10 July 2005

Road Trip North, West, South then East.

Dogs in the Van

Sunshine and I took the dogs for quite a drive over the past 2 weeks. I got pretty tired of waiting around for my employer to get back to me on something and figured I could still get quite a bit done on the road. So we loaded the van and headed North to my Mum's place (the scenic way).

Crossing the Styx River

Our first leg was via Kempsey taking the road North West along the Macleay River to Bellbrook then up to Wollomombi. We stayed a rainy night at Bellbrook before heading up to Wollomombi. We hoped to see the water fall up there but the clouds were low the next morning so we opted for a roadhouse in Ebor to have breakfast next to a fire, and buy mum some honey smoked trout. I also bought myself a local history book, The Settlement of Guy Fawkes and Dorrigo written by an old fella from the area named Eric Fahey. After breakfast we took the road North East to Grafton through Nymboida.

It was still raining quite a lot when we passed through Grafton at around lunch time. It was beginning to flood in Lismore, so we headed for the coast from Grafton along the Pacific Highway through Bundjalung Country. We just made it to Suffolk Park (Byron Bay) before the coast road was cut off by floods there too! That night the dogs got to stretch their legs when mum took us all for a walk along the beach.

Night Walking with Mum

Sunshine, Leigh and Blackish

We spent the next 5 days hanging out at mums taking the dogs for regular walks and just generally hanging out. The dogs had been great to travel with, and were very well behaved the hole time at mums. Sunshine and I headed up to the Gold Coast for a day at Dreamworld, scaring ourselves on the Giant Drop!

The Giant Drop at Dreamworld

Eventually it was time to leave mums and our last night was spent at the "Buddha Bar" at the very cool Arts Factory in Byron Bay. Sunshine and I bought mum a luxury rub down from a spa/herbal therapy place at the Factory as a parting gift.

Sunshine, Toni and Leigh at the Buddha Bar

The next morning we were on the road again, first North to Pottsville to visit a friend, then West to Nimbin. Nimbin still holds its charm with beautiful scenery, friendly locals and very interesting shops. We pulled in to nimbin at about 5pm - a good time we reckoned as the day trippers had left by then. I tried my first custard apple that day.

We pushed on that night, down to Lismore to pick up some boxes for my sister, then West along the Brunxner Highway through Casino. We stopped at a lookout near Malanganee and that's where our dog troubles began. I let the dogs out to run a bit while I took a leak, 2 hours later we were still calling them!! I had to go onto a property as I could hear their rooster crowing! Eventually Blacky showed up, but still no Mistisa. She did turn up - no evidence of a kill on her, but boy was I mad! We applogised to the property owner and made tracks.

Later that night we stopped in at a very nice campsite near Drake called Crooked Creek Rest Area, in the Girard State Forest. We chained the dogs for the night, but at around 5am they began to winge so I let them off! I guess I should have known better, but I was half asleep and very annoyed by the winging. 10am the next morning and we were still searching for them. I walking up to a logging operation to ask if they'd seen them, and stopped a truck driver on the bush trails. All of them explained that there were many wild dogs in the area and stated quite bluntly that our dogs were likely dead or running with a pack!

Lost Dogs Sign at Drake Motel

Sunshine and I were devastated. We cried a bit and decided to drive back to the town Drake to get some food and prepare ourselves for a couple of days looking for the dogs. A very helpful fella with one arm at the Drake Motel put us in touch with another fella named Jim. Jim leant us a topographic map of the area to use on our search. We pulled into the Motel again and left a notice for the dogs, then headed into the Girard again. But amazingly our dogs were tied to a tree at the entry to the forest! On returning Jim's map we learnt that it was Jim's son-in-law who had found them, while he was driving West to Tenterfield! The dogs had made quite a time of their run by the smell of them, rolling in road kill or something. Neither of them had evidence of a kill from what I could see. We washed them at the Motel and continued West to Tenterfield. Drake is a lovely town with very friendly locals. I spotted a property for sale there, 34 Acres, House, Dam, $130 000. No service though.

Bluff Mountain

That afternoon we drove to Armidale down the New England Highway. Its really nice country along that way, with plenty of parks I'd like to visit next time.

Dangars Falls Road

We spent the night at Dangars Falls just South of Armidale. And what a special place that is! Really top quality camping grounds and spectacular views along the well made trails. Of course you're not meant to take dogs into a National Park, but we had them on very strict chains by then, and with no one else in the camping area, we couldn't resist. On the chains the dogs are very well behaved and very quiet.

Camped at Dangars Falls

The next day we drove through Tamworth (noting the Granite outcrops for climbing next time), and West along the Oxely Highway to Gunnedah. We had a very nice $5 lamb roast pup meal at Gunnedah, and bought ourselves arena style hats to get right into the country swing of things. We were headed to visit another friend in Coonabarabran. We spent the afternoon at Viv and Brian's place, marvelling at their self sufficiency on 100 acres in some pretty harsh environment. Viv and Brian have a very nice outdoor bar set up, with Brian serving up some very fine home brew. Viv showed us photos of a tornado that had ripped through the area a few months before! Tornados in Australia are unheard of let alone one this size!

Tornado in Coona!

Camped at White Gums Lookout

That night we camped at White Gums car park in the hope of getting a look at the Warrumbungles. But it poured all night, and was misty the next morning. We didn't get to see the great peaks in the park, but we drove through it anyway, marveling at the green sprouting from the recent drought breaking rains. We followed the roads South through Tooraweenah and on to Dunedoo. We powered on along the number 86, through Mudgee heading for home. But first I wanted to stop at Capertee where my grand parents first bought property to try their hand at sheep farming. The had recommended it as a lovely scenic place and they sure weren't wrong! We had lunch at the Capertee Hotel and got talking to the publican, Les about land prices. I couldn't resist a side trip to Glen Davis after talking with Les, and what a place! The highlight of the trip for me. I left our number with Les should any cheap land become available. But can already see the yuppies eating it all up around there :(


Toni Lee said...

Great account of your trip. Seems like the dogs were letting off steam, after such excellent behaviour here. Looking forward to seeing you for Rhea's birthday.

Anonymous said...

Hope you realise that although you may love your dogs, the native wildlife hate them, and you arent doing any favours to the Australian bush by bringing them into it. Dont say how much you love this country until you learn to treat it with respect. Leave the dogs at home or at least leave them outside of the native bushland areas.

Leigh Blackall said...

Here in the ACT, wild dogs are considered part of the ecology. Most places we go, wild dogs exist. Their heritage being dingo breeds. Our dogs would not have survived a pack of wild dogs in any case.