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LCOOL ACT - Gardens of Stone - 13/14 May 06

It was an early start for us on Saturday morning – up at 3.45 am (although dad had been up since 3.00am) – Sufficiently breakfasted we headed off to meet Pete and Schooner at the Eagle Hawk servo on the Federal Highway at 5am.

Hearing Pete over the radio we drove off into the dark towards Goulburn with Pete and his trusty sidekick Schooner in the Surf, followed closely by Mike, Michelle and three of the 6 tinlids in the 80 series.

Passing through Goulburn, Pete had a glitch with his ‘technology’ but this was quickly resolved and we headed off into the fog, only to be held up by a wayward Tarago all over the road.  Pete passed no problem, Mike got stuck behind for a few kms.  We have a theory as to what was causing this guy to weave all over the road but wont elaborate in polite company.

With the sun gradually appearing through the gloom we continued on via Tarana, Oberon then onto Lithgow.  Stopping for a short break to refuel cars and occupants (with Meat pies – which were good eh Schooner!) we met up with Brian at 9.00am at the Zig Zag Railway.  We thought we had the wrong place as the carpark was full of discos and rangies – Schooner was tempted to say something but he didn’t, I think his comment would have been along the lines of showing them a real Range Rover….!!

After a quick briefing as to where we were headed, it was off up the Newnes Forest Road to Bungleboori – Mitch leading and Pete playing tail end Charlie.  After an interesting drive we arrived at the Glow worm tunnel, (the road follows the track bed of the old railway that was originally used by the Shale Oil mine).

A quick brew at the parking area and then a one hour walk to the tunnel ensued.  The amount of fill used to create the embankments the old railway ran on is amazing.  In parts the old bridges have collapsed which means that walkers climb down and then cross over a wooden bridge before a steep climb back up to the path. 

With torches in hand we descended into the old tunnel, stopping briefly in places to peer myopically into the dark to see the blue glow of the glow-worms that now inhabit the walls and ceiling of the tunnel.  TIP: if you use your peripheral vision you will see them much better – oh and keep the noise down while you are doing it!

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP– make sure you either have, or stay with someone who has a torch – without light, deep puddles on the floor of the tunnel will give you soggy feet at the very least, a broken ankle maybe!! – believe me I speak from experience here after losing touch with the group with torches – only thanks to Schooner who came back with his 1 million candle power torch that I found my way back to the path!. 

The other end of the tunnel was like something out of Jurassic Park – except without the dinosaurs (unless of course you count me!).  Huge tree ferns that you would pay an absolute mint for in any garden centre towered overhead.  More walking followed to an area that overlooked the Newnes Valley – immense escarpments everywhere.  It’s a testament to the construction crews when you think about how much rock was dug and blasted to make the railbed.  Shot holes can still be seen clearly in the sandstone walls.

The walk back wasn’t exhausting – the gentle gradient saw to that. Lunch and a chat about Brian’s new tyres on his car and other mods I’d like to do to the 80, then onto Blackfellows Hand road to have a look at the rock paintings of the Wollemi people.  The track wound down into a gulley where a cave under a massive overhang originally sheltered the Aboriginal people of the area.  The atmosphere here is spooky to say the least – like something is watching you.

A little further on and we stopped to climb up to the site of the rock paintings, the whole place is like being in a big cathedral with the same sense of reverence, its obvious to see why the area is special to the Wollemi people.

The group of discos has been there before us and left as we pulled in, however a bit further on we caught up with them – afternoon tea on the track and we were offered lamingtons as we went past – very civilised of them!!!  We stopped a bit further up the track for more magnificent views and left at 3.45 before heading to the campsite Brian knew of – an old site where a property used to be – but long gone now.

We arrived at the camp ground at about 4.15 and proceeded to set up for the night – yet another tip for wary campers…. Make sure that you know how to set your tent up before you go camping.  Michelle and I had bought ourselves a new touring tent – thankfully we learn very quickly and it wasn’t long before we had our tent up.

Dinner consisted of spaghetti for the kids and one-pot stew for Pete and Schooner, dessert was a damper prepared by Michelle with lashings of golden syrup – yum!

With dinner cooked, a beer or two under the belts and a decent campfire blazing away,  Pete suddenly found he had a new friend – Chris our youngest had quickly adopted Pete as his new best mate – so once it was dark ‘uncle Pete’ decided to teach the kids elements of good ‘bush craft’ beginning with how to track Bunyips, Drop Bears and Yowies.  Apparently Yowies don’t like the colour orange (what a coincidence that Pete’s coat was orange then!).  Pete and the three kids disappeared into the dark to look for the aforementioned creatures, 15 minutes later they were back – Chris vowing not to go the other way as Pete thought he’d heard a yowie in that direction.

The kids were despatched off to bed leaving the adults to ponder things like “did the moon actually move” and “helicopters towing stars” – you had to be there!!!

Day 2.

Day 2 and we were up by 7am, with breakfast of bacon and eggs. 

Schooners Camping Tip:  Try a bacon and egg sandwich as it saves on washing up!!!).  After a decent breakfast, camp was struck and we were back on the trail by 10am.

We proceeded past some other alternate campsites then up to a lookout at the top of Moffit Trail overlooking the Baal Bone Gap. – More pics.

Up the Castlereagh highway and through some great scenery, and into low range for a great rocky left handed climb, this was the most challenging part of the trip (if you discount the 2wds sliding sideways around the corner at you!). 

Another chance for a spectacular view before we headed along the highway to another awesome view at Pearson’s lookout.  Then on to a stop at Capertee for a leg stretch and comfort stop.  We managed to get Schooner past the Capertee pub with a minute to spare since opening time wasn’t until 11am – phew!

From here it was back through “Turon Gates”.  It’s interesting to see the land owner making use of the views to promote weekend getaways in cabins dotted all over the property – if you are considering a long weekend getaway it would be worth considering.  There’s stuff for the kids to do as well including horse rides and canoeing (when there’s water in the river!).

It was during this stretch of the trip that Schooner’s official capacity became known – that of official gate closer – see that’s what you get when you don’t take your own car!!!

The drive back to Oberon was interesting, via Sunny corner where a car rally was in progress and past the local prison farm and fields of brussel sprouts. On to Tarana left on to Mutton falls road, the local Tarana pub was doing a rip roaring trade for mothers’ day.

Oberon, and we stopped to air up and feed the hordes – hamburgers anyone!!!  Pete opted for a more low-cost option by cooking hot dogs on his stove out the back of his car – much to the amusement of the locals who asked for onions in theirs!

We left Oberon for Wombeyan Caves with Pete leading, and after a quick detour which turned into a u-turn (it must have been that damn glitch in the GPS coming back again, either that or the road signs are pointing in the wrong direction!) , we arrived at Wombeyan Caves at about 3.45pm.  After a quick toilet stop, a look round and a discussion about how good the Wombeyan Caves would be for a future LCOOL weekend, we said our goodbyes as Brian was leaving us at Mittagong.  So we headed back towards Mittagong along the single-lane road that winds along the side of the mountain, eventually passing the Naturist retreat – a possible location for the next LCOOL ACT Christmas party perhaps!!! (just kidding!)

We left Brian just before Mittagong, with Pete and Mike turning right to Berrima before rejoining the Hume for the run home, arriving in Canberra at 6.45pm.

All up it was a fabulous weekend with awesome scenery and great company, thanks to Brian, Pete, Schooner and my family for an awesome weekend, lets do it again soon. For those of you who couldn’t come I recommend that you get up to the Newnes Area and have a look – before the greenies get in and ruin things – you wont regret it.

Wildlife seen enroute – red kangaroos, grey kangaroos, wombats, rabbits, foxes, wallaby, cattle, horses, sheep, lizard, glow-worms, and of course the yowies, bunyips and drop-bears. (These last three weren’t seen but were apparently heard!!!!!)


Mike Norman (Mikoz22)

Baal Bone Gap

Baal Bone Gap - the real thing

Aboriginal Art - spot the childs arm and the boomerang...

It was hard to put up with....

Schooner by the light of the flash - in the tunnel

Great view Mitch!!


The view out of the cave


Entrance to the tunnel

The convicts had a lot of work to do, to cut this in..

Cave Paintings

Bridge Crossing


Back from the tunnel

Now, who has been playing ;-)

Pete taking in the view