Sydney Harbour Paddle – Saturday 21st April

Something a little different from camping.  When we were travelling I used a RedPaddle inflatable paddle board; the way it packs down is ideal for travel, but it is not the fastest for going any distance (I’ve also wondered about sharks, one nibble and would it take off like an escaped balloon…)

Who would have known BIC, the company which makes biros, also makes paddle boards.  Not me until I saw one for sale, ex demo, from their offices in Manly.  Its an Ace-Tec Wing, 12ft 6 inches long by 30 inches wide; not so easy to travel with but designed for touring.  Its got a few surface marks but is in fine working order.

The idea is to do a bit of exploring around the harbour, and perhaps go through the heads to Bondi.  Also, at Seal Rocks to paddle north to Sand Bar (and Frothy Coffee boatshed) or around the headland to Lighthouse beach.

As a first run out the plan was to head out from Rose Bay, paddle to the heads, and then back.  It was meant to be the week before, but a howling southerly doesn’t make for a pleasant paddle.

A bit of preparation the night before, down to Decathlon to pick up a buoyancy aide (or life vest, or pfd or no doubt many other names).  OK, it is not compulsory, on a paddle board, to wear one; but it’s a long swim to shore from the middle of the harbour, and even longer from halfway down the cliffs to Bondi.  Better safe than etc.

Its very relaxing out on the water in the morning.  It seems many people think the same way, judging by the number of surf skis heading towards Manly; presumably for a coffee before paddling back.  Now there’s an idea for another day.

There are several beaches on the way to South Head from Rose Bay.  Some of the better known are Shark Beach, followed by Parsley Bay, Watsons Bay and Camp Cove.  The last one is Lady Jane, but that’s a nudist beach so definitely no photos, eeew!  The pictures below are Shark Beach, the last one Camp Cove

Out at the heads, looking south, you can see the lighthouse on the South Head then the cliffs marching down the cost.  Back towards the city the view stretches from South Head across Middle Harbour to North Head, with Manly Ferries passing by.

All told it was a 3hr trip, with a few pauses for photos or a snack, with a fine view of the Opera House and Bridge to finish.

18-04-21 SUP Harbour Panorama

Jindabyne – Thursday 29th March to Monday 2nd April

Long weekends, for many years the attraction of Sydney when everyone else went way was too good.  Get a seat at the coffee shop, parking at the beach, no traffic, heaven.

But now my annual leave count at work is 4 weeks, unfortunately its time to join the great exodus, to throw ourselves into the tide of cars and hope to avoid being beached in a jam miles from home.

So, nothing like heading out for the busiest weekend of the year.  We’d been good boy scouts and booked almost a year in advance, so no problem with accommodation.

Jindabyne Holiday Park is on the shore of Lake Jindabyne, in the middle of town.  Its also a 2 minute walk from the shops, so pretty much a perfect location.

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Being on the lake it can be windy, normally coming off the mountains and across the lake so whilst the lakeside sites have the awesome view they can be a touch exposed.  Also, whilst not a problem for us and the trailer, if you have a huge van you might find the sites a little narrow.

Thursday 29th March

A day of two halves.  An early start and 5hr drive to get there, but worth it to avoid the traffic Thu night / Fri morning.  If you are driving down that way, a great stop is Some Café at Collector.  If you didn’t know about it you’d speed right past, there is nothing but a basic sign on the side of the motorway.

However, it is well worth a stop.  Fantastic cakes, great coffee and I recommend the toasted sandwich.  A bonus is the parking is easy, plenty of space and room to turn if you need to.

Heading through Cooma, there were an increasing number of Land Rovers, of all shapes and sizes.  It seems we had bumped into to the 70th anniversary Land Rover meet.  In the end I did not drive back on Saturday to see it, but the photos on AULRO look amazing, the parade down the main street on Sunday must have been awesome.  Great to see Daniel (Mulgo) in the photos with his rooftop conversions.

Not much else to record; we set up camp and chilled out, wonderful.

Friday 30th March

The great thing about arriving the day before is you can relax and have a coffee, watch the world go by, and wait for friends to arrive.  We were eagerly awaiting Fifty Toes (plenty of posts with them from our big lap), also Jason and Ali and their girls.  The race was on.

Fifty Toes were an easy head over the line, a 4am start to get ahead of the rush.  A valiant effort from Jason & Ali, still managed to avoid the traffic with a an extra hour or so of shuteye.

The rest of Friday was the pursuit of switching off, disconnecting from the routine and enjoying the slowdown.

Saturday 31st April

The plan for the day was to walk up Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain at 2,228 metres.  It seemed the rest of Australia has the same idea.  Last time we were here we parked in the middle of the resort, this time we were down past Friday Flat.

It made for rather long queue for the lift tickets, but the chap with the basket full of chocolate eggs made sure the kids (and some of the older “kids”) were happy…

There’s a couple of choices for climbing Kosciuszko out of Thredbo, you can walk from the village which adds 3hrs and 800 or so metres, or you can take the chairlift to 2000m and walk from there.  Its still a 6km return walk, but without so much climbing.

Unlike with skis there is no sliding forward from the chair, a brisk walk will do, but a run is so much more fun!

18-03-31 Jindabyne 03

Today it was like the M25 in rush hour (or Parramatta road if you aren’t from the UK).

As the path crosses delicate alpine areas, it is pretty much a boardwalk all the way.  The work involved in getting all the materials up there to make the path must have been incredible.  It would be awesome to do the walk when the first snows are down and the path hovers above the snow.

Along the way the views are special, in a bleak type of moorland way.  Kind of like the upper parts of Snowdonia, or the Lake District.

Reaching the top it was like an Aldi ski day.  The line to get a photo the peak was 20 deep. No matter, the achievement was in getting there.

 

Sunday 1st April

Here comes the Easter Bunny!

No walking today, more local activities.  We had planned to take a tour of Gaden trout hatchery; unfortunately the wind was so strong (glad we weren’t up the mountain!) that the tour was cancelled, apparently the danger of being blown into the ponds was too high.

Blue skies and silver linings and all that, a few bags of fish pellets later and we were by the river next to the hatchery.  If you leave the office and walk upstream until you reach the fence, there is a pool in the river.  Fishing is banned in this stretch, so the trout have the perfect position – no fishing and people feeding them; they are huge.  Chucking pellets in and watching the fish swirl is great fun.

Lunch was the Wild Brumby Distillery.  Most probably drive straight past it on the way to or from Thredbo.  Its popular, when I booked 3mths before they were already booked out from 12 to 2pm.  Its worth stopping in; personally I didn’t enjoy the schnapps so much but the food and location was awesome.

Only one photo of lunch, we were too busy eating.  If you are hungry, try the Pfandel, its not for salad dodgers or vegetarians…

18-04-01 Jindabyne 7

We took 15, and they catered wonderfully.  At the end of the restaurant was a table large enough for all of us.  Scattered around the gardens were plenty of things to amuse the kids, and keep the cameras clicking (do they do that any more?)

A wonderful feature of the Holiday Park is the pizza oven.  I have serious envy, the garden is crying out for one.  Each night they fired it up for BYO pizza, sadly we didn’t make our own bases, I got them from Woolworths, but you cant beat that wood fired taste regardless

18-04-01 Jindabyne 15

Monday 2nd April

Ah the journey home, on a long weekend, the easter weekend…..

All I can say is next year we are leaving early on Friday and heading back on Tuesday.

Turon Gates – Friday 23rd to Sun 25th Mar

If you have been reading these posts for a while you might recognise this place; I’ve written about it a few times before.  With its combination of relaxed camping plus great horse riding, all in a pretty setting, it’s a place to visit more than once, or twice…..

To recap, Turon Gates is on the bank of the Turon River about 20 minutes from the village of Capertee and 3 hours from Sydney.  Only the last section is unsealed, and a 4wd is probably only needed if towing something heavy or the weather is bad.

Charlotte had been studying hard, so this was her reward.  A weekend with just the two of us, and horse riding both days for her.

Being the weekend before Easter it was quiet, just us and one other group in the back paddock.  We set up right next to the river; just swags this time.

After the noise at Yadboro over Australia day, it was heaven to be able to sit and just listen to the wind in the trees, or the sheep grazing along the banks of the river, or the kangaroos hopping across each morning, or the geese paddling past.

Charlotte had 2 hours of riding booked each morning, and on the Saturday we planned to also complete the Devils Climb walk.  This is a loop walk which should take around 3-4 hours; its hard but not as bad as the Castle at Yadboro.  However, it remains to be done.  After her ride, she spent the rest of a happy day looking after the horses

That’s about the sum of the weekend, it is a very easy place to just relax

 

 

Yadboro Flat – Friday 26th to Sun 28th Jan

Writing posts was so much easier whilst we were travelling; it just became a habit to sit down each week.  Now the trips are just weekends we get back and before we know it a month has gone by with work, kids’ activities etc. etc.

Yadboro Flat is a campsite in the State Forest of the same name, on the bank of the Clyde river, next to Morton National Park.  To get there from Sydney you head south for about 3.5 hours, turn right at Milton and it is about 22km inland.  The last kms are dirt but its well maintained, just a few light corrugations.

The campsite has been on my list for some time, but there’s always been something that’s got in the way.  This trip was just Bonnie and me, meeting up with Chris & Rachel and their girls.

Friday 26th – Pigeon House Mountain

Being the Australia Day weekend, the plan was to arrive early on the Friday and grab a spot.  We’d expected it to be busy but oh my, the place was rammed when I arrived about 9am.   Fortunately Chris & Rachel had arrived late on Thursday and squeezed into a nice little space, screened by some bushes.  Unfortunately the bushes weren’t soundproof, so  the full PA system (I kid you not) of the next group sent their music over very well all day.

Its something I’ve raised before but what is the attraction with heading into the bush and then making a racket.  Someone had brought a motorised esky, so the sounds of a 2-stroke graced the air as it went round and round and round……Oh, and mustn’t forget the chest beating (there may have been many beers prior) as a few tried to drive their 4wds up the river bank, and failed miserably.  As one observer put it, as the last car broke its steering and was abandoned in the river bed for the night, “it’s a shame the river isn’t due to flood overnight”.

Enough of me moaning.  There is some great bushwalking in this area, which was what we had come for.

Friday was Pigeon House Mountain, a 5km return climb.  Parks grade this as a 4, “bushwalking experience recommended.  Tracks may be long, rough and very steep.  Directional signage may be limited”.    That’s over-egging things; yes it was steep but the biggest challenge was that we set off just before midday and it was rather hot.

We weren’t the only ones in the car park, chilling out on a tree was a large lizard.

18-01-26 Pigeon House Mountain 1

It is a walk of 3 parts.  The first is a steep track, with some rock steps and similar obstacles.  It then flattens out, with the track winding through the bush before steepening up again into the last part.  The last part is the climb to the summit, which climbs a number of steep metal ladders; on this section we ran into a lovely python sunning itself on in the bushes

 

From the summit there is a great panoramic view over the national park, and being Australia day a chance for spot of flag waving…

All in all the round trip was about 3 hours, but with the hot day the river back at camp was very welcome for cooling off

18-01-26 Yadboro Flat 2

Saturday 27th – The Castle

The plan for Saturday was an earlier start and a much more challenging walk.  The Castle is 11km long, with about 800m of climbing.  It sounds easy put that like.  It is anything but.  All told it took us 10 hours!  It is worth mentioning the signs on the track are just arrows scratched into the rock,  so route finding can be a challenge

The start of the walk is from Long Gully campsite, a short drive from Yadboro Flat.  Long Gully is a smaller camp site, also full but seemingly lacking in the motorised esky department.  After a few hundred metres the path crosses a small river and then heads steadily upwards.

After a few km the track heads slightly down as it crosses a saddle, then rises again to the base of the escarpment before turning left and hugging the base of the cliff.  All along this section the mallee trees grow out at odd angles, with the track twisting and turning between them until it ultimately reaches a dead end.  It then heads upwards to the right.

It was beginning to heat up by now.  So slogging up, firstly scrambling and then using steps put in to prevent erosion, was pretty hard work; even harder for Bonnie and Felicity with their shorter legs.  At the top of this section the track forks, left heads to Monolith Valley, right to the Castle and more climbing…..

Finally the track reaches a cleft in the rock, though which you squeeze to cross from one side of the Castle’s “tail” to the other.

To add to the excitement, there was now a shout of “snake”; well spotted as it was right where we were going to walk.  It certainly had no fear of us, heading off alongside the track.  We worked out later it was probably a tiger snake, you don’t want to tread on that one.

The top part of the castle has sections which, if you are comfortable climbing, can be scrambled but for the more cautious a rope helps.  The more exposed sections have fixed ropes which you can hang on to, but their condition is unknown (more on that shortly).

Chris had brought his climbing gear with him, so we were able to rope the girls up using some slings to make a harness.  Without that we would probably have turned around, as some of the sections are rather exposed.

A short stop for lunch was in order at this point.  As we sat there enjoying the view another group headed down.  As the lead directed the second, it was the first time I’ve head someone say “there is a large crevasse just by your foot”; last time I checked Australia had no glaciers

After a final short scramble, the top of the Castle is flat.  Scattered across its top, amongst the bushes, are pools of rainwater.  I’ve no idea how they got into the pools, but most were home to large numbers of tadpoles well on their way to being frogs.

The track brings you out onto the north end.  At the south end there is supposedly a cairn with a book everyone signs.  The bush is pretty thick, however there are little rock piles which kind of mark the easiest route.  However, we never did find the book, though it is worth it for the views:

The way back is a retrace of the way up, fortunately without the snake.  About halfway through the mallee trees the effort caught up with Bonnie.  Despite trying to keep her eating and drinking she ran out of puff.  However, half a banana later she was back to normal, plus a not too serious lesson in making sure to keep eating.

By the time we got back to the start it was into twilight, a very long day on the trail.  To add insult to the effort it started raining about 10mins before we got back to camp – the wet chairs were perhaps a fair price for keeping the camp noise down…..

Back to rope condition – some of the fixed ropes were pretty dodgy, especially this one which was frayed to its core.  Beware putting your trust in unknown gear….

Perisher – Sun 6th to Mon 7th August

It has been a while since we last hit the slopes, the last visit was before our big lap of Australia.

Previously we have stayed at ‘The Station’, which is just outside Jindabyne.  Owned by Perisher it is basic but not as outrageously expensive as the luxury houses on offer.  This year, however, it was time to try out the camping at Sawpit Creek.

It is an official campsite just inside the national park, at about 1,000m elevation.   So a shorter drive up to the snow each morning.  It is also surprisingly popular, we had booked a few months out and the only spots left were unpowered tent sites, so it looked like no trailer for the weekend and sleeping on the floor

If you don’t ask you don’t get; on the Friday a quick call to the camp to ask about cancellations revealed a last minute cancellation on a trailer site.  Great news.

There is not much to say about the drive from Sydney to Jindabyne, other than it is long, dull and goes near Canberra.  One thing worth mentioning is ‘Some Cafe’ at Collector. Just off the motorway there is plenty of space to park and the cafe offers a wide selection of delicious cakes (and a very tasty cheese toasty) – it is well worth a stop.

A short stop in Jindabyne later, to pick up skis and lift tickets (and the equivalent of a small nation’s debt paying for them), and then it was up to the campsite.  It probably looks better in the summer, now it was a rather wet and very, very cold (no surprise there being winter….).  Fortunately, and unexpectedly, there is a great little stone hut with a fireplace in it, which provided a lovely warm spot in the evening.

Having the trailer with us was so much better than the tent would have been.  Being off the ground, on the mattress, under a heap of blankets we were toasty warm.  However the morning run to the amenities was rather chilly.

The weather forecast was for snow, and it certainly delivered.  Sadly it also meant the visibility was poor for most of the weekend, even if the snow was lovely.

What is amazing is the people who ignore the signs saying snowchains are required.  On the Sunday morning there was a little 2wd sedan which had ignored the snow all over the road, getting half way up the last climb before losing traction.  I have no idea how they got out of there, but the policeman in attendance was decidedly unhappy with them.  A great thing about the 110 is, being a 4wd, no chains are required.

If anything the snow was heavier on the Monday, with overnight falls leaving an inch of snow on the trailer and more on the road, making for a very challenging drive up.

However it also rewarded us with some great icicles when we got back in the afternoon….

Olney State Forest – 1st July 2017

Olney State Forest is about 90 minutes drive north of Sydney, just to the west of the central coast.  Together with the Watagan National Park, which it sits alongside, it offers a huge range of tracks and trails.

Getting into Olney is an easy drive, it is a dirt road but well packed and would be easy enough in a 2wd in anything but heavy rain (although the Ford Mustang we saw did look a little out of place…)

We weren’t, however, there to test our off-road skills, but to get out into the woods and enjoy a relaxed camp.

There are roughly 5 official campsites (and no doubt many others), with 4 of them in close proximity.  Arriving at 10.30am, in mid winter, it was surprising to see how many people were there.  Turpentine camp was quieter, probably as it does not have toilets (it is a 150m walk to the Pines camp toilets), with a great secluded spot at the end.

The Pines itself was busy, including the obligatory clown sharing their music at high volume that night (bad country & western rather than doof-doof in this case), It wasn’t so bad where we were, but pity the people next door.  Ignoring the noise the Pines was a decent camp, so long as you don’t mind being alongside others.

A feature of the camping here is that it is among the trees.  It wouldn’t be a place to come for a week and rely on solar power, as most of the time the sites are shaded.

Another aim of the trip was to test out a new acquisition.  For a while now I have been thinking about getting a battery chainsaw for firewood gathering.  Why battery and not petrol?  Two reasons, firstly no need to carry fuel around and secondly it is much quieter. OK it is not as powerful but I’m not gathering a winter store, just enough for a night or two.

So how did it go?  It performed very well, easily cutting enough for the night / morning and some left over and still have three quarters charge left on a 5Ah battery.  From 20m away it is no noisier than standing near to a hairdryer.

Perhaps next time we will let the tyres down and explore the bumpy stuff…..

 

 

 

 

 

Jindabyne – 22nd to 24th April

A venture further afield, and a revisit of an early stop on our lap around Australia.  Only this time we had company; Jason, Amie, Maddie and their new camper trailer.

Also joining for the Saturday night were Chris, Rachael, Esther, Felicity and Rhiannon. Unfortunately Bonnie had ballet exam practise, so she and Hils could not make the trip.

For many Jindabyne may just be a gateway to the skiing, seen only in the cold of winter, which is a shame as it has more to offer than that.  Being autumn many of the trees were turning glorious shades of red and gold; the poplars especially were beautiful.

Jindabyne Holiday Park is conveniently located in the middle of town, just opposite the main shopping area and right on the lake shore.  With a slightly elevated position the views across the lake to the national park are outstanding.  The morning mist just added to the magic.

The name Jindabyne is derived from an aboriginal word for valley, and the original town was lower in the valley, beneath what is now the lake.  In the 1960’s the town was relocated to its present position, when the Snowy River was dammed.  When the water levels are low glimpses of the Old Jindabyne can apparently be had, particularly the top of the church

17-04-22 Jindabyne 1The facilities were certainly a step up from the Easter excursion; hot showers, tv room, kitchen with heat lamps and even a pizza oven, which served to make make some cracking garlic pizzas to go with the bolgnaise & chilli (thanks Rachael).

Whats Up Downunder happened to be filming whilst we were there; who knows, in a few weeks the girls may be on TV…..

Apart from relaxing by the lake (another time we will bring the paddle boards) the main aim of the trip was to climb Mt Kosciuszko.  At 2,228m this is the highest mountain in Australia.

Despite the height it is not a difficult walk; from Thredbo at 1,375m you can take a chairlift to Eagles Nest at 1,937m.  From there it is a 6.5km boardwalk to the top of Kosciuszko.  It is also certainly not a lonely walk, a constant stream of people going up or down.  Despite that the views are awesome, if a little desolate

Coming back down is strange experience, the first time I have come down a mountain in a chair lift, it looks an awful lot higher from the ground that going up.  A decent view of Thredbo though.

17-04-23 Thredbo 2

Sharing the mountain with the walkers were dozens of mountain bikers, definitely something for the next trip; the idea of catching the chair with your bike and doing nothing but descending has a certain attraction!

Another great trip, made all the better by stopping over in Canberra with Chris & Rachael on the way back and heading to the ANZAC dawn service on the Tuesday morning.