Coonabarabran is in central NSW, about a 10 hour sedate trip from Brisbane. Two friends and I decided to go and visit my sister, who is currently working at Pilliga Pottery.
The Pottery is about 35km from Coonabarabran, at the end of a 10km dirt road. It’s a lot bigger than I expected and provides several buildings for farm stays and accommodation.
We’d left Brisbane quite early, so arrived before dusk – which was fortunate for the wildlife (and the car). This beautiful light meant that I had to take photos as soon as we arrived, though:
One of the most interesting works at the pottery is the “Tree of Life” statue. It’s a multi-artist statue, using shards of pottery and mosaics as well as figures of birds etc. It’s probably 3.5m high – not really sure – but it’s well worth investigating (and photographing) at any time of day:
One of my friends hurt herself on our first night at the pottery, so we headed into Coonabarabran on Saturday morning. The medical practice in town was closed, so we tried the hospital. It took several attempts at ringing the bell and then just yelling out to someone walking past the door, to get into the emergency section. We left my friend there, since there was nothing we could do but wait, to go and explore the Warrumbungles.
Warrumbungles & Siding Spring Observatory
We drove west of Coonabarabran along Timor Road, towards the Warrumbungles National Park. You can see the results of the bushfires that had been through here less than a year ago. The black is being reclaimed by life everywhere. There’s some beautiful wildflowers around. I couldn’t get them to hold still though :-). There’s some great views along the road:
We stopped at the Siding Spring Observatory. This was a bit of a disappointment for us tourists. We were able to get a sandwich here, and take some great photos from the lookout, but astronomy-wise, there’s not much to see except for the outside and the big ‘telescope’ and a few posters on the walls. At least admission was free.
After lunch at the Observatory, we were back on the road and stopped at Whitegum Lookout to see what we could see. The short walk to the lookout is full of burnt trees, some of which have sprouted new life, and wildflowers everywhere. The observatory is visible around some corners, too:
We drove into the national park, but since we’d heard from our friend back at the hospital, we didn’t explore it further than taking a few photos of a couple of kangaroos we saw by the creek near the entrance:
We stayed in town that night, since the Pottery was booked out. One of my friends and I went to a private observatory run by someone that used to work at Siding Spring. This fellow has a few telescopes in his front yard – some of which were used for viewing by those present, others by people over the internet. It was interesting enough, though the bit I had been looking forward to the most – taking photos through the telescope with my own dSLR camera – wasn’t possible with my, nor my friend’s, camera – it only works with Nikon, Canon and Pentax, unfortunately. We got to see Mercury, Venus, and a few galaxies and stars, as well as the moon. The brightness of the moon prevented us from seeing a few other things in the sky, but it was still great to see these with our own eyes.
The next day we dropped our poor broken ribbed friend back at the Pottery, where we would be spending the next 2 nights again, before heading off to see some sandstone caves. These aren’t marked on any maps and most people don’t know about them, to discourage too many tourists coming through.
These caves were used by the local aborigines, though the evidence is behind bars because earlier tourists had vandalised the grooves etc.
I had been wanting to see sandstone caves for a long time – ever since I’d seen some in a book – so I was looking forward to this very much.
The walk to the caves isn’t very long (though hot!) and goes through some bushland:
More Pilliga Pottery
Back at the pottery, the sky was looking ominous. We had moved into the Old Schoolhouse accommodation, which has 360 degree views and some lovely gardens, so I had to take some photos:
It was delicious!!
My sister helps out with the milking, some of the animals and the gardens at the pottery. I accompanied her on her chores – not to help, of course, but to photograph 🙂
It was time to head into town again to get my friend’s prescription filled, since none of the chemists were open on the weekend, past Saturday lunchtime. Once she got the much needed painkillers, we stopped at the Crystal Kingdom.
Crystal Kingdom Museum
We had driven past here quite a few times by now, so my friend and I decided to stop and have a look. The museum was really great! It had samples of different types of rocks and crystals etc – mostly from around the region, which is volcanic. There were even fossils of fish and leaves (reproductions) that had been found in the area. It was definitely worth checking out – especially since it’s free!
Still More Pilliga Pottery
Since we were staying at the pottery, we needed to see some pottery demonstrations by some of the staff there:
It was time to come home before we knew it. We decided to go the scenic route to avoid all the heavy traffic, and take in Mt Kaputar National Park’s Sawn Rocks.
We headed off along the gravel road (and said goodbye to the ponies, kangaroos and emus for the last time) to get on the Newell Highway until Narrabri, and then onto Killarney Gap Road where we were immediately slowed down by a drover and his dog driving cattle across the road. It gave us time to admire the scenery though!
Sawn Rocks Lookout is about half an hour down the road (past the cattle!), and is definitely worth a stop. There’s just a short walk to the Sawn Rocks area. There was this white fluff in a tree on the path, which I just had to photograph:
The path from the lookout continues down into the creek bed, which is completely dry at the moment. There a quite a few ‘columns’ that have been broken off the rock face above, that look like Roman or Greek columns, and the stone creek bed like a road:
Bingara and Roxy Theater
We stopped for coffee in Bingara. The old Roxy Theater is a beautiful Art Deco building and the cafe next door is in the same style.
There’s a museum attached to it, but we didn’t have time to view it. I couldn’t resist photographing it, of course, and I think the black and white effect I put on the photos suit the style admirably:
We stopped for lunch in Texas, Queensland. The steak sandwich at the pub was enormous and delicious!
After lunch, it was time for the last leg of the trip.
Cunningham’s Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout
On the way down to Coonabarabran, I’d seen parking for the lookout and was determined to go and have a look on the way back, if it was still light. Fortunately, it was! The lookout is at the end of a short walk through the rainforest. The walk itself is just beautiful! The rainforest at that time of day was gorgeous.