Rai and I recently spent a week in the Warrumbungles National Park, our first away trip for a few months. The last time I visited was a school excursion in the ’70’s. It’s a spot I have always wanted to come back to but never made it until now. What a mistake!
The Warrumbungle ranges are simply spectacular. Formed from the remains of a shield volcano that sprang up about 15 million years ago, the region has been weathered to reveal spires, mounds and mountains of the much harder volcanic rock forced up through the cracks as molten lava, much different to the sandstone mountains and gorges around Sydney and the Blue Mountains that we visit more often.
The park is massive, set in about 23,311 hectares (57,600 acres) and was recently declared Australia first International Dark Sky Park.
Recovering from horrendous bush fires in 2013 a lot of the area is covered in new growth while the older trees, scarred and blackened from the event, stand defiant and resolute gradually healing themselves. The park management are actively encouraging the bird life to return by placing literally thousand of bird houses throughout the bush to provide them shelter however we noticed many of these are occupied by native bees, I guess industrial pesticides don’t reach this far – thankfully.
We were camped at Camp Blackman, in a powered section of the campgrounds and woke every morning to a colony of Grey Kangaroos grazing idly around us, completely oblivious to our presence. We also shared the camp with Rosellas, Lorikeets and Parrots. One bird I found particularly entertaining was the Apostle bird which seemed to march through the grounds with its unique voice, marshalling troops to defend its territory from the intruding magpies (or crows – I’m not sue which).
There are a number of walks you can take through the park and we explored a couple while we were there. A morning stroll around the Belougery Flats was a nice way to build an appetite and the short walk up to Tara Cave made us appreciate how much infrastructure is put in place for our benefit. The path was clear and at times paved which although quite steep in places would make it manageable for anyone in reasonable shape to enjoy the walk.
The cave itself was a little disappointing because there was a horrible galvanised fence across it – a sign of the times I guess. The views however – breath taking. We even surprised a small group of wild goats on the way back that had obviously escaped the recent aerial cull.
One of the main reasons for this trip was to attend the annual Open Day at Siding Springs, an astronomical observatory high up on Mount Woorut. I have to admit this was for Rai’s benefit initially, she is much more interested in star gazing than I am.
We spent the whole day listening to lectures and being shown about and I have to say I walked away with a great appreciation for the science of astronomy and what they do. We met some wonderful people while we were there, one guy in particular who I won’t name, a professor working with one of research facilities, shared a table with us at dinner time. He took the time to explain things in laymen terms and am grateful for his time.
The Warrumbungles National Park is somewhere you must visit. The feeling of peaceful serenity that you get as you look around and quietly explore the area stayed with us well after we left to come home. We are already planning our return.