A Road Trip Outback Down Under (part 1 of 3)

by Lynn and John Salmon

(Jump to Part 2) // (Jump to Part 3)

July 8, 1995 (Departed Canberra)

We took our last glimpse of Stromlo Road (almost as moving as watching Mal Meninga's last scrum almost a year ago) and headed north toward Yass before turning west toward Wagga Wagga/Hay/Balrinald.

Our first decision was whether to take the dreaded "Tumut Road". Whenever I publicly observed that the map shows a shortcut from Canberra to Tumut that takes about 150km off the long and roundabout loop through Yass, I was given strange looks and people wondered aloud about my sanity. The long way is on major highway all the way, but I still have a hard time believing that the Tumut road gives Paris-Dakar rally drivers cold sweats. Nevertheless, we didn't want a broken axle on the first 50km of our trip, so adventure lost out to prudence, and we took the highway.

Somewhere between Wagga Wagga and Hay was a road sign depicting a cow and the words "Next 5km". Shortly thereafter we were driving against the flow of cattle for approximately 5km. This is our first experience of "outback" Australia. The sea of cows would part allowing the car to slowly continue west. At the end of the stream of cows was a pack of dogs and a "Man from Snowy River" cowboy.

We stopped for the night in Balrinald. The proprietor was surprised at the home address "Pasadena, CA" in the register. They don't get too may So. Cal. folks here. He also mentioned that we didn't have to unpack the car -- "It's pretty safe around here".

July 9, 1995 (To Mungo)

Out at 10am for the drive over very good unsealed roads to our first destination, Mungo National Park, part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Region.

We stop in at the visitor center where the fiberglass Zygomaturus is a must see. We learn that the ranger's boyfriend is visiting the US, where he is reportedly skiing in Florida. We verify that there is petrol in Pooncarie (an ever-present consideration when driving out here, and even more so farther west), and head into the park.

We spent some time exploring the area called "The Walls of China". These are said to look similar to the white cones of china clay seen on the skylines of Dartmoor, an area of England from which many of the early visiting miners came. Whatever the origin of the name they are an impressive 30km crescent of orange and white dune earth formations. Some of the formations have eroded in amazing patterns, looking like miniature versions of Monument Valley AZ, at 1/100th scale, while other areas are broad sweeping dunes and layers of multicolored sediment.

We met up with friends from Canberra, the Fullagars, Tracey, and Mike Warren soon after arriving in Mungo. We then took a leisurely drive around to Belah camp. On the drive we had an opportunity to race an emu running along side the car. We saw several blind western gray kangaroos and one large wedge tailed eagle earlier in the day.

Before dinner we drive to "Sunset point" and return 10km going the wrong way (slowly) on a one-way road. We take a wrong turn into the "Feral Goat Demonstration Project", but were unable to find any demonstrative goats.

July 10-11, 1995 (Mungo)

It was well below freezing during the night, but we were quite warm in our tent. It was cold in the morning, but we had a fire in camp during breakfast. We walked to the dunes (5km each way) and spent the day poking around looking at bones and even some intact animal skeletons. Some sightings included:

Fortunately, we had our expert, Peter Fullagar, along to help identify the fossils.

See more of our Mungo National Park photos.

We return to camp just as the weather turns sour, and to everyone's horror, enjoy a pre-dinner snack of DEB instant mashed potatoes and freeze-dried green beans.

After spending a second night camping in Mungo, we bade farewell to Dave, Tracey, Peter, Daphne, and msw in the morning on the 11th. We set out at a leisurely pace up toward Pooncarie (pop. 84). Pooncarie has everything we need: petrol for the car, fuel for the camp stove, some eggs, and a pub for lunch.

Lunch at the pub took quite some time. We ordered steaks, wanting a good feed before another night of camping. While waiting for food we sat at the bar and the bartender told us some stories about some friends of his that visited the US. In NY they picked up a hooker who turned out to be a bloke. Then he was interrupted by a call reminding him to pay up on the horse he bought the other night in some drunken scheme to enter the upcoming Darwin Cup.

After lunch we drove on to Kinchega NP. It took longer than expected and we didn't get there until near dark. We passed by some nice looking camp sites amongst some really huge red gum trees along the Darling river. We didn't stop for some reason, thinking things would be even better at the lakeside camp. Alas, it took longer than expected to reach the lakeside camp which was populated by unsupervised children running amok. We didn't do much at Kinchega. The most interesting thing was probably waking up in the middle of the night in a really dense fog. It was absolutely silent, and a fairly full moon made everything seem incredibly eerie. The park is much more pleasant in the morning, as the feral children are still sleeping, and vast numbers of birds are active. I hear clearly, and see in the distance a large flock of pink cockatoos flying off toward the sunrise. Honeyeaters are flitting everywhere about the camp and seem quite taken by the side-view mirrors on the car.

July 12-13, 1995 (Broken Hill)

As we drove, we periodically saw yellow "fruit" along the sides of the road as though a truck had driven along dumping lemons in its wake. We investigated the "fruit" more carefully and found it to be some type of squash, yellow in color and about the same size as a large lemon. There were heaps of them.

It's about an hour more to Broken Hill, after a brief stop at the Maidens Hotel in Menindee where Bourke and Wills outfitted for their ill-fated expedition. The hotel was run by the same family for many years, but the detailed history on the wall grows ominously vague around 1979, suggesting maybe it's now just another link in a chain. It has a very pleasant courtyard and a rather seedy looking bar.

City of Broken Hill nuclear free zone it says on a sign as we approach town. Why do I find it hard to believe that this is a deeply eco-conscious community? "$200 spot fine for littering". I guess that mountain of tailings that dominates the horizon isn't litter - or maybe BHP paid the fine and figures they can now litter as much as they like? The city was once a one-company town (Broken Hill Proprietary Co; BHP) and still mines silver, lead and zinc. The streets have names like Sulphide, Chloride, and Oxide, though our favorite was called Avenue Street. The local businesses have a fondness for puns in their business names. For example, a hairdresser called "Curl up and Dye", a fish aquarium store called "Fish Without Chips", and another hair salon called the "Jagged Edge".

In Broken Hill we decided to stay at the Mario's Palace Hotel located on the main drag. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was partly filmed here. The hotel has a certain charm. A 10 year old was working the bar as we came in. He didn't do room check-in and had to get an adult for that.

The next morning we stopped by a rock shop in town that had some great little trinkets. The proprietor was very knowledgeable, and very friendly. He was full of information about gems, minerals, mining, history, mineralogy, etc. The prices were unbelievably low. We bought a couple of little "rock ants". The ants are made of copper wire recycled from mining operations, they have a rock head and rock body and are perched on a small rock pedestal. A gift box made from recycled greeting cards or cereal boxes accompanies them. Only A$4.50. We were so impressed with the ants that we later ordered 10 more.

  Middleton's Rock Shop      (phone) 080 872561
  393 Argent Street
  Broken Hill

Our rock shopping was followed by a great tour of Delprats mine (the original BHP mine). At its peak, the Broken hill mines had 8000 men working. Today it's down to 600, but because of mechanization, overall productivity is up.

The tour lasted about 2.5 hours. We got dressed in miner coats, helmets with lamps, and carried a big battery on our belts. There was a cage elevator to descend the 450 feet to the level we toured and to get us back out again. The elevator can operate up to 50ft/sec, but the tourists only drop at 10ft/sec to avoid panic. There's a hole in the floor of the elevator, and when a flashlight is shone into it, one can see the shaft descend all the way to the center of the earth.

Our guide has been a miner for 30 years (his father's been at the mine for 42 years). He's the perfect tour guide. He has first-hand knowledge, and he loves to tell a story. He couldn't be happier spinning a yarn for a captive audience of 30 or 40 about the work, the technology and the lifestyle in and around the mine. He's none too impressed with today's "Hollywood miners" who sit in their air-conditioned earth movers with TV camera and coffee makers and never break a sweat. Back in his day it was eight hours of drilling and digging. It was hot, noisy and dusty. We got a demo of the drills. Air-powered and very loud in the confined space. There was also a sort-of mini-front-loader machine that was used for collecting blasted rock and hauling it back to the elevators for removal. The thing just appeared to have a mind of its own. It jerked and spat and heaved in different directions with incredible noise and force. If it weren't in a mine it would have had a huge sign on it saying "DANGEROUS MACHINERY. STAND CLEAR." There were other demonstrations like checking the "backs" for loose stones by pinging them with a steel rod. Solid rock sounds very different from a loose and potentially dangerous stone.

After a quick lunch we drove to Mootwinge National Park. (I believe the Aboriginal people prefer the spelling Mutawinje). The drive took a little over 2 hours on dirt road and we arrived at the camp site near dusk. We noticed that there was a guided "full moon-rise" walk, but we figured we could probably find it for ourselves without a map :-). As the sun went down, the sky was overcast, and we figured it would be a bust, but after a short time, the sky cleared and the moon rose into a clear sky. It was a surprisingly novel experience. I've watched the sun rise over the horizon and set below it many times, but I've never really taken note of moon rise before. It's near mid-winter, so the sky has had some time to darken between sunset and moon rise, and a full moon in a clear sky is very bright. We take a walk under moonlight up the ridge on the opposite side of the road from the campsite.

July 14, 1995 (Mootwinge)

We took a tour of the historic sacred rock art site in the morning. This site is only accessible by guided tour because some of the pieces were vandalized/stolen by university students in 1983. The two women who led our group of about 20 had a very bad attitude. This is a statement of fact and not necessarily a criticism. They probably have good reason to harbor a bad attitude. It does make the tour a bit uncomfortable, though. Some of the rock art was interesting (various animals and a lot of hand prints, reminiscent of the Black Hand) . I was left with the impression that either a) they didn't want to tell the whites about its real significance, b) they didn't know its significance, and/or c) they were repeating what they have been told by white archaeologists and anthropologists. All in all the vibes were very bad, and we decided not to sign up for the evening "bush tucker feast".

The visitor center is heavy with bitterness about the white invasion. It is clear that the local people feel they would be better off if the whites never came, and that co-existence is fragile at best. The park was closed for a few days in 1983 after the vandalism/theft. After that incident (I think), the local aboriginal community became the "owners" of the park, but I still feel I'm trespassing against their will on land that they "own" only in name, but can't exercise full control over, e.g., to keep me out.

After the tour we made lunch, then took a few short walks through the gorge area. The physical beauty of Mootwinge was spectacular, and there were a number of other promising walks, so it would have been nice to spend another day. We took a side road out toward Wilcania. It was a very nice drive through various properties over what appears to be mostly private land on a dirt track. I had to get out frequently to open and close gates for the car to pass. Every gate had a different chain closure mechanism rigged up. In the middle of nowhere, one gate has a "Neighborhood Watch" program sign on it. Strange when the nearest neighbor is probably 40km away. We raced a couple more emus (35 km/hr) along the way.

It was 2-3 hours before we reached the sealed highway. It took quite a while longer and was getting dark before we reached town. I think it was on this stretch of road that we passed a sign, "Kangaroo Next 200km", which gives an idea of the distances between settlements. It becomes dangerous to drive after dark, as the animals start to come out to use the bitumen for warmth, there not being enough traffic in general to prevent this. We came close to hitting a couple of wild horses.

We stayed the night in a motel in Wilcania and had dinner at the Golf Club. When we signed the register, I was asked if I was related to "Big Jim". I said no, even though my brother is named James, I don't think he's known in these parts. It turns out that Big Jim is the local publican. Lonely Planet's advice is: "don't visit the pub unless you are an experienced barroom brawler". As we drive past, it's like a scene from a spaghetti western, with people flying out of swinging doors and onlookers watching a fight in progress. I decide not to go introduce myself to Big Jim.

July 15, 1995 (On to Dubbo)

John was scheduled to attend a conference on Heron Island which meant getting a boat from Rockhampton on July 16. Unfortunately, we were nowhere near Rockhampton and we were unlikely to make it there safely by car in one day. Examining our maps Dubbo seemed a likely target, perhaps an overnight bus would take us the rest of the way and we could come back for the car in a week.

We really liked the territory out "back of Bourke" and it was with disappointment that we headed east and gradually approached civilization again. It took all day to reach Dubbo and driving with traffic is quite a shock. The hoped for bus did not exist, so we made the critical decision to skip the conference. John was not presenting any papers, just attending. So we sent a FAX to one of John's colleagues who was already at Heron Island, explaining that we were in Dubbo and would not make it to the conference. Later, we learned that this fax attained near legendary status amongst the students at Stromlo, many of whom drive through Dubbo on the way to the observatories at Coonabarabran, and for whom Dubbo holds little attraction.

July 16, 1995 (Lynn's Birthday in Dubbo)

Australia has a couple of very good zoos, one is in Sydney and the other is the Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The Dubbo Zoo has an early morning (7am) guided walk behind the scenes that they offer now and then. We woke at 6:30 and made it to the zoo by 6:50. It's a Ridley Scott morning, very atmospheric, lots of fog, beams of sunlight streaming through the trees.

The dawn walk through the zoo was excellent. First up were some South African dogs. They were up and about, but difficult to see. We then got to meet some of the Rhinos. There are both black and white rhinos at the zoo. The "white" rhinos are named by a mispronunciation of "wide", referring to their lips. The black rhinos are then doubly misnamed, as in: "they're not white rhinos, so they must be black rhinos". Two of the white Rhinos were named Tom and Nicole. Tom came when called and sidled up to a very sturdy wooden fence, through which we could reach in and give him a pat on the side or horn. A rhino "up close and personal" is awfully large.

Next stop was the white-handed gibbons doing their morning aerobics workout. Nothing like a bit of tightrope walking, some trapeze work and a few one-armed pull-ups to start the day.

Finally, we visited the Siamangs, who start the day with a song. They have an inflatable "bagpipe" mechanism in their throat which allows them to carry a low note while at the same time howling and shouting with a more bird-like voice. They are letting any other nearby Siamangs know that they're here. Apparently they don't mind that nobody ever responds, as the nearest Siamangs are probably in Sumatra. We visited them later in the day and found them just sitting around. quietly picking lint off each other.

The siamangs are kept on an island surrounded by a moat that is clogged with pink flowers. We didn't even know it was a moat until we saw ducks on it. Later in the day, a small child was fooled as well, and Dad had to go in and retrieve him, resulting in a very wet family.

The walk was led by a volunteer named Steve Thomas ("Hi, I'm Steve Thomas, and welcome to this old Zoo"). He's a cosmopolitan kind of guy who seems a bit out of place in pastoral Dubbo. He seemed to really enjoy the animals and knew all the gossip, e.g., who's sleeping with whom (Tom and Nicole), who's been trying to escape, etc. It is well known that pannus monkeys will not cross water. After the second escape from their island, the pannus monkeys were wise to the traps that had caught them the first time. The keepers ended up leaving valium-laced fruit around the park, and collected a bunch of very relaxed monkeys later in the evening. All but one, who was found on a neighbors porch the next morning.

July 17, 1995 (On the road to Coonabarabran)

Trip mileage = 2440km at Coonabarabran.

Leaving Dubbo we took a scenic route (i.e., gravel road) north to Coonabarabran passing through the Warrumbungle National Park. Near Coonabarabran we stopped at Siding Springs Observatory and spent more than an hour looking around the visitor center which is very nicely done. Lynn learned that Uranus rotates on its side, among other things. John liked the 14-inch Schmidt plates which showed just how much detail is missing from his cosmological simulations.

While driving we saw a couple of mysterious road signs. The signs had a big black spot in the center with the words "Fatigue black spot ahead". We saw this sign twice but could not discern anything around the sign or afterwards on the road that made sense of the sign. The truck traffic is getting terrifying, so we stopped for the evening in Uralla, known for where bushranger Captain Thunderbolt is buried. Surprisingly, the truck traffic continues all night.

July 18-19, 1995 (Gondwana World Heritage including Dorrigo)

While checking out, John has a long chat with the manager. He used to work on the trains out of Goulburn (near Canberra). He's not in favor of the government policy which is apparently to put everything but wheat and coal on trucks, and to de-staff the train stations -- turning them into homeless shelters, just like in the USA.

We drove east, stopping briefly at Wollomombi Falls, one of the longest falls in Australia. We walked a short way to Check's Lookout named for a photographer who recorded the falls from that spot in 1902. A reproduction of the photo was at the lookout place. The drive for the last few hours has been through rolling hills, pastoral scenes of horses and hay fields and gently winding roads. It just ends suddenly at Check's Lookout, at a spectacular cliff several hundred meters high. We encountered a redback spider (the Australian cousin of the North American black widow) on the walk back from the falls. We have heard about these endlessly from our friends at Stromlo. There's nothing the Australians like to tell foreigners about more than redbacks, funnelwebs and all the poisonous snakes one might encounter in the back yard. This is our first redback, though we did see a brown snake in our back yard once.

We next went to New England National Park (part of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage). Although it was a beautiful sunny day, there was a fierce biting cold wind that made it unpleasant to get out of the car. We drove around the park, but kept getting chilled each time we emerged from the car and got back in again. We did brave the wind long enough to make lunch at a camp site using the car as a wind shield on one side. We got out of the wind and drove on to Dorrigo.

We stopped at the Dorrigo Lodge. The manager starts out by telling us all the other places in town we could stay, but when we decide to stay here, he is very helpful. He gives us a map, and tells us about a dozen or so bushwalks and drives in the area. He recommends dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the Bowling Club, which ends up being surprisingly good, but the huge crowd is neither bowling nor eating Chinese. We never really discern what they are doing, but it looks a bit like Bingo.

There was a TV at the Dorrigo Lodge, and we watched some silly Australian children's show a couple of times in the mornings. There was a particular song that would stick in the head:

Three jelly fish,
Three jelly fish,
 Sitting on a rock,
 Sitting on a rock,
One Fell Off
Two Jelly fish
Two Jelly fish


Dorrigo National Park is great. Arriving shortly after 4pm, we only got a brief look on our first visit. There is a short skywalk built along the forest canopy which gives a perspective completely different from the forest floor. We also walked a short way along one of the trails in the forest and caught a glimpse of an animal (possibly a sugar glider) climbing through the trees. We heard many birds but didn't catch sight of most of them. On the way out we saw a couple of bats hanging from a branch.

We noticed a sign saying the skywalk was open 24-hours a day. So after dinner we went back to the canopy skywalk to see how different the rain forest felt at night. The stars were wonderful. There were heaps of them and the milky way was very dense and easily visible. It was dark and the moon had not yet risen so it was an excellent night for stargazing. The forest had a completely different set of sounds at night, a lot of squeaks and chirps, but we didn't see any night life. It was very spooky as we got down to the forest floor and ventured a few hundred meters along the trail. When we turned off the flashlights, there was absolutely no light, and our eyes never really adjusted.

We started the next day with the 3 hour Wonga Wonga walk. We heard many times, but did not see the whipbird, known for its distinctive whip-like call. At one point there is a second raised platform that goes for about 100m at about mid-canopy, giving one glimpses of a completely different bird population. We did see plenty of Australian brushturkeys and various other birds including wrens, robins, parrots, and three lyrebirds. One of the lyrebirds was turning over rocks and scratching around for insects. Out of curiosity, we lifted one of the bigger rocks the bird had moved and estimated the rock weighed about 8 lbs. It was a beautiful walk, and we saw very few people. One gentleman that we did meet on the trail commented that it was "the finest walk he had ever done in NSW parks". We couldn't agree more.

After the walk we had lunch at the Canopy Cafe at the rain forest center (delicious scones with jam and cream). We then took a long scenic drive through the neighboring state forest. There are conspicuous signs saying "No Caravans", but logging trucks are OK. We saw Norman Jolly's trees and stopped at Platypus Flat. Platypus Flat was a lovely little lake with a picnic area, but we saw none of the shy platypuses, despite following instructions and sitting quietly on the bank near sunset. The drive back to the lodge was on dirt roads marked 100km/hr for which any speed greater than 40km/hr seemed too fast.

We concluded our stay in Dorrigo with a final walk near the Never Never picnic area. Alas, there were no elves or fairies. The walk was nice, but nothing like the one yesterday. The area here has been heavily logged, and there are some very big stumps. The trail leads to a waterfall, which would be a great spot on a hot day, and we decide to sit for a while. On the other side of the valley we can clearly see streaks of green where water pours down the hillside, surrounded by the grayer eucalyptus forest.

July 20-21, 1995 (Coffs Harbor to Casino)

In the afternoon we drove to Coffs Harbor along a pretty twisty-turny road passing through Belingen. At Coffs Harbor we visited the Big Banana and found seafood for dinner. The next morning we visited the jetty area and walked out to Mutton Bird Island which is only a short distance along the north side of the jetty. The shearwaters were all away at this time of year, but we spotted a couple of whales heading north in the far distance.

Our trip mileage so far = 3102km. Here is a small map of the area.

While driving north to Grafton we had car trouble. The clutch began to fail and we had to get it replaced (A$395). Total mileage on the car at clutch replacement was 79,012km. Fortunately this happened in a town, with a mechanic, and the part was in stock.

We spent 3 hours in Grafton, so we had a chance to get to know the place. It's another "town that time forgot". The fashion in the store windows was right out of LOOK magazine, circa 1963. The storefronts themselves look very 1930s, although the merchandise (other than fashions) is up-to-date. We have a mugochino and then go sit by the river watching pelicans and ducks until the car was ready. The river is very peaceful today, but there's a small memorial to 13 cub scouts who were killed in a punting accident in 1943. There is a meter stick indicating the level of the river, with markings up to 8m above today's level, so at some times of year they must get a heck of a lot of water through here. The car repair qualified us to enter a drawing for a free house in Grafton. We don't know if we won or not. Drawing results were supposed to be posted in the Daily Examiner on Monday, October 23, 1995, but we had left the country by then.

We drove on to Casino (Beef Capital) about 100km farther north and stopped as sunset approached. We found a really nice restaurant for dinner called Mediano. There was some shaggy-dog story on the menu about Casin-O and Median-O who met and created the restaurant. I didn't get the joke, but the dinner was excellent. I had a "Mexican" dish that wasn't very Mexican but was very tasty.

We returned to the room to get our first experience of H.G. and Roy at Club Buggery - an Australian institution (apparently). I think they are too Australian for me. I just don't understand most of what they are on about. I do like the guest intros in two-part harmony. One of their guests didn't seem to understand them any better than I did. They do like to say the words "Club Buggery" a lot. That's for sure.

July 22-23, 1995 (Border Ranges)

It was a pleasant drive north from Casino through Kyogle and on to the Tweed Range Scenic Drive, a one-way 64km drive through Border Ranges National Park. I drove slowly and we reached the first stopping point at Bar Mountain around noon. There was a picnic area and after cooking lunch we decided to take the scenic walk to an overnight camp area. We had to repack all our gear from car-camp-mode to backpack-mode and it was nearly 2pm before we began walking.

Our various guidebooks and pamphlets had conflicting information about the walk. One said it was 6km, one said 3.5km, another 3 hours. Not sure which to believe we set off hoping to find the camp between 1.5 to 2 hours. After 2 hours had passed we started to believe that we must have missed the camp, and sure enough, we completed the loop and found ourselves back at the car park in 2.5 hours. Fortunately, we tried again and found the camp site on the second pass.

The camp site had the stump of an enormous old tree with some smaller tree stumps around it forming a wonderful table and chairs. We were all alone in the rain forest which gets very loud at night. We saw a possum and heard many bats. The wind seemed to be howling overhead, but it was calm where we were down inside the forest. It was a great spot. It's comforting knowing that there's nothing especially dangerous in the Australian bush. No bears. No mountain lions. No hyenas. No moose. Not even badgers or raccoons. We can sleep peacefully, knowing that all the racket is being made by animals who don't think we're dinner.

Back in Casino (Beef Capital) we had bought some prime rib-eye steak. I realize it was a good choice, as I cut it up in the dying light with my Swiss Army knife. Since we are going to have to cook in the dark, with slightly iffy technology, at least we know the meat will be good even if it it's raw! In fact it's very good.

After taking a leisurely brekkie we walked out from camp and continued along the scenic drive to the next stopping point, the Blackbutts Picnic Area which has great views of the Tweed Valley and Mt. Warning. The Tweed Valley is an ancient eroded shield volcano's caldera with the remnant magma chamber (Mt. Warning) left after 20 million years of wind and water erosion.

After lunch we met some very friendly and outgoing people. Irene and Phillip Sivyer, Phillip's sister Nora and her husband Darryl, plus their friend Denis Lane. We fell into conversation with them for more than an hour. The conversation ranged over topics such as poker games run in elevators, astronomy, art conservation, and American Indians. We are invited to stay at Irene's place near Brisbane and have dinner next week.

We continued driving to our next stop at The Pinnacle which is advertised as one of the best short walks in Australia. It involves a climb out along a narrow sheer sided finger of volcanic rock. A sign at the start merely says, "steep--slippery when wet, be careful." We went perhaps half way and decided we couldn't make it out and back before dark and turned back. The sign said "1 hr return", which is clearly impossible for anything but a mountain goat. It was very steep, but definitely a worthwhile walk.

We drove most of the way to the end of the scenic drive and stopped for the evening at Forest Tops camp area. Not another soul was there and only two cars passed after we stopped for the night. We had a wonderful little camp area with picnic tables, toilets, tank water and a grassy clearing for our tent all to ourselves. We saw another possum and again heard bats all night, plus a cat-bird. I tried to build a fire, but failed, even with copious amounts of meths added as starter.

(Continue to Queensland)

Lynn Garry Salmon <>{

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