Days 60 and 61 of our Big Trip of the Simpson and now the Flinders Ranges

Monday, Aug 24, 2015 at 11:19

Member - Matwil

Day 60 Saturday 27th
We were up before sunrise as we wanted to explore the Sandstone Caves on the way down to the Warrumbungles. We were packed up and on our way before 8am which is the earliest start on our whole trip. It was a short drive to the caves which is an aboriginal sacred site. The walk was about 1.7 kilometres long and truly a great experience. The site is not signposted and you need to get directions from the NP Discovery Centre in Baradine. There is a series of sandstone caves that have been created by the natural forces of water and salt rising through the sandstone. There is evidence of use of the caves by the local people that are dated at over 10,000 years. Unfortunately because of vandalism the important cave entrances have been sealed with wire barriers but you can still see rock carvings and evidence of tool making. The views across the Piliga towards the Warrumbungles are spectacular as well.

After the walk we headed off down to Coonabarabran and dropped into the information centre where there is an exhibition of dinosaur bones and the story of finds in the area. There is also an exhibition of the indigenous stories in the area. How people were put into mission homes and forced to give up their ways and language, only to rediscover them later in life. Some of the stories are truly moving. We left there and went to Crystal Kingdom. I was expecting another hard sell tourist joint but instead found a labour of life time love. The collection of crystal rock and the descriptions and explanations was truly an eye opening experience. The couple that run it were forthcoming with stories of the area and an explanation of how the Warrumbungles were formed. A very informative experience. We left there and headed for the Warrumbungles. The area had a massive wild fire in January 2013 which is subject to a coronial inquiry at the present time. As we got closer we could still see evidence of the destruction the fire had caused. The land has not recovered and the hills are still stripped bare. The heat of the fire had totally cooked the gum trees and in many areas they are not recovering as quickly as you would expect. It is sad to see such a beautiful area being devastated the way it was. It will take years and years to recover. Also from what I have read the fire ground was not handled correctly and a lot of the devastation should not have occurred.

Even so the rock formations in the area are truly awe inspiring. We visited the Telescope as well. We also checked out the main camping ground and it is a place we will come back to in a year or two and spend some time exploring. The camp grounds look great but still needs some work to replace the facilities that were lost in the fires.

As our holiday time is quickly running out we headed off to Gunnedah where we are going to stay the night. As the forecast was for storms and rain we decided to stay in a cabin at the caravan park, as it was away from the main road. We were directed to the local pub for dinner and had a great meal. Then back to the cabin and a night watching TV for a change.

Day 61 Sunday 28th
We were on the road early and had a look at some of the local tourist spots, including the lookouts before heading off. One look out is named Pensioners Hill look out. Its name goes back to the depression of the 1890’s when homeless people created a shanty town which was revitalized in the depression of the 1930’s. The shanty town continued until the 1970’s when the council pulled it down. No doubt a lot of untold stories went the way of the shanty town and have been lost for ever.

We then headed off towards Musswellbrook where my daughter Amanda lives. On the way we detoured to Werris Creek as somewhere in my memory I thought the town was famous for something I couldn't remember. When we got there we went to the railway station where there is a railway museum, run by ex railway people. Entrance was by a gold coin donation. What an eye opener. Werris Creek is and was a railway town. It was the central junction for all trains going north or north west and was a very busy centre in it s time. AT its height over 700 railway employees and their families lived there and all their jobs related to the station or trainlines. During the second world war all servicemen from southern Australia were taken to Queensland by train though Werris Creek. Volunteers at the museum have recorded all the stories and these are on display at the museum. They had a large catering group there as well as it was a major refreshment stop for trains going north or south. One of the stories is about the coffee they used to serve the servicemen. The trains would have about 1000 men on them and the catering core would have to feed and water them (so to speak) in 20 minutes. Pies and sausages were the staple and coffee. They made the coffee so it was continually available to the servicesmen. It was a concoction of coffee grains, mustard and salt that was continually percolated. (You have to remember that during the war coffee was in short supply so they had to make the rations go a long way). Evidently the men loved it so it gives you some idea how bad coffee from other suppliers must have been like.

Anyone who is going through or near this area should stop off and visit this museum. It is a real eye opener.

We left Werris Creek and headed south. The sky where we were heading was black as black with lightening. Soon it started raining the first rain we had seen since leaving Broken Hill early in July. We got to Quirindi and decided to have lunch at a café, which was excellent and then headed towards Musswellbrook. AS we got to Murrurundi and the heavens opened up and it poured down cats and dogs. We finally got to Amanda’s and Gus’s house at about 4pm and caught up with my youngest grand son Henry.

We will stay here for a day or two and then head home on Tuesday. My next blog will be an overview of what were the highlights of the trip and what were the downsides (and there were some). I will also upload some figures that might help others planning a trip such as ours, so stay tuned.

Wanting to explore our vast wide land
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