By Day, Into Night

Kevtoberfest #9 Echo Point, Katoomba

The Blue Mountains Region, west of Sydney, is part of the Great Dividing Range and covers an area of 11,400 square kilometres. The rugged sandstone escarpments, sheer cliffs and deep valleys filled with dense eucalypt forest are World Heritage listed and visited by millions of people each year.

One of the best vantage points to view the splendour of the mountains is Echo Point, at Katoomba. Perched on the cliff edge are several lookouts, some jutting out over the valley floor.

With spectacular views of the Three Sisters, the lookouts are popular at any time of day, and especially at sunset when the colour of the stone and sky changes by the minute.

There’s a sense of excitement as the sun begins its descent but, when the last rays of light disappear behind the cliffs, most people watch in silence.

Even the sulphur crested cockatoos, settling into the gum trees for the night, cease their screeching as the daylight begins to fade. It’s an awe-inspiring sight for everyone!

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Did you know? We didn’t!

Kevtoberfest #8 Capertee Valley

Begin a conversation about canyons and most people would probably think of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. It’s one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, with more than five million visitors each year. But they might be surprised to learn that the Grand Canyon ranks fourth in order of the world’s largest.

Until we stopped at Pearson’s Lookout on the Castlereagh Highway, we would have been included in that group: we didn’t know Australia has the world’s second largest enclosed canyon. One kilometre wider than the Grand Canyon but not as deep,  Capertee Valley is the widest canyon in the world.

From the lookout, there are 180° views of sheer sandstone cliffs rising up to 627 metres above the valley floor. The scene is dominated by Pantoneys Crown, a craggy sandstone monolith surrounded by dense eucalypt forest.

Capertee Valley is recognised by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area and is listed in the 50 top birdwatching locations in the world. On the day we were there, it seemed as if the valley was filled with bellbirds. Although we didn’t see any, we could hear their tinkling songs rising up from the treetops.

So the next time you’re talking about canyons, you’ll be able to impress your friends with your knowledge by telling them about Capertee Valley, the widest canyon in the world!

His, Hers, Ours

Kevtoberfest #7 Mudgee

In the last few years Mudgee, in central New South Wales, has gained a well-deserved reputation as a food and wine lover’s paradise. With more than 40 wineries and many local food producers, it’s easy to fill both the larder and the cellar in Mudgee. With so many choices we could have eaten our way around Mudgee all day, but with Kevtoberfest looming, we had just three destinations in mind.

At Baker Williams Distillery, delicious liqueurs have been crafted on site since 2012. The distiller was generous with his samples and we tasted Limoncello and Orancello, fresh and zingy and flavoured by locally grown citrus. My purchase though was a bottle of the distillery’s signature creation – Butterscotch Schnapps, smooth, sweet and irresistible.

Honey in 25 different varieties is produced at Mudgee Honey Haven. Ironbark, stringy bark and yellow box honey have been flavoured by the blooms of the surrounding bushland, while chilli, lavender and strawberry honey have added ingredients. We sampled many of the products before selecting two – creamed cinnamon honey and ginger honey. But the greatest temptation was the mead, a brew of fermented honey with its origins in ancient Greece. Glen chose the Spiced Mead while my pick was the Honey Mead. (I was so busy tasting honey I forgot to take photos.) 

Our afternoon ended at the Mudgee Brewing Company, located in town in a 100 year old wool store once owned by the neighbouring Anglican Church.

While Glen ordered a sampler of eight different beers, I opted for a warming hot chocolate, conveniently accompanied by a generous slice of upside down pineapple coconut cake.

Glen’s brewery purchases included a bottle of the famous Mudgee Mud. Originally made by the Federal Brewery, the label “mud” comes from a time when poor quality water was used and there was more sediment than beer in the bottles! Luckily, today’s Mudgee Mud doesn’t need straining.

While we put our jars of honey in the pantry to have on toast for breakfast, the schnapps, mead and beer were added to the Kevtoberfest stash, for sharing on the party weekend.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 5/Craft shops 1

The Ten Dollar Town

Kevtoberfest #6 Gulgong

When decimal currency was introduced in Australia in 1966, the newly minted bank notes featured images of notable Australians and scenes connected with their lives. The town of Gulgong, in central New South Wales, was depicted on the original ten dollar note. What was it about Gulgong that distinguished it from countless other small country towns?

After gold was discovered in 1870 Gulgong flourished and the population rose to more than 20,000, although today it’s closer to 2,500. The narrow streets are lined with distinctive 19th century buildings, whose wide, shady verandas and ornate wrought iron lacework are heritage listed.

Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba once performed at Gulgong’s Prince of Wales Opera House. Built in 1871, it’s the oldest performing arts building still in use in the southern hemisphere.

While the colonial architecture of Gulgong is historically significant, it was the town’s connection with one of Australia’s best known writers which led to its inclusion on our currency. Henry Lawson – poet, story teller and bush balladeer, was born on the gold fields of Grenfell. In 1873, he moved with his family to the Gulgong district, following his father’s relentless search for riches. Henry went to school at nearby Eurunderee and spent his childhood in the area before moving to Sydney with his mother in 1883. His experiences of country life influenced his writing and Henry often referred in his work to the people and places he knew so well.

Gulgong celebrates its connection with Henry Lawson with an annual festival in June and a small but comprehensive museum. At The Henry Lawson Centre, once the Salvation Army Hall, a collection of documents, photographs and copies of his works tells the narrative of his life, from his birth to his sad decline into alcoholism and poverty.

Best known for poems like The Ballad of the Drover and Andy’s Gone With Cattle,  Henry Lawson remains forever remembered, along with the town of Gulgong, on Australia’s first ten dollar note.

Join Restless Jo for Monday Walks

Showing Its Age

Kevtoberfest #5 Cassilis

After leaving Tamworth later than we planned, our scheduled stop at Mudgee was out of reach. Instead of pushing on in darkness, we stopped for the night at a small campground outside the village of Cassilis. Across the road was a field of canola, its golden glow almost iridescent in the late afternoon light.

Next to the campground stood a small country church. It may have only been little more than 100 years old but, having withstood the harsh seasonal extremes of central New South Wales for more than a century, the church was showing its age. From the rusted iron gates to the weather-worn sign, the Anglican Church of St Columba of Iona looked as if it had been there for much longer.

Some of the older headstones in the churchyard had seen better days, while more recent ones showed signs of loving attention.

As afternoon became evening, the fading light accentuated the weathered stone of this sacred building.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Weathered

One Bushranger, Four Beers and Lots of Dust

Kevtoberfest #4 Uralla

Our first visit to Uralla, in 2009, coincided with a giant dust storm which blanketed more than 500,000 square kilometres of eastern Australia in a thick brown haze. Blown across from the inland deserts of New South Wales and South Australia, the cloud of dust spread until it measured 3,450 kilometres in length.

We were following the exploits of the notorious bushranger Fred Ward aka Captain Thunderbolt. He roamed the district in the 1860s, holding up travellers and robbing homesteads, hotels and inns until, in 1870, he was shot and killed by a local policeman.

South of Uralla on the New England Highway is a large cluster of granite boulders known as Thunderbolt’s Rock. From this vantage point he would ambush passing stagecoaches, although if the dust storm had happened in his time he wouldn’t have seen them coming.

In the spirit of Kevtoberfest, the theme of our second, dust-free visit to Uralla was beer, not bushrangers. The New England Brewing Company, located in a converted woolstore on the main street, has been brewing preservative free, unfiltered beers since 2013.

The first time we stopped in Uralla a cold wind was blowing, and this time it wasn’t much warmer. Inside the brewery, the glowing fire in the fireplace was a welcome sight. On Glen’s tasting paddle were the four main brews of the New England brand.

His verdict – a tasty selection, ranging from light and refreshing to smooth and dark. One bottle of each was added to the Kevtoberfest stash, a more pleasant souvenir of Uralla than the film of dust we acquired last time.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 2/Craft shops 1

Read more about the Eastern Australian dust storm of 2009 here

Hills of Gold

Kevtoberfest #3 Nundle

Like many Australian country towns Nundle, in northern New South Wales, has a rich history. Gold was discovered in 1852 and remnants of the past survive both in town and the surrounding area, where the remains of gold rush settlements and diggings lie hidden in the bush.

A good place to begin a day in Nundle is the Visitor Information Centre where the Gil Bennet Rocks, Gems and Minerals Collection is displayed. Crystals, gems and polished stones collected by Gil over more than 20 years sparkle in their glass cases. Many of the stones were found locally, and fossickers today follow Gil’s lead in the hope of finding hidden treasures in the hills around Nundle.

Many leave Nundle and head up a steep and winding mountain road to the abandoned goldfields of Hanging Rock. Perched high on the edge of a sheer rock face, Hanging Rock lookout reveals an expansive view of Nundle Valley and beyond to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.

At the site of the original Hanging Rock village, where several thousand people lived at the height of the gold rush, the homes, schools and churches are long gone. All that’s left of the pub is the information sign telling of its existence.

The only visible evidence that people once lived here is at the Hanging Rock Historic Cemetery, where many miners and their families were buried. Most notable of the graves is that of Mary Ashton aged 19, who died after childbirth in 1852. She was the wife of James Henry Ashton, founder of Australia’s famous Ashton’s Circus.

At Sheba Dams, the still waters tell another story of the gold rush era. Built in 1888 by Chinese labourers, the dams provided water for the surrounding gold mines. Today, the mines are overgrown by thick bush and the miners have been replaced by picnickers and fishermen.

Back in Nundle, the wealth gold brought to the area can be seen in the 19th century architecture of the historic buildings. Dating from 1860, the Peel Inn has provided food, beverages and accommodation for travellers for more than 150 years. Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores has been selling household goods since 1891. Feather dusters, pots and pans hanging from the ceiling still compete for attention with enamel bakeware, handmade soaps and wooden utensils.

Other buildings have been repurposed to serve new functions as income from tourism has replaced that of gold. What was once a service station now houses the Nundle Art Gallery and Volcania Art Glass, filled with works created by local artisans. The Primitive Methodist Church, built in 1882, is now a boutique.

The Nundle Woollen Mill only opened in 2001, but the yarn made from Australian merino wool is spun on vintage machines sourced from other defunct mills and lovingly restored to working order.

The Mount Misery Gold Mine Museum gives visitors a taste of life on the goldfields around Nundle. A 150 metre mine tunnel displays artefacts and mining tools, and the walls are lined with newspaper articles and photos of the families who lived and worked in the area.

The gold miners and their settlements may be gone but their memory lives on in the little town of Nundle.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 1/Craft shops 1