Day 180 – New England
Like I’d wanted yesterday, first thing we did today was head to the Warrumbungle National Park. It was a little backtrack, but nothing substantial (at least that’s what I told Risa, who wasn’t feeling super energetic today, and wasn’t all that excited about some rocky mountains). Our private campsite wasn’t blessed with the luxuries of a bathroom, so we got moving early and had breakfast in the sleepy town of Tooraweenah. I couldn’t believe just how peaceful it was here (other than the chickens/roosters/birds), but I had forgotten that it was before 8AM on a Saturday morning.
The Warrumbungle Ranges really dominate the horizon in this area, and I was loving the drive out to meet them. I was really going in to this park blind – I hadn’t read any information in Lonely Planet, nor seen anything anywhere else. I could see that there were mountains, so I knew there would be walking trails and beautiful lookouts. As we entered the park, I was surprised at how busy the campsites were – it looked like it was school holidays, except there were very few children. The next thing I noticed was how burnt the area looked – there must have been quite a bushfire that passed through here not too long ago.
It wasn’t until we arrived at demountable buildings that are being used as a temporary visitor information centre did we understand more about what was going on. Firstly, turned out there was a concert (Crooked Mountain Concert) going on that weekend, which probably explains why the place was so busy (and why it was so busy last night). Secondly, there had been a large fire that had swept through the area in January, consuming vast swathes of bushland (as well as the original visitor information centre). The concert didn’t affect us, but unfortunately, even though the fires were nearly 10 months ago, the majority of the trails in the national park are still closed…
I was given two options: A full day strenuous trek, or a 15-minute gentle walk to a lookout. Normally I’d have chosen the full day trek, but we were actually wanting to get home tomorrow (and Risa wasn’t feeling very well), so I had to be content with the wheel-chair friendly trail that led to a nice but distant vista of the ranges. This area is all that remains of a rather large volcano, with the rocky outcrops the solid inner cores. I loved their rugged beauty, and can only imagine what the view is like up closer.
A little more driving, quickly passing through Coonabarabran and Gunnedah, we were in Tamworth, which to me is famous for country music. There is a giant golden guitar and a country music museum, but I couldn’t think of anything worse, so we kept on driving…
As we were driving towards Armidale from Tamworth, we drove through a small town called Uralla. I wouldn’t have thought anything of it, except there was a small picture of a church that I have seen photographed before (here: http://www.australianlight.com.au/galleries/view/15/foggy_gostwyck_sunrise/ ) and I thought at the time that it was exceptionally beautiful. It took us a little bit of searching to find what that church was called, and where it was, but perseverance paid off, and we were on our way to Gostwyck Chapel, 10km east of town. Fortunately the road wasn’t busy, as it was little more than a single bitumen lane. Leading up to the tiny chapel that sits inside what is essentially a traffic island are rows of impressively large trees, making the area feel very stately. It was a pretty church, covered in vibrant green vegetation, but it was nowhere as beautiful as it looked in the photo during autumn when the leaves all turn red. After walking around the small church a few times, we ran out of ideas and continued on our way to Armidale, but instead of returning back the way we came, we continued on through beautiful farmland on the back roads.
We continued driving towards the East Coast, but we didn’t get much past Armidale before we called it a night at the surprising Ebor Falls. I say surprising because we really didn’t expect much, even though we were technically following the ‘Waterfall Way’ (If we’d done our research better, we would have seen quite a few beautiful waterfalls along the way). There wasn’t a great deal of water flowing, but the size and the column-like structure made it look stunning. The information board said this is part of a very long fault line that continues towards Tenterfield. We weren’t technically meant to camp here, but we took a chance and parked in one of the picnic areas. I like to think that we’re rather low impact, taking our rubbish with us and not causing any damage.
Out of nowhere the sky turned a vivid peach colour, which combined with the enormous clouds and smoke from the bushfires was quite a show. Once again, I was wishing that I was in a more photogenic area to really be able to really capture the beauty.
Those big clouds weren’t bluffs, as it started to get dark, we could see the feint glimmer of lightning rumbling through the clouds on the horizon. The lightning was contained within the clouds, so at the time it wasn’t very photogenic. Eventually the storm made its way to us, and now we were really in the midst of an amazing and very active storm – there was constant lightning flashing all around us, though fortunately, most of it was quite some distance away. There was lots of great forks criss-crossing the sky, but with the rain now pouring down outside, I still couldn’t photograph it (so I settled for a couple of quick photos inside the car). It’s been a long time since we really experienced storm season, and we’re starting to enjoy it – it’s the way I remember summertime evenings in South-East Queensland.