Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Little Off Road Adventure............

The plan was to grab an extra day on the back of the long weekend and hit the road. With RAV packed and Sammi, as usual flying in sideways after a huge week at work, landed in the passenger seat and we started the 6:48hr drive North West to Coonabarabran.

Shellharbour to Coonabarabran
We stopped for lunch in the Blue Mountains at Common called the Yellow Deli and had a wonderful healthy soup before heading on. Further North and West than any Sammi has ever been before. It was exciting and new. The land was beautiful. I love to see new mountain ranges. Never bored of my own escarpment, but equally enthralled by new scenes and places where people live.

We arrived to find a neat and tidy motel room and a couple who ran the place who were 'Jack of all Trades' from receptionist to cleaner to chef. They were warm, gracious and welcoming.

I slept deeply and woke refreshed and ready to go. With morning came the plan to hit the trails in the Warrumbungles. It was freezing and I dressed ready for sub artic weather. We parked and started the 14.5km 'Grand High Tops' walk and before long the trail lead us up and up. We stopped several times and like a game of Strip Sammi Naked, I peeled back the layers one by one. Finally I was comfortable in just a light weight sleeved top and hiking pants.

Breadknife behind me, now warm and having to carry all my layers. Following the red brick path.
The trail was just a little disappointing in a way. Council/National Parks had obviously paid a lot of money to have a paved path put through the park. It seemed to take the adventure out of the walk somehow. But I balanced this with the happy thought that many more people would be able to take advantage of the walk as it was smooth and straight. Not wheelchair friendly though, as at times it was quite steep. We reached the bottom of the Bolougery Spire and from there we mounted the steel stairs and started a steep climb to the base of the Breadknife.

We found the saddle between the Breadknife and Crater Bluff for lunch and shared our view with a handful of other friendly, respectfully quiet hikers and a pair of pesky and extremely over friendly Currajongs. Just a little disconcerting as they demanded our attention with their yellow beady eyes.

Lunch view facing South East and home somewhere in that direction
After lunch we continued on and made our way slowly downhill (much to the disgust of my two big toes) between Bluff Pyramid and Balor Peak finally landing some 4:30hours later back in the car park. But not before I had taken off my hiking boots, lost the thick winter socks that were cramming my feet into the toe box at each downward step and ripped off the top of my big toe nails on each foot to make room for my aching toes. Sweet relief and mental note to Sammi. Cut your toenails before you hike and wear thin socks. Yeah I know, gross. Thanks for sharing Sammi. You're WELCOME!

Map of our hike
We drove back towards town but took a quick detour up a steep road to do a whirlwind tour of Siding Springs Observatory. Literally! It closed at 4pm and we had 10mins there.
Internet pic as I couldn't get the whole observatory captured in my photo.
But the view was impressive and we could clearly see where our walk had taken us.

Happy with our efforts we relaxed and had dinner in the motel restaurant before heading out to the Warrumbungle Observatory with Peter Starr (yep, that's his real name) and a wonderful night of star gazing. There were two guys facilitating, 6 telescopes and one huge telescope that was housed in a white dome. One fellow had a laser pointer which was a thrill as he clearly pointed out the stars and reference points before we stared through the telescopes at various stars and the moon when it came up. A definite highlight was being able to see Saturn and the rings and 5 moons. What a thrill.
 The Sombrero and The Hamburger Galaxies and a Spiral Galaxy and also a Comet
The following morning we headed further North West and into the Pilliga National Park where we encountered the most lovely woman who was the Artist in Residence at Pilliga Pottery. We had Devonshire Tea in the CafĂ© that was a hidden treasure that could only be found by following a long red dirt road. We bought a piece of pottery, a vase with a Blue Fairy Wren and Flannelette wild flowers on it. Two of my favourite Aussie Flora and Fauna.
An amazingly generous woman with a gentle soul and a genuine appreciation of her country and its people
Our travels took us further along the red dirt rack to a truly special place. Sculptures in the Scrub. We both have to admit we were a little sceptical when we read the blurb about the area. We imagined some ol' mate claiming he was an artist standing there with a bunch of bottles strung together and held with blutak and wire or something. Boy, were we wrong. We took a 1.8km wander through the scrub, followed an exposed ridge line and stumbled across a collection of art works that were commissioned by local indigenous artists and long time residents. It was so tactile. Each piece inspired thought or made you want to interact with it/them. And we did. Running our hands along edges of smooth granite to feeling the smooth shiny tiles in the mosaics. As the sun will still rising, each piece soaked up its heat and we found them warm and comforting on one side and cold and hard on the other. It was another unexpected, delightful, hidden treasure once again. 

Our trip back to the motel lead us through more back country and farm lands and, believe it or not.... I spotted my first wild Emu. After 49yrs 8months, I finally spy my first wild Emu. No photo proof though, buh!  One last tick to get now is to spot a wild Platypus. I maybe 100 though by these odds. A final look cast back over the Warrumbungles and it was time to bunk in for the night.
The edge of the stunning Warrumbungles
We spent our last afternoon in the area lazing and chatting and revisiting our photos and retelling our new memories. And all things must pass and so an early start in the morning was the plan. We were on the road by 6am and heading home via Kez and Jess' place. A 1hr diversion but a chance to catch up with the girls. We dodged Eastern Grey kangaroo's along the road and we marvelled at the stunning landscape that we have the amazing fortune to live in.
About an 1:30hrs out from Richmond we stopped for our last photo opportunity of the weekend. Our next adventure stood majestically rising out of the valley floor nestled deeply in the 'Gardens of Stone' National Park. Huge high rock cliffs whispered of possibilities and the surrounding walls of the valley echoed a resounding note in our hearts. We will return to this place. We will climb the rock cliffs and camp atop of Panatoney's Crown. Its only a matter of time til we return to this space and create more wonderful memories together.
The Crown is a long ridged plateau

Internet pic of Panatoney's Crown

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