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Slow Day on the River

Kevtoberfest #22  Nicholson River

Where there’s water, there are boats!

We spent a day exploring the Nicholson River on board Kevin’s vintage cabin cruiser Deeann J. A wide slow-moving waterway, the river flows south-east for 83 kilometres from the foothills of the Victorian Alps to Lake King.

From a small marina near the Princes Highway we sailed upstream, passing fertile farmland and weathered sandstone cliffs.

Dozens of opaque jellyfish floated just below the water’s languid surface and waterbirds near the riverbank basked in the sunshine.

When we turned and sailed downstream, the landscape changed from gently sloping green hills to grassland and marshes.

We sailed under an aged timber bridge, formerly a part of the Bairnsdale to Orbost railway line. Where trains once crossed over the river, cyclists and walkers now follow the path of the East Gippsland Rail Trail. 

At the point where river meets lake, white markers created an imaginary line across the water. Beyond them Lake King’s vast expanse of water stretched away to the distant shore.

Closer to us a tiger snake swam by, gliding swiftly across the water and passing just a few metres away. Luckily it was more intent on reaching the far shore than bothering with us.

After the excitement of Kevtoberfest, a slow day on the river was the perfect way to relax.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Liquid

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Water Water Everywhere

Kevtoberfest #20 Gippsland Lakes

There’s a lot of water at Lakes Entrance. The name of the town in Victoria’s East Gippsland region gives a clue to its watery surroundings – it’s located at the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes. A group of inland waterways covering an area of 600 square kilometres, the lakes are separated from the Southern Ocean by the scrub-covered dunes of Ninety Mile Beach. A man-made channel built in the 1880s connects them with the ocean.

To gain an understanding of the expanse of lakes and ocean, they are best seen first from above. Lookouts along the Princes Highway are perfect vantage points, with sweeping views of the town, waterways and shipping channel. On a clear day, offshore platforms in the oil and gas fields of Bass Strait are visible on the horizon.

Views of the lakes from ground level are just as impressive. At Lake King the calm water is crystal clear, and the opposite shore is a distant smudge between water and sky.

With all this water comes much aquatic activity, both of the human and natural kind. Sailing boats and motorboats make the most of the protected waters inside the dunes.

Fishing boats are moored in the marina after a night’s work at sea.

A model of the paddle steamer Charles Edward stands on the shore of Lake King, a reminder of a time when a day’s journey around the coast brought passengers from Melbourne to East Gippsland in search of gold.

Black swans and pelicans are common and, at the Metung Hotel, they compete for attention at feeding time.

Seagulls gather in the hope of snatching a treat from an unwary tourist’s fish and chips lunch, while rainbow lorikeets are content to feed from grevilleas growing near the water’s edge. Cormorants keep watch in the shallows.

The serenity of the lakes is in complete contrast to the ocean side of the dunes where the Southern Ocean pounds the beaches. At Eastern Beach on the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach the scenery is glorious but the water is deceptive. On windy days, rips and large waves can make swimming dangerous.

It’s best to enjoy the water views from the safety of dry land!

Down to the Sea

Kevtoberfest #17 Wagonga Inlet

After days spent wandering in the bush, exploring caves and enjoying flower-filled gardens, we left the mountains and headed east to the coast of southern New South Wales. We drove more than 400 kilometres, first on winding mountain roads before turning onto the expansive Hume Highway. On the Princes Highway, we followed the curve of the coastline to the fishing town of Narooma.

It was late afternoon by the time we pulled into our site in a waterside campground at Wagonga Inlet. With the sun about to disappear behind the hills and the clouds reflected in the darkening water, we set off on a walk along the shore.

The track passed by fishing boats moored for the night and homes overlooking the channel where the water of the inlet enters the Pacific Ocean.

A waterbird foraged on the shore and a stingray passed by, gliding silently through the shallows.

A playful seal swam in wide circles, sometimes coming close before moving into deeper water.

A pelican, seeming to ignore us but ever watchful for tasty morsels, cruised along with the current.

The glory of the sky, changing minute by minute as the sun set, was reflected in the calm waters of the inlet. For a long time we stood watching, until the oncoming darkness made us retrace our steps. After a long day’s drive we were ready for a restful night in this tranquil place.

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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!

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!

Roaming in Roma

Close to home #14 Roma

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The western Queensland town of Roma is located more than 500 kilometres from the ocean and the landscape is often parched from lack of rain. But at Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams there are gentle walkways with water views and, after good spring rainfall, the area is beautifully green. In both locations, it’s all about the trees.

A huge bottle tree marks the start of the Adungadoo Pathway, which follows the course of Bungil Creek. Said to be the largest in the district, the tree measures more than nine metres around the trunk and is thought to be at least 100 years old.

Even older are the river red gums on the creek bank. Some have been dated to 400 years and, along with tall coolabah trees, provide shade for walkers and cyclists. In spring, birds are attracted to the golden flowers of the silky oaks.

There are places to rest along the pathway, but there’s also the chance to be more active.  The frisbee course, similar to a golf course, has baskets instead of holes and a par for each round. A gym circuit has exercise equipment suitable for all abilities.

In the past, there was also a lot of activity at the Railway Dams. Originally built in the 19th century to supply water for passing steam trains, the dams are now surrounded by the Roma Bush Gardens. Eleven distinct areas are planted with native trees and flowering plants found in the surrounding Maranoa region.

A circular walkway passes through all the gardens, past more river red gums and coolabah, brigalow and belah trees. Bottlebrush shrubs laden with red blossoms grow at the water’s edge.

Walkers aren’t the only ones attracted to Bungil Creek and the Bush Garden. Rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras perch high in the river red gums and blue-faced honeyeaters dart around the flowering bushes. Pacific black ducks and swamp hens forage at water level.

 Even on the hottest and driest of days in Roma, the walking paths beside Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams are cool and shaded.
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BYO Birdseed

Close to home #13 Bunya Mountains National Park

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The Scenic Circuit walk at Queensland’s Bunya Mountains National Park is aptly named; there’s a beautiful view of the North Burnett region from Pine Gorge Lookout. But it’s not just the scenery that attracts visitors to this isolated section of the Great Dividing Range.

Fondly known by all who visit regularly as “The Bunyas”, the park is Queensland’s second oldest and home to the world’s largest stand of bunya pines. These magnificent trees tower above the subtropical rainforest at the top of the range. Every three to four years, they produce huge cones up to 30 cm in length which contain large edible seeds called bunya nuts. Although the distinctive pines dominate the landscape there is a wide variety of flora and fauna, some only found in this area.

Our circuit walk begins from the picnic area at the tiny settlement of Dandabah, where small groups of red-necked wallabies gather to graze. In spring and summer, flowering black bean trees attract crimson rosellas.

Once on the walking track we need to be on the lookout, because many of the forest’s inhabitants are timid. We almost miss a motionless eastern water dragon, sunning itself on a log by the creek.

Not so worried about hiding is a male brush-turkey, more interested in attracting a female to his mound of leaf litter than avoiding us.

As we continue along the path, an eastern yellow robin darts along the forest floor ahead of us.

Higher up, bird’s nest ferns hang from tree trunks, and overhead the spreading fronds of tree ferns provide welcome shade.

Not so welcome are the giant stinging trees, their leaves covered with fine, silica-tipped hairs. Even the lightest touch causes pain which can last for days. We’ve heeded the advice on the warning signs and worn our closed-in shoes on this walk, because even dead leaves on the ground can be harmful. Luckily there are no stinging trees close to the path and we move on unscathed.

After a dry winter, only a trickle of water flows over the rocks at Festoon Falls but it’s enough to sustain the lush ferns and mosses clinging to the rock walls.

In the shallow waterholes below we spot large brown tadpoles, half hidden by the dappled sunlight on the water. They will take up to three years to mature into great barred frogs, which live in burrows in the creek banks.

It seems as if all life in the mountains grows slowly; strangler figs take hundreds of years to completely overwhelm their host plants. The walking track passes spectacularly between the aerial roots of one giant fig. The tree is more than 400 years old and the space is all that is left after the host plant died.

The circuit finishes with a gentle climb from the forest floor up the hill to the picnic area.

In the late afternoon, birds gather when seed is put out for feeding and photo opportunities. Regular visitors bring their own birdseed, because small bags from the general store are costly. Crimson rosellas and king parrots compete for attention, while sulphur-crested cockatoos wait more patiently till the rush dies down.

Kookaburras would prefer to snatch a sausage from the barbecues of unsuspecting picnickers.

When you come to the Bunyas bring your shoes, bring some bird seed and definitely bring your camera. You’ll want to photograph more than just the scenery!

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