Holidays,  Interesting Places,  Travel

Far West and Far North

Between the 1st and 15th March, 2019, I embarked on a series of railway journeys around New South Wales, Australia. The railway related information for those journeys is located at the I’ve Been (almost) Everywhere page on my Railway themed website.

What follows is the non-railway related content.

Griffith

The first journey involved me travelling to Griffith for the weekend, so I could catch the Griffith Explorer on Sunday morning. The area around Griffith grows a large amount of fruit and vegetables, and further west is cereal crop country. Griffith, like many other interior parts of Australia, can get quite hot. I was there near the end of Summer and so it was hotter than I would have liked. After arriving there, I set up my accommodation at one of the caravan parks – my trusty little hiking tent.

I had already used this tent on previous holidays, including a cycling holiday around Port Phillip Bay, and northern Victoria some months ago, and have found this little tent to be quite sufficient for my holiday needs. It is a little on the small side, but still very capable and very water proof and weather resistant. And because it only requires a tent / camp site it is a lot less expensive accommodation than staying in motels or cabins. Less expense means I can stay at more places! ֓That seems like a reasonable trade-off to me. On Sabbath, after church, I walked back to the caravan park a more scenic way to explore some of the scenery thatGriffith had to offer.

A canal near the centre of Griffith.
Parkland in Griffith
Rock outcrop in parkland in Griffith.


Bathurst

The next leg of this set of railway journeys was from Griffith to Bathurst, where I was to stay overnight. This journey involved catching a train and bus, through some very scenic sections of the state. The scenery between Wallendbeen and Bathurst was particularly beautiful, with mountain ranges and farmland.

Orchards between Griffith and Junee.
And old hotel near the railway station in Narranderra.
Scenery near Bethungra.
Near Bendick Murrell, NSW.
Near Koorawatha, NSW.

Eventually, after many hours of travel, and a 5km hike from Bathurst railway station to Kelso, I arrived at the caravan park where I had booked a campsite. It was on the 5km hike that I developed some rather nasty blisters on one of my feet, which would plague me for most of the rest of the holiday. At the caravan park I stayed at there was a elaborate slot car racing layout set up, which was designed to be a copy of Bathurst’s Mount Panorama motor racing circuit.

Slot car racing set at Caravan Park at Kelso.

Broken Hill

This journey covered a large portion of the width of New South Wales, from Bathurst, just west of the Blue Mountains, to Broken Hill, as far as I could go on the NSW TrainLink Discovery Pass I purchased for this set of railway journeys. It started with a 5km hike from the caravan park in Kelso to Bathurst railway station, which didn’t help the blisters I had developed the day before. But I still made it to Bathurst railway station in reasonable time.

The most interesting part of the journey to Broken Hill was after we left Orange. Between Orange and Parkes the railway traverses a mountain range – something I didn’t expect that far west (I though it was pretty flat west of Orange before this holiday), and then after Parkes we started getting into what some might call “The Outback”. The further west we went the more sparse the towns became and the more desert-like the landscape became.

West of Parkes, NSW. The landscape was mostly flat west of Parkes
Between Ivanhoe and Menindee, there was a lot of this sort of landscape with sand dunes in abundance in some places.

Around Menindee, which is pretty much in the middle of no-where, and a place that has 2 trains a week as it’s only form of public transport, there was a burst of greenery with vineyards and orchards. I really wasn’t expecting that, although it is near a major river so I guess it makes some sense to be growing things in that area.

Vineyards near Menindee, NSW.
Orchards near Menindee, NSW

The fact that towns like Menindee even exist is testament to the pioneering spirit of the generations that have gone before us. I sometimes wonder whether if the Australian continent was in the process of being discovered and settled today whether there would even be those willing to endure the hardship that those pioneers has to face. When the train went through Menindee it was at least 35 degree Celsius there. At more than 1000km from Sydney, Menindee is one of only a very few railway stations in New South Wales that are more than 1000km from Sydney.

After more than 10 hours of train journey from Sydney, the train arrived at Broken Hill. And it was still hot there. Fortunately I didn’t have to walk far to my accommodation for the night due to the nasty blisters on my feet, and the heat of the night. Broken Hill owes it’s existence to the minerals and metals in the hills around it, and started history as a mining town, especially silver ore which resulted in the town receiving the nickname “Silver City”. It is closer to the capital city of South Australia than the capital city of New South Wales, which might help explain why it uses South Australia’s timezone instead of New South Wales.

Hills seen from railway station. I think these hills might be man-made, and are the rocks brought out from the mines to get to the ores that were mined there.
Hills near railway station.

From Broken Hill, I had another overnight staty at Kelso via Bathurst, then back to Bathurst to catch a bus and train back home for a one-night stay before the next set of journeys.

Moree

To get the train from the town we live in to Moree, in New South Wales’ far north, is one of the better connected journeys that I have undertaken on the New South Wales TrainLink services. Whereas to get from where we live to Broken Hill by public transport requires an overnight stay in either Sydney or Bathurst, the journey to Moree connects very well with the trains through the town we live in. Although it does involve an overnight train journey in order to make the connection to the Moree train. I had made most of this journey before ( see Trains a Bus and Discovery Pass ) when I caught the train to Armidale, NSW so much of the journey was the same. Bu from Werris Creek to Moree is a very different journey than from Werris Creek to Armidale being mostly flat and relatively high speed. Although there were speed restrictions on the day due to the temperature.

Landscape between Narrabri and Moree – pretty flat!

Moree is famous for it’s hot mineral baths, and a lot of the passengers on the trains seemed to be going to Moree for that purpose. After setting up camp at a caravan park near the Moree railway station, and getting a reasonable night’s sleep (it was hot weather there), I headed off to Moree church. But after waiting at the church for quite a while and no-one else except another visitor arriving, I decided that church probably wasn’t on at Moree on that day and went for a walk instead. The Mehi River cuts through the town of Moree, and along the riverside there are walking tracks, and parkland. This was a pleasant way to spend Sabbath morning. On Sunday I continued exploring the town.

Ducks, geese, water hens, ibises.
Pelicans
Darter
Cormorant
River at Moree, NSW.
Moree War Memorial Hall.
One of the hotels in the town of Moree, NSW.
AC Reid & Co building, Moree, NSW.
Old building, Moree, NSW.

Moree being so far north, and the time of year still being close to Summer meant that after midday it was too hot to do much and so once it was afternoon I spent most of the time in one of the pools in the caravan park. On Monday morning, I was due to catch a bus from Moree across to Grafton near the east coast. True to country style, the bus driver seems a little unaware of or disinterested in the time and the bus left Moree about 10 minutes late. Not far to the east of Moree the scenery changed from being fairly flat to undulating and by the time we got to Glenn Innes the undulations became even more hilly. The bus stopped in Inverell for a lunch break, and so while there I did a little bit of exploring near the bus station.

Water feature at Inverell, NSW, Visitor Information Centre.
Gardens near Inverell Visitor Information Centre.
River, Inverell, NSW.

After lunch the bus journey continued east. Eventually the bus ascended into the Gibraltar Range for one of the more interesting bus journeys I’ve ever been on. This part of the journey was somewhat similar to the ascent and descent into Kangaroo Valley along the NSW south coast but in a bus.

View from the Gibraltar Range, shot from the bus.
Gibraltar Range.
Gibraltar Range.
There were many of these ‘hairpin’ bends in the Gibraltar Range.
Gibraltar Range.

The bus arrived in Grafton more or less on time, and then I had to wait for the NSW TrainLink XPT train to Casino. By the time the train got to Casino it was well and truly dark, and so I didn’t really take many photos of Casino, and it had been a long day of traveling and I was pretty much ready for some sleep. The next day I caught the train south from Casino to Newcastle and stayed there overnight. Somewhere along the way I had caught a head cold or something like that and so by the time I got to my accommodation at Newcastle, following a 4km walk from Broadmeadow station, I was really looking forward to a decent rest. But it was hot at Newcastle too, and as a result I didn’t sleep well. The following day I walked back to Broadmeadow station, via some areas of Newcastle I didn’t see the previous day.

Historic buildings, Newcastle, NSW.
Historic building, Newcastle, NSW.
Tugboat in Newcastle harbour, NSW.
Large ship in Newcastle harbour, NSW.
Newcastle foreshore, NSW.
Newcastle foreshore.

Following an uneventful few train journeys, I arrived back home around 3am the following day. On this holiday I went through a number of places I’d never been before, traveling many thousands of kms. And as a result of this and the previous railway holiday I did in October yast year, I had been to or through all currently active railway stations served by NSW TrainLink trains, except for 2 – they will have to wait for another time.

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