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Forest Drive and Finding Grug

We had a very lazy start to the day with a sleep in and no it wasn’t due to drinking to much last night. Even Tash managed to sleep in a little bit. We had a nice hot cook-up for breaky and decided to take it easy and go for a drive through the rest of the park to see if there wasn’t anyone else around.

After cleaning up from breaky we headed out to the other campground – The Pines – where we found 3 other vans. From The Pines we headed back to Bald Hill Creek Falls (the ones we trekked to the other day) and they might have been trickling a little more than other day from last nights rain.

From the falls we headed out to Bracken Hut – an old restored 1930’s cattlemen’s hut that is now used by back country walkers. The only facilities other than walls and roof are the fire and outdoor dunny (toilet). the cottage/Hut must be booked through the National Parks website if you wish to stay overnight.

We opted not to do the 50km odd return drive to the Breeza Lookout as the weather was coming back over and we were really looking to have a lazy day and there were a few ‘walks’ along the road that we wanted to do – so that will go on the “next time” list.

From there we headed back to camp via the old Coxs creek sawmill. The sawmill formerly known as Bone Creek was established around 1950, the sawmill burnt down in 1959 and there a few remaining structures from the timber milling period – the old boiler and mill footings.

We had settled in for a lazy afternoon but it felt just too lazy, so we decided to head up to the lookout and see what was happening with the approaching storm (oh and check that the world survived into New Year’s Day ’cause there’s mobile service at the lookout!). As i wandered out to the lookout the ‘roos were keeping on a close eye on me.

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The approaching storm looked like it was going to be a cracker so i knew i couldn’t hang around too long as i wanted to get a few more ‘scenery’ shots on the way back to camp.

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Bundella Lookout – Storm Approaching
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Damp Roads make it all that much more fun!

The vegetation is quite varied across the whole park but it is that thick green canopy that keeps you cool in the summer heat.

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Grass Trees

Off to the side of our campground there is a short walk through to the grass trees that we were yet to explore. The weather from that storm was really starting to look a little ominous so we decided that it was now or possibly “next trip”, so we headed off down the little track to find the grass trees.

The track is about 600m and really isn’t too much different to the other tracks and vegetation we had seen throughout the park, and then all of sudden these grasstrees start appearing and seriously i am sure that the book character “Grug” was designed around them. It seems totally random that they are there and all clumped in together. we followed the loop track around these Giant Grasstrees, which are said to be several hundreds of years old and some of Australia’s oldest.

 

Just as we got back to camp the rain came down and whilst we said it rained last night it really was just spitting – enough to annoy us and get the canvas wet but the ground in places because of the canopy coverage was still almost dry. Today’s rain however was proper soaking decent rain, which we knew the area was looking for so we couldn’t complain too much.

We did however have to do some quick thinking as we hadn’t put the full wrap around awning on and we needed to get to the kitchen at the back of the van without us and everything getting drenched. we managed to improvise with a quick setup awning we had in the truck -it wasn’t pretty or that practicable but it did let us get to the kitchen without getting soaked. Apparently the tops gets approximately 1000mm of rain with most falling between December to February, a little unknown fact for us to keep in mind for our next trip LOL.

Luckily we had leftovers and we had decided that we would just reheat on the Snowpeak, and given that we had the campground to ourselves we relocated to the shelter and made our kitchen, campfire and lounge room there for the night.

By the time we had eaten and were ready to tidy up the rain had stopped and we were hopeful we wouldn’t get too much more so that we could pack up the canvas dry in the morning, because our time in the Tops had unfortunately come to an end.

 

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Coolah Cave?

After the waterfall hike yesterday we both woke up with stiff calves and knew that we had to walk them otherwise we wouldn’t be able to move come this afternoon.

We were clearly the only ones in the campground without a New Years Eve ticket as everyone else was packing up and heading off and it looked like we might be left with the campground all to ourselves.

We decided to head straight out for the walk this morning to try and avoid some of the heat as we weren’t sure if we would be protected by the canopy.

Mullian Track

We headed up to the lookout and along the Mullian Track out on to the rocky outcrop known as Pinnacle Lookout.

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The track out is quite good and easy to follow. Accessible for most, it is a nature track with a few natural steps but nothing too big, and as the sign states about 2km return.

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We did encounter one obstacle which had obviously come down since the rangers had been out and about.

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Once you get our onto the rocky outcrop, the views are outstanding!

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Whilst enjoying the views a couple on their bikes joined us, and we got chatting and realised that we were all looking to explore the Lava/Basalt Caves but we weren’t sure exactly where they were.

This is another little mash up of video footage i took whilst walking the trail. It does appear that i almost walk off the top of the cliff so if heights aren’t your thing, this is your trigger warning. I actually wasn’t very close at funnily enough and it was only on playback that i was like wow that looks extreme.

We headed back out along the track and headed back towards Rocky Creek Picnic area along what appeared to be an old access road, which at times was quite difficult to find and we certainly weren’t seeing any signs for the Lava Cave and we were definitely starting to question if we were on the right track – literally! We crossed over Rocky Creek a couple of times (or Rocky trickle might have been more accurate for our trip). When the water is flowing this would be a beautiful little spot.

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We arrived at the picnic area to find the bikers and a sign indicating that we were now further away then when we first started – what the actual !!! At this point we realised the likely folly of our mistake – at the lookout the track went both left and right ( just after the warning sign if you watched the video) and we had all automatically gone left thinking it was a circular track only to now realise that it quite obviously wasn’t.

We started the trek back to the car and our bikers kindly gave me a lift to the car when we arrived at their car which was super lovely and saved us a bit of a walk as i was able to double back and pick up Tash. We headed back to camp and made a plan to go back and try to find the caves. after a little rest and re-fuelling we headed back to the lookout and this time we went right not left.

Cave Hunt

Back to our starting point from this morning, and this time we took the track to the right. From there the track goes straight down the side of the mountain along a rocky cliff edge and isn’t exactly for the faint hearted. The track is only minimally marked and at times more of a guess than an actual track. We made our way down and along the cliff edge only to either loose the track completely or due to land slippage the track was no longer passable. Either way we were buggered, there was a storm brewing and without a clue of where to head we decided to head back up the mountain.

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This is pretty much as far as we got before we lost the path completely.
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This is the only ‘cave’ that we found.
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Gorgeous baby grasstrees

Some of the trail we had to ‘follow’

By the time we reached the top we were completely exhausted and annoyed that we now had two fails at finding the caves.

Dinner Time

We headed back to camp exhausted but intent on having a camp oven new years eve roast for dinner. After a little time to relax and enjoy a beverage and get a little annoyed at the rain, we started prepping the camp oven hoping the rain was going to go around us, which thankfully it did.

We had the Snow Peak fire pit fired up for the camp oven and the fire for us – not that it was cold, its just that there is almost nothing better than sitting around a campfire and staring at the stars, although the cloud cover was probably going to rule out the latter.

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Whilst waiting for dinner to cook we watched a beautiful sunset over the campground.

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The roast was a sensation (so much so we forgot to get a picture!), and as always we had enough for a few others, which just meant that we had leftovers for tomorrow night – winning.

 

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Waterfall Hiking at Coolah

We woke early – okay so Tash woke early – and declared a camper or two on the move – which was my signal to start preparing to actually have to get up not talk about getting up! So up and at it we went picking out the site the we wanted and moving our gear, hitching the van up and getting set up this time for a few days.

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Coolah Tops Park

According to National Parks – Coolah Tops is  an elevated basalt plateau on the Liverpool  Range which is part of  the Great Dividing  Range.  The plateau rises steeply  above the surrounding  lands and is flanked by  cliffs  along  its northern edge.  Columnar  basalt formations are found scattered along  the northern escarpment of  the plateau with readily  accessible examples at Tamalie Creek Falls and also  at Bald Hill Creek Falls.  Most of  the park is  above 1000m ASL, with the eastern  end being  a little higher  than the western part of  the park.  The Liverpool  Range runs through the middle of  the park.  The headwaters of  the Talbragar  River  are located in  the centre  of  the park.  The creeks flowing  northwards ultimately  drain into the Namoi  River  and those to the south drain into the Macquarie or  Goulburn Rivers.

Norfolk Falls

With the van and site sorted we decided to head off and explore. Our usual manner is to head as far away as possible and then each day/trek work our way back in. With this in mind we headed to Norfolk Falls. As you come into the park you pass the sign, which we had read as 15km down a side track – cool a drive and a walk with a waterfall to boot. It was actually 1.5km and we were kinda down about that as we were enjoying the drive through the beautiful forest. At the start of the walk there is a lovely little flora reserve that was originally gazetted in 1975. There is a newly installed long drop loo, a few picnic tables under cover, a BBQ and a few tables under the canopy. As you can see it was pretty hectic.

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The walk was about 1-1.5km return to go to the two lookouts and what we thought would be the bottom of the falls – because that’s why you have waterfall walks right, to get to the bottom! The one problem, if you like, with waterfall walks, is, well, you usually have to go down, and what goes down in these situations usually has to come back up! The sign had already warned us there were over 500 steps – ouch. But we were determined to get a walk in and to see the waterfall.

The track is reasonably well maintained and easy to follow, however as the sign said there are a lot of stairs – mostly made out of the terrain with some helping hands along the way. We made it to the first lookout and i must say we were surprised to find water flowing over the top – not much but certainly more than we had expected.

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Norfolk Falls

We headed back along the track and  made our way to the next lookout – the top of the falls. Now remember when i said waterfall tracks are for getting to the bottom? yep, apparently not this one, but we hadn’t figured that out at this point (yes we were certainly underdone in our research on many occasions this trip which is very unusual for this Virgo!) Anyhoo, we trekked across the little stream at the top of the falls in hunt of the bottom of the falls.

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Looking over the top of the falls to the valley below
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Looking Upstream

The track seemed to take us away from the waterfall and we commented on this a number of times – up down, left, right but hmm not going towards the waterfall. Then, we came across a sign. Oh dear! yep there is no track to the bottom but there is a track to another waterfall. Oh well, two waterfalls that’s a bonus. So we headed on a little bummed that we were going to the bottom but happy to have ‘found’ another waterfall.

Bald Creek Falls

This part of the track is a little less maintained however its still easy to follow but can be reasonably steep in parts with even more steps! We arrived at the top of the next falls – Bald Hill Creek Falls. We saw the steps going all the way up the hill and figured these would take us around and down the bottom of the falls. We followed the track across the stream and found the falls.

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What we also found, was that the track took us to the picnic area that you can drive too!

Our initial 1-1.5 km return hike had turned into a 4-5km return hike to then find out we could drive to the second falls. Yep we were knackered and could only just laugh – as we still had to hike back to the car.

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Still smiling at Bald Hill Creek Falls

The falls are well worth a visit though. If you read the previous entry, i mentioned the horizontal Columnar Rod geological formation we found at Battery Rock, well Bald Hill Creek falls are vertical columnar Rods, so were pretty stoked to see both types of formations. These falls were also flowing over which was great.

We made the long slower trek back up and down up and down and then upppp to the car and decided that might be the exercise for the day. We headed back to camp and enjoyed a lazy evening around the fire. The weather whilst predicted to be 38 Degrees down in the township was particularly pleasant up in the tops – it was still hot but certainly didn’t feel like the predicted 38 degrees thanks mostly to the canopy.

I’ve put together a little time lapse of sorts of our walk. At different points along the track i took some footage which I’ve now meshed together and sped up to about 2x speed.

After finishing our hike and heading back to camp we decided to set up the shower tent and shower, as a shower was definitely in need!

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All cleaned up and feeling fresh it was time to sit back and enjoy the wildlife and another night around the fire.

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Kookaburra
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My stalker came back with the same attitude

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Coolah take two

Thankfully now with the car fixed and the camper re-loaded and work (hopefully) done and dusted for the year, we were back on the road again. We decided to chance our luck twice and head back to Coolah Tops NP. We made a quick pit stop for fuel in Merriwa, gave the tumbling old shack a wave and kept on trucking for the tops.

Barracks Campground

We arrived about 6pm to find The Barracks campground almost full (with a few campers still there from our last attempt). We pulled up to the campsite right smack in the middle of the campground – which i hate.

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I know its a site and i know you can use it but i always feel like its that site everyone looks at and goes urgh do really you have to have that one. it’s on the path to the toilet for two thirds of the campground, its right next to the shelter and central campfire pit and does that mean people feel like they cant use it? Maybe, maybe not but we set up for a one nighter hoping that maybe someone would be packing up tomorrow and we could dive into their site.

We had a lovely evening around the fire pit, watching the stars, listening to the owls hoot their signals across the range, and being reminded by the weird noises that we weren’t in the city anymore Toto!

 

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Coolah or not …

Christmas is done, everyone is full of food and goodies and it’s time to head home and pack up Charlie and Leeroy for a few days camping. normally at Christmas we would head north to family spending a few days somewhere from Christmas and new years exploring. one year we attempted to tent it but yeah we’ve moved on from tents 🙂 .. we don’t mind the swag here and there but we are definitely camper girls now.

This year we didn’t really know if we were working the days between Christmas and new years until quite late and i needed to stay in phone range in case i had to return to work, which is why heading north was out. it was also supposed to be very hot upwards of 38-40 degrees. the coast is always super busy and we like our space and peace and quiet when we are camping, so heading west is our go to at this time of year. we had decided on Coolah Tops National Park, about three and half hours drive west-ish from Newcastle (home). We were hopeful that the canopy of the forest would give some relief from the heat

Battery Rock rest stop

Monday lunchtime we were all good to go and our way to tops, it was a bit risky as there is no booking system and its not a large park so there was a possibility of there being no spots but we hoped that without a swimming hole and the predicted heat it might not be too busy. We stopped for a rest stop at battery rock rest stop.

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Boy were we in for a surprise here! there was a road leading down behind the loo and being inquisitive i decided to drive down and see what was there. There’s a few little overnight camp spots, picnic table and little creek that would run after the rains.

But most surprising of all was the Columnar Rods formation.

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We’d seen the vertical type at Narrabri (which are super impressive and well worth a visit) but never horizontal coming straight out of the hillside. it was a little freaky trying to get your head around how it was possible.

We decided to keep on trekking to the tops and log this for a longer stop another time. The trip from Newcastle to Coolah is quite pretty as it passes through Merriwa and the agricultural area. Unfortunately there aren’t any sunflowers along this bit of the road however it was sad to note that the iconic Merriwa hut, famous for being surrounded by Canola has almost met its full demise. It’s a much loved and photographed icon of the region by photographers near and far when the Canola is in flower.

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We turned off Warrumbungle’s way to head into the park for about 25km before you reach the rocky dirt road into the park. it’s quite well maintained however does have a few steep parts and about half a dozen dips (well sign posted) that you need to be wary particularly if you are towing. I wouldn’t recommend it for non off road vehicles with low clearance unless you are super familiar with your vans limitations (particularly in the wet).

Coolah Tops

Once inside the park the canopy takes over and the relief is almost instantaneous. There is a little info hut not to far past the NP sign at the entry (there is also limited phone service at this point). Going into the park further you reach a fork in the road – straight ahead will take to you The Pines campground and Bald Creek Falls (which later on we will have wished we took a LOT more notice of the information hut map!); to the left Cox Creek and The Barracks campgrounds, as well as the Pinnacle Lookout. We opted to go left and headed into the Barracks campground (Coxs Creek is currently closed for maintenance however is expected to open early in the new year).

We decided to do a quick look-see of the lookout before pulling into the campground, and at the lookout turn bay i noticed the steering was very very heavy. We continued back to the campground and as we turned into the campground i looked at Tash and said we have a problem! happily there were a few spots left and we took one in the back right hand corner. i started to reverse in and confirmed that there was a big issue with the vehicle – i couldn’t turn it without it being a full body gym workout. we got the camper in and up went the bonnet.

Much to my dissatisfaction the power steering fluid bottle was empty – not a disaster but also not great. we asked around the campground if any anyone had any and unfortunately like us power steering fluid isn’t in their little fluid kitty. Knowing that Coolah was about 30km away and one of the service stations likely to be open tomorrow we set the camper up and relaxed into our first evening.

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There were little skippy’s everywhere, the kooka’s were going crazy although not as crazy annoying as the cockatoos, a very pleasant introduction to Coolah indeed.

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Even though the temperature was quite pleasant, what’s camping without a fire!

We woke up (not too early) cooked up a lovely breaky and headed into town. The second servo (the Black Stump Servo of course) had fluid. Brilliant. Fill the bottle, take it easy and head back to camp, or so we thought.

Car problems

By the time we reached camp again the steering was still stuffed, so bonnet up again and the bottle is empty again! not being very mechanicy at all, we wondered if it need to flow through to somewhere, so we started to put some in and noticed that it was draining out again. so under the car we go and yep sure enough power steering fluid everywhere. hmmm even we knew this wasn’t a good sign.

Being a public holiday and already knowing the mechanic and NRMA in Coolah were closed until New Year we had an inkling it was time to head home and get it fixed in Newcastle and probably sayonara holidays.

Sadly we packed up the camper, hitched up and headed for the junction of the Warrumbungle’s way again where we called my very knowledgeable and handy uncle to get some advice. after talking to Uncle Michael, we made the decision to head home, stopping every 50 odd kms to flush a little more fluid through the system hoping to keep the pump ‘alive’ until we could the dealer to look at, which we feared wouldn’t be for a week or so.

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We made it home late Tuesday afternoon/evening unpacked the car and camper and sat glumly on the lounge wondering what could have been.

A call to the dealer – Klosters at Newcastle – first thing Wednesday morning and wonderfully they said they would look at but no guarantees about fixing it. i moped around the house on Wednesday having sent Tash to work – no point wasting good annual leave! until the call from the dealer later in the afternoon, not only had they found the issue, they had fixed it and he was ready to be picked up with all the work being covered by warranty. we couldn’t believe it and we were so stoked. we’ve been buying and servicing with Klosters since about 2007 and i have to say we have always found them wonderful to deal with and after today’s effort they have certainly kept our business.