So much to see, so little time. Part 2

Sunday 21st October

We slept in, and slowly emerged from our nylon cocoons. Zoe got the fire going without using matches. For breakfast we had Cup-O-Soups, Baked Beans, Apples. Then we packed the car and once again we were on the road. This time our destination was Victoria, and the Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park. We also had a very interesting drive along the shoreline of Lake Hume, a huge man made lake which was more full than we have every seen it.

Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park has a number of interesting features, not least of which is a gigantic monolith (‘single massive stone’) called Pine Mountain. It is reputedly about 1 1/2 times the size of Ayers Rock (Uluru) in central Australia. We didn’t visit Pine Mountain itself. We decided we could come back another day or weekend and do some further exploring. But we did visit Bluff Falls. Bluff Falls cascades over the Cudgewa Bluff and down the steep valley to the valley floor. Due to flood damage access to some of the falls weren’t possible but what we were able to see was great.

Along the walk to the falls there were some great views of the rock face that towers over the valley.

The landscape reminded us a bit of the Grampians mountain ranges in western Victoria, where we spent a number of years, and still visit from time to time. There was some interesting flora too.

From Burrowa – Pine Mountain, we headed to Cudgewa, and a not-so-permanent way. The Wodonga – Cudgewa railway’s terminus was at Cudgewa. During the building of the Snowy Mountain Scheme this station was a busy place, receiving some redevelopment to allow for the moving of heavy freight between railway cars and road transport. Today it is hard to find anything that would suggest a railway, although the telltale signs of ballast in the ground, what looks like enbankments and cuttings give some indication that a railway was once there.

To get back home from Cudgewa requires travelling over some fairly high mountains, and at the top of the range there is a lookout called Lawrence Lookout. As it was around lunch time by the time we got there we decided to have lunch at the lookout, and have a gaze at the scenery.

To get back home from Lawrence Lookout we decided to take a road less travelled and get off the highway at Old Tallangatta and go along Lake Road to Bethangra and Bellbridge, then on to Thurgoona, Gerogery and home. Lake Hume was more full than we had ever seen it, and at the Hume Weir we saw this…

The full lake and the thunder of the water coming out of the vents at the weir suggest that the big dry is over, at least for the next year or two.

The weir was the last photo stop, and within about an hour from there we were home.

So much to see, so little time. Part 1

Over the weekend we went camping. We left home around 9am and headed for them thar hills. There was gold in them thar hills (probably still is) but today they are known more for their natural beauty than anything else. But also evident was some attempts by mankind to tame God’s creation.

Friday 19th October

Our base camp was the Henry Angel Flat Trackhead, which is just a fancy way for saying ‘a place where the track is accessible by car’. Hume and Hovell (or is that Hovell and Hume) were two explorers who explored the area between Appin in New South Wales, and Corio Bay in Victoria (they were aiming for Westernport Bay, some distance to the east). The Hume and Hovell Walking Track follows the approximate route from Yass (NSW) to Albury (NSW), a distance of around 440 km. The Henry Angel Flats is named after one of their exploration party.

After arriving there a bit before lunch we set up camp, and then went on a walk downstream along the Hume and Hovell Walking Track to do some discovering of our own. it became increasingly apparent that were we hiking through a landscape that was very much changed by mankind – of the mining variety. At quite a few places along the creek, we noticed the creek bank shored up with rocks which was done by miners during the gold rush days.

There was also a rock cut channel, which was cut through solid granite in 1876, and was only the second recorded use of dynamite in New South Wales. The rock race was part of a 1.3 km tailrace which stretched from Angels Flat to the Tunnel and was built for the Burra Gold and Tin Mining Company.

Further along is the tunnel, another man-made feature of the valley. The tunnel and tailrace were built to allow a swamp to be sluiced for gold. The tunnel was blasted through the rock in 1876, the same year the tailrace was built.

We also saw a number of different types of birds, and Zoe was able to identify most of them. Most of them were too quick for the camera, but I did manage to get this photo of a pair of finches.

Sabbath 20th October

The next day, early in the morning, lots of cars started arriving at the camp site. Were were expecting this as when Rebecca was speaking with one of the other campers they mentioned that there was going to be an ultra-marathon start from the camp site around 6am in the morning. It was going to be a 100km race, the finishing line being at one of the other places we would visit later that day.

Rather than try to go to bed after the race has started, we decided (or did I decide) to hit the road and have breakfast somewhere different. So we packed the food in the car, along with a portable butane stove, and cooking utensils. We drove into the Snowy Mountains via the Elliot Way, to Cabramurra – the highest town in Australia. The Elliot Way has some amazing scenery. We could look down into Talbingo Reservoir on part of the journey, then the road travelled through the Tumut River valley, a very steep sided and narrow valley. We had a quick look at Tumut 2 Hydro Power Station, but as there were some severe tumble-rumbles by that time we limited our stops, but we did manage to take a few photos…

The echo through this tunnel was pretty amazing. From further up the mountain we saw this…

… a pretty amazing view down the Tumut River valley. A photo or words really doesn’t do it justice – you really would have to be there to experience the view. Not long after this we arrived in Cabramurra and had breakfast – pancakes pears and custard.

This was not the first time we had been to Cabramurra. A couple of years ago we travelled through the Snowy Mountains between Melbourne and Nowra (NSW,  were we lived at the time), and we had lunch at Cabramurra. So I guess the only meal we haven’t had at Cabramurra is dinner – maybe one day we will do that??

The mountains around Cabramurra are full of interesting things to see. We saw some Gang Gangs (a type of bird of the Cockatoo family) and some wild horses. Not far from Cabramurra is Wallaces Creek Lookout.

We tried to get to the Block Stream, and Ravine / Lobs Hole where there were supposed to be some ruins of a mining settlement, but it was beyond the abilities of our car so we thought it wiser to turn around rather than continue further down the ‘road’.

The view from Wallaces Creek Lookout was nothing short or awe-inspiring.  Again, a picture doesn’t really do the view justice, but here is my attempt at giving you some idea of the scenery we saw.

Further along is the 3 Mile Dam and the Kiandra goldfields. Goldfields are such fickle things – they spring up quickly and seem to disappear almost as quickly when the gold runs out, and creation reclaims and in many cases hides mankind’s attempts to tame the land. But the remnants of goldfields make for some interesting exploration. Three Mile Dam is now a haven for birds, fishermen, wild horses, frogs and campers. And in winter is covered in snow and ice. But it was originally built as a reliable water supply for mining operations in the area.

Life seems to ooze from the lake and it’s surrounds, quite a contrast to further down the valley at Kiandra, where only the wind seems to make any noise. We did spot a waterfall while driving through Kiandra, but it was hard to get to – lots of alpine meadows and bogs. So we had to make do with using a camera’s zoom capabilities to try and get a shot of it.

Down in the valley between Cabramurra and the township of Tumut there is a town called Talbingo. It’s claim to fame is that is it the birth place of Miles Franklin. There is a memorial in her honour in a prominent place in the town.

But, alas, the homestead where she was born is not accessible anymore as it seems to be have been inundated by a man-made pondage many moons ago! While in the area, we went up to the Talbingo Reservoir – so during the course of the day we saw both ends of the reservoir, but not the huge expanse in the middle.

We also noticed that the Hume & Hovell Ultra Marathon finish line was all set and patiently waiting for the runners to arrive. We arrived there about 3pm in the afternoon. From what we heard the runners were taking a lot longer to finish the race than initial expectations.

We travelled through Tumut and Batlow and found the Pilot Hill Arboretum. There I found a Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia). I remember seeing a photo in a book of a road being built through the middle of one of these giant trees somewhere in the western United States. Which national park it was in I don’t know. All I do know is that the example in the Pilot Hill Arboretum was nowhere near as tall or broad in stature as the one with the road going through it.

The sign in front of this tree indicated 1924. Assuming that was the year it was planted, I guess it shows how slow growing these trees can be and how old some of the huge ones in the United States are. All the more reason to try and preserve them!

From there is was but a short distance back to the campsite. By the time we arrived back in Henry Angel Flat it was about 5:30pm – rather a full day, but very interesting.

Camera club

For a number of years we have been looking for something we can do as a couple / family. Rebecca and I have our own hobbies and interests but a common hobby we both had was not so obvious. Over the last few years we discovered that both have an interest in photography – Rebecca is probably more into it than I am.

Last night we attended the local (ie, less than 25kms away) camera club for the first time. For a small town, the club was quite large (around 10-15 people). Part of the meeting involved voting for photos submitted for two categories – Flowers, and Old Machinery. And part of the meeting was practicing taking photos of objects.

One of the objects was a model car, the scale of which I couldn’t quite work out (click on an image to see a larger version of it).


Both the photos above were taken without a tripod (although it was helpful to rest one’s hands on the surface that the car was sitting on). For the practicing session I set my camera to manual (something I rarely do) and proceeded to take a number of photos of the various objects. The two above are by far the best ones I shot. It wasn’t until after the meeting that I ‘discovered’ that my camera was set to ISO 64 for all the photos that I took during the evening. And I also ‘discovered’ that the camera will go all the way up to ISO 6400 and that it’s aperture range is from about F3 to F18. Whether I would ever use the highest ISO setting on the camera is another matter all together, but it is nice to know it has that ability. When I use a film camera I like to use ISO 400 film as it allows higher shutter speeds and with fairly good photo quality.

Most of the time I take photos with my FujiPix S1600 I use the automatic settings mode. Maybe being more proactive in using the manual settings is a good idea, especially for close up photos.

Just as a bit of a comparision of photo and settings compared with the ones above, here are a couple of photos of different things shot over the last few years that have quite different settings to the two shown above (click them to see an enlarged version) …


The bridges is at Nowra, New South Wales. And the flower is at Carrington Falls near Bowral, New South Wales.

The ‘big smoke’, a big bridge and a big wait

There are some things that just have to be tried at least once.

On Saturday night, at 11:45pm, I was waiting patiently on the Culcairn train station platform, and the Melbourne-Sydney XPT (think British Intercity 125 HST, but ‘Australianised, whatever that means’) was pulling into the station. What lay ahead was a 7 hour overnight train trip, the train timetabled to arrive at Sydney’s Central station at 6:55am Sunday morning.

This was a first for me – first time on the XPT and first over-night train trip. In retrospect the ‘over-night’ train trip idea might not have been the most wise decision, especially as I was going to be active on Sunday! But it was the only way I was able to get to Sydney and back in the time constraints I had. You may well ask ‘why didn’t I fly’? Well here are a few reasons:

  • I enjoy train travel much more than aeroplane travel,I reckon it’s a safer than air travel too. If a train runs out of fuel the train just stops! And besides, the journey should be part of the experience when going somewhere, not just the quickest way to get to where you want to go. As I was going to a model railway exhibition getting there by train was in sync with the theme of the event of was attending in Sydney.
  • It’s good to look out at the passing scenery (just like television, only real) – can’t do that in an aeroplane. This might seem a bit of a strange comment to make about an over-night train journey. But the moon was full, and with the lights in the carriage off it was amazing the amount of detail that could be seen of the scenery.
  • The train is far more convenient. I had a 5 minute drive to the nearest railway station compared to a 45 minute drive to the nearest Airport. And then I would have had to go from Sydney Airport to Central station to get the train to where I wanted to go anyway whereas the XPT stops at Central – uber-convenient! And getting of the train at 3:40am the next morning and having to travel 45 minutes with the possibility of little or no sleep on the train didn’t sound like a wise thing to do.

The train arrive in Sydney on time, and then I had to get a suburban train out to Liverpool where the model railway exhibition was. While I was waiting for the train to Liverpool I had some breakfast. And then a bloke who was obviously a little tipsy sat down next to me and struck up a conversation with me. He told me about his wife who had told him off for staying out all night, and said that he ‘was in big trouble’, I assume with his wife. It was a bit dejavu-esque talking to him, as he asked me the same questions about 4 times. But he was pleasant and friendly enough so I didn’t mind.

It turned out he lived in Liverpool, and when we got on the train he promptly fell asleep. So I thought I would do my good deed and wake him up when we got to Liverpool. Which I did. But I noticed after I got off the train that he didn’t get off. Maybe thats a good thing as it would have given him more time to sleep off his drinks before he had to endure another talking to by his wife.

The description of the model railway exhibition will be covered in my blog on my Jims Model Train Site, if your interested. I stayed at the model railway exhibition for about 4 1/2 hours, then decided to go back into central Sydney. I looked at the train booking for the over-night XPT back home and noticed that it didn’t leave Sydney till 8:40pm. So I had about 6 hours to kill. What to do?

I had a bit of spare cash, so decided to become a tourist and visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So I purchased a ticket to North Sydney and got on the next train. I had never been over the Sydney Harbour Bridge before. I didn’t realise how high off the ground it was! I got off the train at Milson’s Point station and had a look around. Here are some photos of the bridge, from various angles.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge is quite an amazing site. Built in the 1930’s, it’s design was influenced by the Hells Gate Bridge in New York and is apparently the 5th longest arch span bridge in the world and the tallest at 134 metres from top to water level. It carries a highway, trains, pedestrians and cyclists between Sydney and the north shore and suburbs. There is a park underneath the bridge, which would have been quite tranquil if it wasn’t for the almost constant noises the bridge made as traffic and trains travelled along it. The pillars themselves are stone.

While the pillars are obviously very strong, they are also quite pleasant on the eyes – the stone blocks are rough-hewn, and there are cornices, patterns and symbols here and there. A bit of a strange mix of art and strength.

Not far away is possibly the most scary face a child might see. Especially when coupled with them hearing the screams of people on rides inside the park, and watch people walk in through the open mouth. And the eyes look a little crazy, don’t you think?

From the park under the bridge, there is a great view of the Sydney Opera House.

The bridge and the opera house are very iconic of Australia. Just take notice which buildings are used to identify Australia in movies and other media and you will see what I mean. Out on the harbour there were the ferries…

… and a sailing ship.

And near the bridge offers a good view of the central Sydney skyline as well.

After doing the tourist thing for a while, I hopped back on the train and was soon back in Central station. But it was still a number of hours before the XPT was due to depart, so what to do? I read some magazines for a while and then had a look at some modern metal art on display in the station concourse.

After having some tea, and with the daylight disappearing, I went over to the platform to wait for the XPT. When the daylight was gone, all the lights came on and I started noticing things. Let’s get some perspective.

Off in the distance there was an interesting contrast of the station signals and darkness.

Eventually the XPT arrived, and I got on the train. And at about 3:50am on Monday morning I got off the train at Culcairn station. It was very cold as I got off the train and there was a frost. The car windscreen had frozen over, and there was no water in the window washer so I scrapped the ice off the window with my fingers. About 10 minutes later I was back home and it was good to get into bed and have a decent sleep.