Packed up camp and decided a quick drive up Mt Kaputar was the go to see the views in a different morning light. Headed down the road back to the hot open plains and did a quick shopping stop in Narrabri for some food and car/sea sickness wristbands for Cammy who felt a bit woozey on the winding Mt Kaputar road. Lach already had some wristbands and they seem to be effective for him. Interesting on the outskirts of town was a large and fairly new looking donga village – not sure if it was for a single mine – maybe Maules Creek? – or general mining accommodation hub for the region. Either way the RSL around the corner would most likely be doing some good trade.
We headed off down the Newell Highway and into the beautiful cypress country of the Pilliga. It’s a busy highway and we decided to switch the UHF radio on to listen to any chatter – it’s only a small aerial for vehicle-to-vehicle contact but picks up truck and traveller talk within probably a few kilometres. Not long after we’d tuned in – there were trucks warning about a B-Double who’d broken down. Picturing a truck stopped on the side of the road with the bonnet open, we were lucky to be aware of the situation because the truck was slap bang in the middle of the Newell Highway – he’d found the only section of the whole Pilliga with a slight slope and managed to come to a complete stop. Too big to reverse safely he resigned himself to waving a bright orange safety vest to get people to slow down to get past. The poor bloke was out in blazing sun in standard truckie uniform – a singlet, shorts and thongs – and he was going to be there for some time.
Safely past, we arrived in Coonabarabran and headed out towards the Warrumbungles. A nice riverfront picnic area on the Castlereagh River (Cammy better start a list of rivers to let Pa know where we’ve been) had big shady trees, a toilet and that precious resource to travellers….an easily accessible water tap. The road out to the Warrumbungles was steep and windy and we could feel the weight of the loaded Hilux. The Siding Spring Observatory stands out but the most outstanding aspect is the bushfire damage – the Warrumbungles is absolutely burnt to a crisp. Far away to the horizon, the flats, hills and ridges – all burnt with little regeneration or recovery happening in a hurry (the fire was about 2013? so five years ago). In the demountable temporary information centre (yes, the proper NPWS building went in the fire) there was a sign asking people not to ask staff about the fire – fair enough as it is a bit overwhelming seeing the scale and intensity of damage.
We headed into Blackman Camp and drove around choosing a good site with a few shade trees (hot still!) looking out at the rocks – Josh always thought the Breadknife was the main feature from when he was a kid – but from a distance it’s actually quite insignificant next to the other rocks and cliffs.
Our first Apostlebirds for the trip are a friendly bunch – you need to watch your step in case one is catching some shade under your chair. The large open clearing has hundreds of kangaroos – probably many thousands actually. The bitumen road around the campsite is perfect for the boys to scooter along so that’s their entertainment taken care of. The toilets are broken (whatever that means) so there are porta-loos strategically positioned in the most open, exposed, hottest area they could find – pushing 40 degrees we decided to steer clear of these plastic ovens and their odour in the middle of the day. On the plus side there are good showers with a five minute timer where you swipe your hand and the hot water starts flowing but the hard water means the soap doesn’t lather much but a shower is a shower when you’re hot and dusty.
We did a short walk around the flats near the campsite and the rocks are pretty speccy from all angles and as the sun starts going down.