Pulling out of Sawtell there were a few damp eyes as the realisation that we were actually leaving and not going to be seeing Nanna for at least a few months sunk in. We made it into second gear – maybe 20 metres – before a waving Nanna Fleur pointed out there was water leaking out from somewhere – Josh expertly declared it “just last night’s rain dripping off” before hitting the road again – actually it was a bung in a new water jerry can not tightened fully and doing a slow leak but fortunately there was little loss once we found the problem and plenty more water on board.
We headed west out the Waterfall Way on a road very familiar and had a simple plan for Day 1 of getting away from the peak season coastal strip, the throngs of people and the chaotic Pacific Highway. A quick lunch stop at Wollomombi Gorge and a short walk to stretch the legs and we pushed on to Armidale and then down the New England Highway to Tamworth for some fuel and some supplies. Out through Gunnedah, Boggabri and Narrabri – it was pretty hot. A good tip for a first camp (thanks Lynn!) was Mt Kaputar where the scorching hot temperatures on the plains rapidly cooled as the steep drive up something like 1200 metres over a very short distance took us up into a pleasant, distinctly milder climate – our camp was probably 1400 metres elevation and the summit something like 1500m. The drive though, as spectacular as it is viewing all the stacks and cliffs on the way out, is pretty treacherous with cars and even large campervans rapidly coming down the narrow road from day trips to the tops – there’s some pretty steep drop offs.
With the tent setup at the top campsite and only a handful of other people around, we explored the area. Pretty good setup with gas bbqs and hot showers. Cam and Josh did the short wildflower walk from our tent site. The kangaroos were pretty annoying as they are at many busy campsites these days – probably five of them rustling around the tent all night seeking any skerrick of food left behind. And the currawongs were just as pesky if you took your eye of the table. But a shyer swamp wallaby and our first chunky wallaroo were welcome visitors.