The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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I’ve Seen Sawn Rocks!

Sawn Rocks at Mt Kaputar National Park in New South Wales are an amazing cathedral like formation, the result of a lava flow from the Nandewar Volcano between 17million and 21 million years ago – I find that time frame hard to get my head around!

The forty (40) metre high cliff face visible at Sawn Rocks is the sheared off remains of a basalt lava flow from the (now extinct) Nandewar Volcano ….The striking columnar fractures are a result of the cooling process: the basalt cools from the outside toward the centre, causing shrinkage cracks to form, commonly, in a hexagonal pattern. The shape of the columns is attributed to tensional stress. When the molten rock within the basalt lava flow cooled slowly and, importantly, evenly, this enabled the individual crystals within the molten rock to align perfectly with each other.

While this type of six-sided (hexagonal) ‘organ piping’ is not rare to lava flows it is exceptionally rare to find them so perfectly formed and preserved and Sawn Rocks is recognised as being one of the best examples of columnar jointing in Australia.

 

Some of these pillars had fallen to the ground and sheared off to look like perfectly formed paving stones.

Mt Kaputar is the highest peak in New South Wales outside the Great Dividing Range and when I went on a guided tour there we were told that from the top of Mt Kaputar there is nothing to obstruct a view all the way to South Africa. Obviously it needs greater vision than I have but isn’t it interesting to think there is nothing as high or higher for just over 11,000 kilometres.

Mount Kaputar, Mount Kaputar National ParkTwo volcanos pushed Mount Kaputar high above the plains, and millions of years of erosion have carved a dramatic landscape of narrow valleys and steep ridges. Many of the mountains are ancient lava terraces. Experience ancient history for yourself by standing on Lindsay Rock Tops – an excellent example of a lava terrace.  (Information and photo from http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au)

Pink Slug (Triboniophorus aff. graeffei), Mount Kaputar National ParkNow here’s something you won’t find in any old back yard! Mount Kaputar is famous for a very unusual, colourful local – a bright pink slug. It can be seen after rain on rocks, trees and amongst the leaf litter. Not what you’d call your common garden variety of slug.

 

Sawn Rocks is located 64km out of Bingara on the road to Narrabri. On the way you pass the ancient Rocky Creek Glacial Area. The glaciers that we are more familiar with were formed about one million years ago but this glaciation is very old, dating back some 290 million years to the Carboniferous Period. A vast amount of weathering and erosion occurs in over 200 million years, so all the original glacial landscape features have been eroded away and replaced by those typically associated with running water.

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Bingara is a perfect base to explore this wonderful landscape. It was recently named the Free Camp Capitol of Australia and the town values all the different tourists who discover all it has to offer. Can you say “I’ve seen Sawn Rocks”?

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What does this Rollingstone gather?

Rollingstone QueenslandNo moss, that’s for sure, but it does appeal to a lot of campers. It’s a large free camp about 1km off the highway heading north from Townsville. If you are planning on staying here at this time of the year (June/July) you need to arrive early and wait for a spot. It’s very shady, so if you are relying on solar power there’s only a few places that will give you full sun to charge up those batteries.

I went for a walk along the river that flows along the edge of the park and there were a couple of nice swimming holes. I was tempted to take Brutus off road here and have this beautiful spot all to myself, but I wasn’t sure if I might be sharing it with some local crocodiles, so thought better of it.

IMG_7816Rollingstone

A couple of days at Rollingstone and it was time to move on, but not before I took a drive to Balgal Beach, about 5 kms away. Just past that lovely waterhole above you have to go under a 2.4 metre high bridge which Brutus had no problems with at all (even though I did duck my head)! A bigger motorhome than mine – aren’t they all? – and you would have to go back out to the highway and take the long way round.

The countryside was literally ripe for the picking – pineapples, pumpkins and mangoes in paddocks as far as the eye could see.

 

This sign helped me decide that today wasn’t the day for swimming!

Go as far north as you can along the Esplanade and there is a little cafe with the best waterfront location you could wish for. It’s called Fisherman’s Landing and is right opposite the small free camp and looks out over the water. I’ve been told it has great fish and chips, too.

There is a grassy foreshore park that was providing a feast for the local red-tailed black cockatoos. These photos don’t really show you how big these birds are and you will need to look closely to distinguish their tails from the flurry of red leaves scattering the ground.

I didn’t stay at Balgal Beach this time around but it’s certainly on my list of places to stay in the future. And with a fish and chip shop over the road, what more could a girl ask for?


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The Nindigully Pub

On my way back to Queensland a few weeks ago I turned left instead of right when I left Moree and visited the Nindigully Pub, a well known stopover for travellers. It offers free camping in the grounds or down along the river with a donation tin on the bar for charity.

Nindigully map

The pub is 160 kilometres west of Goondiwindi, 45 kilometres east of St George and approximately 70 kilometres north of the Queensland/New South Wales border. It is situated on the banks of the Moonie River.

IMG_7625Nindigully Pub

It looks like many other outback pubs in Australia but has a fantastic atmosphere, friendly staff and is “must do” destination for travellers like myself.

 

Not long after I arrived I met a couple of other solo travellers from a group I belong to called Rolling Solos. Bev and Judy gave me the lay of the land and mentioned they were being visited by another Roller, Ruth, the next day. Well, I had to stay on for another night to catch up with Ruth, who I had met when I stayed at Ariah Park a few weeks earlier!  We were off to the pub for lunch!

Nindigully Pub

Bev, Ruth and Judy in the beer garden.

The Nindigully Pub is well known for a good meal and we all enjoyed our lunch. I had a burger but NOT the one they are famous for! It’s called the Road Hog, costs $60 and feeds about 6 hungry people. The little one was still too much for me!

 

There was a nice walk along the banks of the Moonie River and this very dilapidated bridge that tempted a couple of fishermen when I was there – I took notice of the Warning Sign though and stayed well clear!

There was a heck of a racket going on one day – I thought someone was letting off fireworks. It turned out to be an army exercise and soldiers wandered past our vans looking for snipers….. not too many of them to be found among the grey nomads!

Well, that’s another experience ticked off the bucket list! Funny how it never gets shorter though …. I meet someone else who tells me of another place to see so more goes on the list than comes off it. Bev and Judy told me about an emu egg carver in St George so I’m going to detour yet again!

Pyengana, Tasmania


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A Tourist in Tasmania – Pyengana

Pyengana is on the road between Scottsdale and St Helens in the North-East of Tasmania. There is a wonderful cheese factory there that is well worth a visit.

I was lucky to arrive there just as a tasting and explanation was starting and got to sample some lovely tasty cheeses. They are mainly aged cloth wrapped cheddars but some are also packaged with chilli, peppercorns and the like.

Needless to say the countryside around Pyengana was full of dairy cattle and there were even some waiting to be milked at the back of the cheese factory! Now that’s fresh!

Keep driving past the Holy Cow cafe and cheese factory and you will discover a famous Tassie icon, the Pub in the Paddock. First licensed around 1880 it is one of the oldest pubs in the state. And if you relax over a few beers you can stay overnight out the back in the paddock! Love these RV Friendly Destinations!

Pyengana is also an RV Friendly town, with camping available at the Recreation Ground for a donation. Now that’s a sign I love to see!

The drive from Scottsdale to St Helens is pretty, through lush pastures, tall timbers and tree ferns, but the road is narrow and winding with a couple of hair-pin bends to negotiate. Brutus the Beast just hates these hills, and we crawl up them in 2nd and 3rd gear using copious quantities of petrol along the way.

There are signs of spring everywhere with little white lambs, black angus calves and bright yellow wattle and daffodils lining the road.

You travel along the edge of The Blue Tier which has some wonderful walks available. I was going to do the Halls Falls walk (only 90 minutes) but the weather was threatening so it’s on the list for the next time I’m up this way.

Detour into Pyengana  when you visit Tasmania and you’ll enjoy what this little stopover has to offer.

Bridport, Tasmania


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A Tourist in Tasmania – Bridport

Bridport is on the north east coast of Tasmania, a pretty fishing village with many small cove like beaches.

The caravan park and camping ground extends for ever along the foreshore but was cost prohibitive for me at $25 a night for an unpowered site. It did have lovely beach/bush camping areas though.

There are extensive walking tracks around the area and along the waterfront that direct you to some of the local historical landmarks like the old jetty.

Bridport, Tasmania

Bridport, Tasmania

The Old Jetty, Bridport

There is lovely safe swimming here in what is delightfully called Mermaids Pool, naturally created by the rocks and the tide. It makes you wish you were a mermaid!

Bridport, Tasmania

At the entry to the town you cross a small inlet where a couple of fishing boats are moored and I also noticed fish hatchery ponds on the way in.

I love the look of these old jetties when you look up the creek the other way! They don’t look too substantial, do they?

I was in Bridport to get the canvas replaced on Brutus the Beast, my pop top campervan and I can highly recommend Kerry, the Canvas Man from North East Canvas if you need any canvas work done. I know some of my travelling buddies have often needed awning repairs etc, so he’s your man when you’re in Tasmania! He was so quick – within 24 hours the old canvas was gone and a brand new PVC ‘hat’ was installed.

 

Happy Campers: There is no free camping in Bridport and the caravan park has a monopoly on waterfront locations. There is free camping at Scottsdale, just 20kms away, but that is the subject of another blog!

 

 

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania


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A Tourist in Tasmania – Oatlands & Oxen

Oatlands has just held its annual Heritage Fair, and one of our neighbours mentioned there would be a bullock team there. I thought that was too good an opportunity to miss. How many bullock teams have you had the chance of seeing lately?

Oatlands

Heritage HighwayOatlands is on the Heritage Highway, which travels between Launceston and Hobart, and follows the route of the first ‘main road’in Tasmania. You might recognise a couple of the towns that I have already written about in previous blogs – Ross and Campbell Town.

 

The Heritage Highway traces much of the original route between Launceston and Hobart, built by convict road gangs in the early 1800s. Drive through rolling farmlands, explore charming Georgian villages, stay on historic pastoral properties and savour the rich and colourful history of the place and its people. 

I took the opportunity to join Karen and her delightful 2 year old son, Joe, who was really keen to see the bullocks, too, although I think at the end of the day it was the roadwork machinery that excited him more. He’s such a boy! A running commentary from the back seat told us about graders, diggers, dump trucks and steamrollers – it certainly made a change from exploring with only my own company.

Callington Mill was the place to start. It’s an old flour mill that continues to produce flour, mainly for tourists these days. The tourist information is centred there and you can buy flour for your home baking. Not being a baker, I found some nice locally produced Dijon mustard instead.

Callington Mill, Oatlands, Tasmania

One of the local chaps urged us to the main street where the bullock team would be travelling on its way up to the mill. I found this great article from the ABC about Brian Fish, the bullocky, and what his plans for the day were. He’s a great character and loaded with information. I love coming across people with such passion. Here’s Brian with his 12 span team hauling the dray loaded with bales of wool – and a few more photos of the team.

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Brian Fish and his bullock team

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Look at the size of these bullocks

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

Each bale of wool weighs about 400kg

Bullock Team, Oatlands, Tasmania

This is how it was done in the old days!

The last time I saw a bullock team was at the Yarram Easter Parade in Gippsland, Victoria in 1993. From memory it was a 6 span and back then I thought I might never see one again, so how lucky am I to see a 12 span in 2016! You’ve got to love the people that keep these traditions alive.

Bullock team at Yarram, Victoria

Bullock team at Yarram Easter Parade 1993

There was also a display of colourful old drays and wagons, some restored but many in their now dilapidated condition waiting for an enthusiast to shower them with love – and a bit of paint.

 

In keeping with the Heritage theme there was a lovely old car and a horse drawn carriage that paraded down the main street, too.

When the bullocks arrived at the mill they were unhitched but still yolked together. Apparently they form quite a bond with their partner and learn to accommodate what the other one wants and how they want to move.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

I’m very brave standing near these huge beasts!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Now this is a tractor!

In keeping with the Heritage theme there was also an extensive array of arts and crafts happening but unfortunately we weren’t given a program until too late to see many of these events. We just missed the sheep shearing but did manage to see the quilt display and spinners at work. I love the name of their group – Sippers and SewHers.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

I couldn’t leave Oatlands without capturing some of the lovely old stone buildings.

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Happy Campers: Here’s a sign we love to see!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Free Camping for 3 nights, right on the lake

And this is what you would wake up to.

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

Topiary at Lake Dulverton, Oatlands, Tasmania

Can’t resist using this photo to declare this is THE END of today’s blog!

Heritage Fair, Oatlands, Tasmania

THE END!

 

 

 


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Going Around the Bend!

This constant heat could send you around the bend but I was saved from the worst of it by the cool waters of the Murray River as I made my way from Mildura to Echuca before heading north towards Forbes and our Solo Travellers Rally. All my Murray River camps were at a Bend, which isn’t hard when this old river loops around along its 2500kilometre journey from the mountains to the sea.

I found this map that highlights the areas that I camped. What a coincidence that it’s a map of the Murray River Wine Region. This time though I was more interested in water than wine – water of the swimming kind!

Murray-wine-map

After leaving Broken Hill I travelled south about 250kms to Mildura. I found a wonderful spot on the river called Abbotsford Bend and stayed there 4 nights, with some active goannas keeping me amused during the day. There are no facilities here but it is free!

My next stop over was at Psyche Bend, the site of an old pump station on the Murray not far from Mildura. The last time I stayed here it rained and I had a very slippery trip back out to the main road but there has been considerable work done to the camp sites here with road base laid down and planting between the very large sites.Each site had a fire pit, too. There are still no facilities but there is also no charge to stay here.

Beggs Bend was my next camping spot, near Robinvale. Once again another freebie, and another opportunity to cool down in the Murray River. No facilities here either but by now I know I have about 4 days use of my porta-loo before I need to find a black water dump point. So I stayed here another 4 nights! I just about lived in the water here as I parked the van at the water’s edge. A top spot!

Swan Hill was my next main town and I was looking forward to catching up with Helen, who was my Dad’s home help when he was alive. Helen and I had always got on really well and her and her husband Paul were very caring. We had a great afternoon together and I’m looking forward to seeing them again on my way Tasmania later this year. I stayed at Lake Boga for a couple of nights while I was in this area. It was $7.50 a night with toilets and lovely hot showers (no power though). There is water in the lake now as they pump it in and it is used for irrigation in the area, finally making its way back to the Murray River.I captured this stunning sunset the first night I was there.

IMG_6244Lake Boga

And now I’m back to the bends! This time it was Betha Bend, just out of Echuca. I only had one night here as I was on my way to Greens Lake to catch up with the couple I am house-sitting for in May, Elaine and Bob. Betha Bend is also a free camp and another very pretty spot to spend some time.

I am sure I would have gone around the bend if it hadn’t been for all these wonderful bends in the Murray River and the fact that they are so accessible to travellers like myself. I have a very lucky life!