Lions Driver Reviver was open so we left $10 with them as a donation. This is another park we often stay at overnight as home is a three and a half hour drive. We had a great time, and yes, it was a lot longer than we had planned but that happens, and it was perfect. Jon wanted to see some places that we may or may not have gone to, but we did and we liked them. Now to plan the next big trip to Central Australia - I wonder what Jon will want to see there!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Week 6 - Crossing the Mighty Murray River

The rain continued over night and the next day, so we didn't go the little roads to the see the other murals – hopefully next time. Despite the rain we made good time and easily found the camp for the next two days, only to find it was already full and there was no room for us. We looked at a few other camps along the river but decided because of the rain and the fact we did need to do some washing, we decided to stay in a caravan park. There were a number to choose from in the area, and we chose Ball Park at Corowa– right on the Murray River. We did get a site overlooking the river, but it was very muddy with little grass. On the other hand, there is no one either side of us, and we are very close to the amenities. After lunch we headed to the Corowa Whisky and Chocolate Factory to meet a FB friend. It was great to finally met Nicole after all these years on FB. Nicole told us a history of the distillery and places to go to, especially the lovely wineries. The Corowa Whisky and Chocolate Factory is located in an old flour mill built in 1920/21 and operated up until 1969. It lay empty until 2010 when cleaning and renovations began to make this attraction what it is. The chocolate is actually made in Junee and toppings and flavours are added here. The whisky is made on site, and we didn't get a taste of it, probably due to the lateness of the time of day. The whisky is sourced from local barley and is apparently a lighter, fruity whisky. There is also The Mill Cafe on site, and we enjoyed coffee and moscato. A place to come back to.
Corowa is known as the 'Birthplace of Federation' – so that makes three birthplaces of Federation now: Tenterfield; Parkes; and now Corowa! Apparently it was at a conference held in Corowa in 1893 by the Federation League of Australia. It was at this conference that a motion was accepted that all future conference delegates should be elected by the people, in stead of the governments, and a constitution should be drawn up to submit to the people. Now, if only we could get away from
preferential voting!!!! (My opinion!!) This is also the place where at another conference took place in 1902, and the River Murray Commission was set up.
The area was originally inhabited by the Bangerang people, and Europeans settled in the 1850's. Charles Sturt is believed to have been one of the early settlers. The first sizable property in the area was a run known as Wahgunyah Run, and was owned by John Foord. The Victorian side of the Murray is known as Wahgunyah, and Corowa was originally known as North Wahgunyah as it was on the New South Wales side. As a port town on the Murray, the growth of the town can be attributed to the discovery of gold in Beechworth in 1852, and then Rutherglen goldfields in 1859, and the need for food and supplies for the goldfields. A toll bridge was constructed near the present 'new' bridge, and later demolished in 1892. The 'old' iron bridge, built in 1892, still stands and is one lane traffic regulated by traffic lights. Nicole told us the famous Australian painting, Shearing the Rams was painted by Tom Roberts in 1889-90 in Corowa.
From Corowa one can do many day trips. We left Jonnie happy in the van playing his playstation, and we headed off to Rutherglen. Our plan was to visit the town, the cemetery, some wineries and some free camps. First stop was the information centre located in an old building. They had cemetery records there and we could find no Lynn family, so we crossed off the cemetery visit. I did find Matthew Lynn in the electoral roll for Rutherglen, so I hope to find some other information once I'm home.
We picked up a free card to the State Gold Battery. I wasn't aware we were still in the Victorian Goldfields, but we were. During mid 1860 the town of Rutherglen swelled to over 30,000 and like many other gold towns there were many hotels. After the gold rush and when gold was dwindling the area became the wine growing area of Victoria, with the earliest vines being planted in the 1850's. At the Gold Battery we watched an informative video and could see the actual equipment through a clear window. The battery was built in 1908 to help smaller gold miners crush the quartz to find the gold. Maybe my ancestor was one of the miners using this battery. The battery ran from 1908 to 1994, and was restored in 2010 for the 150th Anniversary of discovery of gold.
We headed back to the Murray River to look at the free camps along the river, some were very lovely, like the Police Paddocks, and the others were ok. There were already campers setting up big areas in readiness for Easter weekend. From there we went to All Saints Estate, as recommended by Nicole. Wow, a castle, and such lovely rose gardens. All Saints Estate was established in 1864 and I believe is still family run. One section of the winery building is dedicated to the history of the family and the vineyard. We hadn't planned wine tasting, but we did enjoy it. Lovely fortified wines.
We went back to Corowa and got some groceries from Woolies, and back to the van for a lovely 'Peter' roast chicken dinner.
The next day we had a lovely drive along the NSW side of the Murray River to Albury. We drove through the centre of Albury, which we have not done before. It looks lovely, so it is on our list to visit again and spend more time. Not to far north of Albury is Table Top and Ettamogah Pub. We had planned on staying here and having dinner in the pub, but it does not serve meals Monday or Tuesday, so we showed Jonnie around – it really is interesting, a great overnighter, and must see – and thought we would have a coffee and hot chocolates. Well, they had run out of coffee and the young fellow working wasn't sure how to make hot chocolate, so we didn't bother.
We were not sure where we would stay, and ended up in Junee at the Golf Club. We arrived about 2.30 and luckily they were serving lunch as there was a function on – bonus, as normally the kitchen is closed Monday and Tuesday. We had a lovely meal and settled in to watch the sunset, with campers we had met in Benalla. Peter and Jonnie went for a bike ride into town and I did some sewing. This is a great camp, it has toilets with a code for when the club is closed and it is lovely and quiet. I think 2-3 nights are allowed at $10 a night, and power is available for extra $'s.
The next morning we headed off north, again not knowing where we would be staying, but having a number of places picked out. We did pass some lovely spots, which we may or may not come back to, and ended up in Lyndhurst Recreation Grounds. What a great spot. There is room for 8 vans, and sites have been marked out. There was already one van there and another came a couple of hours after us. We decided that because it was Easter the following weekend, that we would stay here or Easter and do some day trips. This is a donation camp and has a tennis court with racquets and balls; cricket nets, and oval, an old gas BBQ hut that is not working - but money has been raised to build a new one, and there is a keep fit exercise area. Great place for overnight, or longer. We are hoping for some footie on the oval on the weekend to watch. That never happened.
The following days we drove through some beautiful little villages, starting with the one we are staying in. Lyndhurst was established in 1861, and was proclaimed a village in 1885. It is famous for the discovery of gold at Junction Reefs; and also for being on the list of ten towns considered for the national capital – before Canberra was chosen.
Only three short kilometres is the village of Mandurama. The name Mandurama means 'water hole' in Wiradjuri, and it was established in 1876 as a village for the workers of the Icely family. The first settler to the area was Thomas Icely. His property, Coombing Park, was established in 1825 and in 1827 he took possession of further properties and with the assistance of about 62 convicts the property, which still remains, was completed. Thomas left the property to his son in 1862, as he was concerned about bushrangers in the area. He moved to 'Elizabeth Farm' (Parramatta?). In 1863, bushranger Ben Hall did attack the property and stole a thoroughbred horse and shot a stable hand. William Whitney, a partner in Cobb and Co coaches purchased Coombing Park in 1881. Today it is still preserved and a private homestead. All the streets in Mandurama are named after some of the original orchards: Cherry, Loquat, Olive, and Peach Streets, and to reflect the early mining in the area – Gold, Silver, and Copper Streets. There are a few older building and a couple of churches in the few back streets, but the main street – Mid Western Hwy – has many old and what looks like abandoned buildings.
Next town along the highway was Carcoar. Well, I can say it rivals Gulgong and Walhalla as a preserved old (and also gold mining) town. It was established in 1839 and is the third oldest town west of the Blue Mountains, and is classified by the National Trust. It was first settled in 1821 and had much land owed by Thomas Icely. It was established on the Belubula River and one of the main streets is Belubula. Belubula mens 'stoney river in Wiradjuri. We walked the heritage walk and it was so worthwhile. Maps can be obtained from the PO Mon – Fri. Carcoar was the scene of the first ever daylight bank robbery in Australia. In 1863, bushrangers Gilbert and O'Meally - believed to be part of Ben Hall's gang - attempted to rob the Commercial Bank.
There is also a free camp at the old railway station, established in 1876. There is a lovely park at the end of Belubula Street, 'Kurt Fearnly Park', named after Paralympian and marathon gold medallist, who grew up in Carcoar. Near the park on the street is a shelter that has Everything about the town is old. There is one (soon to be two) coffee shops and a pub, and some interesting shops in Belubula street. The churches and cemetery at the top of the hill are well worth a visit. Across the bridge is another coffee shop and a museum as well as the old railway station (free camp) and some old building including a hospital museum, that campers near us said was very worthwhile, and the tour included an in-depth report of the autopsy of bushranger Ben Hall. Will have to Google that when we have more data!! There are many museums in Carcoar, and we saw the Toy Museum, Courthouse Museum, Hospital Museum, and there is also the Stoke Stable Museum, and Military Museum. Carcoar has been the site of many movies and television shows, including the Tenterfield Saddler – and the blacksmith's did look like the real one in Tenterfield.
The largest town in the area is Blayney. Established in 1843, it flourished with the discovery of gold. It is not known how the name Blayney came about. One theory is it was named after an Irish shepherd named Blayney who looked after a station near Kings Plains. Another is that it was named after Blayney Castle in Ireland. Another is that Lord Blayney's death had just been announced when the village was being surveyed. The town has an IGA and is spread out. Pick up a heritage walk brochure from the information centre. The buildings range from 1862.
Millthorpe was only a short drive from Blayney so we decided to visit there. This is another town caught in time. Makes me wonder how many of these towns are in Australia. Millthorpe is in a heritage conservation area and has been relatively unchanged since the early 1900's. Established in 1867, and originally known as Spring Grove, it was renamed Millthorpe by 1884. Our fist stop was the old railway station, established in 1886, and helped to build the town. Many warehouses were built around the station to house the large amount of produce to be sent to Sydney by train. These warehouses along with the mill, which the town was named after (village with a mill), are no longer there. The railway station is now a cafe and craft shop. Another heritage-listed conservation area, the town is lost in time and well worth a visit. John Lister, the discoverer of the first gold field in Australia, is buried in Millthorpe cemetery.

On the way back to Lyndhurst we did a detour to Carcoar Dam and Wind Farm. Carcoar Dam is another free camp site. The sites are not level, but the view is lovely. There is one amenities block, and boating and swimming are allowed in the dam. We will be trying this one at some stage.
One of the days we went for a drive to some other lake side camps – very primitive, and at a cost of $10 per person we don't think we would ever stay there. However, the view from the lookout where we had lunch was great.
The rest of the time we spent in the camp relaxing.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Week 5 - Still in Victoria Goldfields, Heading into Bushranger Country

We started week 5 of our trip in Glenlyon, not too far away from Haddon, and certainly less windy. The drive was only short, which gave us time to relax both in the morning before we left and when we arrived early afternoon. First stop was Daylesford Public Dump Point – remember Ballarat area has no public dump points - only 60 km away, then another 12 km to Glenlyon Recreation Reserve – a donation camp, with toilets, it is located on a paddock next to the oval. There was a lot of roo poo, but we didn't see any kangaroos the two nights we stayed. It was a little windy the first night, but not like the winds at Hadden. There is also a natural mineral water pump next to the oval. 
We did a circuit into Kyneton via historic Malmsbury. Originally a pastoral run (Coliban) in 1837, the area became a travellers stop in the 1850's on the way to Melbourne from the Castlemaine goldfields. The town soon developed with accommodation and food supplies, and itself became a gold field area. It also became famous for the supply of bluestone not only for the local area, but also for buildings in Melbourne. The Mansions was originally built as a wooden hotel named Junction Hotel in the 1850's. In 1872 after a fire it was re-built in bluestone. It has been a bank, boarding house and even a cannery over the years. Sadly it is in bad shape and no longer usable. The railway station was established in 1862, and is still used today. The Commerical Hotel, between the Mansions and the Railway Station (top right photo) was established in 1866 and closed in 1936. Malmsbury was also the site of a Caroline Chisholm Shelter Shed, to provide accommodation for travelers from the gold fields, especially the women and children. Caroline Chisholm wanted 16 sheds built along the 'goldfields' road, but settled for 10. They were situated approximately a day's walk from each other.
For a small village it has a lot of history. See here for PDF self guided walk.
Arriving in Kyneton we had a few hours before catching up with our niece and grand-niece in the afternoon. We walked up and down Piper Street and around the corner. Around the corner is the remains of the house that Caroline Chisholm lived in when she returned from England in the 1850's. We had a lovely lunch in cafe, got some groceries, and had a lovely visit with family.
While looking at the lovely old buildings in Piper Street, I wanted to go to the LQS that I had been to last June - sadly it was closed, only two days before. So when we got back to the van I got on their FB page and asked if they were going to be there and could I pop in. They said yes, so on our way to our next camp I popped in while Peter got a coffee, and got some more fabric - like I need more, but at $5 a metre, I did 😊.
Leaving Glenlyon we detoured again to Kyneton so I could visit a quilt shop that had closed, and then we had a lovely drive past the Macedon Ranges, close to Hanging Rock. Due to the weather we decided not to have a picnic at Hanging Rock, second time the weather has been a factor for our visit – next time!! We spent the night in a free camp across the Goulburn River from Seymour. We have stayed here before, and I think it was in the same spot. There are no toilets and vans need to be fully self-contained. There were a lot of trees down, but we had a quiet spot beside river. I could have stayed longer – I like the peacefulness of the free camps, but the boys wanted their amenities, so we left the next morning., no amenities, so Peter didn't want to stay another night. The next morning we went back across the river to the town of Seymour. We spent almost three hours in Seymour. We went to the Vietnam Memorial again. Jonnie had never been here so he was interested. The trees have grown a lot since the last time we were here.
At the end of the memorial, across the road, was a log cabin. I don't recall seeing that before, but it was apparently there for years! . It was the old gaol (jail) lockup, and still standing. It was built about 1853 on the banks of the Goulburn River, it was used right up until 1962. It was relocated to this site in 1994.
Just behind the Log Cabin Lockup is 'The Nursery Rhyme Mural', completed in 2006 – I don't know why I have not seen this before. Also in the same park is the old court house which is now the tourist information centre. Built in 1864, and used right up to 1973 when the new courthouse was opened. The building is heritage-listed. We also found a whole lot of Seymour we didn't know existed, if we had we probably would have spent another day here.
We did some shopping at Coles and then headed north on the Hume Hwy to Benalla. We were going to stay the night in the free camp on the Benalla Lake, but it is only available for 3 vans, and when we got there there were already 4, so we went to the show grounds. We met some lovely people there and happy hour was very happy. There are toilets, which suits the boys, and big flat open areas. The cost is $12 per night, no power, but water is available for topping up. One must be fully self contained. We actually enjoyed it here, so stayed three days. The limit is two but the lovely lady at the info centre phoned and asked if it was ok to stay for three – woo hoo.
We went to the airport where the Aviation Museum and, a surprise for us, the Benalla Migrant Camp that operated from 1947 to 1967. Only 9 buildings remain from the original camp, and it is estimated that 60,000 migrants came to call this their first home in Australia over the years.
We then ventured a little further out of town to Winton Raceway, and there were cars practicing. Peter and Jonnie had a walk around, I stayed in the quiet car doing a crossword.
Back in Benalla, we went to the information centre and the lady was so lovely there. We had a look at the Ned Kelly cell and the blood stained green silk scarf Ned always carried. There was also a War Room with history of 'Weary' Dunlop; and a 1930's era of fashion and accessories room. All museum areas are at a cost of $5 each. The information centre is well worth a visit.
Just outside the info centre is a mosaic mural. What a great art work. It has a lot of nooks and grannys to play in and it is so interesting to look at.
There is also a lot of street art in Benalla, they even have an annual festival for street art.
The last full day looked a bit gloomy, but we had planned a trip to Stringy Bark Creek, so off we went. Benalla was having a Craft Market, so we stopped to have a look. It was not so much a craft market, more a home produce market and it didn't take long to walk around it. The lady in the information centre said the site was well signposted at Tatong, so we headed the 26km to Tatong. Not a lot there, but an interesting Tudor looking pub – that has camping behind it – and a sign for the Kelly Tree and Stringy Bark Creek pointing 26kms further south … and no one said anything about the 20km of uphill gravel road. Once almost at the top of the range there is an historic grave site. Emma Heller was a local resident who had a farm nearby. She died in 1889 and is buried near her farm. The information boards tell of her life and why she is buried where she is. She may have known Ned Kelly and his gang. Next stop was Stringy Bark Creek Historic day area. What a great job has been done clearing a good pathway and signs explaining the history. This is where it was alleged that the Kelly Gang shot three policemen, Kennedy, Scanlon, and Longigan. There is a 760m walking loop that takes one past the Kelly Tree, which is suppose to mark the site of the shooting, but that was later proved incorrect as reports state the shooting took place the other side of the creek. However the tree was officially identified as having been marked by a stray bullet and stands as a memorial to the Kelly Gang. The loop then has a track leading off it to the actual shoot out at the police camp. Back on the loop the track goes past the gold diggings where the Kelly gang were gold panning to find gold to make bail for Ned's mother. A very interesting story, is that of Ned Kelly.
After leaving the picnic area, we went to have a look at the camping area. It is lovely big area with tables and permanent fireplaces, but I don't think we would tow the van up the narrow gravel road to get there. Maybe coming from south would be easier. Driving back down the range, it started to rain, and the rain got very heavy.
We went back to the van and had lunch, then Peter and I went to the Art Gallery in the Botanical Gardens. It was too rainy to walk in the gardens, but the art gallery was interesting. There was a 3D Milk Bar – Icon of Suburbia – display, along with an area to create your own icon and place it in the milk bar stock room. There was another room in the gallery that was dedicated to 'The Legends'. There is also a small cafe. We got take away coffee and hot chocolate as it was way too cold inside.