Debbie & Geoff's  - Australian Safari

                                        June 2016



                                  Travel Blog


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June 28 2016 After a wonderful stay at Camp Blackman we headed off to Baradine where we stayed at Camp Cyprus. This is our home for a few nights to explore the Pilliga region. You have to meet Charlie who is the caretaker and his dog Sam. Charlie is one heck of a bushy and was going to feed the sheep so will catch up with us later for payment, just park the vans where ever you like, no worries. Baradine is a lovely town and our first visit was to the Pilliga State Forest information centre.

Camp Cyprus at Baradine     Camp Cyprus at Baradine
      Camp Cyprus at Baradine

Great set up and the building was only new with lots of interesting facts for us about the forest, wildlife and industry that was at Baradine, logging. There is only one mill left in the town now and a lot of things were closing down which would affect the population that varies from 700 to 800 people.
Our next day we were off to explore the Sculptures in the scrub. Wow the artwork was amazing from modern Silver figures that looked more alien than human to a proud Aboriginal male with his son on his shoulders over looking the valley. There was sculptures in all different medium, stone, bronze and even mosaic. All had a meaning for the valley and forest it surrounded. From here we drove to the Sandstone caves which are simply beautiful and nature at its best. The colours of the sandstone ranged from soft whites to rich pink and yellow, you can see why the aboriginals had this as a sacred site.

Camp Cyprus around the camp fire
    Camp Cyprus around the camp fire

Another cool evening huddled around our camp fires still enjoying our friends company and telling stories over a few glasses of wine planning the next days activities.
Off to the Pilliga scrub again to view the salt caves and look out tower which is only new as the old one was burnt in the fires. The area is still regenerating and it looked spooky with the black tree trunks against the red soil and some green new growth starting to sprout. It was very sparse but beautiful in its own way. The salt caves were interesting and I would have loved to have seen it when the stalactites of salt were taken by women for salting meat. The caves collapsed but you can still see small openings that go far into the rocky mountain.
After circling the caves you come to the tower. Fairly high up and once there you get an amazing view from the Pilligas to Warrumbungles and all the forest below. After lunch, and I have to give the State forest a ten out of ten for their clean BBQ and picnic areas, we drove to the township of Pilliga. Margaret and Julie both had a dip in the hot springs while I went and talked to a tattoo couple who had a bus and a Harley. The guys were wondering if they towed the Harley so I went and asked the questions. Great couple from Tasmania and are also travelling around Australia .
We finished our day with a coffee from the Pilliga Café. This is one tiny town though they did have a bowling club and police station, and that was all folks. We finally caught up with Charlie so we could pay our dues. He came over eating his sandwich of tomato and pickles, we gave him a glass of wine, he laughed at our attempt to light the fires and with Geoff who nearly caught himself on fire and Sam the dog got scared and wouldn’t come near the fire again.


Saturday 25th June 2016 was time for the beast to again be strapped up to take us and the van to the Warrumbungle National Park where we stayed in Camp Blackman and to meet up with our friends from Mariners Cove. Haven’t left them for long but gee it was nice to see their smiling faces, and to surprise us Larry and Julie bought a new van. Here we were thinking how we were going to make them comfy when they camped in below zero temperatures, and they picked up a van the day before.

Camp at Warrunbungle from the drone     Camp at Warrunbungle from the drone
      Camp at Warrunbungle

Geoff again got to fly the drone and take some great shots of our rigs all together. Today the sun came out and the area was breathtaking. When we arrived at the campsite we were met by one very big male Roo who took a bit of interest in us, then sat down to sunbake again just near us. Life is tough for some!
The next morning was exploring time and we had a choice and did some beautiful rambling walks. Now some of you might recall that I am not the most coordinated bush walker and due to all the rain we did have a few, actually quite a few streams to cross. I managed to keep my feet dry but only that my shoes were waterproof. Next time I am carrying my gumboots so I can just wade across them. From morning walks to afternoon rambles we managed to clock up over 11 kilometres so we felt good about cake and biscuits for afternoon tea.
Larry told us he looked out last night to notice kangaroos sleeping near our fire pit. Either A: he was hallucinating from his fever or B: he dreamt it. Next time Larry take a photo!
In the morning we had the joy of the apostle birds visiting. How cute were these little guys running around with no fear what so every and naturally Geoff had to sit down and have a crumpet and conversation with them.

Siding Spring Observatory in the snow     Siding Spring Observatory in the snow
                                    Siding Spring Observatory in the snow

That night and the next morning was bloody cold. When we eventually all merged we found out it had been snowing up at the Sidings near the observatory, so we bundled ourselves up and drove up to check out the sights. Oh yeah we had snow and even though it was after 11am it was still on the ground. We took photos, walked around, laughed and just enjoyed the scene before bounding back into the warm cars to go to another amazing lookout showing the valley below.
That evening we had a visit from a fellow camper who was also recited poetry and we enjoyed the ode he recited to us about grandma getting her tits caught in the washing machine mangler. Not to be out done I read him my poem that I wrote about the Mariners Cove Caravan club and our travels with these friends.


Thursday 23rd June 2016 and we are now in Coonabarabran. Oh and the rain just keeps coming and we have a cold snap that is blanketing NSW on the way. Quite a large town and we called into the National Parks office to check out our next destination the Warrumbungles. The park we are at is Getaway Tourist Park and has large drive through sites. Again you can walk into town but, with this weather, we drove! They have been on water restrictions until last week when they got a fair amount of rain. I might be over this weather but I am glad for all the town and farmers to have this follow up rain. Friendly clean and it’s a great park to stay at and $26 per night for a powered site.
Not far from town is the Siding Springs Observatory which has the last the world largest virtual solar system drive. In other words as you head toward the observatory they have models of the planets on billboards scaled 38 million times smaller than outer space. You can go into the Observatory and have a look around the museum then up to look at the telescope itself. Very large if I do say so myself. You cannot go at night and see it in operation but there are smaller observatories dotted along the road and one of them does give a talk and let you in for an evening viewing.


Tuesday 21st June 2016 and off again with a free camp at Binnaway being our destination. Brilliant clean camp in a small sleepy town. You pay for electricity $2 for 3 hours and water is supplied. It is right on the river and only 10 minutes walk to town. There is a small Friendly supermarket, post office, hair dresser and a craft shop that I bought farm fresh eggs at. The Camp is kept clean by volunteers and they have a honesty box for you to leave a donation. I hope everyone does and also supports the town. The coffee shop was closed at this time and one of the two pubs was operating. They have a bowling club for meals and if you are there for summer a local swimming pool. These small towns need our support and the Pump House free camp is a brilliant way of getting us travellers to stop in. We spent two nights there and Geoff did some more maintenance to the van by installing pipe for storage for under the van. Fishing poles and tent poles now have a new home.

Binnaway Camp     Binnaway Camp
    Binnaway Camp

June 17th 2016we are back on the road and heading towards the Hunter Valley where we were booked into the Big 4 at Cessnock. Expensive at $35 per night and you can see they are moving towards retiree housing. You can purchase a 3 bedroom prefab house there for $299,000. Certainly up a class from the permanent vans that you see on some of the park area but I think I shall keep clear of that idea.
The park is in walking distance to the shops and you have a great selection from Aldi to Woolworths and of course the special shops that I like to have a peak at.
The main reason we headed to the Hunter was to catch up with our good friends Steve and Shelley who were up for the weekend to play golf at the Vintage 'Cork and Fork'. We got to tag along and each hole had a vineyard and restaurant represented. It was a great day as the sun shone and Geoff and I raced around following the golfers in a little buggy, having a tipple and a nibble at each of the hole. Lots of laughs and enjoying the company of Wendy and Graham who both won a prize at the end of the day for closest to the pin.
Sunday we woke up to rain again, seems to be hanging around and Steve and Shelley called into say goodbye as they headed home. Now as you do on a rainy day you head to lunch, so Geoff and I drove around and called into Nanna Kerrs. We thought they had the best food at the Cork and Fork so decided to try them out. Great portion sizes and reasonably priced. Leave room for dessert as the Sticky Date Pudding is to die for.


14th June 2016 we packed up and headed to Stockton near Newcastle. Geoff had a training course to attend for a few days and Stockton seemed to be the only van park in the area. Stockton seems to have two worlds, the housos, no teeth, tracky dacks and live in very run down cottages. And then we have the other world where the houses are new, large and people more meticulous. A small shopping centre with an IGA, 2 pubs, and butcher and baker, plus a few more essential shops. The Caravan park was only 10 minutes walk to the centre or to the ferry where you can jump on a ferry to take you to New Castle. Very handy for Geoff with his training course and also for me to hop over and do some decent shopping and sort out a few things, like voting absentee for the big election.
The Caravan park was fine, clean amenities and just on the beach. As the storms had been through the week previous they had lost quite a bit of sand and instead of the usual beach access you had to walk a bit down the road. Certainly no problem and if you were a shell collector you would have been in your element as the beach was covered in them.


Early June

House packed up –check
Informed everyone of new or no address – check
Departure date finalised – check
And then the goodbyes – oh check and triple check

On the 8th of June 2016 we are loaded up with van and car and head up to Blackheath for a 6 night stay. First mission is to get all the stuff from the house stowed into the van so it can function as a home. Might be easier said than done and even though you are warned not to take too much it’s hard not to know what too much is. Do I really need to take those nice pair of boots or do you think my black shiny gum boots will suffice for an outing to a club?
Blackheath 2016 Oh and storage. I started calling my van the black hole, once you put stuff in you can never find it again, how do we solve the problem of it being secure and not move around too much when we are travelling. Easy on the tar roads but when we head off to places off the beaten track, will the corrugation beat my careful packing.
My first mission tackled. I have duplicates of things from home that I had stored in the van. Shampoo, deodorant and a million tubes of that you get when you visit the dentist. Do you keep them or throw them out? Does the weight verses the cost of carrying these things to rebuying down the track pan out? Heck, we will probably not need to buy toiletries for about 12 months, bugger the weight.
So with the aid of the reject shops, Ikea and stuff from home I have a well-stocked tidy van. I have lists on the inside of doors with inventory so the black hole will not defeat me.
The Ford Ranger which I fondly refer to as The Beast has been meticulously outfitted by the husband and is still a work in progress. From lighting to draws, compressors to jacks, he has thought of it all. Storage for a tent for when we camp, storage for the pegs, it is all his careful planning that will keep the beast moving. Geoff’s first mission was to go through all the gizmos and thingamajigs and find and secure them for our trip. Most of this was done prior to our leaving but like me there was lots to do after the packing up of the home and garage.
So now we are at Blackheath and have been joined by our friends from Mariners. The Blackheath Caravan park is close enough to walk up to the town centre. It is well run and clean with a great camp kitchen enclosed to keep the chill from the mountains out. Blackheath has a brilliant mountain village atmosphere that on weekends, like all places in the Blue Mountains, is teaming with tourists. Wonderful scenery and bush walks, a good choice of eateries and lots of antique shops to browse if that takes your fancy.