Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An easter break in the Central West - part 1

Well Easter is with us once again and this year the family have opted to spend the break together in Rylstone for easy access to the aquatic delights of Dunn’s Swamp.
We (hubby and myself, our two daughters and two sons and elder daughter’s partner) are all in position in Rylstone for Good Friday morning. Most of us arrived last night, elder daughter had to work till after 10 pm last night to unpack an order of stock that arrived earlier than anticipated. It's important to have it out in preparation for the Easter trading during her absence. So a sleep at home and they departed Coogee at about 5:30 thismorning, arriving in Rylstone at about 8:30 I believe. I’m a bit under the weather with a nasty cold but what can you do? Everything is booked so I’m here….
A bit of umming and aahing about what to do and a fairly late start to the day by the time the boys muck about having brekky at the cafe. We end up deciding to run up towards the Mudgee area and do a bit of exploring in the national parks up that way, and perhaps a bit of a wander around Gulgong. It’s a lovely scenic drive up through Lue to Mudgee and we arrive at roughly lunch time. I never tire of driving in inland NSW and today the trees almost everywhere are lush with new growth. The dull green of the native cypress (callitris) has been replaced by the deep rich green of it’s new growth which is beautifully verdant and makes a lovely patchwork of dark green and grey green across the hillsides demanding that I reassess the scenic merit of this vegetation community. At times in the past I've felt it can be a bit ratty.

A bit of consultation and a meander down a restaurant strip browsing the menus we decide to eat at the Wineglass Bar and Grill at Cob and Co Court just around the corner. Ambience is very nice, though the day is fairly chilly and the barn like windows are closed on the request of some patrons in the course of our meal. The food was good. Though the establishment has misjudged and only has a single waitress on duty for the day. This proves a bit of a problem and our two course meal takes 3 hrs – ripping the guts out of our plans for the afternoon. So it being quite late Gulgong gets scrapped and we opt to run up to Hands on Rock and the Drip Picnic Area. This involves driving out past a number of wineries and up past the Ulan mine which is quite an imposing site with massive black piles of coal contrasted to the white of mine buildings and other structures. On the whole it stops short of being quite the eyesore that the Hunter Valley mines present on the landscape. More information on these sites is available at this website: Gulgong attractions.

We turn in to the parking area for the Drip Picnic Area. All the parking spaces are full – there’s only two plus a larger space that is occupied by a large 4WD and trailer. We decide to run the extra couple of kms to the Hands On Rock site. This site has an attractive parking area by a group of low pagoda rock formations. I note for future reference that there is a wood bbq available. We stop to read the information board that pays due respect to the Wiradjuri people on whose traditional land the site is situated. On the other side there is an aboriginal story about the creation of the milky way.

We set off along the path in dribs and drabs really. Elder daughter finds a large weevil type creature on a plant along the path and stops to photograph it. I am repeatedly distracted photographing the trunks of some densely inscribed scribbly gums. I have visions of framed photographs of bark and grasses on the walls of our new house. Maybe I won’t achieve anything worthy of mounting and I might need to buy things (I know a source of brilliant examples of what I'm after in Central Tilba), but I’m gradually making a collection which I can assess for enlargement later… and digital costs me nothing anyway so worth a try. I simply love the bark of native trees and it doesn't get much better than scribbly gum!

In this case this beautifully inscribed scribbly gum has had the good taste to surround itself with a beautiful arrangement of leaf and bark litter...gorgeous!!

Gradually we all catch up at the board walk that facilitates viewing and serves to manage visitors and protect the ancient hand stencils on the rock face. The hand stencils are quite faded and quite small. Most appear to be child sized. There are no interpretive boards at the art site itself which is disappointing. I would very much enjoy some cultural information similar to that they provide at the art sites in Kakadu, but later we are informed that the local people have had much more disruption to their culture than in those traditional areas of the Northern Territory, so maybe it's not possible.

The forest around the site is quite attractive. At the last stages of approach to the artwork, you are obliged to climb up some rough “natural” steps, so this is not really a site that is disabled friendly. A tree has also fallen and partially blocks access, so it currently requires a bit of effort to work your way around or through this obstacle. On our decent one of the kids draws our attention to the spider that has made a web just next to the decline from the hands. On closer inspection we see it is highly decorative with attractive black horn like protuberances from it’s body. Elder daughter’s careful tutelage by her spider loving grandma pays it’s dividends as she identifies it as possibly a christmas spider which the following website confirms. though I have to say the photo on this link doesn’t really show how this little spider shines and glimmers in the light like a Christmas ornament. Very beautiful. Quite a thrill to see one actually. Christmas Spider

As always the return to the car seems to go very quickly and we set off back to the Drip. Noone has left so we park up closer to the road out of anyone’s way. Our boys decide to wait in the car… not great lovers of the outdoors.. We make our way along a well trod path and take a detour down to the Goulburn river. The river at this point is quite shallow and presents as beds of rushes with fairly small areas of open water. Some bright green aquatic plants running with the flow of water at shallower spots are shining in the light like bright green jewels. It is quite beautiful and a restful spot for a break and a walk.

Hubby and I leave the girls and …let’s call him son in law.. though daughter corrects me when I make such references seeing as they are not married….anyway the three of them hitch up their clothes and wade across to a rock in mid stream where they entertain themselves while hubby and I do the walk down to the drip. I’m feeling a bit better today and after days of inactivity am enjoying getting a little exercise…probably foolish in hindsight…anyway the walk along to the actual drip is mostly pretty similar to that closer to the car park, though you travel up close under the rock ledges that border the river for quite a bit of the way. Not a lot of bird activity. My binoculars around my neck ensure that.

Crossing a little side stream I take off my sandals and slosh through the shallow water which is delightful and not too cold. There are some small birds piping in the dense ferny undergrowth, but no sign of anyone coming out to be seen. My sole bird for the walk one solitary red browed finch! It’s quite late in the afternoon now and no time for dawdling. Anyway I’m conscious of the boys back at the car. I don’t want to try their patience toooo much.

We finally make it to the drip. The area is featured by large piles of massive rocks that have at some ancient time toppled away from the walls lining the river. It’s a rugged tumbledown area and as promised the rock face is actively dripping pristine water into pools below. I understand it is possible to continue on for a km or so downstream, wading through the shallow water at the edge of the rock face, but we leave that for another time and head back.

On return to the river and the kids we are met with calls for the camera. Elder daughter has found a small frog and I have borrowed her camera when my batteries died earlier. My knee is starting to hint that it’s had enough of the uneven terrain.. it’s been a bit temperamental since I sat in a stupid way in the theatre a few weeks ago. I knew at the time it was a stupid way to sit and I would regret it.. well no accounting for stupidity is there….anyway we head on back to the car only to find that the boys are having a great time! There is an ant colony by the back of the car. They have broken open some of our stash of snack food and have been experimenting with giving the ants cheese and bacon balls and watching their response. They have provided one dry ball and one wet one. There are two kinds of ants, tiny meat ants and a few larger bull ants that have muscled in on the meat ants trophies. The meat ants aren’t real empressed and are giving the bull ants what for despite the huge disparity in size. The ants aren’t coping at all well with the wet ball. The dry ball is successfully being removed by a couple or at times three bull ants and they’ve got it well across to the undergrowth. Closer to the car the wet ball is a bit of a massacre site really. Some of the ants aren’t looking at all well. This is the main site for the meat ant / bull ant dispute and there are casualties. Younger son has also entertained himself applying some of the temporary tattoos they got in lollies purchased from the café above which we are staying in Rylstone.
We return to Rylstone via a new route -the main road - and turn in towards Rylstone via lake Windemere, passing a number of fairly high profile wineries along the way. Indeed as we did coming in to Mudgee along the Lue Rd. Lake Windemere is still almost completely empty only the original watercourse has water for much of it and the floor of the lake has revegetated quite strongly. A very different sight to some years back when mum and I saw dozens of crested grebe and black cormorants on the water here. The drought is a long way from being truly broken out here and water restrictions still apply we gather from the signs around the town. The landscape has benefited from the recent rainfall though and everywhere is looking lovely. Overall we think the Lue Rd is more scenic at the moment.

Incidentally we are staying in the share accommodation above the Carlton Café in Rylstone. We have booked out the whole place which gives us four comfortable rooms and 11 beds. 3 queen and 5 single all for $350 a night which we are quite satisfied with for 7 adults mostly with our own rooms. It is pretty good value and spotlessly clean. Very comfortable. It has a kitchenette with tables, coffee, toast facility, no microwave or stove or anything like that though, and a small fairly ratty but adequate fridge. Not completely self contained, but there are several nice eateries in Rylstone so that’s no problem really. We find that the carlton café is another source of fresh cobbers…..

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