Friday, November 28, 2008

Thursday 2 October - A drive to Ben Hall Country.

It is Thursday before the October long weekend. We make a late start we’re in no rush and more concerned that the drivers are rested before the long drive. We take The Northern Road to the mountains. The crabapples and cherry trees all smothered in blossom. A brief stop in Leura to change drivers we decide to pull up outside Everglades for the views of the gardens from the road. Purple tulips, in a bed and swathes of bluebells under the trees making a beautiful picture. Moving on we head up through Leura Mall lined with pink cherry trees making a glorious display. The highway also is lined with spring blossoms. Next stop Hartley valley tea rooms and gallery, a favourite with daughter who visits it regularly. We enjoy browsing and they have a range of nice pieces on display.
Back in the car we are heading to Orange. It is wonderful to be on the open road once again. Through Bathurst, the elms are vibrant with their globular green flowers and other spring flowers are also in full burst. Weeping cherries are popular and we admire several in the front yards of a modest federation homes along the main drag. Past Bathurst we take the turn to Millthorpe and admire the beautiful rolling pastures before finally motoring into the wonderfully atmospheric federation streetscapes of the village. We quickly spot the Old Mill Café Restaurant and get a park close by. The gardens around the street are all looking lovely with some beautiful camellias and early iris. The Old Mill Cafe is opposite the lolly shop, which for some reason is closed today and there are no signs posted as to what the normal opening hours are.
The Old Mill café is doing a roaring trade today. Some lovely tables outside are occupied which is not surprising as it is a perfect spring day. We opt for a window seat indoors away from the other diners. As we wait for our orders we observe a dog chase a boy on a bike up the footpath opposite, yapping at the boys heels. Though he pedalled vigorously to get away, glancing down at behind him frequently, the boy didn’t look overly worried. Having escorted this presumptuous interloper a sufficient distance from his territory the dog retires. We can sense the smug satisfaction pouring from him. As he turns we can almost feel him mentally groan as he becomes aware that his none too happy owner is on his trail. She gestures at him and is clearly telling him off, but we are unable to lip read – the dog gives a cursory submissive posture as he happily trots around the back, clearly of the opinion that the woman is just one the unavoidable obstacles that just has to be dealt with in the course of his doggy profession. Afterall, the job is done, and done well.
Our lunch arrives. 3 of 4 have ordered the beer battered fish with beer battered fries. I have opted for the open steak sandwich. The food is fairly moderate in price and is good value, but we all agree not a particularly memorable meal. The service is friendly but slow. The establishment seems quite surprised at how busy they are on this Thursday. The slow service means lunch takes us longer than I had expected or hoped and it is pushing 2 oclock by the time we get away.
Another change of driver and we pack back in the car. Straight through Orange. Such a lovely town and the blossoms here are also in full flight. Elms, weeping cherries, crabapples and flowering plums particularly catching our attention.
Out of Orange we head straight through down Cargo Road. It is a beautifully scenic drive. There has clearly been some rain, but the dams have a long way to go to reach capacity. As we travel along we begin to find fields of golden flowering canola, but the blossom is not as thick as it could be. Paddocks with sheep, and paddocks lying fallow for now. The countryside is just beautiful in this region and we’re all loving the drive.
Next stop Canowindra, we come in via the quieter streets and are somewhat puzzled as to the where we will find the historic buildings of which we have heard. A few turns around the town and we reach the main street. Most premises are occupied with a range of small businesses. However pretty much every premise is overdue for some maintenance. A coat of paint would go a long way to making the town seem a bit less ramshackle. A lot of potential for Canowindra though. It is at present completely unspoilt. We note “the shearing shed hair and beauty”, and another beautician down the street. Butcher, IGA a few others. We pass a bakery and decide to continue our hobby of sampling sausage rolls. We all go in. The pies and sausage rolls look pretty average. The croissants look very good. We end up with a choccy milkshake, choccy croissant and apricot Danish. The milkshake seems to take forever to make, and it seems like the girl serving needs to remake it several times. Very odd. Doesn’t seem to have any malt in it – we had requested double malted. The croissants are every bit as delicious as they looked. First class. Son’s sausage roll smelt as average as it looked, I wasn’t tempted to take a bite. A decision he validated with his review. Disappointing.
We hit the road to Eugowra, the sun tipping down towards the horizon. It is a very pretty drive from Canowindra to Eugowra. Very very pretty. Fields of crops, golden canola, and the rich vibrant green of what we assume to be wheat. Across in the near distance low hills provide a beautiful backdrop. None cleared. Indeed there is still quite a reasonable amount of trees and cover here and the in the country side all the way from Orange – at least visually. It makes a nice contrast to the overcleared land and hills around Gundagai and south to the Victorian border along the Hume Hwy. Along the road we pass a hot spot of birds and daughter (who is driving) is instructed to chuck a U-ey and pull over so we can have a good look. A fair sized flock of fairy martins stopping to drink in a pool of standing water. Rufous songlarks (?) flying and singing enthusiastically all around. We turn back around towards Eugowra and pass down a detour where the road bridge has collapsed to a creek or irrigation channel crossing. Eugowra is a sweet little town, very small but there are a few people around at this end of the day. However it’s late and we don’t stop. Instead we make the turn up the Escort Way. It is very pretty and I find myself wondering how it compares scenically to the Cargo Road, as it is a more direct route down from Orange to Eugowra. After a few kilometres we pull over in the Escort Rock rest stop. There is a plaque describing in brief the events of the robbery of the gold escort about which I have recently read in Nick Bleszynski’s book on Ben Hall. There’s a few birds around. Mum wanders around for a bit of a birdwatching. A very coarse croaking call gets my attention and I spot an apostle bird high in a gum before it flies off. The actual site of the robbery is on adjoining private land but you can go through a closed gate for a look OK and this I decide to do.

Up a fairly modest slope a sign points out the wheel ruts from the original road (though they are not particularly easy to distinguish). I follow the path of the road as it rounds the turn before arriving at escort rock which of course provides a suitable ambush site. I enjoy walking along trying to see the original path and enjoy the solitude imagining the events of the robbery in the golden glow of the late afternoon light. I walk on past the rock into the more wooded area and return to look back towards the rock.

It is very quiet here, not even much birdsong. I look up the hill and wonder how far it is to the site where the horses were held waiting. As I return down the hill a couple arrive and start the walk up to the rock. We exchange a friendly g’day and the wife and I have a bit of a chat, the hubby having gone ahead up the hill.
Back again on the road it’s past 5 oclock and sun is dipping low to the horizon. Shortly after departing Eugowra on the Forbes-Eugowra road the broad countryside evolves into wooded country lining the road with native timber. Finally we come into Forbes and hunt around for a short while before finding our accommodation – the Lake Forbes Motel – which is clean and comfortable. Great value. Definitely at the upper end of 3 ½ star motels. We have a twin room and a family room which could actually accommodate us all, but which involves a fairly substantial set of stairs which are somewhat of a problem for mum. Once you’re up the stairs though it’s a big comfortable room with a double bed and 3 good sized singles. Very comfortable.
Our twin is at ground level and is fresh and clean smelling. A very pleasant room indeed. I dip my toes in the pool which is beautifully refreshing though too cool to really be tempting for a dip. We unload the car and head into Forbes to pick up some supplies and something for the hungry ones to eat. Forbes is a very nice town. Not spoiled by national or international chains too much. Definitely much nicer than Mudgee! LOL Plenty of evocative heritage buildings. Beautiful old street lamps. In particular the building with the bushrangers hall of fame in it is a very beautiful building. Refreshed and stocked up with some king island yoghurt and subway for Son we head on back to the motel. We have a light dinner and chill out talking – and writing this of course. A tiring and enjoyable day. And a really lovely drive through the beautiful central west. Gods own country.

No comments: