Monday, May 26, 2008

The Coastal fallback

OK, so I didn't originally plan to get out to the coast on this trip. Still managed to shoot a few piccies while I was there, though!

Above & below: sunset at Tannum Sands. A wedding photographer was working nearby. Hopefully I didn't get in any of the shots.

What happens when you put a polariser on a wide-angle lens! There were some fascinating high-altitude clouds around the coast. I've seen similar inland during winter, usually in the lead-up to bushfire season.

Leaves on Turkey Beach.

The stars over the rocks at Tannum Sands. It looks light, but it wasn't!

Cania & Kroombit - highs and lows

There are a couple of National Parks about a day's drive south of Moranbah I've wanted to visit for a long time, Cania Gorge and Kroombit Tops. A perfect opportunity to break out the tent and camping gear!

Cania Gorge is cut into the same Precipice Sandstone as Carnarvon Gorge. It's smaller, with lots of walking tracks to suit various levels of fitness. The longest, to Castle Mountain lookout, is 22km return. I stayed for three nights at the Cania Gorge Tourist Retreat, a small caravan park on the park boundary. The walks start only a few hundred metres from the retreat, which is tucked into a side canyon. Being winter, it was cold at night, down to 5 degrees, but still mid to high twenties in the day, perfect for walking. The sun didn't burn, either. And yes, I did all the walks, as my hamstrings keep reminding me.

After Cania Gorge I drove down to Monto. I love old Queensland farming towns, especially after living so long in a purpose-built mining town. Old buildings, shops, houses, all give a town character. From Monto I went to the Waratah Vineyard (try the red port). Then on up the Monto-Gladstone Road, which is delightful, winding through rolling hills and small towns. Still a few gravel sections, but these look as though they'll eventually be sealed. I turned off to the second National Park, Kroombit Tops, at Ubobo. The guidebooks state that this road is 4WD only. In the dry, I'd say a 2WD would have no trouble. Not my 2WD, you understand, it still is a bit bumpy...

Kroombit Tops was, sorry, a disappointment. The drive in showed some spectacular cliffs and bush-covered ranges dissapearing into the blue distance. But it turned out that both main attractions, the clifftop lookout and Beautiful Betsy walks were closed for repairs. I've checked on the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service website and no, the closures aren't mentioned anywhere. You have to drive 68km in from the bitumen to find out. To be fair I'd just rolled in, and you're supposed to get a camping permit first - presumably the closures would have been mentioned if I'd rung them. I will go back and camp up there for a couple of nights, but not until the walks are open (and maybe when it's a bit warmer!).

So, a change of plans, and I headed instead to the coast. A colleague had mentioned Tannum Sands as a nice spot, and I camped there for two nights. On Sunday I went exploring, down to Turkey Beach and then to Agnes Waters and 1770. A good way to spend the day.

The drive back to Moranbah was via Rockhampton, and then up the coast to Marlborough. Before the coast road was finished the main highway ran inland from Marlborough, emerging on the coast again at Sarina. The old road's winding, bumpy and far more interesting than the coastal grind. Try it if you have time!

Dry Eucalypt forest on the tops of Cania Gorge National Park. The grasstrees are characteristic of this sort of environment.

View from the Castle Mountain lookout, over Lake Cania. 11km each way, and worth every step!

On the way to The Overhang, in the gorge proper.

At The Overhang. One geologist for scale.

Just playing here, with the trees lit by a campfire. Lentil soup, cask red wine and woodsmoke, perfect for those cold nights outdoors!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sydney and the Hunter Valley

In early May I flew down to Sydney to visit my friend Katie again. We spent the weekend in the Hunter Valley with an old geologist mate Volker and his wife and young son. The Hunter's a beautiful area to work and live in - nice one Volker! - and the wine's not bad either. Katie wanted to see what a mine looked like. It looked far better in her watercolours than in real life. A pity I can't draw.

After a quick weekend away it was back to Sydney to play tourist for a few days. I went to the Sydney Harbour Bridge museum in one of the pylons, wandered the streets, toured the Maritime Museum and went on a frigate, submarine and replica of the Endeavour.

Next time I want to get out to the Blue Mountains for a few days. Cities have heaps of photographic opportunities, but I love landscapes!