Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vale of Avoca

The Vale of Avoca ( yes that is a river down there!)

Situated only a few kilometres from my home is the Vale of Avoca. Named after the "Vale of Avoca" in Ireland, it is an impressive and magical sight.

If you are in Sydney, and see the Blue Mountains, you will see a large "cut" or ravine. This is the Vale. Its the mouth of the Grose River gorge, and the start of one of the most impressive gorges in NSW.

The photos do not do it justice

With rain, mist and fog about, the choice was- do we sit and watch a DVD, vegetate in the computer, or do we make the effort and get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors? No contest! We chose to explore the various tracks and rock formations.

Davids lizard.

Dave was straight onto a small bearded dragon which scurried across the darkened sandstones, as we walked towards the lookout. A railway track was attempted by early settlers and small amounts of the engineers track can be seen if you look closely enough.

Rock formations

After a few hours of exploring, and with rain falling we returned to the car. We plan to walk from the Vale of Avoca to Blue Gum Forest. The walk is difficult with large boulders, rock pools that require paddling, and plenty of scrub "bashing". It will take about 3 days, and we are both looking forward to it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weddin National Park or the tale of bushrangers and ghosts

Our campsite.

Weddin National Park is located approximately 25km from Grenfell, a small, quality, rural town in the wheat belt of NSW. The Weddin ranges were a popular hideout for the Bushrangers that robbed the stage coaches, banks and post offices during the gold rush of the 1860's. One in particular, Ben Hall made the caves in the ranges his home and with this piece of history in mind we chose to explore the park, as well as a historic farm nearby.

The Weddin Ranges. Home to Bushrangers, kangaroos, and birds.

The drive is pleasant and mostly tar. 2wd access is assured at Ben Hall camping area. On this particular day the temperature was up in the 40's, and setting up camp was hot, to say the least. After 1/2 hour with the tent and awning set up. Dave and I decided to ride our bikes to Seaton farm. The farm itself reminded me of the building methods used in the 1800's, where corrugated iron was beaten flat to stretch it and make it go further. Where wire was used to join frames together and where the homes floors were dirt.

The Homestead.

I was surprised to learn that the farm was constructed in the 1940's. With a small avenue of Kurrajong trees, visiting each out house, shed, the main home and the bunker was an enjoyable experience. We entered the main house. Not much more than a shed it still had the bottles and papers left on the table when it was handed over to the national park. David commented that it smelled of fresh damper- and it did. The old home gave the impression that, at any moment, the owner would walk through us and pour himself a drink.

The home just as they left it. The ghosts of things past. (Worth clicking on the photo)

Everything was done by hand and by one man. Including the digging of the dam, the well and all construction. We left feeling we were being watched by the owners ghost. After the short ride back to camp we had a drink and a short rest in the shade and chose to walk up to Ben halls cave. The track is easy, although rocky. Upon reaching the summit thew views are simply spectacular and we could see why Ben Hall chose it as his look out- you would see a man on horseback miles away. The campsites are pleasant. clean loos and electric bbqs are available. The ground itself is sparsely covered in tufts of grass, and the soil is loose- plenty of dust. There were very few people about.

The view of the district from Ben Halls cave

Even though it was hot we saw on this trip:- White winged chuffs, Apostle birds, Willy wagtail, Australian raven, Little raven, nankeen kestrel, galah, pee wee, Bell miner, Grey butcherbird, Wedge tailed eagle, Sulphur crested cockatoo, Australian magpie, Black faced cuckoo-shrike, Yellowtailed cockatoo, Australian wood duck, Pacific black duck, Black shouldered kite, red rumped parrot, Boo Book owl, Pied currawong, Crested pigeon, Diamond dove, Hoary headed, grebe, Emu, Yellow throated miner.
A very tiny Gheko!

As the sun set we enjoyed our BBQ and sat and chatted until 10.30 when we decided to go to bed and be up at dawn for further walks and birding. However, at midnight an extreme wind storm erupted, with such strength as to rip the awning off the tent and we could hear the sound of trees crashing. We spent a sleepless night. At dawn we were up to survey the damage. There was camping equipment strewn everywhere. With the wind still extreme we decided to pack and head out. We were disappointed to cut the trip short and are determined to re visit the park in April or May, but to be out and about is really exciting as always.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Abercrombie National Park

Situated aproximatley 55km south of the town of Oberon in the Great Dividing Range, the Abercrombie River National Park, is both beautiful and a great place for trout.
On the weekend we decided to try our luck (and skill) and see what we could find. My last trip here was 12 years ago and it was a near disaster. I took the family and was towing an off road trailer with a landcruiser.
The track that leads down to the River is vewry steep. Interestingly enough the track simply ends at the river. No turning circle, it just ends. A river on one side and a verticle embankmenton the other. On that particular trip I had to unload the trailer and to dangle it over the edge in an attempt to turn around. It took about a 20 point turn to succeed. I then had to ferry the trailer and family up the steep rock strewn track ( about 2km in length), in 40c heat to the top. The track was loose and the trailer forced the back of the Cruiser to slew from side to side. The track was very loose back then.

The river. More like a stream in this part

The trip this time was easier as the new Cruiser has more power, no trailer and the track surface was in better condition. However the track was just as steep and again there is little area to turn in once you reach the bottom.
The river itself is beautiful, tall trees, clear pools and water dancing over rocks. It was a little shallow, but still we walked and had a go in the deeper pools and eddies. A storm came over and we chose to leave before the track became wet- memories of 12 years ago came back pretty quickly!

On this trip we saw- australian magpie, chrimson rosella, grey fantail, superb fairy wren, sulphur crested cockatoo, turquoise parrot, little button quail, noisey minor, bell minor, lyrebird, weebill, pacific balck duck, common bronzewing, willy wagtail, pee wee, yellow tail cockatoo, firetail finch, glossy black cockatoo, black kite, white wing chuffs, black faced cuckoo shrike, masked lapwing, friarbird.

We also saw- tiger snake, stinky swamp wallaby, eastern grey kangaroo , and a rainbow trout

The Tiger snake. Has the most toxic poison of all snakes, but its smaller fangs prevent it from being the most deadly.

We decided to drive to the fish river and try our luck there as well. In a previous post we camped along this river and the trout were abunadant. After about an hour a storm again hit and lightening was striking the paddocks a short distance from where we were fishing. Fly rods and lightening dont mix, and we raced back to the car, narrrowly avoiding a tigersnake as it moved reluctantly off the track.
Both David and I had a great day, a great trip into the national park within the Great Dividing Range. After about 12 hours of fishing and walking we were home. The Wildlife we saw, the bird life and the country side made this a great way to relax, even though the fishing was intereupted.
We vowed we would be back in March, and catch that rainbow trout that so eluded us.
(More photos to come as soon as I get my bluetooth to work again)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


My Cannondale Synapse in my office.

It went like this- I decided it was time to really hook into the bike riding again, having been slack for 2009. So I took my bike to the bike shop. Dave said:- "Hi Simon where have you been?", I mumbled " Oh I bought a ww2 Jeep and I spent time on it, now I want to get back on the bikes". He replied " So, you want to sell the Jeep?" I said ( out of the blue) "Yep". He said, "I know just the guy,.... he wants one to add to his car collection."

A few hours later he came over and a few hours later I was riding again. Tonight I miss the Jeep that I grew up with.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fly Fishing

Hand made flies!
The other day we walked into the Grose river and tried our luck at fly fishing for Bass. These native fish are elusive and love logs and darker overhangs. The walk into the river was humid and hot.

Red Bull Ant

There were bull ants everwhere and in fact there was a bullant trying to bite through my shirt. More like a wingless wasp, and some growing to 25mm, these ants have large nippers and a sting. They are fearless and will attack anything.

The trail

The bird life was prolific. Lewins honey eater, Yellow zrumped thornbills, Bell Minors, Currawong and Reed warblers fill the air with song.

Dave trying his hand at fly fishing
After three hours of enjoyment, in a beautiful environment it was time to return. We were luckless on this trip, although there was plenty of interest from smaller fish.However we discovered a new area and vowed to return and explore further upstream.

A top afternoon was had by all!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Mt Caley

Heading out.
With the weather in NSW a mixture of floods and total fire bans, most of the national parks (e.g. Culgoa), are closed to overnight camping. We decided to do a series of day walks to get out of the house.
Mt Caley is a small mountain, (in fact some of my NZ and European friends would say "hill"), located to the east of Mount Banks. The walk is a 7 km easy trail with spectacular views into the Grose Valley. Many of the highlights of previous walks can be seen from the vantage point of Banks wall. The bush was busy with the sound of lewins honey eaters, lyre birds, Superb fairy wrens and thornbills.

Mt Caley through the trees?
The bush varies from open scrub to more rainforest sections along the more protected sides of Mount Banks. There is a water tank when you approach Banks Wall but my advice is to carry enough yourself and, if you do use the water in these tanks use a water purification system anyway. Back in the 1970's I drank from one of these tanks and was violently ill. I could only assume a frog or a possum (or something) had fallen in and died. Its an experience I would not forget.
Approaching the lookout.
From this point the track deteriorates, and follows a valley to the left. Its not too long before an intersection appears. A short stroll to the top for some more spectacular views. I had taken my Sigg stove and David and I enjoyed a cup of tea and later a chicken soup. Here we Spotted Welcome Swallow and Nankeen Kestrel, as well as numerous spectacular waterfalls.

My favorite stove- the Sigg!

After a shot rest the walk back to the car park proved to be just as enjoyable.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody! I have a good feeling about 2010!