Surprise surprise – we’ve been changing our minds again. I really do not know why we bothered making a plan, let alone booking flights. Suffice to say we’ve learnt a valuable lesson there! New plan – 6 weeks in Australia, then back to Europe (and back on the bikes) mid-July. We have a lot of fun to pack into this short time for sure! Here’s a diary of our Sydneyside roadtrip.
Saturday 9th June
Weather – drizzle and low cloud
Did my 50th parkrun this morning 🙂 St Peters – a really lovely one in beautiful Sydney Park, with great views from the top of the hill.
Have campervan, will travel! Actually, ‘campervan’ might be overstating things somewhat. It’s a Toyota Corolla with a bed in place of the back seats. It’s also ten years old, has 360,000 km on the clock, and looks (and sounds) like bits might fall off at any moment. Not to mention the mildly offensive paint job but, hey, it was cheap, and it will surely be warmer than sleeping in a tent. And I’m quite relieved that it doesn’t say anything blatantly misogynistic on the side (as many of them do) as I am not sure my rampant feminist self would cope.
Lots of traffic leaving Sydney and climbing up into the Blue Mountains. General tardiness meant night was falling as we tackled the steep, winding road towards our intended campsite. It’s not the best idea to drive in the dark here due to the nocturnal habits of many large animals, and a quick perusal of the rental details confirmed that we weren’t actually insured to do so anyway. Fingers crossed the campsite wouldn’t be full on this bank holiday weekend…..
Found a space, phew! Couldn’t see much in the dark, but the toilets were clean, and it didn’t even rain tooooo much while we made dinner. We also just about succeeded in staying married throughout the process of installing the bed, and getting into it. There isn’t a great deal of space, to say the least.
Subtle, isn’t it.
50th parkrun done!
Sunday 10th June
Weather – Early cloud, clearing later
Wildlife sightings – KANGAROOS, kookaburra, cockatoos, red and purple/green parrots
Despite the best efforts of raindrops from the tree dripping onto the car roof, we slept reasonably well. It was a bit on the chilly side, but we’d borrowed all manner of extra insulation from Rachel and Ian (our friends in Sydney), so at one point I was actually quite hot and had to take off a few layers.
We headed to Hargraves Lookout for some Blue Mountains views before setting off in earnest. We anticipated a short drive to Orange that would leave us with some time and energy for wine tasting. However, by the time we’d followed the temptation of the ‘tourist drive’ and taken approximately a million photos, it actually took forever and a day! We did get to drive through a cave though, AND saw our first kangaroos, so it was definitely worth it.
Hooray once again for Australia and its wonderful free campsites. This one, at Macquarie Woods, is huge yet pristine. You don’t get many facilities for your $0 save for pit toilets and bins, but you do get peace and quiet (birds and campers with generators not withstanding), stunning views, friendly kangaroos and amazing stars. Stars mean cold though, brrrr, we’re at something like 900m here!
Cloudy Blue Mountains
Lovely spot at Macquarie Woods
Monday 11th June
Weather – perfect sunny day (but cold, starting with frost!)
Wildlife sightings – galahs, pelican, many other flamboyant birds that we can’t identify
Finally on the wine trail! We started at Habitat, where the friendly lady had to wipe dust off the glasses, and we had chickens running around our feet. Things were rather more polished at award winning Rowlee, but it didn’t have the same charm for us, and apparently we aren’t cultured enough to properly appreciate their expensive wines. We ended on a high at Brangayne, tasting some excellent Chardy plus some fabulous reds. Add to that a visit to Lake Canabolas and a quick jaunt up The Pinnacle for some sweeping vistas of the area, and we were done for the day!
Now back at Macquarie woods campsite for more kangaroo / bird spotting before the long winter night draws in. Good job we have plenty of snacks (and a bottle of Habitat pinot….)
Scarlet Rosella (is that right, Mum?!)
Tuesday 12th June
Weather – Cloudy and cold start but cleared up throughout the day.
Culinary experiment of the day – cheese toasties in the frying pan. Highly successful.
Today was all about driving to Mudgee, although we did manage a short detour to ‘historic’ Millthorpe beforehand (nice enough but probably wouldn’t bother going back.) Pretty views across arid countryside, until Mudgee itself which is a little more lush. Our best option was a proper campsite, which meant showers, hooray! And a camp kitchen with a fire pit, around which we chewed the fat with some very Aussie Aussies. All for the princely sum of $25.
Cheese toasties for the win
Old station in Millthorpe
Wednesday 13th June
Weather – the coldest start to the day but lovely once the sun was out!
Notable wildlife sighting – WOMBAT!
Ed galantly offered to drive me around the wineries of Mudgee. We visited three: Lowe, Huntington and Moothi, for a series of excellent (and free) tastings. A good time was had by all, although I need to learn that pre-lunch drinking is BAD.
Later, we headed across country into Wollemi National Park, and along a very bumpy, dusty road to Dunns Swamp campground. What a wonderful spot. No swamp in sight, rather a flooded river and stunning limestone scenery. We took a short walk before dusk got the better of us, and were slightly over-excited to spot our first wombat! No platypus though despite a visit to platypus point.
We were then hounded by possums all evening, while sitting around a marvellous camp fire. $6 per adult, for which you get free firewood, in addition to the beautiful and immaculate campground! Fortunately Ed is pretty adept at firestarting.
Dunn’s Swamp. Not actually a swamp.
Lowe winery in Mudgee
Thursday 14th June
Weather – colder again. Who on earth decided camping was a good idea?
Thank goodness for the incredibly intense sunshine around here, otherwise we’d never get up in the mornings. Quick brekkie and then we headed back around the waterfront and up to the Pagoda viewpoint. It’s so stunning around here. Still no platypus though.
We emerged back into relative civilisation, and headed back to the Blue Mountains. I was absolutely shattered so needed a nap once we got there, but despite this (and Ed’s increasing sniffles) we managed a bit of exploring. Kudos once again to the Lonely Planet for directing us to some excellent and uncrowded spots (Govett’s Leap, Horseshoe Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls).
Bit of a stress later on as we realised we had some damage to the sidewall of one of our tyres. Fortunately our bargain basement rental did come with a decent spare, so we Ed swapped it over at the campsite.
Another cold evening (with Ed wearing the most clothes he’s ever worn all at once) but some cute feral cats provided distraction, not to mention a very noisy group having a campfire. Fortunately they took their noise elsewhere at a reasonable hour!
Heading into certain danger…
….worth it for the view (and even I didn’t think it was dangerous!)
Back in the Blue Mountains.
Friday 15th June
Having gone to bed wearing all of our clothes, we woke up absolutely boiling in the middle of the night. I could not camp like this for a longer period without having a serious sense of humour failure!
Headed to Katoomba for coffee, Leura for cheese-shopping and then Sublime Point for sublime (sic) views of the Three Sisters minus the crowds. We then relocated to a viewpoint for lunch, agreeing we had ‘done’ the Blue Mountains so didn’t need to do another walk and would head straight back to Sydney. However, the spectacular surroundings proved too tempting so we ended up doing a really great walk along the undercliff for fabulous views of Wentworth Falls. So windy though, the water was being blown uphill!
Then it was back to Sydney for our last night camping in relative civilisation.
I am told this is Banksia.
Wentworth falls in the wind!
Saturday 16th June
Early start to tick off another excellent parkrun (Greenway) before heading back to Rachel’s to clean the camper (yet more joys of a budget rental). No problems with the return, phew. Always feel a bit like these companies are out to get you.
We had a wonderful time but this particular camper did not leave us with the warm fuzzy feeling we’ve had with previous rentals. It was just so small, and we’re too old / square to feel comfortable with all the stares its inappropriate paint job attracts. However, it was very cheap, took us where we wanted without incident, and did stave off the onset of hypothermia, so all good really!
Pretty cool driving over the Harbour Bridge
Another awesome parkrun
Now for our West Coast road trip in a somewhat higher quality vehicle!