Sunday, 30 December 2012

Soldier on!

As impressive as the views were from the Sky High observatory, one of the highlights of the day was seeing hundreds of Soldier Beetles gathered on the marker posts and at the bottom of some trees! We had never seen so many and Vaughan took great delight in scooping up handfuls!

Sky High!

I read about Sky High Mount Dandenong in the early days of our arrival, so was pleased to visit on such a lovely day.  As clear as the sky seemed, there was haze in the distance, so views of Melbourne through the telescope were a little disappointing but still well worth our $1.00!

It was an interesting place to visit with some beautiful gardens to wander through.  Nissa and I wished at the Wishing Tree and Nick posed with The Australiana Tree.  There was a maze also and of course, the Sky High restaurant.  I can't comment on either of the latter attractions because we weren't keen to outlay any money other than our $5.00 entry and gold coin for the telescope use!

There were many people using the free BBQs and one family had the most delicious-smelling kebabs cooking as we made our way back to the carpark.  They were also using the plate to stir-fry a vegetable mix, something we had never thought to do. 

Kalorama Panorama

Silvan Reservoir - a trip for another day ... 
As Nick had the day off, we ventured a bit further afield - to the Dandenong Ranges. 

We had planned for a day of geocaching but were side-tracked by the lovely views and other attractions! 

Our first detour was the Kalorama Lookout, where we enjoyed looking out toward Silvan Reservoir (at left). While we were studying the information board, a fellow approached with punnets of locally (home)grown raspberries and boysenberries - so we purchased some for our picnic lunch. (Although we could see a picnic shelter down the hill from the lookout, we weren't hungry at that point, so continued up to Mount Dandenong Observatory).

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

4-Star Camping!

In the lead-up to 5 December (when both destination/direction were still unresolved) there were many half-serious jokes about us going to live in the forest.  Of course, Vaughan quite liked the idea!

As D-day loomed closer with no solution evident, talk of forest camping became more serious and some discussion had commenced regarding a separate tent for the cats. ( I guess that would have been a kit tent)?!

Finally, barely two weeks before our exit date, we received confirmation of a three-month temporary accommodation booking in Melbourne (part of Nick's relocation package, though his initial contract was only delivered two days before our departure).

As you can imagine, life in a serviced apartment is vastly different to free-camping in the forest! 

Although most of our belongings are in storage we have more "stuff" than usual hotel guests, so on Tuesdays and Fridays there is a bit of a scramble to clear some space for the cleaners.  Even so, they left a note for Erin on top of a pile of clean sheets because they "could not arrange this sheet" (due to all the stuff over her bed)!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Caged Cats!

Nick's relocation package includes three month's  accommodation for our family with various other generous benefits. 

Unfortunately our apartment is a pet-free zone, so Oscar and Sunny (pictured at left) and Keegan (Erin's rainbow lorikeet) are enjoying a holiday also, staying out-of-town with family.  They are being very well looked after - spending more time outside than behind bars!  Indeed they may not be keen to come home, particularly Sunny who has been hand-fed chicken tidbits to tempt his appetite! 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Another long road

After sleeping in a bit, we had breakfast and packed up the menagerie - then were on the road again just after 9am. 

The distance from Forest Hill to Melbourne is about 450km, so it was another long drive but we had most of the day to do it in - and weren't nearly so tired starting out.  There wasn't much time for sight-seeing but we did drive through some lovely country and there are were some places that we thought warranted further investigation down the track.

We probably did more than 450km as we called in to visit family on the outskirts of Melbourne when we arrived in the early evening.  We were made very welcome as there was a roast dinner waiting for us.  We spent several hours chatting, which meant we were driving through the city in the dark and arrived at our apartment about 9:40pm or similar, to unpack and start settling into what would be our temporary home for the next few months.

"Fighting gear"!

I cannot describe how relieved I was to finally glimpse this sign in the darkness when we pulled into our overnight accommodation shortly before 10:00pm - and moments before the manager shut up the office.

He directed us into parking spaces, not unlike an airport groundsman gesturing pilots to steer their planes around the tarmac!

Once parked, he gave us a quick tour of the cabin in heavily colloquial language - indicating the "nuke machine" (microwave), "fighting gear" (cutlery), "idiot box remote" (TV controls) and "other crap" (pots and cooking utensils)!  There was more room than expected but the best feature was that pets were welcome - and the cats soon made themselves comfortable.

We'd eaten various junk food en route, so I was happy to have a cup of tea on arrival while Nick cooked some steak and simple frozen vegies for himself and Erin.  Vaughan showered and then settled in for a couple more chapters of "The Wizard of Oz" and was very quickly in bed and asleep afterward. 

It wasn't much longer before I retired also.  After 10 nights sleeping on our air bed, I thoroughly appreciated a proper mattress that night - and a sleep-in till 8:00am!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Walk the cat!

As you can imagine, there were many last-minute preparations prior to departure.  One had been to purchase a harness and leash for Oscar - to prevent accident or escape during roadside rest stops.

Oscar wasn't being given preferential treatment.  Sunny is far more a scaredy cat (and not particularly mobile) so he was not considered in need of restraint.

In fact at our first stop, he quickly scuttled back inside his enclosure when taken out for a stretch!

We weren't greatly surprised by Sunny's wimpiness but we were a little taken aback that Oscar responded so well to his lead.  Well, he was fine to walk where he wanted to go at least!

Nick had booked us into a pet-friendly cabin just short of Wagga Wagga. I did not enquire as to the overall distance until much later in the day - and I was acutely disappointed to learn we will still some 300km short of our destination.

We took many very frequent rest stops during the afternoon/evening/night - very necessary for all convoy members.

Moving the menagerie

Our two-car convey held a party of four people, two cats, one bird and one stick insect. Nick drove Elmer towing our trailer, with two human passengers.

Although Erin initially drove the "menagerie car", I took over the driving just South of Sydney and remained in the driver's seat till the end of the day. 

Sundance aka Sunny (one of our cats) rode beside me with Lucy (Vaughan's stick insect) riding atop Sunny's cage. Our other cat, Oscar, shared the back seat with Keegan (Erin's rainbow lorikeet).

Keegan often travels with us on our camping trips but long-distance driving was a new experience for the cats - and stick insect!  Lucy didn't complain at all but Oscar and Sunny did at various stages!  Overall they did well though - thankfully.

Stuffed stuff!

We handed the keys back after our final property inspection and then stuffed a last load of stuff into storage. 

Both units are now filled to capacity, so more culling will be on the cards in the New Year!

After a KFC lunch our two-car convoy was on the road, heading South - at 1.00pm.  We were in for a very long haul ...

Moving Out!

Nick started moving boxes and lesser used items over to our first storage unit in early November. 

At the end of the month, we enlisted the aid of removalist to shift our furniture into a second unit (next door to the first).  The same company has assisted during our previous two moves.  In 2009 we needed 15 man-hours of assistance but a year later we required only 12.   Another two years down the track and we had reduced even further to 8 man-hours! 

The house was a lot barer afterward and we started camping out at home.  It was lucky we had our Engels and stretchers/air beds!

On the last night all beds were shifted into dining room, so as to leave the bedroom carpets in pristine condition after they had been cleaned.  I use the term "night" loosely.  Nick and I stayed up till 2:00am and then were awake again around at 6:30am, to clear away the last of our belongings in preparation for an end-of-lease pest treatment.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Snail's Pace ...

"Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you're off, that's all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock" 
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Even though Ms Lindbergh was describing holiday travel rather than relocation, I felt very much like that rock-clinging snail in the immediate lead-up to our departure.

Early September 2012 marked our two-year anniversary of moving into what had, until very recently, been our home.  Almost to the day we received a Notice of Termination with an exit date of 5 December.  There was much to-ing and fro-ing throughout the next three months.  As you can imagine, it was a very stressful time – knowing we had to go but not knowing where we would end up. 

Melbourne, Rockhampton and Mackay were all considered equally valid options during that very uncertain period.  Finally, barely two weeks before our exit date, we received confirmation of a three-month temporary accommodation booking in Melbourne – and so we started heading South on 5 December.  Our “essential” clothes and belongings came with us but for now the rest remains locked up at Morisset.

A sense of unreality prevailed as our departure date loomed.  Most of our energies had been directed toward culling and packing, putting our furniture and “stuff” into storage – while preparing to hand our rental home back to it’s owners.  We were incredibly busy (and super-stressed).  A few days before our exit date, when we started making our farewells, the reality of our interstate move began to filter through and my snail-like tendencies became apparent!

We are no strangers to moving, given this is our 5th move since August 2005.  However, the other shifts have all been fairly local, with the longest distance a mere 30km.  Our latest relocation was much, much bigger - in all senses of the expression.
Although my childhood had been somewhat nomadic, since the early 1980s I have lived in various locations along a 75km stretch of the NSW Central Coast/Lake Macquarie/Newcastle region – and we were moving 975km away to Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city. 

We've had many adventures but this one will definitely be our biggest yet - stay tuned for our updates!

To put matters in perspective Melbourne has a population of 4.1 million, which is in sharp contrast to the estimated 2,500 of our previous lakeside locale!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

How's them apples?!

I really like my cheerful apple tablecloth!
We are still packing here, with no real idea of where we will be living beyond 5 December.  My sewing machine and overlocker are set for storage, so I have had bit of a sewing blitz while I still have a work area to work in.

As stress-relief, I have been enjoying planning my picnic case conversion.  Happily Anaconda had a sale and I was able to purchase a 25-piece melamine picnic set for $24.99.  I collected it yesterday. At $1 a piece it was cheaper than anything I could source on eBay. Rather conveniently, Anaconda occupies the lower floor of a building - with a Spotlight store overhead. I left my family downstairs and enjoyed some time alone browsing the fabrics. I bought a length of rather funky retro apple print.  I washed and hemmed it last night. Given my suitcase/picnic case is red my plan is to have a red/green apple theme.

I am still thinking about the lining. My other smaller case was designed as a picnic-for-two hold-all, so it was originally constructed of material already backed with vinyl - and from time to time I wipe over the interior with a damp sponge. The red suitcase is lined with paper as presumably the manufacturer saw no need for waterproofing. When I google some people have re-lined these cases with fabric but it seems they intend to use them for storage or craft. Given I want to use mine for picnics (and based on my experience with my existing, smaller case) I think some sort of robust, wipe-out surface would be better but am still undecided as to the best means of doing that.

The picnic set included a salad bowl and I already had the salad servers purchased for 50c a piece from a liquidation warehouse. Nick and I have played this morning and everything fits into the case - including my large salad bowl, so I am rather chuffed with that.  Nick has thoughts of creating some light plywood dividers to hold everything in place as we trundle along but that might be a project for a bit later when life (hopefully!) settles again.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

An open and shut case!

We are in the throes/throws of packing for what might well be our biggest adventure to date. Is it exciting? Sort of. Is it stressful? Definitely.

Where are we going? Well, we still don't know! We do know we need to exit this house by early December and we hope to very soon have a clearer idea of whether we will be heading North or South.  In the meantime we are packing and culling (vigorously).  Of course, life goes on around these missions and in spite of all other angst.

As a distraction from all the packing, yesterday I bought - a suitcase!  (Yes, I appreciate the irony).  I don't intend to pack my "new" case - well, not with anything but picnic provisions!  I might use this one for inspiration in terms of technique.  Stay tuned for the conversion!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Lucked out on Lotto!

Our trusty picnic trolley on tour ...
Sadly, we didn't win the $22 million Lotto draw on Saturday, 22 September.  We checked our tickets first thing on Sunday morning though - just in case!

As Nick pointed out, it was probably just as well we hadn't won because the news would have made it difficult to focus on our day of cheapskate adventuring (and our picnic trolley was already packed)!  Given we hadn't become overnight millionaires, we drove to the nearest railway station (about 25km) and purchased four of CityRail's Family Funday Sunday tickets for $10 in total.  Bargain!

Back in July, I purchased a voucher for a discount family ticket for the Sydney Monorail.  Typically, the voucher was nearing expiry so after arriving at Central (Sydney) a bit over two hours later, we headed off to Darling Harbour to claim our day-tripper pass and "treasure map". A splendid day of adventuring was had, hopping on and off the monorail in the search for clues and enjoying the various sights of the City as well.

We parked the trolley several times en route for impromptu picnics and drinks - and again on the station when waiting for our homeward bound train.  Aside from our tickets we purchased custard puffs from Chinatown, a mango lassi, some very flash hand-made chocolates and donated to a couple of very good buskers.  Total cost of the day - $59.80!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


Who needs power?!
The power failed - just as I had settled in with Nick to watch some of a 4WD documentary before starting the evening cheffing.

We quickly found torches, lit some of our many candles and Nick primed our fuel lantern.  He then set up our fuel stove inside and I adjusted my menu slightly to make a couple of vegie side dishes in our usual saucepans.  I had already measured all the ingredients for (my first-ever) corn bread, so decided to cook it in our small camp oven, over a low flame.  Nick BBQ-ed by candlelight and our impromptu camp cooking session was a success.  The corn bread actually worked, though was a little charred on the bottom (no doubt due to my impatience)!

Typically, power was restored - just as we finished eating! Vaughan was not greatly impressed and voiced his disappointment "I was enjoying that blackout"!  I think we all were.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Fire King! (8-10 September)

Fire King fun!
It had been a while since our last fire sculpture, so we planned another attempt as a finale on our last night.  Nick found a suitable log and transported it back to camp in three sections.

The afternoon was spent pleasantly, preparing our latest Fire King for firing.  Vaughan assisted by chiseling out the rotted middle of the log pieces and gathering some pine needle "hair" (for photographic impact).  At one stage our wooden monarch had a leaf tongue also.  He was lit in the early evening, when there was still plenty of natural light.  Initially he had wonderful flowing smoky hair but the flames established fairly quickly and he burnt very well for several hours (before partially collapsing over the cooking grate, which prompted detailed discussion of various fine-tuning needed for our next effort)!

When we returned home on Monday afternoon, we called into a service station for ice creams.  The attendant asked if we had been concerned about the bushfire which had closed the nearby freeway and we responded that we had been blissfully ignorant of any drama.  Back in the car, Vaughan ventured his opinion that there hadn't been a bushfire - just people confused by all our Fire King's smoke!

Feelin' Blue? (8-10 September)

7-year fully-fledged splendour!
We often see a few Satin Bowerbirds when camping in the Watagans.  On this visit we noticed one of the males had a new bower, still only a few steps from the road and easily visible on our walks to and from the loo.

I did a sneak one afternoon and stood for a while watching him weave more bits.  He had a very impressive collection of bottle caps and a few blue feathers also. (On one of our previous camping trips I had caught a glimpse of the male bower bird in flight, carrying off blue treasure)! Vaughan found some blue ribbon near our tent and wanted to take it over for the bower but we said the bird didn't need any decorating assistance!

Vaughan came back from a bike-ride the next day to see if the ribbon was still near the tent, cos he had seen a bit at the bower.  He was very chuffed when he realised the bowerbird had picked up the piece he had wanted it to have!

The bower bird seemed a lot more bold than on previous visits.  He actually came down when the currawongs were scrabbling for bread and biscuit pieces.  His family were more cautious but we caught glimpses of several "green birds" also.

The females and juveniles have similar plumage - the males take seven years to acquire their beautiful glossy blue-black feathers.  You can read more about them here and listen to a short sound file of their call.  On one of our earliest forest trips, Erin's cockatiels came camping with us.  By the end of the stay, the male cockatiel could do a very good bowerbird imitation!

Wat, again?! (8-10 September)

It was a weekend of simple pleasures
Nick's roster presented another camping opportunity about two weeks after returning home from the Warrumbungles.

We planned to head into the Watagans on Friday afternoon (even voting ahead of the local election) but the week threw a few surprises, which impacted on our enthusiasm for packing/preparing - so we left on Saturday morning instead.  It is only about a 50km drive from home to our usual camping spot, so we arrived around 11am and started setting up.  I had packed a thermos as well as some picnic lunch provisions - and the currawongs arrived in a gang as soon as I started making sandwiches. When our backs were turned a small group positioned themselves on top of the trailer and inside Elmer, no doubt on a mission to steal the bread!  (Nick nearly lost a sandwich later in the afternoon when he left it unattended)!

It was a laid-back weekend where we didn't do much at all really - just simple stuff quite close to camp, which suited our physical and emotional energy.  Vaughan was happy dip-netting in a nearby small dam, riding Harry Potter broomsticks (made from pine branches) or running on rolling logs.  Of course, making fire-king sticks is still one of his favourite activities - and he convinced Nick to have a go too.  We all enjoyed fire-gazing on a night, with torches at the ready to spot for small wallabies and bandicoots.  Simple stuff.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Roadside cheffing

We left the Zoo at around 4pm and stopped a little way out of Dubbo at a truck rest area.  We had picked up a few grocery items in Coonabarabran and I used them with some of our existing supplies to put together a red lentil and chorizo soup/stew for the thermal cooker.

Although we made several stops on the way, we didn't eat the soupy stew till around 11pm when we  finally were home again.  It was very much appreciated with several pieces of flat bread (also purchased at Coonabarabran)!

Zoo-ming around!

We arrived at Western Plains Zoo a little after 1pm.  There was a large parking area to leave the trailer and we started the one-way circuit soon after.  Vaughan was keen to run beside Elmer most of the way, which was a good opportunity for him to burn off some excess energy!

It hadn't been that long since our last visit but the benefit of our annual ZooFriends passes is that we can enter either Taronga or Western Plains as often as we like during the year - and there is always something different happening, regardless of how many times we go.

Gander at Gilgandra!

I'm sorry I didn't take any photos of the Gilgandra Visitor Information Centre (aka Coo-ee Heritage Centre).  We stopped in briefly en route to Dubbo.  There was an extensive permanent display in the attached gallery - and a temporary exhibition of work by metal artist David Sherlock, who created the bird sculptures at Dunedoo.  As we enjoyed his works, realisation dawned - he was the creator of our brilliant fire poker, purchased as a souvenir of our first Ironfest visit!

It's not over!

Vaughan's first packing job was interlocking the strips from the camping mats.  As the morning got warmer, he was happy to help with other missions, further away from the fire!

After breakfast, Nick and I worked steadily.  We had started packing the night before but even so there was quite a lot to do.  At least the cold prompted constant movement!  As a result of our consistent efforts, we were fully packed and ready for departure at around 10am.  As much as we had enjoyed our Warrumbungle wanders, a decision had been made earlier in the week to detour via Dubbo Zoo on the return journey, so we still felt there was more holiday to come!

-4 degrees!

When zoomed it reads -6.5 degrees!
When Nick first got up (around 5:30am) the temperature was -4 degrees!  Vaughan and I looked at each other and repeated -4 degrees loudly, a number of times - then snuggled further under the blankets!

Nick stayed up to light the fire and when he came back inside the tent, he brought the camera to verify that the temperature had dropped still further.  I didn't think my eyes were working properly so cleaned my glasses and looked again.  The thermometer read -6 degrees!!

As much as I wanted to stay in bed, I needed to get up so put on my snow jacket atop my other layers.  We huddled around the fire for breakfast and then continued with the packing afterward. 

That is, Nick and I continued with the packing and Vaughan stayed by the fire - assisting with missions that didn't require moving from the warmth!

Our shorts-wearing neighbour had headed home a few days prior but I wondered whether he would have still worn shorts that morning!

Swan song!

Wheely good lunch!
I had insisted on lugging our picnic trolley all the way from home to the Warrumbungle National Park, with visions of having "a little something" atop the Whitegum Lookout.

As that plan had fallen by the wayside, I chose a picnic spot a little way from one of the zoo carparks - to justify using the trolley!  We enjoyed lunch near the Siamang Ape island, which is one of our favourite exhibits.  The small family were snuggling together and it was interesting to see how much the baby had grown since our last visit.

Vaughan often befriends black swans
As soon as we arrived at the picnic area, this swan made his way out of the water and over to us.

There was huge amusement as h/she deliberately pecked fingers before taking any offered tidbits! While Nick and I were looking at the Apes, Vaughan and the swan shared most of a packet of (cheap!) wafer biscuits.  When we turned round, Vaughan was offering up my shortbread also but I decided he and the swan had eaten more than enough of our "sometimes food"!  (The swan was not at all pleased by my decision and hissed loudly when shooed away)!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Pizza Pizzaz!

Last Christams Santa delivered a pizza stone and rather neat smiley face cutting wheel.

We had already been making our own pizza dough for about 12 months prior to that delivery - and consider our efforts far superior to those of the local chain operators. The dough recipe I use is actually from one of my camp cooking books, Australian Bush Cooking - and we thought we should finally attempt to make pizza in the camp oven.  We hadn't been camping for a while and a few improvisations were necessary.  I had neglected to bring a mixing bowl, so mixed the dough on a plastic bag atop the table.  As you can see, the olive oil spray can made a fine rolling pin - and one of our enamel plates was put into service as a "pizza pan"!

It was a very successful experiment - Vaughan declared the end result even better than those we make at home, which is high praise indeed! (The added benefit of camp oven pizza is that we don't set off the smoke alarm)!

Shower Power

I showered while Nick tackled most of the dishes
I am not one for faffing about with hair-dryers and the like, so when I originally spotted a power point in the shower block I didn't think it was all that useful.

As the shower cubicles were somewhat open to the elements, we generally used them in the late afternoon before the temperature cooled too much.  We were fairly busy on our last day though, so took our shower gear over to the amenities block at the same time as taking the tub of dishes.  It had occurred to me during the day that we could take our fan heaters too!  Given the openess of the cubicle (and shower block generally), my small heater had little impact overall but it did help my toes thaw out after their contact with the stainless steel floor - and there was some psychological benefit, I'm sure!

You might note the instructions for showering in the pic above.  It did feel a bit space-age to turn the water on by sensor, which caused a fair amount of amusement!  Being blasted with cold water (when the previous occupant had NOT turned off the taps at the end of their shower) was far less amusing!

Camp Comforts

Dishwashing duty - team one!
We don't generally stay in organised camping grounds but one feature they have in common is a "camp kitchen".  The comfort level varies but even at their most basic, these communal kitchens have a sink.

It is much easier to wash dishes at a sink with running water - so at these campgrounds we tend to use our white wash-up tub to collect all our dirty plates etc.  When the tub is full we cart it off to the camp kitchen, rather than attempt to do the dishes at our campsite.  As it was cold and dark by the time we wanted to wash up on our last evening, we drove over to the amenities block  - and took our heaters!

Try, try again ...

Look!  Our 50c hotplates in operation!
Given the success of my overnight camp oven creamed rice cooking experiment at home, I tried a variation on the method in our larger camp oven.

I halved my usual recipe and put the mixture into a pudding bowl with lid - and then into our larger camp oven.  It barely fit into the provided fireplace though and we weren't able to completely cover it with coals - that fact combined with the very cold overnight temperatures meant the rice was still uncooked in the morning.  I was somewhat disappointed but decided to make another attempt, using the thermal cooker.

As the rice was already in the pudding bowl, I tried the method of thermal-cooking puddings.  There didn't seem much action by lunchtime, though I may have been too impatient.  In any case, I consulted my selection of printed thermal-cooker recipes and used the recommended method of cooking the creamed rice in the top pot.  It worked brilliantly, so Nick and I enjoyed it for dessert with tinned peaches, after our excellent camp oven pizzas!  (Definitely a case of third time lucky)!

Slippery thieves?!

When we returned to camp from our hillside walk, I spotted the olive oil spread container down by the firewood, quite a way from the table where it was (unintentionally) left.

I asked Vaughan what he had been doing with it and he claimed innocence, which was soon verified by the many peck-marks at the bottom on the container! I'm sorry I missed seeing the bird(s) that carried it off!  Our money is on the White-winged Choughs, related to the Apostle Birds but definitely the boss-gang of all our bird visitors.

We were visited by various birds during our stay.  As well as the spread, they raided our bread - and anything left unattended!  The usual "suspects" were Apostle Birds, Currawongs and the White-winged Choughs but Kookaburras kept an eye on us too, though preferred their bread and spread together - preferably with cold meat in between!

High on the hill ...

The black dot is me - our camp is on the far edge
There were several fire trails leading from the campsite in different directions.  During the week we had often looked across to a hill and occasionally saw other campers making their way upward. 

We decided to do the same after lunch on our last day.  I am not wonderful with heights, so elected to stop about half-way up.  I made a pillow of my jumper and dozed pleasantly in the sunshine while Nick and Vaughan climbed almost to the top.  My dozing was interrupted by their victory calls on the walk back down!

Whitegum Lookout

It was a beautiful walk ...
When I read the blurb about Whitegum Lookout I was taken with the idea of sitting overlooking the Warrumbungles, sipping my tea and nibbling a biscuit.

So strong was my desire to enjoy "a little something" from atop the lookout that I insisted we pack (ie. cart from home to the Warrumbungles) our trusty trolley for transporting thermos and morning/afternoon tea provisions from the carpark to the lookout!  Sadly my beautiful plan didn't pan out the way I wanted.  Our trolley stayed at camp, along with our beverage case and thermos.  It was probably for the best.  As soon as we arrived at the top, Vaughan wanted to return to the bottom - but that's life and the view was gorgeous regardless!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Duty Calls ...

Nick and I were siting out by the fire star-gazing and heard the more-poke/boo-book call of the Southern Boobook Owl.  (The link has a sound file).  As we listened it became clear that there were two owls calling.  At first they sounded close to each other and then one flew closer to us while the other still called. Our one echoed back with less and less enthusiasm till it sounded very much like a disgruntled beard-mumbling duty response - too funny!

Pilliga Pottery

We picnicked but there is a cafe on-site
Pilliga Pottery had also been recommended to us, so we visited after exploring the Sandstone Caves.

We were a bit dubious, in spite of the rave review but spent several happy hours at this huge place out in the sticks!  Once inside, we sat chatting to Julie as she worked at the wheel, creating a custom set of coffee mugs.  Vaughan's attention was held for quite some time - to the extent that he grinned and complimented "you are a very good maker of pots"!  He wandered off to play with a pair of lambs, later saying fond farewells to them when it was time to head back to camp.

Definitely visit if you get the chance - and go to the bathroom, too (even if you don't need to"go")!

Yaama! Sandstone Caves

The Sandstone Caves had been recommended to us by the National Parks ranger at the Warrumbungle Visitor Centre, the day after our arrival - and we were very glad that we listened to her advice. 

The scope of the caves was far greater than I had imagined.  A 1.7km track circled the large sandstone hilltop and there were caves all around, of varying sizes - smaller caves at the start of the walk and then much larger on the side.

Two caves had been caged off to prevent further damage to the rock art and grinding grooves within - and we assumed the lack of facilities was to discourage similar vandalism.

There were many small birds in the area, so we stood to listen to their calls and observe their activity.  As we watched, some of them darted into small holes in the sandstone, confirming our theory that something lived in there! 

Coonabarabran Visitor Centre

In my research of the Warrumbungles and  surrounding area, I learned that the Coonabarabran Visitor Centre had a free diprotodon exhibition. 

We had recently seen a diprotodon model at the Australian Museum, so were keen to see a real skeleton!  
I was surprised by the quality and size of the Visitor Centre's exhibit. It surpassed any of my vague expectations!

Although the diprotodon skeleton and static displays were the main focus, there were other smaller exhibits - including a massive petrified wood log!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Yuluwirri Rainbow Story

Hopefully you can read the story here
The sculptures were installed at different points on the ridgeway of Dandry Gorge. 

We followed a bushwalk to see them, and then descended into the gorge and along a creek-bed to loop back to the starting point (near the picnic area).

The differences in country along the way were very interesting - and we enjoyed reading various interpretative signs also.  One of our favourites told the story of Yuluwirri - how the brown tree creeper wooed the willy wagtail by creating a beautiful rainbow.

We finished the full walk just as very dark clouds rolled in and it rained on the way back to Coonabarabran, so we spotted a yuluwirri of our own!

Sculptures in the Scrub

I forget where I first saw the Sculptures in the Scrub documentary - but I do remember I definitely wanted to go and see them!  It took a "while" but I am so very, very glad we went! 

My favourite installation from the documentary was this pair of axes and it was my favourite in real-life too - closely followed by the starry sandstone piece.

The original four sculptures were installed in October 2010.  A fifth sculpture was installed earlier this year, on Mother's Day. The National Parks ranger at Baradine was the project manager for the latest mosaic pieces. Seemingly interpretative signage is to come as the various emblems are linked to some of the traditional local stories.

Pilliga Picnic ...

There is a camping ground adjacent the picnic area
Given our original itinerary was somewhat ambitious, we took the advice of the National Parks ranger and scaled back the day's outing.

We picked up some picnic provisions from the Baradine IGA and then headed out of town to the Sculptures in the Scrub.

Upon arrival, the picnic area was lovely - like new - and Nick set up our fuel stove to boil the billy while I used the free BBQ to sizzle our sausages.  Although sunny and clear the wind was very strong, so we chased after our plastic plates and other items a few times! 

We had bought stamps at Baradine Post Office and chatted to the postal worker for a little while.  She had recommended the Coonabarabran bread sold at the IGA (the Baradine Bakery had closed down about 10 years prior to our visit!) - and she was right.  Of course, the last of my roasted tomato/capsicum chilli relish also added greatly to our sausage sangas!

Nick had boiled extra water to clean the BBQ plate but as we were eating, two National Parks rangers pulled up (from Narrabri - 100km away) to clean the BBQs and check on the loo etc. 

Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre

The Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre is located in the main street of Baradine - and was hard to miss!  It was a lovely building with two recycled metal emu sculptures near the entrance.  Inside were many interactive displays and we browsed for a while before chatting with the National Parks ranger on duty, to check our planned itinerary.

There is a National Parks office across the highway from home.  It is a new building with various metal structures along the pathway leading to the front door.  I watched it being built and kept meaning to visit, thinking for sure that all the effort would have resulted in a visitor centre with informative displays etc.  I was quite disappointed when I finally called in.  The front door leads into a small foyer/reception area with a glass window, through which you can speak with the staff.  There are a couple of brochures and not much else!


The lamb baa-ed back, cos we sounded so sheepish!
After breakfast we thawed out a bit more and then took a tub of washing up over to the camp kitchen.  Vaughan rode his bike over and was happily engaged stalking emus and a feral cat, while Nick and I dealt with the dishes.

Once a few more of the mundane tasks were done, we headed out the Baradine side of the Warrumbungles -  where Nick and Vaughan had been the previous afternoon on their search for fire-wood.  The difference in countryside was marked.  It was a beautiful drive along a dirt road and I was too busy enjoying the scenery to take photos!

Vaughan asked questions about the stock grids, so we stopped at one to show him what they looked like, up close.  We could hear a lamb and it responded when we called.  Before long, we spotted it - seemingly alone by the fence with no mother in sight.  We weren't sure if this was normal behaviour for sheep, so visited the nearest farm house to alert them to the lone lamb.  No-one was home though, so we pressed on to Baradine and hoped that all was under control.

C - O - L - D ! ! !

Our camping neighbour still wore shorts and t-shirt!
Vaughan's latest expression was used a lot while away (and with feeling).  O-d-d is a wonderful response for a whole range of situations!

The world was a bit o-d-d when we surfaced on our second morning - and definitely c-o-l-d!!  There was ice on the ground, the trailer, our bike seats, Vaughan's bike helmet - just everywhere.  We were highly amused by our dragon breath and chortled at all the icy evidence we found.  The metal bottle had been left out overnight with several centimetres of milk remaining, which had frozen solid during the night!  Even funnier was my teapot half-full of leftover tea slushie!!

At that stage we hadn't located our thermometer but later learned the temperature had been -3 degrees!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fun at the Sun!

The Solar System Drive "Sun" is located at Siding Spring Observatory.  As we arrived later in the afternoon, we visited the telescope first (because the doors are locked at 4:00pm sharp).

Vaughan was super-impressed by the "massive telescope" and has mentioned it a number of times since returning home.
Given the faded signage at the entrance to the visitor centre and Explanatory, I wasn't sure what to expect but paid the family price of $13.50 and we ventured into the astronomy exhibit area.

We were pleasantly surprised by the high calibre of the activities and the three of us had lots of fun! 

Spaced Out!

"Strap on your seatbelts and launch into Coonabarabran, The Astronomy Capital of Australia. Experience a scaled model of our Solar System that's 38 million times smaller than outer space!"

We went for a drive after lunch - through the solar system!

Read here for details.

On our various trips along the Golden Highway, we have often admired Pluto (at Merriwa) and had stopped at some of the other planets on our way out to the Warrumbungles.  There were four planets located only a short drive from our campsite, so we set off in search of Earth (!), Venus, Mercury - and called in on Mars later in the afternoon, after spending some time at the Sun!