Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sydney and further north in country NSW

West of Sydney we spend almost a week with Kees (Renne's remote cousin) and Annemiek Poll (and Lilly the boxer), who have built a house on 10 acres. They spoiled us with lots of time spend together and the luxuries of a house. We hope that one day they will visit Perth so we can return their hospitality.

At Lane Cove National Park we found the trees three times the size compared to1990 when we stayed at the same place with the kids. The parrots love the bottle brushes.
How could we go past Bathurst (again) and not visit? No way! So here we are, ready to "hit the mountain" in record speed; it took less than 15 minutes with photo stops included. Speed limit was 60 and traffic goes both ways with a winery and other private properties inside and around the track. Caltex chase is actually sharper than it looks and they are building a huge apartment block right on the outside corner!! I was amazed that we could just drive on the track without any restrictions. How about losing your license for doing 120 km/h down Conrod Straight with a trailer in tow.....

At Nundle we went to see a Country Festival and it was a real show with lots of locally produced food and a sheep shearing demo on the corner of the pub. Check out the two blokes providing the shearing power!

Made me think of my year as AFS exchange student with the Shaw family on a sheep farm in Illinois, USA. The guy was obviously experienced with full length wool cut and no nicks at all!!

At Tamworth I played my first game of cricket (after 25 years in Oz, never too late..) and hit one for six when the ball landed under a tent and it took them ages to find it. I have to report as well that my third ball as bowler hit the bottom of the stumps. Maybe I should have started earlier?

Siding Springs Observatory (near Coonabarabran, the astronomy capital of Australia) offered a two hour tour and it was very impressive. It turned out that there were at least 7 optical telescopes, many operated by students at remote computers around the world.

Mount Kaputar (+1500 m) formed 17 million years ago. We camped near the top and saw some stunning views; once again we have warm days and cold nights and while it is still Easter School Holidays, we meet many families with children. Tanneke bought another blanket (for bush camping) and a small heater for the times we are connected to power at a caravan park. We are staying a few days in Narrabri and although the library has new computers, they don't allow uploads. But the caravan park has wireless and it works!
Cotton, sunflowers, sorghum and wheat are the main sources of income although coal mining is a constant threat..... Warrumbungle National Park, SW of Narrabri is another volcanic remnant with abundance of wildlife such as 14 different sorts of snakes (Gosse?). With our camper trailer we can always find a spot, even if the place is fully booked.

Tomorrow we will drive further north and visit the hot springs at Moree; then we will head east towards the coast. Moree is the artesian spa capital of Australia. Cotton (two thirds of Oz cotton production grows in the Moree Shire). They also grow Pecan Nuts (70,000 trees on one farm), wheat, cereal, olives, cattle and sheep. It seems that every country town in NSW is the capital of something in Australia (?). Cotton growing needs lots of water and we wonder what the future will be with the severe shortage of the last years.

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