Getting a bit behind in my blogs, but that’s what happens when you’re having fun!
After visiting George, we headed to the Hunter Valley for an afternoon of wine, olive and cheese tasting and packed our fridge with the local produce.
Now remember how I said to remember the names Pete and Kia…well we spent the remainder of our time in NSW visiting their family and friends.
Hanging out with: Doug and Laurice – Pete’s parents,.
Again I hear you say “where?” It’s about 30mins south of Tamworth and where Pete grew up. For me it was a time to relax on the farm while Graeme helped Doug with a bit of feral pig control. And one never goes hungry when visiting the McGilchrist farm! We also stopped in to say hi to Pete’s sister Nerida and family in Tamworth.
Hanging out with: Thomo and Frewie (real names Matt and Clare) – Pete and Kia’s friends from Uni.
One night in Byron to crash Matt and Clare’s holiday. They gave us many tips for our travels around Australia has they had done the same thing once up a time before children.
Hanging out with: Julie and Jakob – Kia’s parents.
Where: Between Byron Bay and Lismore.
We did some lovely coastal walks in the area and spotted some humpback whales breaching in the bay while dolphins were surfing the waves – simply beautiful.
Location: Bucketty (about 1.5 hours north of Sydney).
Hanging out with: George again.
George (our tree-climbing, koala-catching friend) recently bought a beautiful rural property in Bucketty (don’t worry, I’d never heard of it before either). George loves nature so it’s no surprise that his property has a pond for the local frogs and a lot of bushland. He has renamed the area “Frogetty” accordingly.
It was also another opportunity to catch up with more frogging friends (Bobby, Morton, Seline, Alan and Sam) who joined us for dinner, slideshows of photos and wildlife spotlighting. Sam took this cute photo of a sugar glider up a tree.
We had a weekend in Sydney in mid-July catching up with many of our friends. Graeme and I lived in Sydney for about 18 months while Graeme worked on his PhD so we had lots of Uni friends to catch up with.
First we stayed with Aaron and Al in their house in the Blue Mountains. A bunch of our Sydney Uni friends came over for dinner, Yvonne, Mike, Trevor, Matt and Lindsey. Our traveling card game “Cards against humanity” made its debut and so there was plenty of laughter into the early hours of the morning.
We then moved on to stay with our friends Sarah and Dean and family in Castle Hill. They moved to Sydney about three years ago when Dean had the opportunity to pursue his interest in sustainable energy and started a job working on solar-hot water systems with Reeme. Sarah is working on a project to “Make the Parramatta River swimmable again”.
We also managed to squeeze in a lovely lunch with our friends Tim and Meggan and a quick visit with Graeme’s cousin Bruce and his wife Kate and babies.
Apologies to the other Sydneysiders who we didn’t get to catch up with due to time constraints!
Location: Newnes. Surrounded by Wollemi Nation Park.
Hanging out with: My cousin Chris, his wife Margie and kids, Ben, Thomas and Matt.
Somewhere in the planning stage of this trip, someone had the bright idea that we should go camping in Newnes with my cousins who live in Sydney. What we forgot to factor in was that July is the middle of winter! Although, the days were sunny, the nights were frosty to say the least. But we kept the campfire burning, rugged up in our thermals, woollies and beanies and my cousins had the forethought to bring their skiing clothes to keep warm.
The town of Newnes was once a thriving coal shale mine and distillery. At its height there was a population of around 1200 workers. But when the Great War came a hundred years ago, the plant shut down, people moved out and the buildings fell into ruin. The Newnes hotel still stands, but it has been turned into a museum. We camped on the banks of the Wolgan river just opposite the old hotel.
This was the first time we stayed in our camper. It was a very useful first run as we soon discovered that there was no gas in the gas bottle when we went to cook our dinner. Luckily we had a dutch oven with grill and jaffle iron so that we could cook on the fire.
There is also a Glow Worm tunnel near by. The tunnel had been cut for the railway, but when the shale plant closed down, the glow worms took over. After a relaxing morning and lunch we finally headed off to the trail head at 3pm, crossed the freezing cold river in our bare feet, only to find a sign that said it was a 4 hour round trip. Given that the sun was going to set in 2 hours we decided to just walk a small portion of the trail, so unfortunately we never made it to the glow worms.
The wildlife in the valley was abundant. There were hundreds of red-necked wallabies, many common wombats and plenty of bird life so our camera also got a good work out.
Hanging out with: Ian Glen
Connection: Ian is the brother of our friend Al who we met at Sydney Uni (and then followed each other to Western Australia and then New Zealand!)
Al has been us telling about his brothers award-winning distillery in Bathurst for a long time, so of course we couldn’t resist checking it out. The Stone Pine Distillery is located on the outskirts of Bathurst, but unfortunately no longer have a cellar door…that’s when it pays to have connections!
So we dropped in on Ian and he was happy for us to taste his wares. Their main product is gin, but he has diversified into experimenting with infused liqueurs with a focus on Australian native plants such as finger-lime.
It was also another example of how small the world can be. Ian spent six years in Scotland learning his craft in a small town out of Elgin. Our Scottish friends, Jill and Fraser, come from that area and as it turns out Jill’s father supplied the barley to Ian.
We bought a selection of produce (gin, spiced rum and finger lime liqueur) for our trip and we were on our way.
Location: Nattai National Park, NSW
Hanging out with: George
Connection: George and Serena met at the University of Sydney when they were doing their Masters in Wildlife Health and Population Management course. George then volunteered for Graeme during his PhD fieldwork and since then George and Graeme have worked together on many fieldwork jobs across Australia.
We spent a day with George on his current job of catching koalas in Nattai National Park . The koala population in this area has been dubbed “the forgotten population” as people didn’t even realise they were there. A bushfire went through a few years ago and many koalas were found dead after trying to escape the fire by crossing the road and then sadly were hit by cars.
Since then, the council has been pro-active in trying to get some information regarding the koala population in the area. This is where George comes in. He has tree-climbing licence (yes you need a licence to climb trees) and special equipment to ‘encourage’ the koala to climb down the tree so that it can be caught. These koalas are getting full health checks by a vet and then radio-collared so that their movements can be tracked.
However, on our day out, even with 12 people searching for koala (three of whom started at 4am in the morning), we didn’t find a single koala that day. That’s the life of a wildlife ecologist. A few days later George sent us some photos of his successful catch which included a mum and joey.
Although Graeme and I didn’t see a koala, it was a beautiful day to be walking in the bush. I also got a little distracted with bird watching. I saw a beautiful wedge-tailed eagle that was only 5 meters away on a tree branch at eye-level. Couldn’t get the camera out in time but the image will stay in my memory for a long time.
- Location: A farm half-way between Gunning and Collector
- Hanging out with: Steve and Emma
- Connection: We met Steve through our friends Pete and Kia (best to remember those names as our tour of NSW is essentially based around visiting Pete and Kia’s friends and family, with the exception of our Sydney friends/family)
- Weather: -7°C the night we arrived
We departed Melbourne around midday on Friday 3rd July. Victoria didn’t really get much of a look-in, aside from a brief stop in Wodonga to visit Graeme’s godparents, Aunty Joy and Uncle Tony.
First destination, Carmarthan (did I spell that correctly??), Steve and Emma’s property half-way between Gunning and Collector. And as I predicted, Graeme did not sleep in the camper on the first night as he said he would, which is lucky because is got to -7 degrees that night.
A touch of frost
Steve and Emma work full-time in Canberra, plus run their farm, plus expecting a baby in August! That’s an awful lot on their plate so we were happy to help out around the farm. We had some “fun” weeding the paddocks and burning off unwanted plant material which meant a few bonfires to warm us up.
Tyson has taken to farm life like a duck to water, riding on the back of utes and meeting cows, horses and chooks for the first time with out causing too much trouble.
And no visit to Collector is complete without having a meal at the local pub. It was probably about 5 degrees inside the pub but the publican clearly thought it was warm enough since he was walking around in shorts, thongs (flip flops) and T-shirt and didn’t feel it was necessary to get the fire going in the dinning room.