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Monday, February 29, 2016

Raspberry Lookout, Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW.

Raspberry Lookout is on the southern side of the Gwydir Highway; not far from Boundary 
Falls Campground. The access road is a short, narrow, sealed road. There is a small parking area but no room for RV's. As this is in Gibraltar Range National Park there is an $8 vehicle access fee. There is a toilet, a covered picnic table and a viewing area. Geocachers will be delighted to know that there is an excellent geocache located here. Raspberry Lookout is named after the edible native raspberry that is common in the area.

Leaving Gibraltar Range National Park and moving to Washpool National Park.

We had heard Superb Lyrebirds constantly while camping and walking around Boundary Falls Campground but it wasn't until we were leaving that we finally saw any. After rewalking the Lyrebird Falls Walking Track in a final attempt to see any before moving to Washpool National Park we returned to the campground to pack up and there was a pair casually wandering around the campground, typical! 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Duffer Falls Walk and the World Heritage Walk. Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW: Part 2.

Duffer Falls
The World Heritage Walk is a 45 km circuit through Gibraltar and Washpool National Parks. As we would be staying at three campgrounds close to the route we planned on walking sections of the World Heritage Walk from each campground. The first section we walked was from Boundary Falls Campground to Duffer Falls. We had difficulty finding the trail-head for Duffer Falls because the signs in the Day Use Area only indicated the Boundary Falls and Lyrebird Falls Walks but we eventually found the World Heritage Walk behind the campground and a short way along this walk we found a sign for Duffer Falls.

Duffer Falls Walk is a medium grade, 7 km return walk from Boundary Falls Campground, along a section of the World Heritage Walk. Most of the walk is an easy stroll along a fire trail but the last 700 meters is on an unformed track that drops away to Duffer Falls.

World Heritage Walk section of the Duffer Falls Walk.
The last 700 m is on a small descending track.
First we had to ford a creek but we were able to do this without getting our boots wet. 

Creek crossing at the start of the walk.
The walk took us through a uniquely Australian environment of gum trees, grass trees and termite mounds.

There were distinctive small she-oaks and holy on the clamber down to the falls.

We didn’t see a lot of birds on the walk but we saw several of the ever present Thrushes. Rainbow Lorikeets were busy riotously feeding high up in flowering gum trees. We heard a Lyrebird doing a mimicry rendition but this bird didn’t have the same mastery as the bird we had heard the previous day on the Lyrebird Falls Track.
Rufous Whistler (male), Brown Thornbill, Red-browed Finch (juvenile), Red-browed Treecreeper (female).
Bassian Thrush

A Nobby Dragon scuttled away too fast for a photograph. We walked up to a culvert to peer into the water for tadpoles and accidentally stepped close to a small Carpet Python in the process of uncoiling.

Carpet Python 
Duffer Falls is a series of beautiful falls and cascades that drop away over an escarpment to Boundary Creek in the Demon Fault Line. We sat on a rock in front of a picturesque cascade and had a picnic before exploring more of the falls.

Our picnic spot at the middle cascade at Duffer Falls.
An upper section of Duffer Falls.
Duffer Falls dropping over the escarpment and out of sight.
View from the escarpment.
There were lots of Eastern Water Skinks and Sundews amongst the rocks around Duffer Falls.

On our return to the campground we found a note from the caravanners camped nearby to let us know that there was a large tree over the exit road and that they would inform the ranger as soon as they could get phone reception. We had heard a loud crash during the night but had assumed that the tree had fallen in the forest and thought nothing more of it. By the time we returned from our walk to Duffer Falls the ranger had already been and cleared the tree. We were amazed that these lovely people, the same ones that had given us a brochure of the area, would take the time to leave a note for us when they must have been having a difficult day as it would not have been easy to reverse their caravan back to the campground! We always seem to meet such lovely people on the road.

Bird List:
Wonga Pigeon, Rainbow Lorikeets, Red-browed Treecreeper, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Rufous Fantail, Red-browed Finch, Bassian Thrush. Heard: Superb Lyrebird.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Boundary Falls Campground, Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW: Part 1.

Boundary Falls
The turnoff to Boundary Falls Campground in the northern section of Gibraltar Range National Park is about 63 km from Glen Innes along the Gwydir Highway or, if coming from the other direction, about 97 km west of Grafton. The forest entry is an unsealed, all weather, 2WD road. 

The campground officially has 6 large campsites but we found that there were 8 sites all with their own table and fire ring equipped with some camp cooking equipment.There is only one pit toilet and one tap at the campground. The tank water is to be boiled before use. A small amount of wood was available when we arrived. We didn't have phone or internet reception. There is plenty of room for big rigs. 

Boundary Falls Campground.
Boundary Falls is a self-register campground and no bookings are taken. Fees are $6 per adult per night and there is an $8 vehicle fee per day. We are now the proud owners of a two year NSW Parks Pass which is displayed on our vehicle so we don’t have to pay the daily vehicle fee. We ordered the pass online and it took 15 days to arrive in the post. 

Boundary Falls Campground Facilities: Fireplace and table in every site, pit toilet, woodshed, tank water and tap.
There is also a horse campground as Boundary Falls is on the Bicentennial National Trail. However, we saw no evidence of horses during our stay.

The campground is on the site of an old sawmill and there are various pieces of old milling equipment scattered around behind the campsites.

Equipment remaining from Wades Sawmill.
We were delighted to see that Russet-tailed/Bassian Thrush seemed quite common around the campground. (Note: We have seen Bassian Thrush before but not Russet-tailed Thrush and as they are so similar I don't feel confident to identify which bird we were seeing.) The information board in the picnic area indicated that Spotted-quail Thrush are also in the area but we did not see any. A Pied Currawong kept an eye on our every move at our campsite. Unfortunately, there were a few March flies ready to bite at every opportunity. 

Pied Currawong
Russet-tailed/ Bassian Thrush
We came to Boundary Falls from Girraween National Park and took a shortcut through Iron Knob Road which bypasses Glen Innes. Iron knob Road is sealed but the middle section was fairly bumpy. The down side of not going through Glen Innes was that we didn't get to stop at the Information Centre for any brochures on Gibraltar Range and Washpool National Parks. One other couple were already set up so we asked them if they knew where the trail-heads for the walks were and they kindly let us take phone photos of their maps. While we were doing this another couple arrived to set up their caravan and they asked me if I was trying to find phone reception. When I explained that we had turned up without any brochures or maps they kindly gave me a NSW Parks brochure for the area. Time after time, we have found that meeting fellow travelers is one of the highlights of being on the road.

Close to the campground there is a Day Use Area with parking, electric BBQ’s and a pit toilet. The walks leave from the Day Use Area.

On the first afternoon we did a couple of short walks:
Lyrebird Falls Walking Track is a medium grade, 2.2 km return walk. The track is along a wide fire trail through strands of Sydney Blue Gums to a lookout with views over Boundary Creek to Lyrebird Falls. As we were returning from the lookout we heard a car alarm followed by a Whipbird crack, then a chainsaw noise followed by a whole repertoire of bird songs. We stood entranced listening to this amazing performance by a Superb Lyrebird quite close to us. Before we came to our wits and thought to record the sounds the performance stopped.

Lyrebird Falls
View from Lyrebird Falls lookout area.
We saw a Land Mullet beside the track.

Land Mullet Egernia major
Boundary Falls: On our way back we did the short walk to Boundary Falls. This walk may be short but it descends steeply down flights of steps. There is a rest area halfway down but there is no view of the falls from there and no seat. At the bottom there is a crystal clear creek and the waterfall flows into a beautiful natural pool (first photo in this blog).
Rest area half way down and steep steps to Boundary Falls.
Boundary Creek
We celebrated our first night of camping in NSW in our new van, with a nice wine beside the fire.

Camping Life

Bird List:
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Brown Gerygone, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Rufous Fantail, Black-faced Monarch, Pied Currawong, Red-browed Finch, Russet-tailed/Bassian Thrush (see note in the text above). We heard a Lyrebird doing excellent mimicry.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Girraween National Park, QLD, to Boundary Falls, Gibraltar Range National Park, NSW.

In the morning, we had a quick look around Castle Rock Campground for birds before packing up.

Buff-rumped Thornbill
White-eared Honeyeater
White-throated Treecreeper
We were a couple of days late but we were finally on our way to explore the National Parks off the Gwydir Highway in NSW. 

About 10 km south of Tenterfield, Bluff Rock looms over the New England Highway. I took a quick photo on my phone but we didn't stop. Later, I did a goggle search about the rock to see if there is a walk there but instead I discovered that 150 years ago a group of Aboriginal people were thrown from the bluff as punishment for "attacking shepherds and sheep". There is a free overnight rest area with a memorial at the base of the bluff and I have resolved to stop and explore the area next time we get the chance.

Bluff Rock.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Overnight at Girraween National Park, QLD.

Our National Park Odyssey got off to a late start so we decided to overnight at Girraween National Park. Lesson number one; ditch the plan!

Castle Rock Camping Area, Girraween National Park
I have covered Girraween extensively in six parts starting here but I don't want to leave out our first night so I'll post up a few photos. It is amazing what you can see in a short time at Girraween. We quickly set up and went for a late afternoon walk.

Girraween Information Centre
Crimson Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Common Bronzewing, Superb Fairy-wren.

Giant Bull Ant Myrmecia brevinoda

Sunday, February 7, 2016

National Park Odyssey

So many good things have been coming together lately around National Park Odyssey that I thought it might interest readers to hear a little bit about the background story.

Our passion is for wildlife, bushwalking and national parks. Being a firm believer in the concept that what you think about is what you will end up with we started actively pursuing our goal with the expectation that we would be able to do more extended travel from 2016. 

We felt that it would be good to record our travels this time because we have traveled extensively around the world in the past and it is largely just a blur with some great memories and appalling photos. We wanted to be able to keep in contact with family and friends and show people what we actually see and do at the places we go. Blogging seemed to be a perfect fit. I signed up for a 2 hr workshop on blogging at the local library and discovered that I had no idea what they were talking about. I had been enjoying reading the blog Wild BNE by Christian Perrin for some time so I decided that I would ask him a couple of questions as he has a friendly and approachable style on his blog. Christian was very helpful and supportive and before long I had the blog up and running. One of the nice things I discovered about blogging is just how friendly the blogging community is. The blogging journey has been a very satisfying ride and if you are thinking of starting a blog then just start and if you need help you should probably ask someone other than me how to go about it.

The Dieng Plateau, Central Java, Indonesia. Just one of the many places we have traveled to overseas.
Christian messaged me that he was looking forward to seeing the National Park Odyssey Facebook page, well that threw the spanner in the works, I hadn’t even contemplated a Facebook page. This may seem strange in this day and age but none of my family are on Facebook, (except our two sons and they don’t want me as their Facebook friend!). To this day, I struggle a bit with what to put on the Facebook page because it seems very repetitive to put photos from the blog on the Facebook page but I’ve recently come to realise that hardly any of our Facebook followers actually read the blogs! As I write this the Facebook page sits at 99 “likers” and I’m anxiously waiting for someone to put me out of my misery and become my 100th "liker". Apparently once you have the magic number of 100 it is possible to get more information about your page and I need all the help I can get. (Note: When I took a screenshot of our Facebook page for this blog we had 101 "Likers", we're in the big time now!)

101 "Likers"
Blogging has been a bit of a catalyst for expanding our social media platform. We now have an Instagram Account of about 700 followers and a Google Plus account which has had over 200,000 views! Christian really should have warned me!

Our most popular photo so far in 2016 on Instagram: Crossing at Little Yabba Creek at Charlie Moreland Campground
You might notice that in my list of our passions I didn’t mention photography. Neither of us are photographers and it is such a shame because we have done and seen some interesting things in our lives and it would be nice to have a better photographic record to refer to. Our solution was to buy better camera gear and start practicing in the hope that by the time we started the actual Odyssey we would be a bit more competent. After all, blogs are a bit boring without photos and we really wanted to photograph our National Park Odyssey. So far this strategy seems to be working fairly well because one of the great surprises about starting the blog is how many complements we get about the photos.

Some time ago we were approached by Gillian Duncan who wanted to use some of our photos in an upcoming bushwalking book. “Family Bushwalks in South East Queensland” by Mark Roberts and Gillian Duncan has now been published and we can proudly look at our photos in the book. If you had told us one year ago that we would have photos in a book we would have laughed.

Some of our photos in "Family Bushwalks in South East Queensland" by Mark Roberts and Gillian Duncan
We have purchased our dream rig of a BT-50 and Kimberley Karavan and completed a few shakedown trips in preparation for our new adventures. We still have some work and family commitments this year so we will be returning to the Sunshine Coast between roadtrips but we will be able to extend our trips as time goes on. Due to the very nature of our intended destinations we will often be out of internet reception but we can't wait to share our National Park Odyssey with you!