Thursday, April 21, 2016

North West Easter Getaway

On the road again, for the Easter long weekend and heading to the North West NSW. We have a couple of places in mind, Gunnedah to hunt for wild Koalas and Lake Keepit to try some fishing, but were happy to wing it and just look around and explore.
Heading off Thursday night, first stop is Lake Wallace which is becoming our favorite overnight stop-over, the lake has plenty of room and a dump point, kids playground, dog friendly, hot showers, flushing toilets and free camping. The lake is an easy 3 hour drive from our home, besides the half hour wait to get into Blaxland McDonald's we didn't even make it to the driveway, so we decided to carry on hungry till we got to Lithgow. By the time we reached Mc Donalds Lithgow we were starving and it was just as busy as Blaxland Maccas. We waited half hour for food, quickly ate and headed up the highway to Lake Wallace. The lake had heaps of camping areas to choose from, we chose to stay away from the main camp area.

Next morning we awoke to a stunning sunrise, while Trish devoured 3 cups of coffee.... We then showered and set off back towards the highway. I said to Trish (who was the driver) do you know where we are going? Yes, she replied. Then I asked, should we use the navman? Yes, she replied again. And once I had set our course I found out that we were going the wrong way! Thank goodness we had only traveled a few kilometers, once back on course we started our long haul to Gunnedah. Our first stop was Mudgee and with being Good Friday there wasn't much open. We searched for a bakery to buy some buns for lunch, we found a small Asian bakery behind the Shell petrol station on the main street, which sold some beautiful bread roll and a variety of pastries and Asian dishes. Back on the road again and the rain started to fall but as we headed further north it slowly stopped. We took a quick break at Gulgong and had a look around, what a beautiful town lined with historic buildings, we cruised further north to Coolah and had lunch in a local park then set off for the final leg of the journey to Gunnedah.

Along the way there were field after field of some kind of crop growing, we stopped to look at it and didn't know what it was, and with a quick search on Google we are now aware of the sorghum plantations which grow in this area and also a little history on sorghum and its uses.

Arriving in Gunnedah we had a list of places to find the local koalas, we drove around and walked through a few popular areas, getting a little disappointed as we had not seen any. Then just as the late afternoon started to set in we found one hiding in a tree in the west end of the show ground. It seemed to be sleeping but at times would look at us so we could get a few pictures. We had found a couple of places on findacamp to stay for the night so we went to have a look. The first place was on the Naomi River on Kelvin Road just over the bridge past Coles and the tourist information center. The area is quiet nice with plenty of gum trees and the ground was dirt, there was no facilities and also had quite a few single guys hanging around, so we decided to move on. The showground also offered camping for $10 per person with facilities which looked good.

We thought lets try the 4 mile Travelling Stock Reserve which is 6km NW on Kamillaroi Highway from Gunnedah and just before the Blue Vale Road its on the right its a small gate with no signs. The entrance is a bit rough in the dry weather I could imagine it will be tough in the wet with a 2WD vehicle. Once past the entrance its dirt tracks which are pretty good, there is heaps of room here and no facilities but right on the river. There was a group of young kids at the other end of the camp site which were no trouble except the noise of the motorbikes.

We  awoke to a beautiful day, and while we enjoy a morning brew while chatting and admiring the view of the river and the cockatoos filling the trees along the river bank, we then saw an old war plane come past flying low and gave us our own private air show, it was pretty awesome! It was time to pack up and head back into Gunnedah, to the tourist information center to get some more info on where were good areas to spot koalas. The lady was very helpful at the information center and very friendly giving us lots of local advise about the area with things to do and see and also surrounding areas.

We drove around looking for more koalas around town. We pretty much explored the same areas as we did the afternoon before, but no luck. We ventured up to Porcupine Lookout on our search, but after a slow drive up and a walk around still no luck, the heat of the day was getting to us so we decided to call off our hunt and have lunch while enjoying the view over Gunnedah and the surrounding areas. The view from here is amazing the county expands for so long viewing 100km of flat land, On the northern platform you can view the town and Nandewar Ranges, and looking south Breeza and the Pullaming Plains.
We headed over to Keepit Dam and asked if we could have a look around , being the Easter long weekend it was packed with only a few camping spots left, also it was very dry and not much shade.

We decided not to stay and drove further north to check out Manilla which the tourist information lady suggested and said was beautiful. What a great tip it was too, we pulled up at the River Gum Caravan Park to enquire about vacancies and price. There was a note on the office door. "Please find a spot we will be back later and find you" so we drove around this small beautiful park and looked at a few spots, we spoke to another guest and asked if by the river was part of the park (as there was an open gate connecting them) she replied yes, so we ventured down and set up the van and awning and enjoyed a cool beer in the 30 degree heat while we organized our yabbie traps and fishing rods.

The last few hours of light we sat watching an array of parrots flying, feed and making a racket. It wasn't to much longer and we were then watching a stunning sunset which help the beer go down better and to cool down the days heat.

Next morning I went to check the traps while Trish practiced her barista skills. No yabbies, but we did get a great haul of freshwater shrimp, we went and sat by the river with shrimp for bait and tried to catch a fish. But no joy there either.
We packed up the van and headed up for a shower and to pay for our stay, well apparently where we had camped for the night was on council ground and the caravan park couldn’t charge us. We quickly apologized and said we were told this was part of the park, we did pay a shower/amenities fee of $5 each. The caravan park is small with clean amenities, tidy grounds with friendly owners, right on the river and very quiet.

On the road again with a tourist drive tip from the van park owner. We detoured from Manilla to Moonbi via Davison Lane and Moonbi Gap Road which was a beautiful scenic drive. We reached Moonbi a beautiful little town and very welcoming and decided to have lunch in the park. Trish went to check out the museum while I sat in the park.

Heading south again we passed through many small country towns until we reached Tamworth, Australia’s country music capital. So we pulled up to check out the golden guitar, and were surprised by the size of Tamworth

With not much time to spare we headed off to our next destination the Warrumbungles for the night. By the time we got there it was late in the afternoon, we quickly set up the van and cooked dinner before settling in to enjoy time in front of the campfire. There is a few camp grounds at the Warrumbungles we stayed in the un-powered camp ground area which was great for $6 per person a night it also has gas BBQ, water taps around the campground which needed to be boiled before drinking, there is also an amenities block with flushing toilets and hot showers and a communal area.

The following morning we were up early and planned a few small walks and lookouts for the day. This area is truly amazing and one we are eager to explore more of in the future, the area is stunning and bouncing back good after the bush fires . We saw heaps of kangaroos, a few emus, an eagle circling the skies and one lone snake, thank goodness there was no more. After a full day in the Warrumbungles we really didn't want to leave, but our weekend away coming to an end. A short drive away is Binnaway and to the Pumphouse Reserve which is a free camp area, the locals ask for a donation to help with up keep. There is powered sites which are $2 for 3 hours (coin operated meter), un-powered sites, BBQs and picnic tables, flushing toilets and hot showers, the showers are $2 for 5 minutes no matter what the temperature. There is also a laundry but you need to get the key from the IGA store in the town center which is about 1 km away. There is no dump point that we could see.

The locals also suggest to use their local shops to stock up on supplies and also try a few local eatery's in town to help out the local economy,
We set up and had dinner and a few beers, I was standing near the van door when there was a noise and rustle in the bush, Trish ran past me knocking me out of the way and jumped in the van ..... I said what are you doing its just a dog! We both laughed, it was pretty funny! it was time to headed off to bed.

After Trish finished her mandatory morning coffee we were on our way back home taking the long way home and loving the changing scenery.

Stopping at Mudgee to vist the Pieter Van Gent winery to pick up a few bottles wine and port for our parents. We filled the van with fuel and headed off to Lake Wallace for our final night.

Next morning after Trish has satisfied her coffee addiction we showered and headed off to explore the Zig Zag Railway.

The railway has suffered major damage in the bushfires a few years back. We managed to find the bottom of the Zig Zag and got some photos of a train and the old work sheds with tonnes of rusted bent steel. High in the distance we could see a few of the stone arch bridges that make up the Zig Zag Railway, I hope they can recover and reopen again soon.

Driving through the Blue Mountains we took a left turn at Black Heath to check out a campsite along the Megalong Valley Rd, Old Ford Reserve which looks great, situated next to a small stream with a few turtle’s swimming around. We stopped and had some lunch here, we defiantly will bookmark this place for another visit. This area is also on the path of the 6 foot track with much to explore. After a lazy lunch we started our journey home to Wollongong and back to reality!

Our google map travel route - here

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