Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Brisbane Trip Day 24: Armidale

This was definitely the coldest night we've had on the trip so far, and a bit of a shock after such warm nights in Brisbane. We used all the blankets and it wasn't too uncomfortable. I was up early and there was a fog covering the show grounds, with the sun shining through and silhouetting all the show buildings, it was very pretty.

I had a cup of tea and breakfast and the kids joined me as they woke up. Once I'd eaten I started work on my car window - being a Sunday I figured there'd be no one around to fix it, and also I didn't want to pay someone again, I was sure I could figure it out. It took me a while to get the door panel off, there were a couple of screws I didn't find until I looked up a diagram online. With the panel off I could see what the problem was - the window had jumped the rails and was jammed between the window column and the door frame. I tried to shift it out but it wasn't budging at all. I thought I just needed more strength, so asked the guy in the camper trailer next to us if he could help. He was a young guy, and a mechanic, and happy to help out. He'd also had a similar problem with his own window. My window though was well and truly jammed and he couldn't shift it with strength. He tried a few things and eventually found a screw that loosened the window enough to move it back and out of the jam, then put it into it's rail. He put everything back together for me and the window worked perfectly. I was very grateful.

By now it was nearly 11am so we quickly got ready and headed off to explore. We drove around Armidale and I showed the kids places that I remembered. Amelie was impressed with all the churches. I wanted to show them the 3 houses I'd lived in, on the first pass I couldn't find any of them - everything looked so different. We got petrol and drove up Elm Avenue to the uni, I was pleased to show them this beautiful road that I walked up so many times. There were a few yellow leaves here and there, but it was mainly showing it's summer glory. Driving back through town I found 2 of my houses and I think the driveway of the third.

We set off along the Waterfall Way to the east. I love this countryside - with the elevation so high the sky seems to go forever and the clouds sit differently to what we are used to. The land is pretty dry, with beautiful dead trees in all the paddocks, and lots of large rocks strewn everywhere. It's pretty tough land, very beautiful. We saw 3 eagles on our drive out to Wollomombi Falls.

At the falls we wandered around the picnic area a bit, got a glimpse of Chandler Falls, looked at the gorge, used the toilets then checked the maps and decided to do the walk that goes towards the tops of the falls. The walk was quite pretty, through wooded hills with a mix of living and dead trees and interesting undergrowth. The first lookout gave us a good view of the gorge - it was deep and immense looking - lots of places where we could see that rockfalls had happened, huge slabs of rock lining the walls where there hadn't been falls, and the river way way down below. The day was hot and at one point the kids were thinking about heading back. We could see a cool looking metal bridge up ahead though so kept walking towards that. The bridge crossed the river, above (and a few hundred metres back from) the top of the falls. It was gorgeous, the river trickling between lots of big rocks, and the river banks sloping up to grass and then trees and the blue sky above. We had a play around on the rocks and saw some rock skinks (one swam across the river to get away from us). We found a spot in the shade and sat and ate some lunch (tuna, avocado, ritz and saladas). After eating we explored a bit more above and below the bridge, then kept walking to the lookout at the top of the falls. It was pretty as well, we could see several arms of the falls coming from a rock pool at the top, and had a great view right along the gorge. We couldn't see the bottom of the falls though, they were way below us. After resting a little and admiring the view, we continued on to the lookout for Chandler Falls (two rivers meet at the bottom of the gorge, and they both have massive waterfalls dropping into the gorge just before the meeting place. Wollomombi Falls are the tallest in Australia, over 200m). These falls were also impressive. Not a lot of water in them at the moment, but we could see it falling in steps all the way to the bottom. The gorge here was similar although had different things to look at - a slightly less recent rockfall, different trees, more farmland at the top. We could also see the top of the ridge between the 2 rivers.

The walk back was pretty again although we were all quite tired. The views of the gorge from the lookouts, and even the river at the bridge, looked different because the sun had moved and the shadows were very different. Back at the car we had a big drink of water and a snack and felt a bit refreshed. We drove down to look at the camping ground (which I hadn't realised was there) - it looked pretty and was quite cheap, although the sites looked pretty hard and possibly were all gravel, so it might be tricky for us to set up there.

I'd planned to keep heading east and see Ebor Falls, Dorrigo and maybe even Bellingen, but we'd spent quite a bit of time here and got started later than I'd thought we would, and we were all feeling tired. So instead we went back towards Armidale, then went out to Gara Gorge. The last several kilometres of the road were gravel, and parts of it were the most heavily corrugated I think I've driven on. I had to drive at about 10km/hr in one bit so that the car didn't feel like it was going to fall apart. It seemed to take a long time to get to the gorge, through some very pretty countryside - then suddenly we were on paved roads again as we entered the National Park. We stopped at the Blue Hole and got out to have a look. I remembered people swimming here, and while it was attractive to look at, it didn't look inviting to swim in. No one else was there and there were no obvious paths down to the water either. We found a path through the grass that led to a big rock so we stood there and watched the birds and the skinks and enjoyed the peaceful surrounds.

I'd seen people coming out along the road who had been swimming, and several cars came past from further into the park, so we went down there. There were a lot more cars at the next carpark. We walked down to the river and saw kids in the water, and people walking back up the path in wet clothes, so I popped back to the car and got the kids swimmers. The other kids had said there was a better spot to swim further down the river. Liam and Caitlin clambered over the rocks to explore, which was fun (although Liam scratched his shoulder quite badly on a tree). They came back up and the 4 of us walked down the path a way until we found another place to reach the river. The rocks rose up quite steeply either side of the water, and the valley was narrower and more full of trees than the valley we'd had lunch in. This was beautiful as well, in a darker way. The water was reflecting in shimmery patterns on the overhanging rocks, it was very cool. The kids sat on the edge of a rock with their feet in the water and the fish nibbled on their skin, and I found a beachy area where I could wade into the water. It was cold, though bearable. The kids joined me (we had to duck under a tree branch to get to the beach) and Caitlin made her way over a rock to sit on a submerged (slippery) rock. I'd walked in to about my waist and Liam came with me, then swam out to a rock in the middle of the river. Caitlin made her way out there as well, then when she came back in I went out. There were lots of big rocks under the water and while the water was clear it was in the shade and hard to see, so we didn't swim around a lot. It was lovely though, being in the water and looking up at the rocks and the trees (and the extra reflections that the ripples we were making created on the rocks). Amelie played in the water near where we came in, it sloped down quite quickly there so it was easy to get right in to the water.

We got out and talked to a couple who were making their way up the river going from rock to rock - just where we were there wasn't an easy way to get across or around so they walked through the water. I sat with my feet in the river for a while and enjoyed the fish nibbling on my dry skin. We got dressed and walked back to the car. Amelie read the history of the water flume that used to be here - there was hydro power here once. It was interesting too to look at the debris stuck in the trees and see how high the flood level is here when there's been a lot of rain.

The drive out was a lot easier - the sun was low in the sky and was highlighting the corrugations in the road so I could avoid them as much as possible. We called in at Coles when we were back in town to grab milk and eggs and a 6-pack of beer for the guy who fixed my window. We drove around a little more so the kids could see the attractive main street and the fountain in the mall.

Back to camp and we all went and had hot showers, then had egg and cabana sandwiches for dinner. We tidied up (and I did the dishes so they weren't slowing us down in the morning) and once again were all in bed between 9 and 9.30.

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