Little driving adventure – Day 2
This is the second part of My little driving adventure.
The Yerranderie birds wake me up at 6. I cook myself a hearty breakfast of fried bacon and eggs, complemented by a large mug of strong coffee and enjoy the company of three kangaroos nibbing grass peacefully nearby. Then, after packing up, I am ready for a bit of exploration of the ghost town, the cemetery and the abandoned silver mines, scattered around the bush, taking care not to slip accidently into some hidden mine shaft.
Around 10 o’clock I am heading back to Oberon. Out of curiosity, on the Garmin I set as destination some street in Oberon and amazingly it works, the lady starts telling me where to drive and how far is the next turn (I thought for the bush I would need Topo Australia and New Zealand). Today I drive more carefully, anticipating the dangerous turns on the track. There is some traffic – a few Utes driven by guys in National Parks and Wildlife uniforms, who greet me cheerfully when we pass.
In Oberon I fill up the diesel (just in case), replace the melted ice in the cooler with a bag of fresh ice and then have a pleasant drive to Bathurst. Initially I wanted to get to Sofala through Sunny Corner, but now I realise there wouldn’t be time for Sofala or Hill End and decide to skip this part of the plan (unfinished business, that will make me come back another time).
Sofala reminds me of Europe, especially when driving down the hill and you catch some glimpses of roofs amongst the trees in the valley. I immediately feel at home here, although it is very sleepy. A few relaxed artist types enjoy fogged schooners on a table in front of the pub. I am tempted to join them, but resist the temptation – there is still some driving to do. Sofala has a special atmosphere, amazingly, the buildings from Drysdale and Friend’s pictures are still there – the pub is actually one of them.
There is a short stretch of gravel road between Sofala and Hill End which is nothing like the corrugated track to Yerranderie. It’s beautiful drive into the green mountains. I stop to see History Hill Museum, which deserves more time, with the underground mine and the numerous exhibits explaining the workings of a gold rush town. Then at Hill End visitors centre I get a map and find the village camping area. Tonight I am not alone. Shortly after my arrival two more cars enter the campground – Steve from New Castle, who pulls out a handy antenna for his portable TV and then a retired couple, who unfold their trailer to make it look like sharply pointed alpine chalet.
I set up my camp (now much more efficient with the tent) and use the remainder of the day to explore the village. Lots of the buildings are missing, but instead there are plaques with photographs and sometimes short stories, erected in front of the empty plots, which make it even more interesting. I try to imagine how Hill End was once the largest inland center in NSW. There is a 5km round walk in the bush (Bald Hill Walking Track) through the Irish Town and orchard. I cannot believe my eyes – plums and pears thriving amongst the Australian eucalyptus! The type used in Europe for making very strong spirits like rakia. Apparently there where many Irishmen trying their luck in the goldmines. The landscape around the bush looks fantastic – colorful earth, eroded by the digging of numerous gold prospectors and now covered with vegetation.
It’s nearly dark when I get back to the village. Sadly, the pub is empty and I head back to the camping ground where Steve, the guy from New Castle has lit a fire. We chat a little around the fire and he gives me advice about driving on the dunes at Stockton Beach. The chicken soup I cook for diner with a bit of onion, carrot, potato, parsley and some dry herbs has never tasted so good! With a few beers and the wonderful day I had, I am still the happiest man alive…
Tomorrow I will drive to Anna Bay.