Friday, 13 September 2013

Weekend in the Country

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The “Landy” was packed to the brim with food, bedding and clothing for the five of us. The car soon smelled amazing with foamy lattes and “Hot Bread”, the name bakers in Australia give to freshly baked goods. Once again, we were travelling along the beautiful country highways on our way to the cabins. We stopped at Gin’s Leap to stretch our legs.

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The legend of Gins Leap tells of a young aboriginal couple whose intertribal relationship is despised by the elders. The couple is chased to the cliff edge where they leap to their death to spend eternity together. (Romeo and Juliet anyone?) In the 1850’s an Inn was built beneath the cliffs as an important stopover for the Bullock Teamsters and Cobb & Co. Coaches. All that survives in this picturesque location today is a rusted fence surrounding the old gravesites of the Innkeeper and his family, following an unfortunate bad handling of some barrels of spirits.

The ultimate Australian tourist treat is to see one of these………in the wilds; not in a zoo!

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We passed miles of tawny, grassy fields with gum trees swaying in the hot breeze on our way to “Koala Town”. The village of Gunnedah is home to many of these Australian icons. Everyone know that Koala eat nothing but Eucalyptus and the conditions in Gunnedah are perfect for the furry cuties. Having been hunted almost to extinction and losing a lot of their natural habitat, these animals are well protected.  The town park operates a “hotline” where residents call in to report Koala sightings. My heart sank when Ian told us that no one had called in that morning. Dot was not to be discouraged and as we drove along a quiet road, the cry went up …"THERE’S ONE!”  Wow, we were able to stand beneath the tree where a Koala, about fourteen feet above us, checked us out. Naturally, I went mad with my camera and took way too many shots; adrenaline will do that! He was just so relaxed, shifting his position and even munching on a few leaves.

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                                Did I mention how incredible it made me feel to see this cute little fella?

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           I’m starving…when is lunch?                                 Geesh, it’s almost ready!

We drove on for a couple of hours quickly approaching the mountains. We spotted our destination at long range, Mt. Kapatur and were soon heading up the cliff-lined narrow road to the cabins. After lunch we went for our first fabulous hike. Because the area near the cabins is also frequented by campers and naturalists, the kangaroos in the area are very tame. We saw a few of them grazing about twenty feet away. So Cool! The afternoon sun on the gum trees was spectacular. There are four common species of Eucalyptus in Australia and they all have interesting bark, some smooth and tight like skin, some that peel in long shreds and others that flake revealing varied colour patches up the trunk. Many black and silver shells of tree trunks stand like totems to the fires that scorched them. Fire is a symbiotic friend that stimulates the regrowth of the Gum Forests.

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We reached the lookout as sunset was approaching. What a remarkable view over  mountains, forests, agricultural plots, far away lakes, mines and the smoke of a distant bush fires. The cool evening air fell on our shoulders as we made our way back to the cabin. Al made a welcoming fire that took the chill off our weekend home. After dinner, we ventured into the dark woods with the flashlights. We saw two kangaroos up close before Al spotted the bright eyes of two “Sugar Gliders”  peering down at us from twenty five feet above. The little cuties that Dani and Al call ”Sugar Babies” are something like our flying squirrels. The large eyed marsupials can glide up to one hundred feet at a time. Back at the cabin, sleep came easily after our long day of adventure.

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Australian Magpie on our cabin porch  About crow-sized, these characters are known for “swooping” down on unsuspecting humans, especially bike riders who come too close to their nests in the spring.

Mother’s Day in Australia: My first Mother’s Day that Danielle and I have been together in seven years! It was nice to be with Dot on her Mom’s Day as well. After breakfast we took a long hike where we stopped at a few lookouts with incredible views. The weather was not too hot and the hiking, a mix of  climbing and flat, perfect for my fitness level. The outcroppings of volcanic rock varied from place to place, some were smoothed off whereas others were artistically patterned with tessellations as if they’d been hand carved into grids. One rock mound looked just like Dani’s soda bread!

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                    self portrait                           reflectors on hiking trails..great idea!                Dani-on –the-rocks

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We heard many birds and saw a couple of red and green Lorikeets and a Kookaburra . A couple of kangaroos bound away from us on the trail. We examined the leaves of the various Eucalyptus and got close up to the Tea Tree Bush and a number of flowering fall shrubs. Back at the cabin we refueled on a Quinoa, chickpea and vegetable salad with Anzac cookies and mandarin oranges for dessert. The oranges are in season and for sale at local orchards; they smelled and tasted incredible, like the “old-fashioned” tangerines that we got at Christmas when I was a kid. Lunching on the sunny porch under the gum trees was a great way to reenergize.

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                                                                  Australia’s clouds are spectacular!

Before the washing up was complete, everyone, but me, had settled in for a power nap. My inner drover was calling and I knew that at least a dozen kangaroo were grazing in the picnic area a few feet away. My intention was not to ‘drive’ but to photograph these symbols of Australia.  As the various sized marsupials  nibbled on grass, they looked a lot like deer, silent and shadowy. Suddenly the magic happened and the jumping began. Nothing can match the crazy leaping action and nimble balancing with their tails, and little arms poised above their pouches. I could watch these vegetarians for hours!

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The nappers were roused and we set off on a really long hike. We journeyed through the woods, then up the road, and off onto a dirt path, down many stairs and eventually finished up with a rocky climb to Governor’s Peak. The lower sunlight cast warm light and shadows across the valley. The views were spectacular, the perfect reward for our challenging hike!

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This photo is a tribute to Ian, a super human who has battled his odds against mesothelioma and                      continues to live life with vigor, humour and enthusiasm!

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I tasted my first kangaroo steak in our bar-b-que dinner. It was lean, tender and delicious with grilled vegetables. Yes, I felt somewhat guilty, consuming a relative of the group of hoppers that I’d spent an hour photographing earlier that day. After dinner, even the chocolate that Dot surprised us with, was not enough to energize us and bed called early. A better Mother’s Day, I could not have had!

On Monday morning, we packed up our belongings to drive past more gorgeous landscapes to an amazing destination. Before we left, Danielle and I got close up and personal with a Roo and her Joey. We arrived at Sawn Rocks after a scenic, two hour trip. A short woodsy hike lead to the unforgettable Sawn Rocks Cliffs. The unusual rock formations are a result of a geological process called “organ piping” . Molten lava cooled slowly allowing the individual crystals to align. They appear to have been manually cut ‘sawed’ into long rectangular blocks. Over the years, huge chunks have fallen down and lie like giant honeycombs and ancient Greek columns at the cliff’s base.

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I felt like I’d had a two week vacation in three days! So much great sightseeing, eating and sharing laughs and family stories. Thanks again to Dot and Ian back in Tamworth. Even the neighbour’s cat came to bid us adieu and Al, Danielle and I headed back to Patinack Farm. Dani whipped up a tasty pesto pasta and salad dinner. The dried out pastures were relieved when a soft rain drifted in. We completed our day with a misty walk through the damp paddocks.

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Salty & Rudy welcomed home Al & Dani. Salty made sure he showed his disapproval of being left behind!

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4 comments:

  1. I am enjoying your blog SO much! Almost feel like I'm there with you. Happy Mother's Day.. isn't it great to be with your kids... Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you so much for your positive reply and back at you with Happy Mothers Days! Cheers, Caron

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  2. Great blog Caron. The Aussie story blogs are some of the best you have done.
    Images and narration are wonderful. Can't wait to get there.
    -cb

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  3. Hey Chris: Oops, you were left behind but we will enjoy our trip to Auz next April immensely!xo

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