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.

Coorongooba – Easter 2017

Long weekends have always been an excellent reason to stay in Sydney.  Half the population leaves and suddenly its easy to get anywhere, get a park at the beach or a table at the cafe.  Oh, and no sitting in a 5hr queue on the motorway.

So time to break the habit, and what better reason than a few days camping with friends.

Coorongooba is in Wollemi national park, about an hour out of Lithgow.  Head towards Mudgee and turn left at Capertee in the direction of Glen Davis.  Its an easy drive in, but after some rain would be pretty slippery.

Fifty Toes Walkabout had headed up on the Thursday night, and lucky for us they had otherwise there may not have been room for everyone.  Being a national park site it is first come, first served, and being Easter the campsite was packed.  It being free to camp may have also contributed to the crowds.

On any another weekend there probably wouldn’t be more than a handful of cars here, now there must have been over a hundred.  With only 2 long drops the morning queues were amusing to watch, 10 deep for hours, certainly no danger of getting a cold seat…..

Along one edge of the campsite runs the Capertee River, not that deep right now but with some swimming holes to keep the kids amused – a bit chilly though.  On either side the site is nestled between sheer cliffs, which catch the evening sun in striking red shades.

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It wouldn’t be a weekend away without a bit of dirt on the wheels.  Just up the road is the Ben Bullen trail through Baal Bone Gap.  It is a beautiful drive along the ridgetops and down through the valleys between.  The crux is an off camber stone slab, I’m told it is not too bad with decent wheel placement but that was something for another day.  The dirt bikes behind us seemed to have no problem though.

All in all a fantastic weekend.

Turon Gates – 1st & 2nd April

I’ve written about Turon Gates before, a wonderful place nestled in the bush.  Also a great place to head away for the weekend with Charlotte, who loves the horse riding.

The horses were in the back paddock camping when we got there, and even better there were more of them than other campers so we could really enjoy the peace and quiet.

As well as the horse riding there is plenty of bush walking available, just behind the campsite is the start of Devils Climb.  It is very steep, but worth it for the views back down.

With all the exercise in the day it was time to enjoy a relaxing evening with dinner over the fire.

Spotted on the drive home, this has to be best pub courtesy bus ever

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Turon Gates – 9th to 11th September

Turon Gates is one of those places which you want to go back to often.  Originally planned as a weekend treat for Charlotte, with horse riding as a reward for studying hard, the trip expanded until there were almost 20 heading over the Blue Mountains.

When travelling it is not too much of a chore breaking camp in the morning, then settling in somewhere else.  Probably as everything you need is already on board.  Weekends away are slightly different – I always prefer to make it a 2 night affair if possible.

So Friday off work for Hils and I and a day off school for the girls.  It seems odd that over here it is just an e-mail to the school office to let them know, but in the UK they would probably fine us for providing the girls with experiences beyond homework and watching TV…..

One thing hadn’t changed, however, from our trip last year; no matter where we head to someone is either already there or turns up shortly after.  Being early spring, with Friday forecast to be wet I’d assumed we would be first in, but no!  Another group had arrived on Thursday and set up, in the back paddock, right where I had my eye on.

Silver linings still exist though; instead of camping in the back paddock we found a cracking spot in the main camp area, tucked under a grassy bank next to the river and out of the wind.  This was very handy when the rain set in mid-afternoon.  Talking next day with Sonia, wife of Soren, who together own Turon Gates, the back paddock can get belted by the wind: seems we had the pick of the spots.

Arriving before midday, there was plenty of time to sort out the fire pits and test run the pit which was to host the spit roast next day.

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Arriving later that evening was Chris although no family this time as they had returned to the UK.  With the addition of a rooftop tent and drawers in the back of the Toyota he was well set up.

Saturday was supposed to be a few early showers but then fine and sunny.  Maybe the forecasters need some more computers (or to look out of the window), as the showers continued through the day.

We were so well sheltered in our little spot under the bank (sounds like a scene from wind in the willows…) that we hadn’t appreciated quite how windy it had been.  Sonia drove over to say there was a large tree down across the road in, so the horse riding lady couldn’t get in.

Actually a great big tree across the track sounded rather fun, but the SES are very efficient out here; by the time we got to it they had been and gone with just logs remaining.

On the plus side it meant that the rest of the party could get in.  John of Fifty Toes, his mate Nick a great new introduction and Jason with Amie and Maddie.  Unfortunately their better halves had decided home was a good option, so Hils was sole torchbearer for the ladies.

Also on the plus side, Charlotte could get her horse ride.  One of the fantastic things about Turon Gates is the riding is reasonably priced and realistic in managing risk.  Try riding in Kangaroo Valley and they would put Charlotte on a lead rope due to her age; here she had a 2hr ride matched to her ability, so plenty of cantering.

With recent wet weather the Turon River was a touch higher than last time we were here, but nowhere near its peak, even with the overnight rain.  Apparently a couple of weeks before it was 2.5m above the bridge on the way in.  The fast flow didn’t seem to hinder the feral goats though as they cross back and forth, and was still safe for the kids to invent their own games along the banks.

 

So to the spit roast!  The fire pit had worked out well the night before, and we’d been out to get plenty of firewood.  When choosing what to roast it makes life easier to choose the more basic cuts, which can handle a long slow cook; in this case boneless pork shoulder rolled and tied.

I’d like to report that the kids were pressed into action turning the spit, earning their keep.  However they had been replaced by a 12v battery, much more reliable and no complaining.

With the meat turning itself there was plenty of time to test camp oven skills, me with a lemonade scone cake and Jason with beer damper (funny how there is always some beer left over for the chef to dispose of…)

 

5 hours later and the feast was on, with John excelling with accompanying potato bake and oriental salad.

With Sunday came the fine sunny weather promised for Saturday, perfect for a lazy morning around the camp fire (aside from the packing up….) whilst the kids headed off on the horses.

 

It is funny who you meet when out for a drive.  Whilst the others packed up camp Chris and I headed off towards Sofala.  This is a rocky, narrow, track; would be hard towing but otherwise a fairly simple drive through beautiful country.

At the Sofala end there are some reasonably deep causeways, at the last of which there was a bloke with video camera looking uncertain

It turns out he was trying to shoot marketing material for Dodge RAM.  With him was the first import of their smaller truck, only 6.8l of engine!  Plenty of grunt but too long to be a decent off-roader.

Anyway, he was uncertain about the water crossing – ironic given his truck weighed as much as a small tank and about the same pulling power.  With Chris in the passenger seat and me starting the camera he got his video – hope we get a mention in the credits!

25/26 Jun – Yalwal & Monkey Gum Fire Trail

Another old mining area, but gold rather than silver.  About 3hrs south of Sydney and 30km west of Nowra where the Dangera and Yarrramunmun creeks meet in near Morton National Park.

First discovered in 1852 the last gold discovery was the Fountainhead in 1938 before the town was pretty much destroyed by fire in 1939.  Mining then fell away until 1971 when the Danjera dam was completed and flooded most of the area.

Whilst much of the mineworkings were flooded some historic items remain, like the old stamper on the edge of the lake.  The lake itself is beautiful, and apparently good for bass if fishing is your thing.

Alongside the lake there is a free campsite, basic with just toilets but in a great location.  It’s a bit of a lottery though, as it is a popular weekender and can attract campers whose idea of the bush is noise and drinking rather than nature.  A second area, just before the main site, was a quieter option when we were there.

Being June it can be pretty cold though, so its lucky that fires are permitted. Best to bring wood in with you, though maybe not by dragging a tree trunk up the road behind your ute (yep, we saw it go past).  Even so, it was freezing.

Part of the attraction of this area is there are still trails open to be driven (unlike around Yeranderie).  These range from the cruisy to the insane.  Perhaps one of the better known is Monkey Gum, which was the target of our weekend.

It’s easy enough to find, just take Deans Gap Rd to Mintbush (on the right heading south) and follow this until it merges into Monkey Gum which ultimately winds its way through to Braidwood Road.

Mintbush is an interesting drive, lots of rocks and a bumpy descent down to the river.  Part way through there is a log bridge which provides a nervy crossing as one end is part washed out leaving just the width of the car the squeeze past a huge hole.

The landcruiser in the pictures isn’t me, it belongs to Chris.  If you followed the blogs from last year you may recall we first met Chris (and Rachael and their 3 girls) in the Kimberley and spent a fair bit of time travelling with them.  Lovely people.

Monkey Gum itself is quite a challenge.  I had looked at plenty of pictures and Youtubes of others on the trail, but it is always hard to get a feel for what it is really like.  All I can say is it really tested us, both in driving and also planning.

A fair bit of time was spent walking the route and building the trail to avoid some nasty panel damage, or rolling into crevasse sized washouts snaking along the trail.  Would I do it again?  Perhaps, but would be giving consideration to more aggressive tyres and perhaps a lift to make things easier.

Ultimately planning and elbow grease got us through without incident, or needing to winch, but it was touch and go in places.  On some of the trickier bits putting your wheels in the wrong place could end very badly.  Sorry, the photos don’t show the “best” of it, too busy wrestling cars to take photos at those points

Once you get through the last climb there is a great lookout on the right (look for the ladder propped against the rock), before the trail flattens out and the only hazard is the bog holes.  It hadn’t rained for a week or so but even then some looked deep enough to swallow the 110.

Had to feel sorry for the trail biker we met who had dropped his bike into a hole and drowned it – gave him a cam strap so his mate could tow him along, saw them again a few hours later still towing.  A couple of days later a shiny new strap turned up in the post, good on them.

Another well known trail in this area is Powerlines, which is exactly what it sounds like, a trail following the powerlines which run roughly north-south.  Depending where you join it can seem like a cruisy drive, but it sure has some surprises; a nasty rock step turned us around as the risk of damaging both 110 and trailer was too high.

Rejoining the trail further along there is an insane rocky climb.  From a distance it looks like a sheer cliff.  Close up it is not much better, but you can see the rubber marks on the rocks where someone has driven up it, crazy!
16-06-26 Powerlines 3

Caves to Caves & Yerranderie

Yerranderie is a silver mining ghost town located near the Kanangra-Boyd national park.  At one time the town was home to 2,000 people, until the mining industry collapsed in 1927.  Apparently the local station was sinking fence posts when evidence of the ore was seen, sparking the development of the area.

With the construction of the Warragamba Dam in 1959, the quickest route from the east was cut off (there is still a track but it is restricted to the emergency services as it goes through the water catchment), making it a much longer drive.  Interesting to compare Sydney, where you can’t access the catchment, to the US where you can water ski on Lake Mead, the main water supply for Las Vegas.

There are various ways to reach Yerranderie.  For this trip it was part of the Caves to Caves route between Jenolan Caves in the north and Wombeyan Caves in the south, crossing the Kowmung river along the way.  It can be done in either direction; Pippa and I set off from Jenolan.

“Jenolan” is believed to originate from the aboriginal for “high place”. Europeans first came across the caves around 1840, apparently whilst James Whalan was in hot pursuit of a thief.  His brother Charles then developed them for tourism.  There are eleven show caves available for tourism; although the system is far more extensive, other areas are only suitable for experienced cavers.

The first section also leads to Kanangra Walls, an amazing escarpment along the edge of a deep valley.  Essentially a wide gravel road, with a bit of care this would be manageable in a 2wd, but easier in the 110.

 

From Kanangra Walls the Morong Creek Trail cuts across to join the Kowmung River fire trail.  It is narrow and twisty with plenty of mudholes along the way – best avoided on a wet day.  The one river crossing is short with a rocky climb out that looks worse than it is; the crossing bottom is firm (stony) so a little momentum is all it needs to get up.

16-05-07 Morong Creek Trail

The Kowmung River fire trail winds along before a sharp descent to the river.  The river was very low, so the crossing was short and shallow – it is worth checking with Parks and Wildlife before heading out if rain is about.  Again a little momentum helps the climb out; we tried a low first crawl the first time but lost traction; low second with a touch more speed made it simple (don’t believe the photo, it’s steeper and more dug out than it looks).

On the other side is Dingle Dell, a great looking camping spot but sadly doesn’t cater for trailers.  Here the track splits – left is the main track, straight on is more direct but a lot rougher (and more fun).

Following the trail out ultimately brings you to Gurnang State Forest.  From this point you follow Banshea Road until the Oberon-Colong Stock Route to Yerranderie.

16-05-07 Oberon-Colong Stock Route 1

Generally the surface was pretty good, mainly dirt with some rocky sections.  I never thought we would see bull dust a day’s drive from Sydney, but in places this track was getting there – apparently the grader had been through and left things a bit soft, needing some rain to bed things in.

Yerranderie is a fascinating place, but perhaps not the place to go wandering after dark, too many holes in the ground.  Valerie Anne Lhuede bought the town (it took her years, slowly buying shares in the company that owned it), with a view to developing it as a tourist centre and environmental project.

In March 2011 she donated it to Parks and Wildlife, so long as they agreed to keep it open to the public – which is a welcome change from most of the tracks in this area, marked with a sign showing a name and “locked gate”.  It does make you wonder what the point is of preserving land if no-one is allowed to get in to see it.

The campsite was lovely, set on a cleared area among the trees.  There are hot showers, toilets and a basic camp kitchen.  Firewood is provided with firepits dotted around and plenty of space for everyone.  Resident are is a family of kangaroos, with an oh so cute joey.  Less cute was the possum growling away in the dark.

Sunday being Mother’s Day meant an early start to get home for Pippa to give her present, but not before some tea and toast over the fire, fantastic. You could spend days looking around Yerranderie, definitely one for a return trip.

 

The scenic drive out is via Range Fire Trail then Wombeyan Caves Road, emerging near Mittagong.  It is probably not the fastest though, especially on a wet day like this one.  Range Fire Trail is pretty rough in places, threading through the trees.

16-05-08 Range Fire Trail

After Wombeyan the road is narrow and perched above a sheer drop with plenty of blind bends to manage – beautiful views but not a quick drive.  It is probably quicker to go back to Gurnang State Forest and pick up the Taralga road.

16-05-08 Wombeyan Caves Rd

We did the drive in 2 days, really it should be a 3, or even better 4, day trip to give enough time to slow down and explore the sights.

Turon Gates

The big trip may have finished, but that is no reason to sit at home and watch tv (although the girls wouldn’t complain….)

Instead we are going to be exploring some of the beautiful places around the Sydney area, and perhaps sometimes a little further afield.

Turon Gates is a privately owned campsite on the inland side of the Blue Mountains, around 30-45 minutes west of Lithgow.  Driving from Sydney the most direct route is the Great Western Highway via Blackheath; more scenic is Bells Line of Road – there are some fine spots to stop for a picnic lunch looking out onto the escarpments.  Less enticing are the roadside stops.

To get to Turon Gates it is a left turn onto a dirt road just past the little village of Capertee. Along the way to Capertee you start to get a feel for how important coal is to this area, with mines and power stations on either side of the road.

Turon Gates itself lies in a valley alongside the Turon river.  On the way in there are cabins tucked into the trees, then at the back of the property is a grassed camping area on the edge of the river.  The camp area is on several different levels, pick of them is right down by the riverside, which is also the only spot where there is shade.  Along with various birds the river is also home to platypus.

We had originally planned to stay here over Easter, but were advised against by the owner.  You have to respect his honesty, I’d said we preferred peace and he knew Easter would be busy.  Makes a change from some places that just want your $ regardless.

As it was there were 2 other groups on the Friday night, with 2 more arriving on Saturday, so there was plenty of space for everyone and nothing to disturb the peace and quiet.

As well as bird watching and walking a drawcard is the horse riding.   Aside from Glenworth Valley this is one of the few places we have found where Charlotte is able to head off with a leader for a trail ride.   It’s a shame that so many places only allow younger riders to be led around on a rope.  The horses are often left to graze in the camping area, wonderful to see, but make sure not to leave any food out,

With hot showers, flush toilets and a beautiful location this is a great spot for a relaxing weekend (or more).

www.turongates.com