Early Winter Activities

Well, Winter has only just started in the Riverina district of New South Wales (Australia), and we have already had plenty of cold days. But over the last week, I have managed three very un-winter-like nature-based adventure activities – at least to my way of thinking.

Last Sabbath (11th June) I had a hankering for some walking. The sun was shining, and from inside the house it seemed like too good a day to waste it being inside. Outside it was still rather cold, but the sunny sky seemed to be promising a beautiful, albeit coolish, day. My darling wife must have sensed my hankering because she suggested we go for a walk in the Woomargama National Park (WNP), about 40 minutes drive away from where we live. The WNP is bisected by the Hume and Hovell Walking Track (H&HWT), a 400+ km walking track between Yass (NSW) and Albury on the Victorian border, and it was part of that walking track that we decided we would walk. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove towards the WNP. As we drove merrily along we noticed that the closer we got to the park, the more cloudy the sky got. And by the time we reached the Samuel Bollard Camping Ground on the H&HWT it was looking more than a tad threatening. But we started off on our hike anyway. The plan was to hike the part of the H&HWT between the Samuel Bollard Campground and Tunnel Road – not a long hike by any means, but as we had never walked in the WNP or the H&HWT it seemed like a good starter hike. We hiked a total of around 4km, and the photos below tell the visual story of our hike.

On the Sunday (12 June), it was an early start to be in Albury by 7:45am to meet up with the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group (AWPP). The activity for that day was a group bike ride planned from Tumbarumba to Tintaldra then some lunch and on to Walwa – a distance of around 75km. About 13 riders were going, and 2 support vehicles to attend to any mechanical or other ‘breakdowns’ and to carry all our cycling kit except for water bottles. That was a good test of my new Jamis mountain bike that I purchased about a month ago and my general fitness. Both the mountain bike and I performed fairly well – the bike seemed really at home on the asphalt roads (I was admittedly a bit surprised at that), and my fitness level must have been ok too because I managed the climbs without any real need to stop and rest for any sigificant period of time (I was admittedly a bit surprised by that too) although the fact that I had two really long rests waiting for everyone else to catch up mght have had something to do with that. It was cool (well, it is winter), but the sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky as far as the eye could see, but I did spot some cloud clinging to the sides of some of the higher mountains as I pedalled along. Having ridden the road between Tumbarumba and Tintaldra a few times before I had a reasonable idea of what to expect although it’s always different on a bicycle as there is no motor to help get up the hills. I knew that from about 1/2 way along the ride I would have some more level riding and some downhill into Tooma. There was also the 270 degree vistas across to the Snowy Mountains, towards Tumbarumba, and towards the Murray River valley.

By the time I got to the Southern Cloud Lookout, I decided I had better wait for everyone to catch up. So while I waited (and waited) I stared in wonder at the view across to the Snowy Mountains with their snow capped peaks glistening in the sunlight. Eventually the rest of the group arrived at the lookout and it was decided, rather wisely, to have a late lunch (it was around 1:30pm by this stage) of all the munchies and teas and coffees that everyone had brought along. After some munchies and a chat, and deciding to terminate the ride at Tintaldra due to the time, we got back on our trusty steeds and either barrelled or sedately rode the brakes down the hill, or anywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes, all the way into Tooma. At Tooma there was a sign saying 18km to Tintaldra pointing along a steep dirt road, and one saying 20km via the asphalt and more level road – we took the 20km option. And within about an hour of that turnoff we had started arriving at Tintaldra – by this time it was about 3:30pm, and a bit too late to continue on to Walwa so we made the right decision to stop the ride at Tintaldra – a 55km ride in total.

After a bit of a rest, putting the bikes on the support vehicles for the trip back to Albury, drink and snacks at the pub (tetotaler’s lemonade, packet of chips and Mars bar for me), we all piled in the support vehicles and enjoyed a drive into the sunset…

Then on Monday (13th June) which was the Queens Birthday Holiday, with another uncharacteristically sunny Winter day, and a weather forecast which included a lot of rain later in the week, I decided it was just too good a day to waste it being inside. So this time I decided to ride towards Holbrook and see how I went – remembering that I did a 55km / 900+ total climbs ride the day before and I wasn’t really sure how I would go. I needn’t have worried about being able to make it to Holbrook. I made it there and back with energy to spare although my legs were starting to complain a little by the time I got back home.

I learnt something interesting on the two rides over the weekend. On both I took a mixture of trail mix (nuts, seeds, sultanas), cashews, and dates for some sustenance along the way. I also carried and drank plenty of water. It seems that the combination of those munchies (a nice mix of carbs, proteins and fats) and the amount of water helped keep my energy levels up considerably so I think I will make that munchie mix a standard for future longer distance rides. I also re-discovered the ‘after-ride-glow’ – a sense of persistent euphoria!

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba, News South Wales, Australia is one of those places we love to visit. We have visited the town and area around it a number of times since we moved into the region and it always seems to have something new to show us. More or less in the center of the township is the Goldfields Heritage park, which is on the site of the original goldfields. Thousands of miners toiled on the Tumbarumba goldfields between the 1850’s and 1930’s. They even managed to move the creek from the western side of what is now the Goldfields Heritage Park to the location it is today – no easy feat! I’m guessing that they moved the creek to get to the alluvial godl that they believed was in the creek bed. When we visited there recently, the trees were in the throes of succumbing to Autumn.

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba Creek

Tumbarumba Creek in the Goldfields Heritage Park

The explorers Hume and Hovell passed through the area in the mid 1820’s, and had with them a number of assigned convicts with them. These convicts has been transported to New South Wales from the mother country for various crimes including stealing various things. One of them was transported because of involvement in the Irish Insurrection and another for ‘highway treason’, whatever that is. It is interesting to note, though, that some of them became quite successful during their time in Australia.  James Fitzpatrick became a successful landowner, and Henry Angel became a successful and respected grazier. It makes me think that their crimes were crimes of desperation. Obviously those that became successful were not afraid of hard work, and really made a go of it once they had served their sentence.

Hume and Hovell Monument

Hume and Hovell Monument in Goldfields Heritage Park

While we were there we noticed a pathway, and we decided to follow it. The pathway followed the creek for a short distance before opening out into another large parkland, one of the more interesting features of which was an old waterwheel. Old machinery fascinates me – it seems that the people that made those old machines had a much better hands-on knowledge of mechanics than the desk jockies who design our cars and other machines today. Often back in those ‘good ol days’ it was through a process of trial and error that a machine was made, and often due to lack of available spare parts the machines were often repaired in some very innovative and unusual ways. Today petroleum is the liquid that powers our machines, but back when these types of machines were being used water was the power – streams and rivers provided power for waterwheels such as this and various other machines, and water powered the steam engines so often used during the industrial revolution.

Tumbarumba Waterwheel

Tumbarumba Waterwheel

The original wheel was donated by a Mr Contessa of Adelong and was re-constructed by Blakes Engineering and inmates of the Brookfield Afforestation Camp. Adelong is not too far distant to Tumburumba.

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.

Me, pa and the car

When my dad (who the kids call Pa) visits, I normally take that opportunity to do some sight-seeing. Often the sight-seeing includes trying to discover interesting railway related stuff (we are both quite interested in trains) where we are travelling.

So we filled the car up with fuel, and headed east. The plan was to explore Tumbarumba first, then travel through Batlow, Tumut and Gundagai, in New South Wales.

At Tumbarumba we found the Mannus Lookout. Rebecca, the kids and myself travelled through Tumarumba about a week ago, but we failed to find the lookout then. Today Dad and I found it! On a map it indicated that the lookout had a 360 degree view. And it would if it wasn’t for all the trees! But I did manage to get this picture of a snow capped mountain away off in the distance.

From Tumbarumba we travelled to Batlow. Batlow is a fruit growing area. Travelling from Tumarumba to Batlow we passed a number of orchards. The town itself is nestled into a valley. Very picturesque.

The main street was typical of small towns eveywhere, even down to the lack of traffic.

There were some old abandoned buildings in town, which I think were something to do with the orchards – maybe coolstores, or fruit packing? Seems the most likely. They were serve by the railway, when it was still operating as there were sidings near the buildings.

Then it was on to Tumut. Nestled at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, it was a bustling town, with industries dotted all over the place – there was a factory we saw in the distance at Gilmore, a sawmill at Gilmore, and a sawmill in Tumut. We stopped to have a look at the restored railway station, and the traffic along the road opposite it was fairly constant. Lots of trucks, busses, cars.

Following is a photo of the restored Buttery Factory (from the railway siding side of course), and the restored station.

Then we drove towards Gundagai, the town of bridges. Spanning the Murrumbidgee River flood plain, Gundagai has 3 notable bridges.

Two of them, the old road bridge and the railway bridge, are shown in the photo below.

  • The Prince Alfred Bridge, which today has seen better days, was the road bridge across the river at Gundagai. Before the 1970’s it carried all traffic across the river flats. Completed in 1867, it is the oldest still standing bridge of all bridges crossing the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan and Murray rivers. The iron spans of the bridge were of unique design, the top chord was continuous and rested on roller bearings. The piers were made of 6 foot (2 metre) high by 6 foot diameter cast iron drums and were the first large iron castings made in Australia. The Timber viaduct there today was built in 1896 to replace the original bridge and is 921 metres long.
  • The next bridge, the railway viaduct, was built in 1903 so the railway could be extended from Gundagai to Tumut. It is the longest timber truss bridge ever built in Australia, at 819 metres length. This bridge is very interesting to look at but really needs some major work, and I wondered whether having the road go under it was really a good idea! I guess those in the know have some idea about whether it’s safe or not.
  • The road bridge that effectively bypassed the township, and today carries 4 lanes of traffic across the river flats, was built in 1977. it is called Sheahan Bridge, and is the second longest bridge in New South Wales being 5 metres shorter than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge is shown in the photo below (the ‘hump’ towards the right hand end is because of the camera, it’s not a ‘feature’ of the bridge).

Byt the time we had looked around the bridges at Gundagai it was 4:30 or so in the afternoon, so it was time to make a dash for home in time for tea.