Wednesday, March 26, 2008

An Easter Break in the Central West - part 3 Dunn's Swamp

We continue to be fairly unlucky with the weather, overcast and cool again today. We make the big effort to get away comparatively early. We've booked canoes at Dunn's Swamp for about 10 am. Like putt putt, canoeing is an activity the whole family has really enjoyed. We have also booked a twighlight and spotlighting cruise for this evening... the main reason we've come to Rylstone over the easter break.

To say a lot of other people also decided Dunn's Swamp would be a good place for the weekend would be an understatement. It is absolutely packed with both campers and day users. Truly it is absolute bedlam. We manage to find parking - the last couple of possible spots as far as we can see, have a bite to eat - cold KFC and collect our canoes. Elder daughter has also T-d up some fishing bait and gear so she collects that. Only about $5 a person I think and the bait they supplied was live! Down side of that of course was that then daughter couldn't bring herself to put a hook through the live yabbies and fresh water prawns - totally irrational really, but there you go. It was good value anyway.
We have a delightful few hours exploring downstream to the weir. We don't alight to go and view the actual weir wall. They kids have a half hearted go at fishing, but mostly they have fun singing and paddling and joking around. We're not terribly competent hubby and I at the whole paddling thing but we are getting better. The whole of Dunn's swamp is very beautiful despite the weather. There are plenty of other people using the waterway this weekend, but it's nothing like the numbers at the camp ground so you can actually get periods where you are the only craft in your section and it is just lovely. Beautiful reed beds and then bushland of Wollemi National Park on the shores. Impressive rock formations in between. There is a walk along the edges of the swamp down to the weir wall. Occassionally you can see walkers, but there are surprisingly few considering the numbers at the camp ground. Apparently it is the busiest easter in at least 20 years the wollemi afloat people told us. There is a notice on one of the toilet buildings describing what national parks are planning to do to address the issues now being experienced with facilities unable to really cope with the number of visitors.... however on normal weekends you can still find the swamp pretty quiet. Apparently the few weeks before easter were very quiet, so I guess at the moment you probably are best to pick your timing.
We break for our ploughman's luch. We enjoy our leaning oak purchases very much. Incidentally the dukkah etc are from a company called A taste of the bush which their website tells me is available at the Rocks Market in Sydney among other places..

We still have a couple of hours left on our canoe hire, so most of us head back out and head up stream to explore. Upstream is quite different to downstream, less rocky escarpments more gentle shores bushland. Very beautiful. We wander down quiet little arms of water, listening to the birds on the shore. I've opted to leave my binoculars in the car this time, so I just enjoy seeing the birds flitting among the trees and calling. Spotted pardalotes are certainly one of my favourite birds and bird calls with their three note call. I spy a movement of something fishing nearby. I keep a watch around waiting for it to surface - it is a male musk duck!!!!!!!!! It surfaces only a couple of metres from the canoe - clearly not fussed by our presence at all. It moseys along away but no hurry. What a thrill!! A few swamp hens, coots and moorhens along the way. We go as far as seems practicable and head back to base and return our canoes. A very enjoyable day. The kids who kept on canoeing got back earlier than the oldies and all have been enjoying a few hands of cards. But collectively we're getting a bit over the crowds of people on shore. Though you don't seem to notice them so much after a while and noone is behaving in an antisocial way or anything. No boom boxes or other hideous accoutrements to a bush picnic. Just the same we have an easter chocolate football we need to toss around and an easter egg hunt to get done. We're miles from anywhere, but I want to show elder daugher Glen Davis - so we opt to fill the several hours to our cruise with a nice scenic drive down to the other end of the valley - a good hour away. The dull sunlight doesn't really show the valley to best effect, but the scenery is stunning anyway. We make it to the Glen Davis camp ground, and it is very quiet here. The camp ground in Rylstone is chocka block with people, but not here down in the services free end of the valley. The trees are full of birds, friar birds, honeyeaters and others. As you drive along interesting birds flit across and along the road as you pass. Birds of prey are perched on fence posts and dead tree branches here and there. This part of the valley is a bird watchers paradise. One of the best locations in Australia. I note the great growth on some of the tree plantings since the rain has been coming down. They are looking great. We break out the chocolate footy. It's a bit of a dud this year and our tossing game is fairly shortlived. The kids break out one of the smaller eggs and we continue with that instead. The kids decide that egg hunting is really a bit embarassing to do in public at their age so we postpone that till we get back to the cafe rooms.
Back to Dunn's Swamp, we settle in for a few games of shitkicker - I'm getting better at it and actually win a hand this time, making me king shit. ... I have renamed the head person - el presidente just doesn't feel right LOL. Anyway time for our cruise approaches so we get ready and make our way over to the launch site. We are made very welcome by Bruce our guide and his offsider who has also been looking after us with the canoes all day. A wood fire is on the go for when we come back for a break mid cruise.
We set out and Bruce gives us a very informative talk about the origins of the swamp and the cudgegong river that feeds it, the geology of the area, wildlife and of course the building of the weir and the water system to which it connects. We are hunting for eastern water dragons which apparently love this time of day, but the cold weather defeats us and the dragons have warmer things to do than check their territory over tonight, perhaps they did so a bit earlier today... none-the-less Bruce explains their habits and shows us their prime real estate. It is all very interesting indeed. Down by the weir we find our friend the male musk duck again. Apparently there is a resident pair on the swamp at the moment. A real feather in the swamp's cap.
Back for a coffee and a sit around the fire. There's an offer of a bit to eat if we hadn't had our dinner. A friendly chat. Some of us upgrade our clothes for added warmth, or take care of a comfort stop or whatever and when it's good and dark we head on back out. We are looking primarily for greater gliders. Along the way Bruce explains their habits and the cycle of predation by powerful owls. He points out the trees driven bare by glider dining. But the cold weather is putting a bit of a damper on glider night life tonight. We do find a few. They are huge actually, but well camouflaged. The boat is equipped with big red spotlights that don't disturb the eyes of the spot lightee. It is brilliant just quietly travelling along in the dark, listening to the frog calls and the birds who call at night. Occassionally the low lights on the boat lighting up the reed beds. Bruce fills us in on the aboriginal uses for the area, and tells us about the current aboriginal traditional owners and how they feel about the current uses of the swamp.... it's all connected and very interesting.. Representatives of a smaller group who's numbers now only total about 80 people. I won't go into detail on this - take the tour and hear it first hand.
The whole group of us really enjoyed our cruise with Wollemi Afloat. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again, or to recommend it to anyone. You can't guarantee the dragons or other wildlife are going to cooperate on any particular night, but the talk is informative and the swamp is delightful day or night. Definitely worth doing even though we'd got a pretty good go over the area in our canoes earlier in the day. The cruise lasts a good 2 1/2 hrs so it's really good value we felt, and that fire...otherwise known as the bush television - is a really good touch.. oh and you might be interested to know they do not have mozzies at the swamp... they have some little midge like things but apparently they are not bitey, they just buzz around. Here's a broad shot of the swamp to whet your appetite.

We fall pretty much straight into bed when we get back to our rooms, it's been a long tiring day.
That easter egg hunt is conducted monday morning before departure with much merriment ... we've some errands we need to run and we need to get back to our home in Macarthur via Coogee to drop off the boys. Elder daughter's back seat is a bit too uncomfortable for a long drive....
An enjoyable weekend. ...and there's plenty more things within striking distance to explore - sofala, hill end, and of course we never did get into Gulgong.....
ah yes one more thing to note, your citified mobile phone probably won't work in Rylstone or in the valley down around Glen Davis or Glen Alice. Mudgee it should work OK. Rylstone is just a delightful little place. A truly chilled out little country town, well geard for the small numbers of visitors.

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