Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Gold Coast to Melbourne

Yellow route: Gold Coast to Melbourne - 2815 km
Total on this trip around Australia - 40'140 km

Very satisfied with the achievements in Adrian’s workshop at Gold Coast (see previous post) and after a nice lunch with Anna and Adrian at Sanctuary Cove, we took off through the spectacular temperate rainforest of the Eagle Heights area.
All the camps in the Springbrook national park were fully booked — not too much of a surprise, it being a weekend during school holidays. Nevertheless we were glad to escape the hopeless booking system of Queensland National Parks for the last time.

The drive into New South Wales and the Border Ranges national park was equally pleasant as the drive through the Tamborine region the day before. We attacked a longer walk in an incomparably beautiful rainforest with abundant fauna. Luckily we made it back to the camp just before a thunderstorm set in. A rather exciting happening given that we hadn’t had rain for the last 5 months, except for the hail storm in Alice – which was, strictly speaking, not rain! We perceived the humid air as bitterly cold (although still about 7°C) and had to dig up our sleeping bags…

We added some other walks in the Border Ranges with the Pinnacles lookout being our favourite. A senior ranger told us flora and fauna in this region show greater variety than tropical rainforests. Even if we don’t have the knowledge and experience to judge this ourselves, we enjoyed an incredible amount of plants, very dense forest, heaps of birds and other animals. 

 Lush rainforest in the Border Ranges national park

 The high humidity lets fungi and lichen grow

View from the Pinnacles lookout. Mount Warning is the peak at the far end

The Richmond Range national park to the South West is less travelled and less developed, but offered fabulous camping in a clearing on a grassy area with a birds' concert that was unparalleled. The walk around Bar Mountain made for some nice views and led through two different kinds of forest.

Through Kyogle, Tenterfield and Glen Innes we travelled to Moree: Yes we dared to go there, even though we were advised in the tourist information in Tenterfield, to avoid this town, as „they have an aboriginal problem there“. This was not the first time we were warned of indigenous being dangerous! In Moree we were very kindly received at the tourist information and did a pleasant architectural walk through town. In total we saw five indigenous people in 2.5 hours and there was not a glimpse of violence in their faces or behaviour. We sometimes wonder where this fear against the indigenous comes from – mostly pure ignorance mixed with rumours we think, hardly personal experiences.

 Glen Innes' attractive CBD

Another wonderful camping spot we had to ourselves

Our next stop was in Lightning Ridge. A legendary, quirky place, inhabited by weird characters who have chosen a simple life, earn some (or big) money by digging for opals. It’s a matter of fact that the ones who made money might stop digging, but still live in „the Ridge“, as the locals call their town, because the place is their life. Very polarising we found; either you love or hate it. We had a fabulous time there, enjoying the public artesian spa under the stars and cycling along the signposted car-door tours which allow tourists to get an insight into the miners' lives.

 Signpost on the red-car-door tour

 A lot of old equipment acts as exhibits

 Former opal mine opened to tourists to visit

John Murray's art is famous in the whole Australian Outback

"Bottle houses" are quite popular and give the buildings a "churchy" look

 Wall of a bottle house

We continued South towards Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve. Not too much of this reserve is open to the public except on Labour Day long weekend. For once this was the perfect timing: we happened to be there exactly on that weekend. Rangers lead people right through the marshes. I mean; we walked in mirky water reaching well up to our tighs. Along the way the ranger explained the life cycles in the marshes of algae, amphibians and several plants. It was highly interesting and a very special experience as we would never have dared to walk into these waters without a guide. 

 Extraordinary flowers in the Macquarie Marshes

 Wading through the water or swamp

Also dead looking plants sometimes have a function

Our next stop was the Warrumbungles national park which was hit by a terrible fire in early 2013 that affected 80% of the park. Even the visitor-information building burnt down. A lot of effort and money was put in to rebuild facilities, walking tracks and the most helpful visitor information currently housed in a temporary container. Nevertheless it was very peaceful in the Blackman Campground and the walks were magnificent — we stayed for three nights. One day we cycled through the park to get to the Siding Spring Observatory where Australia's biggest telescope is situated.

 Approaching Warrumbungle national park

 The Breadknife is the dominant mountain in the middle of the picture

Home of the biggest optical telescope in Australia (3.9m)

 The Anglo-Australian telescope

After a decent climb there is always a speedy downhill…

The next day we stopped in Dubbo for a coffee and a photo: we had been in Dubbo this January which meant our loop around Australia was complete! What a great feeling and countless memories of lovely people we met and fabulous landscapes we explored. 

The big moment - journey around Australia completed on October 9, 2015

After this memorable moment we went to see the big radio telescope in Parkes and walked along the picturesque streets of Forbes before reaching Griffith. An agricultural hub with heaps of Italian heritage. We were amazed by the shear size of the vineyards, cotton and rice fields, orange plantations and grain fields. Apart from going out for a typical Italian dinner we had to visit a few wineries while we were there and discovered the fabulous Durif grapes. Being already quite close to Melbourne we allowed ourselves to buy a few bottles. 

 The 64m radio telescope in Parkes

 Beautiful Town Hall in Forbes

Picturesque Postoffice in Forbes

 Vineyards and part of the Murrumbidgee irrigation system fed from the Snowy hydro-electric scheme

 Cellar door of Mc Williams Wines

They have a storing capacity of 60 million litres of wine – wow!

Idyllic and free camping at Lake Wyangan near Griffith

As we were back into wine-tasting mood, we visited the Heathcote Wine & Food Festival to taste some of the nicest Shirazes we have come across in Australia. There were about 40 different winegrowers, and some food stalls let you taste olives, jams, pickles and jams. The food part was a bit disappointing and we were quite surprised that Australians would pay an entrance fee of $45 a person for a wine glass, small sips of wine at the stalls, some music, little shade and even fewer seating possibilities. For us it was still worth the visit as you normally don’t get all the vineries so conveniently close together. 

 Showgrounds in Heathcote during the Wine & Food Festival

The siege of the shady places…

The breathometer showed 0.033% after all this tasting – ok to drive to a nice overnight camp

The next day we drove into Melbourne where we are spending our last days Down under.
A final blog post will follow shortly.

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