Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday Circle: Campbelltown, Bathurst, Goulburn

I like a drive as we all know, so Hubby and I have decided we'll brave the possible Good Friday traffic snarls and head out and see how we go. We set out reasonably early, say about 7.40 or a bit later by the time we filled up the car.  Then it is a very pleasant run up the Northern Road and steadily up through the mountain villages and were at Echo point at about 9.15 am. The Great Western Highway is not busy at all at this time of the morning today. No worries parking. The main bank of parking spots right at the point is full but we got a spot just up the road. We always found those other spots quite small anyway so parallel parking on the street suits us well enough, though our car is smaller these days. Just a short delay while we pay the $3.80 for the first hour and $4.40 per hour thereafter. Other people are having some issues paying with coins. The machine seems to prefer a credit card. We only pay until 11.15 as we have places we want to go.
Did I mention the weather? It is absolutely glorious. Up here in the mountains it has been forecast to max at 19C, perfect for sightseeing and walking in the clear mountain air, but a jacket is handy. 
It is thrilling to walk down into the viewing area of Echo Point. The approach provides a hint of the views which are not fully visible until you reach the railings. They have done a huge amount of work to use the large passenger drop off turning circle to capture rainwater which is used to flush the toilets in the nearby amenities blocks.
Usually when we come to Echo Point it is with the intention of walking the Giant Stairway and across to the Scenic Railway, one of the most popular walks in the mountains. Today however we have decided to really play tourist here and we head over and join everyone else in soaking up the views over the Jamison Valley. 

There is several levels of lookout here at Echo Point, the most unobstructed views for photographs are at the lower level and we head down there.  The plaque commemorating the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 is looking anything but regal.  There seems to be a few people who have felt their own visit was equally worth remembering and they have clearly expended some effort to scratch their name on the plaque. J Capone has stolen a space in the top right hand. How appropriate!
We’ve decided we’ll spend about an hour here today. As it’s been a long time since we walked across to Scenic World we decide to head that way and just turn around when we've used half our time.  
The path is disabled friendly to the Kedumba View, then it assumes the more traditional ramshackle sort of standard that we have come to know and love. Steps are uneven and only built such that they moderate the natural inconsistencies.
The mountain devils (Lamberta Formosa) are flowering sporadically and deserve a mention. They may look quite unassuming but they are a serious mountain icon. The seeds are grown in horny pods resembling a devil’s face. I can never see them without thinking of the mountains.
As we get nearer, the views of Scenic World across on a nearby headland become clearer, as you would expect. We watch the gondolas from the rides there wiz across the void and down into the valley.  It’s a long time since we rode that too. I’m almost tempted to do that today, but the inland is calling. 
The birds along the track seem to have become quite comfortable with the hordes of visitors passing here and this one seems to be wearing an expectant expression as he hops steadily right up to us before seeming to conclude that we don’t have crumbs so he may as well go elsewhere. Even the Crimson Rosellas are making themselves visible today. Although the crimsons can be very friendly in other places, in the mountains I have always heard their tinkling, bell like call but seldom seen them.
At Lady Darley Lookout the viewing area really takes a turn to the traditional. Fences and stairs on the natural rock.
Some people have etched their life motto on the rocks. I have to say it seems quite appropriate to the context. 
There is quite a lot of stairs to traverse along the way and the track is quite busy with walkers who are heading back toward Echo Point.
There’s even the occasional obstacle, but it just makes you feel like you really are in the bush, which is the idea right? A little bit of mud but nothing too serious and people of all ages seem to be having a great time as they walk along.
When the time comes to turn back, I can’t resist and decide we must press on to the next lookout. Allambie Lookout, and no, the views aren’t much different from anywhere along the path we’ve taken today, which is not really surprising. It’s hard to do better than Echo Point for viewing this area of the mountains.
Eventually we do summon the will to turn around and head back.  Along the track a fire has been through at some time in the past and bare blackened branches stand above the greenery of the regrowth. 
The heat has burst the hard seed pods of Banksia and other native bushes.
Back up at the point more people have arrived and all around there is an orgy of portraiture against World Heritage wilderness views.
We couldn't resist a stop to photograph our favourite gallerywhich is here in Katoomba and while away a little more time as we run into the owner and discuss developments involving the artist Palla Jeroff and the premises next door. Ah how I covet a James Blackwell mixed media piece... sigh.
Next stop Bathurst. Just a bit of congestion getting through the slower speed zones of Blackheath and Mount Victoria then we are winding our way down Victoria Pass and enjoying views over Hartley Vale spread out below us.  One of these days we’ll have to make a stop at the historic buildings at Hartley which the sign proclaims are open 7 days. 
As we come into Lithgow the oaks that form an avenue in the middle of the highway are colouring to shades of russet and red.  The countryside all around is green and vibrant. A group of snowy white goats frollick in green pastures.  A moment’s alarm as roadwork causes a section of slow speed as we are diverted to share the other side of the highway, but it’s such a beautiful day a comparative dawdle doesn't seem like a problem for a while and it’s over soon enough.
What a lot of rain we've had in recent times. Golden dandelion flowers carpet broad swathes of the landscape and there’s a reasonable amount of feed on the ground, bringing to mind scenes of southern England.  I am again struck, as I was in England, at the good job the pioneers in Australia did mimicking the English scenery here in the inland of New South Wales.
Learner drivers are out in force. All day we are passing youngsters trying to get the hours of driving experience up.
Heading into Bathurst the Driver Reviver station is doing a brisk trade handing out complimentary coffees encouraging people to stop and get out of the car for a bit. We drive past as we are planning a longer stop here. I’m happy with a piece of fruit and a hot cross bun, which we have brought along but Hubby wants something more substantial. We are getting to know Bathurst as we have made several trips out here over recent months, I have found this town something of an acquired taste. It doesn't have the immediate charisma of Orange, but as we’re getting to know her Bathurst is proving to be a charming spot for a day trip. 
Most things are shut, as you would expect on Good Friday, but Bernard’s Bakery is open and there’s a few people eating at tables. We head on in.
It is really quite difficult to tell from a distance how good a pie or sausage roll is going to be. I deliberate as to my choice. The pies are quite good value, so I break with sausage roll sampling tradition and get a plain steak pie with sauce. Hubby’s preferred option of Mexican is not available so he goes a potato pie.  Then we’re off to the nice little park across the road to sit on the grass and have our lunch.
With everything so quiet we have plenty of options.  We park opposite the grand looking court house complex in the heritage precinct.  As we sit munching away on the pies (which were very good by the way) the bells of the War Memorial Carillon strike the hour at 1pm and follow up with a little tune for a few minutes.  The grass is soft and green. The flowers are colourful and look happy and well watered.  Isn’t life wonderful with some rain?  I wonder how long it will take before we take it for granted again. Will we ever?
We don’t hang about, making it out to Abercrombie Caves in time for the 2pm tour of the Bushranger Cave is looking decidedly iffy, but we’ll have a go. Either way it’s a long way home so we need to make a move.
Tommie takes us out via Perthville and past a cute little country church. At George’s Plains the poplars which are so popular (groan) out here are just starting to show some gold.  The golden elm is always quite fluorescent but the lime tints are fading leaving an eye numbing gold in its place.  Further on an oil painting scene of a huge gum with beautiful Hereford cattle gathered under its outstretched branches turns my head. As we round a corner I snatch a picture of sheep feeding in deep pastures. What a luxury.
Trunkey Creek, like other localities slows us to 50 kph.  Not a breath of wind to disturb the blades of a solitary wind turbine.
We make the turn down to Abercrombie Caves at 1.55 pm. Too late. Again I soak up the beautiful scene of seeding grasses waving picturesquely under stubby gums. The light is just right to make the grass shine in beautiful soft golden wands. Nearer the caves, a father and son, or so I assume, are riding their bikes up the steep winding 2 kms of road from the river below. I use the term “river” advisedly. There’s not much water in it at the moment, but it trickles along the bottom of a deep gully where exotic trees cast a deep and soothing shade.  There are plenty of people camping here and who could blame them. I’d rather try camping at a less busy time, but this is certainly a quiet, restful spot.  Everyone around seems to be respecting the serenity. Idyllic.
We proceed into the day use area and have no trouble parking. Not too many people come out so far for a day trip. Hubby heads in and joins a quite sizeable queue of people who largely seem to be getting told they’ve missed the 2pm tour.  What the website does make clear is that you need to arrive and buy your tickets quite some time before the scheduled tour times.
The wind of circumstance blows us back to Historic Long Swamp. We head back and find a sign directing us down a dirt road.  It’s quite a good dirt road. I like dirt roads. We come to a creek crossing. Hubby hesitates. It’s got a concrete bottom. Only very shallow water. We ripple across. What fun.  
Soon we come to a gate with a large and clear sign “Long Swamp Cemetery”.  That looks good. I’d like to have a look at that.. but let’s head on and see what this Long Swamp is about.  We recross Grove Creek. Then Buck’s Creek, then we’re back on the highway. Haha. 
It’s quicker back along the black top so we head back to our starting place. Quite an awkward turn to make from this direction but we manage it and before we know it we’re shutting gates behind ourselves.
Long Swamp Cemetery is something of a surprise. It’s not immaculate, but it’s clear that someone puts a good deal of effort into maintaining this little cemetery. There’s quite a few very old headstones most of which are in amazingly good condition.  Oh my. The community here has been through some hard times and the headstones tell the tales.  The names all sound Irish. I wonder if, like the area around Forbes, this area was settled by Irish looking to distance themselves from the persecution to be found in more developed areas.  Hubby comments that the people must have been reasonably well off judging by the headstones. Either that or they REALLY wanted to have a good memorial to those that lie within the earth here. I won’t spill what’s on the headstones. That’s for visitors to discover.
There are a couple of nice bench seats for relaxing and contemplating the scenes. I’m contemplating on my feet and stop to enjoy a beautiful butterfly that has landed on a tree.  Not one I've seen before but it is very beautiful and I'd be happy to see plenty more.  
There is also a picnic table off away from the graves a little. This would be a very nice spot for a picnic. There’s no cover over the table, so not so much on days needing some protection from sun, but on a fine, still day at this time of year... like today for example, it would be lovely.  As we go, still feeling thoughtful, I decide I’ll walk down to the second gate. As we secure the gate and drive away, Hubby and I discuss the stories on the headstones.  It makes me curious about the families. One of these days I think I’ll try to do a little research about the families online and see if I can flesh out the stories a little more.
With more time to spare this time through we make a stop in Tuena, which a roadside sign tells us has free camping and hot showers, to have a better look at the two sweet little churches. 
One Catholic and constructed in the 1930s along with an older protestant church founded in 1888 and built in of what looks to be local stone.  Tuena is looking better than when we were through a couple of years ago.  Is there no end to our appreciation of rain. As we head out of town I notice that it looks like someone has been doing some maintenance on the old goldfields hut we stopped here to see back in 2011, or it is wishful thinking?
Nearing Crookwell we suddenly come to a lovely view across the township. Hubby slows slightly as I draw my camera. I quickly snap a beautiful photograph as we travel along, it's of the... view?  Oh. It's really of the road side speed sign. It’s so beautifully central to the image it makes me laugh. I like it quite a lot actually. If I’d tried to take this photograph I could never have done it as we drove along. This photo will always make me smile... and what is it about so many views when driving? They look pathetic in still image and yet they consume your vision in real life.
We’re into some of my favourite country on this drive.  In Crookwell, Paul's Cafe is open and doing what looks like a steady trade, but most other things were closed.  
Heading on we remark again about the stillness of the turbines of the wind farm and the extraordinary presence of views over water. Pejar Dam has lots of water in it. Lots of birds on the water too. Water. Beautiful water.  We reminisce about the scenes during so many previous drives out here when water was not such a feature of the drive.
We arrive in Goulburn and find our way to the Hume Highway, by which time we are taking the scenery along the main route to Melbourne to Sydney completely for granted. Lovely, and yes, I’m still marvelling at the bodies of water along the way and green-ness of the landscape at the end of summer.
Home about 7 pm. That certainly blew the cobwebs away. An early night is planned as we have got a very early start tomorrow. 

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