Saturday, December 29, 2012

Great Southern Land (Part 3)

After a few very hot days in the Warrumbungles, I felt like finding somewhere cooler to pitch my tent. Mt Kaputar, only a few hours north, fitted the bill. The mountain's about 1500m high and has a campground at 1400m. Because of the elevation, the days were no more than mid-twenties - wonderful after the high thirties days in Dubbo and the Warrumbungles. The campground was surrounded by Snow and Mountain Gums, with plenty of walking tracks, curious kangaroos and very few other campers. It was the perfect place to chill out while the rest of Australia got on with its Christmas shopping.

Mt Kaputar is, or was, a shield volcano similar to the Warrumbungles. The various bluffs and outcrops are mainly basalt, with plugs forming massive, cliff-edges plateaus that stick out of the forest.

Sunset from the summit of Mt Kaputar

One thing I quickly found is that early summer is thunderstorm season in NSW and Queensland. Many thunderheads seemed to go around Mt Kaputar rather than over it, and as I walked along various tracks,  the forests and bluffs echoed to the sound of thunder away over the plains. The summit did get smited on two days though, and my tent proved to only be 90% waterproof.

Hmmm, those clouds look a bit dark. I wonder what's coming?

Surely that storm's going to pass us by?

But not that one. Damn.

After the storms had cleared, the sunset showed up the silhouette of the Warrumbungles, 160km to the south. It's said that you can see 7% of NSW from Mt Kaputar.

There was a surprising amount of wildlife up the mountain. I saw my first fox in the wild, the kangaroos always showed up at mealtimes, and as for goats... I counted 18 in one herd.

At the northern end of Mt Kaputar National Park is Sawn Rocks. They're a single thick lava flow that has cooled slowly. When rock cools it shrinks and cracks, and the cracks run perpendicular to the surface. In most cases the result is like Sawn Rocks, with columnar jointing. The same thing is famously seen in the Giant's Causeway in Ireland.

After a few days walking through forests, standing on cliff edges and watching the wildlife, it was time to head home. I had to stop at one more geological attraction though - Rocky Creek Glacial Area, near Bingara. The glacier's long-gone now - it was gone before dinosaurs evolved. But the rocks remain - conglomerates of granite cobbles picked up by a glacier, as well as interbeds of fine siltstone. The cobbles were deposited in summer, when the glacier moved rapidly, while the fine sediments were from rock flour, deposited in winter when the glacier had ground to a halt. I counted about seven different source rocks that have contributed to the conglomerate. It was, in every sense, cool.


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