Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Day out in Goulburn

So, we finally got out on the open road again yesterday, heading back to the southern tablelands and continuing exploration we began a couple of weeks ago with a Day out in Goulburn.

The jaunt was hubby's idea but he's finding himself a bit tired so we pull over at the Bruce Kingsbury VC rest area to change drivers bringing an end to some reading aloud from an examination of the role of William Wilberforce, Samuel Marsden and Jeremy Bentham in ending transportation.  The author is coming at things from an interesting secular angle which is most interesting, but he'll have to wait. Bruce Kingsbury VC rest area is a pleasant shady picnic area with a few tables and toilet facilities among the pines of Penrose State Forest.

Our first stop is at the Rocky Hill Lookout War Memorial. The whole hill is part of the memorial. The site was chosen as it was considered that the hillside was reminiscent of the slopes of Gallipoli. As we approach the site the resemblance is clear to see. As we start to climb we travel along a quite narrow bushy road before pulling in to a viewing area for a scene with the memorial placed among some rugged rocks and native bushland.

It's a beautiful memorial, quite unique. It is distressing to see that there is a lot of litter in the little viewing area where we have stopped. People should have more respect.  I make a mental note to remember our big yellow litter bags when we return here and allow a fair slab of time for collecting rubbish. There is a small museum on the site also, but today was really only a reccie to the memorial. The open road is calling.

Next to Trappers Bakery at the Goulburn highway service area and stocked up on delicious sourdough bread and also got a loaf of corn bread to try.  The corn bread looks pretty stylish with a nice pattern in the top of the loaf. We also decided to test run Trapper's lamingtons and so got one unfilled one to share between us. Very nice and fresh. A place with high turnover like this is just the spot to grab a lamington.

Off to Crookwell. As we recalled it is a lovely drive of approx 1/2 hr through open grazing country and just out of Crookwell fairly close views of the first grid connected wind power farm.  It is beautiful touring weather  Windows down.  Magic.  One thing to remember on your way in... it's a quarantine district for potatoes.. so leave those seed potatoes at home please.  They are not allowed into the area.

Crookwell is a nice little town with a pleasant main street and shops and businesses that are looking like they are doing OK. First stop the info centre where we were assisted by a lovely friendly lady. Conversation included the obligatory discussion of the lovely weather and the good rain after so long in drought and how good the country is looking! We picked up a couple of interesting books. Hubby chose one on Australian tractors for the granny book shelf - now this is a book he'll enjoy reading to the grandkids.  I got one about John Dunn called Teenage Bushranger.  These country town info centres are very often a source of interesting books you don't find in the major centres. It is always worth having a look at what they have.  Crookwell seems to have a  particularly prolific historical/geneological society so there's plenty of that sort of thing on sale, it is quite an impressive effort.
Crookwell info centre also has a few little locally produced cookbooks for about $5.  We picked up the one that is a fundraiser of the Crookwell Potato Festival which is on next weekend. ... as you would expect it is all potato recipes.  There was also a small ring bound recipe book by the Taralga CWA which was tempting.
We obtained a range of leaflets for local scenic/historic touring and headed off to grab some lunch.
No shortage of choices. The takeaway on the corner - Pete's I think it was called, has tables and a sandwich board advertising a lamb cutlet meal for $12. Other options $10. Battered flathead seems a popular option in town today. We got a look at some meals people were eating on the outdoor table on our way back to the car.  They looked good.  The place smelled good too.
However we couldn't resist the cafe across the road named Me'n Ewe (for those who don't know Crookwell is a centre for fine Merino wool. Sheep are big here..... hehe we love a good pun...)  Me'n Ewe was also advertising $10 meals.  Both these joints doing fairly good trade by the looks.  At Me'n Ewe I chose one of the quiche specials with a side of salad, though chips was an option. Hubby opted for chicken pasta with avocado and dried tomato.  I decided to sample the children's sized caramel malted milkshake. (what a good idea having the smaller size option!).  Our meals were very nice. Great value. Milkshake nice... country town milkshakes are usually better than city ones...

Dougo recommended Lynhams I see getting home.. but it didn't look like it was operating yesterday.  All was dark on the premises so we didn't go over to examine more closely. .. Overall I guess you could say that when in Crookwell, you shouldn't be short of choices for somewhere decent to grab a bite.

So for our local exploration. We decided we liked the look of Binda with its historic buildings and the Tuena leaflet sparks an urge to head up there, though it is 57 odd kms away. Off we go.

The big thing that is hitting us to day in our touring is the varied fragrance of the countryside. Every patch of bushland throws a beautiful and distinctive fragrance into the car. We think this must be the rain we've had. That little bit of humidity and the beautiful aromas of the bush are carrying on the air more than has been the case for a long time. It is delicious and the different sorts of eucalypts all have their own particular aroma.  The bush is a bit scrubby in that area between Crookwell/Goulburn and Bathurst/Oberon, but today the silver grey eucs are smelling heavenly.
So, to Binda.. its a very small village with a lot of local stone buildings which mostly look privately owned.  Having just eaten we don't stop at the local pub. We're off to Tuena which has the oldest licensed wattle and daub pub and also the oldest wattle and daub bookkeepers cottage.  The claim in the brochure that it is perhaps the most picturesque village in NSW seems a bit of a stretch... that is to say.. it isn't. In fact I'd say I could list at least 6 other villages in NSW that are more picturesque..
We make a stop at the book-keepers hut, and we pop into the general store and pick up an ice-cream. .. I think hubby wanted to give them some business... Same family ownership since 1860.. which is quite an achievement.  Tuena is a very quiet serene little village with a campground.  Good for people who don't like slick, just want a quiet spot with real people about.

We're not up for a longer stop at the moment. Where to next.  Some umming and aahing whether to head back to Crookwell or go on to Bathurst. We choose Bathurst... I don't like backtracking as a general rule and I have shortlisted the Crookwell area for a family holiday at a local farmstay sometime in the next 12 months, so good to leave some routes unexplored for now.

Next stop after more lovely bushland aromas and about a total of  7 kms of dirt road in several short patches.. we take the turn to Abercrombie Caves.  It is not a hot day, but Abercrombie Caves reserve is a cool and shady oasis where we just felt like lingering. There are some nice guest accomodation options and some camping spots.

The creek is shaded by sheoaks. A modest volume of water trickling among a rocky bed. This is fairly typical for creeks and stream in this area of NSW, but here the rocks are more obviously limestone.  I am excited to see the picnic ground still has real bbq pits for you to bring your own wood for a proper Aussie bbq. .. Abercrombie Caves is shooting higher up my list of desirable holiday spots by the minute...god save these spots from that cancer of Australian picnic grounds... the electric bbq....grrr.

The cave tours in NSW are not cheap. The cheapest option here at Abercrombie is the $15 pp self guided Archway tour.  The added advantage of this option is that you can take it at any time. We're too late for the tour of the Bushranger Cave that runs at 2pm on the weekends only. We hand over the dollars and after a brief run down of the route to the entrance etc we set off.  To start you walk in lovely shade along the river, past some interesting geological features with abundant superb fairy wrens in their dapper metalic blue and black  flitting in the shrubs around the path.  Something scuttles in the water as we approach leaving only ripples.  What the... a platypus??? no, a little water dragon has swum away and is busily crawling up on a branch half submerged in the water.

We pass the exit of the caves and then you head decidedly uphill, with some uneven steps and a fairly rough path through areas of open ground that are in the full sun. The terrain undulates a bit and finally you start heading sharply down to the entrance of the archway which is at creek level. There are interpretive boards along the way as well.

We have been provided with an entry token to operate the gates controlling entry to the Archway and head in. the creek flows right through the archway and our path runs along the sides of the caves with occassional bridges across the river.  Looking at the cave superficially you might think it fairly tame, but it has some interesting features we've not seen elsewhere.  Craybacks for example are only found in cave situations like this Archway or the Grand Arch at jenolan... we grow in our appreciation of this formation as our walk continues. "The "roast chicken" is well named!  There is also some nifty "scalloping" which is caused by the lapping of water on the limestone, this is best viewed on a large limestone boulder that looks a bit like a whale head lying in the creek bed.
We have the place entirely to ourselves. In the quiet we hear some quiet animal noises and figure this is coming from the colony of bats using part of the site. Cool.  One of the other interesting features of the cave is a bush dance floor erected in the 19th century it is still in perfect condition and used for church services and functions. It would be great for dancing and the acoustics would be very good.
We emerge into the daylight for another pleasant walk along the river.  We have enjoyed our meander through the Archway very much. Perhaps don't come with an expectation of first rate crystal like you would get at Jenolan, but it is an interesting walk, cool and pleasant.  We have found Abercrombie Caves Reserve well worth our time and fully intend to come back for a longer sojourn sometime.

As we rejoin the road to Bathurst at the caves turnoff, I admire the grasses once again.
Then we're determinedly heading to Bathurst.  I do particularly love the countryside around this part of NSW and that golden light time of day isn't doing it any harm for enjoyable touring either.  In Bathurst we make a brief attempt to drive Mt Panorama, which I have done in the past but somehow Hubby always misses... unfortunately there's something on and most of the course is not open....again. Sigh.
Back in familiar territory between Bathurst and Lithgow.  Roadwork is steadily improving the Great Western Highway as we head up and through the mountain villages and down to the Cumberland plain and home. Even the mountains are rich with fragrance. So different to the rest of our route.
It's fairly late when we get home. Whole day's consumed about 11 hrs and felt like a mini holiday.  Nothing blows out the cobwebs like hitting the open road. :o)