Coonabarabran and back

Around Coonabarabran

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.

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:

Pilliga Pottery
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:


Pilliga Pottery
Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery - Tree of Life

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga PotterySome of the accommodations:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga PotteryPottery for sale, and just ‘hanging’ around:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery
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:

Warrumbungles from Timor Road

Warrumbungles from Timor Road

Warrumbungles from Timor Road

Warrumbungles from Timor Road

Warrumbungles from Timor RoadWe 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.

Warrumbungles seen from Siding Spring Observatory

Warrumbungles seen from Siding Spring Observatory

Warrumbungles seen from Siding Spring Observatory

Warrumbungles seen from Siding Spring Observatory

Siding Spring Observatory
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:

Warrumbungles from Whitegum Lookout

Siding Spring Observatory seen from Whitegum Lookout

Warrumbungles from Whitegum Lookout

Warrumbungles from Whitegum LookoutThe view from the actual lookout is pretty spectacular:

Warrumbungles from Whitegum LookoutWe 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:

Kangaroo in Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungle National Park
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.

Sandstone Caves

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:

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State ForestThe caves are just amazing! Some of the stone looks like peeling paint, it’s so delicate. The colours ranging from white to black to orange and shades of brown and yellow, are just fantastic!

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

Sandstone Caves near Yaminba State Forest

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:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery
Being Sunday night, it was pizza night. The pottery has a wood-fired pizza oven. Nina was baking the pizza this evening and she let me photograph her at it:

Pizza night at Pilliga Pottery

Pizza night at Pilliga Pottery

Pizza night at Pilliga Pottery

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 🙂

First up was the milking of the cows: Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga PotteryThere’s lots of old farm machinery lying around:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery
My sister gathered some eggs for our breakfast and fed the chooks and pigs:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery
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!

DSC03118

DSC03127

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran - prehnite

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran - quartz on stellerite

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran - quartz on stellerite

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran - quartz on stellerite

DSC03152

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran

Crystal Kingdom Museum at Coonabarabran - fish fossil from Bugaldi Chalk Mine

Still More Pilliga Pottery

Since we were staying at the pottery, we needed to see some pottery demonstrations by some of the staff there:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga PotteryThere was a distraction in the form of a honey eater that had fallen out of its nest at some stage and wasn’t quite ready to leave. It thought my sister’s hair would make a good nest, though:

Pilliga Pottery

Pilliga Pottery
The finished products certainly look beautiful:

Pilliga Pottery

The trip home

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!

On Killarney Gap Road

Sawn Rocks in Mt Kaputar National Park

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:

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National ParkThe Sawn Rocks reminded me of Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland, and similar formations in Iceland:

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park
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:

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park
There are a few nice views of the mountain range from the lookout path, too:

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

Sawn Rocks Lookout in Mt Kaputar National Park

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.

Roxy Theater in BingaraThere’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:

Roxy Theater in Bingara

Roxy Theater in Bingara

Roxy Theater in BingaraEven the bathroom is Art Deco:

Roxy Theater in Bingara
We saw a sign for a lookout, which I can’t resist if we have time, so we had a quick stop there:

H F Batterham Memorial Lookout near Bingara

H F Batterham Memorial Lookout near Bingara

H F Batterham Memorial Lookout near Bingara

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.

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley LookoutThe view from the lookout was a real letdown, but I managed to take some photos out of the side of the car while we drove past a break in the trees:

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout

Cunningham's Gap and Fassifern Valley Lookout

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