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‘Bungles to Brissie – #4 – Pilliga Exploring

Monday morning. For most of the crew (read everyone but us!) it was home time. A good feed of pancakes every way you like them had us all ready for the pack up and drive ahead.

Coonabarrabran Bound

Packed up and ready to go we said our goodbyes and confirmed the location from last night for next year. We bid farewell and safe travels before heading off into Coonabarrabran. With Easter we hadn’t been able to get the tire fixed and we weren’t keen on continuing the trip without a spare, so we had decided to sit the night out in Coona and get the wheel fixed first thing tomorrow (Tuesday)

We arrived at the John Oxley Caravan Park just on the edge of the Main Street and the managers were fab, giving us a spot straight away and letting us stay as long we needed tomorrow to get the wheel fixed.

Quick awning on, and it was time for some lunch before heading off to explore

The Sandstone Caves

With the van unhitched and most of the day to burn (Coona is about an hour from Tooraweenah) we headed back to the Pilliga and to the sandstone caves.

Situated around a large sandstone outcrop, the Sandstone Caves are a series of cathedral type caves and overhangs displaying an array of interesting colours and shapes, formed over tens of thousands of years through the weathering of the fragile sandstone. The Sandstone Caves are an Aboriginal site for the local Gamilaraay people. Grinding grooves, rock art and other Aboriginal sites provide a strong link to their history and country.

The track is well maintained and loops around the rock. There are a few sections of steps and there is a toilet near the junction of the loop .

There are two sites secured off to exhibit some of the indigenous history of the caves.

What a shame that signs like this are even needed!

We shouldn’t even need this sign !

The rock is amazing how it changes colour and shape and the grooves and holes.

The view around the rock is pretty awesome as well.

Sculpture in the Scrub

From the caves we decided to head out to the sculpture in the scrub, so it was back to the Newell Hwy before hitting the dirt again. This section of the Pilliga has been hit hard by bushfires and quite recently in some places.

Deep in the vast Pilliga Forest lies Dandry Gorge and the Sculptures in the Scrub. Once a secret location of the Aboriginal Gamilaroi People it is now an extraordinary place for all to share.

Dandry Gorge

By the time we arrived at the car park we could hear some rumbling in the sky off in the distance so we knew we didn’t have time to lounge about. We headed off on the walk which is slated to take about 2 hours. The track takes you along the top of the ridge where there are 5 different sculptures before looping back down under the cliff along the river bed and then back up again.

There is an awesome picnic area at the carpark area.

Sculptures in the Scrub – Picnic Area

It’s a well maintained track and despite going up and down is reasonably easy going. With the thunder getting close and the clouds getting greyer we managed it in about an hour, so two hours is a very comfortable timeframe to allow.

The five unique sculptures reflect and acknowledge the local Gamilaroi people, their culture and the Pilliga Scrub itself. The first four sculptures were created back in 2009 by artists who worked with the local community to create artworks that held true meaning with the Gamilaroi people. These sculptures are called

1) Scrub Spirits.

2) First Lesson

3) Yundu Yundu

Yundu Yundu

4) Connections

5) Respect Mother

The fifth sculpture, called Respect Mother, was unveiled in 2012 and created by and for the Gamilaroi women. Respect Mother consists of five elements that represents the five communities in the Gawambaraay Pilliga Co-Management Committee.

Once you descend down into the valley as walk around the base and look up you can see two of the sculptures.

I decided before heading off home that i would throw the drone up. It’s been a little bit of an adventure with the drone until more recently when i worked out the sequence to get it all to connect, so i was hoping the sequence would work this time, and it did! So much more fun when it only takes a few minutes to get it up in the air compared to the 20-30 minutes i was previously having to endure.

With a quick car park flight under my belt we kept an eye for a spot to pull over on the way out to try and capture the devastation the fires have left behind.

At the moment this whole area is under a fight against coal seam gas, and i cant imagine (and don’t want too) what it would be like if a fire like what went through here already, went through an area with coal seam gas vents, venting.

We found a great location and up went the drone again.

Coona for the night

We arrived back at the park just on sunset. A few kms before the end of the dirt we hit the storm you can see in the drone pics above, and it rained pretty steady off and on all the way back to Coona. Not having planned for rain and only staying one night we had put the quick awning up which means a small space over the side of the van has cover but the rear kitchen does not. So on went the rain coat and dinner and I managed to cook up a pretty decent spaghetti bol even if i do say so myself.

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‘Bungles to Brissie – #3 – the big loop!

We woke for a loo stop about 6am to find two of the three kids awake, pretending not to be wandering around the vans and camp .. maybe they weren’t … but it was Easter Sunday and chocolate was up for grabs!

The Easter Hunt

A little while later after the littlest one was awake, the Easter egg hunt was underway. We had already spied some of the Easter bunnies handiwork and had laid dibs on some of the eggs if the kids didn’t find them. Unfortunately they outsmarted us on this occasion. But Janelle had us covered so we still had chocolate Easter eggs with our breakfast!

After a big day for some of us yesterday, we got off to a slightly later and slower start this morning. We started the day with a big cook up of bacon, eggs, hash browns and of course the Easter eggs, after all it was Easter Sunday and Tash’s birthday.

After breaky we headed off in search of pottery and artesian bores – yep things that don’t normally go together, but when your talking about the Pilliga, they go together.

Pilliga Pottery

From Tooraweenah we headed up the Newell Hwy and then onto the dirt road that takes you to Pilliga Pottery, a world famous pottery institution, where are artists come to learn and teach

Cafe and shop

Outdoor area and shop

Some of the pottery on display and for sale

The famous Blue Wren design

The kids cracking out some designs

Watching her draw this with so much ease was quite amazing

The famous Blue Wren

The factory floor

Watching the potter turn the clay from nothing into this was mesmerising. he did it with such ease, but watch his arms and legs, it takes the whole body to work the clay and machine.

Narrabri Telescope

We had a quick stop at the telescope just outside of Narrabri. The Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), at the Narrabri Observatory, is an array of six 22-m antennas used for radio astronomy and is located about 25 km west of the town. The last time we were here it was December and about 45 degrees, so at around 33 degrees it was far more pleasant to visit!

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Big but not as big the Parkes “The Dish”

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The Array

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The Selfie

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The beasts all lined again

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Hmmm we tried the “oh what a feeling” .. not sure we got there  … 📷 Linda Wilson

Pilliga Bore Baths

From the pottery we headed back to the Newell Hwy for a little bit for turning for the dirt roads but not before we all thought the convoy leader (not naming any names Laurence) was taking us to Narrabri for lunch!

After what felt like quite a long time, we arrived at out much anticipated destination for the day – the artesian bore baths of Pilliga where a lovely spring fed warm mineral bath awaited the bodies of the Grand High Top walkers from yesterday.

In response to the town’s diminishing water supply after several years of drought, in 1902 Pilliga sank a bore 560 metres and we can still enjoy its benefits today. The bore has a continuous in-flow to the pool and an out-take on the other side, ensuring the water is always fresh although a little bit of chlorine is apparently added each week when they get cleaned to help control the algae on the sides and floor.

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The baths were a little bit busy when we first arrived but once our party of 12 arrived they all scattered. Well not really but we did have the baths to ourselves for a little bit.

Back at Tooraweenah

We arrived home just before sunset after driving through some beautiful agricultural lands including a sunflower patch (that we didn’t stop for, the skippys were coming out in force so it was time to get home)

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Leeroy all set up

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Still chasing the shade

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Tonight’s feast was BBQ and once again the chefs and Linda excelled and we all ate like kings.

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The 2nd feast     📷 Linda Wilson

The girls even organised a little sparkler on the dessert for Tash’s birthday which was just super lovely.

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Surprise     📷 Linda Wilson

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Writing her name i think 😂       📷 Linda Wilson

After a long day driving and with home on the horizon for the rest of the crew tomorrow we had a reasonable early night.

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‘bungles to Brissie – #2 – Grand High Tops.

Some where between Happy Hour and Good Friday drinks at the Pub we agreed to do sunrise on top of the Warrumbungles. Trev managed to suck us in real good on this one!

Grand High Tops

So after getting to bed at about midnight, we awoke to our alarms at the allotted 3am time slot and got ourselves dressed and into the cars.

We headed off up the road for about 30 to 40 mins trying to dodge the roo’s at 10 paces. Unfortunately one didn’t turn quick enough. i saw him coming at the side of the car and was like uh-oh this isn’t going to be good! He turned and as he’s swing around his tail had gone thump, I’ve gone gulp, and picked up the CB – Trev he got me. Trev – you wanna stop. I’m like I can’t hear weird noises but it didn’t sound good. Nah keep going I think we’re okay.

We arrive at the parking lot get out the torches, and thankfully his tail has swiped the side wheel fairing on the truck. It’s still there in one piece but busted – we’ll deal with that when we come back down.

By now it’s 4am and still dark but the full moon is shining so we probably didn’t need our torches but the track alternates from rocky to sandy to paved so the torches helped ensure we didn’t break a limb.

Ahead of us was an approximate 12km round trip taking us to Grand High Tops lookout and a birdseye view (and hopefully picture perfect) of sunrise over the infamous Breadknife of the Warrumbungles.

Warrumbungle National Park is Australia’s only Dark Sky Park, making it the perfect spot for stargazing, amateur astronomy and Astro photography, except when its a full moon! In January 2013 about 80% of the national park was destroyed by fire, so it was good to see the regeneration that has occurred over the past 5 years.

We made pretty good time for the first 4 odd kms and took a breather at the table and chairs.

I promise the others are there!

From here it was pretty much stairs and straight up for about 2km or a bit less, which took us a bit longer then the entire first section.

As we got closer to the top the moonlight was shining on one of the rock formations and we couldn’t resist a few quick photos.

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We made it to top just as first light was breaking and it was a pretty sweet feeling I have to say.

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First light breaking

We cranked out some shots for an hour or so before the girls started the climb back down.

Thanks for the photo Nelly !

Have you even climbed if you don’t get one of these?

Top group shot by another photographer who joined us just after daylight – Adam Resch

Trev and I still had a few more shots to get in the bag before we headed down.

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Daylight is starting to sweep across the landscape

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Always look behind. Just to the right but out of picture is Tooraweenah

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Daylight on the Breadknife

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Sunlight hits the western mountains

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The sun hasn’t quite risen high enough to hit the breadknife

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Boom, sunlight on the breadknife

It was quite fresh at first light particularly with sweaty wet shirts – haha yep too much information – but as the sun rose it was really pleasant up on top of the world or at least that what it seemed like.

The Long Way Down

We started the descent, and oh boy I have to say I wasn’t any way near as buggered coming up as thought (it was bloody tough but didn’t kill me) but geeez, how hard is coming down on the body.

I grabbed a few shots on the phone as we made our way down.

Trev and I seem to have shadows following us.

Legs meet stairs

And some more

Nature’s lego

The same rock formation we took before  daylight with the moonlight hitting it

The goat track for non jelly legs

More stairs but the view!

We hit the stairs and my legs were like jelly. The girls were waiting for us mid stairs and and once we hit the flat it was like a bunch of drunken sailors, our legs didn’t know what was going on.

Oh hey girls

Yep still more down there too

Just keep looking at the view

tash striding out on the stairwalk

Where the stairs meet the pavement

The view to the top

See i told you they were there!

Back down at river level

So so dry here

The start of the walk – didn’t even know these were here when went past them this morning

As we walked out groups were walking in and it was a pretty cool feeling knowing we were done and they were, well barely even getting started.

Roo Damage

We got back to the cars and I was able to survey the damage a little better and was quite relieved. It could have been a whole lot worse. I managed to remove the fairing without issue, however now poor Charlie had the spare tyre and missing fairing so he wasn’t looking too flash at all.

The damage

There i fixed it!

The other camp crew were meeting up with us in the park so we had time to chill out.

Visitor Centre

From the hike car park we headed to visitor centre where we showed the kids – big and little – where we had walked.

The gorgeous visitor centre

Siding Springs Observatory

We left the park and headed to Siding Springs Observatory to check out the telescopes.

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Lunch in Coonabarrabran

Once we had all geeked out enough at the telescopes we headed into Coona (Coonabarrabran) to try to get our tyre fixed but being Easter Saturday everything was shut so we opted for lunch at the Pub instead.

With bellies full – well my roast barely touched the sides after kranking out 23,000 steps before 10.30am – we headed for camp via the Emu farm.

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Time to Feast (Again)

Roast feast was on the menu back at camp for dinner as well, so for those that didn’t nanna nap the afternoon away preparations for the feast began,and my oh my what a feast it was. Linda excelled at both the shopping list for us all and the coordination of dinner. Safe to say none of us were hungry nor was it a late night 😂

Barely able to coherently talk and shower I was in bed and out to it by about 11.00pm.

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‘bungles to Brissie – #1 – Home to Tooraweenah

After a long day at work we finally got everything sorted including a last minute tyre pressure difference on the trailer and we were on the road headed to Cassilis for tonight with our first main destination being Tooraweenah for the Easter Weekend.

Cassilis is a little town just to the west of Merriwa on the eastern edge of the Central West of NSW. Located just off the Golden Highway and is a town we often go through or past usually in search of canola/sunflowers/wheat or on our way to Coolah Tops NP. It’s not a place we usually stop at, so it was nice to be stopping this time even if it was in the dark.

Cassilis Bowling Club

We arrived at the Bowling Club in Cassilis just before 10pm, where you can camp for $15 a night at the back of the bowling green. Showers and toilets are pretty new and are nice and clean.

We popped the roof and were inside drinking a nice coldie by 10.15pm with our camping buddies for the weekend – Trev, Janelle, Laurence, Linda, David (Pop) and the 3 kids, Abi, Jade and Alani – obviously the kids were tucked up in bed and Nelly had taken one for the team and was looking after them, or maybe she was just as tucked up in bed as the kids were!

The cold beers were going down a little to nicely so we pulled the pin and headed to bed.

Group selfie game needs a lot of improvement!

The night was a beautiful 16 degrees so great weather for sleeping.

The crew were up early whilst I snoozed for a little bit longer, after a bit of a big week.

The campground was quite busy

Looking back to the bowlo

Um Trev !

Laurence and Linda’s van

Charlie and Leeroy

Given we hadn’t unhitched last night, we were ready and on the move before 9.30am and making tracks for Tooraweenah just outside the Warrumbungles NP.

We made a pit stop for fuel and the bakery at Dunedoo.

Thumbs up to the pies and coffee

Tooraweenah

We arrived at our destination – Tooraweenah Caravan Park – for the long weekend at about 1pm. Tooraweenah is a little village off the Newell Hwy about 30 mins outside the Warrumbungles NP and about 40 odd kms to the eastish of Gilgandra. It’s a pretty small village with the main hwy going through it, a Main Street with a few off shoots and that’s about it. Apparently the population is about 240 but I’m assuming this includes the surrounding properties as well.

The campground for the weekend.            📷 Linda Wilson

Not long after we had set up camp, the park manager came around handing out scones with cream and jam to everyone including a GF one for me – Score!

How good is this!

Happy Hour started not too long after.

Yep i think we’ve settled in okay

Chasing shade between the vans

We had a late afternoon swim at the park pool and headed back to the vans to get ready for dinner, when we were alerted to a small issue with Charlie.

hard at work or just confused!

So where does this one go!

Even looks like we know what we are doing

Good Friday at the Pub

With the spare securely on Charlie we headed to the pub for Good Friday dinner and drinks.

We honestly didn’t scare everyone away. The pub was actually packed, we may have just stayed till they booted us 😂             📷 Jade Wilson

The long walk home