Ray, Liz and Heinz were digging into a big hot breakfast at the truck stop past Lithgow by the time Michael and I arrived. It was raining, cold and grey outside with the prediction of rain, rain, and rain for the weekend.
We were off on another Drought Breaking Trip to Sofala and Hill End via the Mt Horrible/Upper Turon Road and the Bridle Track.
After a little kafuffle with my navigation skills we left Yetholme and made our way through Winburndale Nature Reserve to Mt Horrible. There are a number of pine plantations in the area with plenty of clear felling in progress. It was here that we stopped for morning tea, still raining.
Down off the mountain we arrived at Palmers Oakey a popular area for gold panning in the late 1800s. The riverbeds were dry with mullock heaps and erosion prevalent. Once we reached the Upper Turon closer to Sofala the water started to flow again. Still raining.
|The Sofala Hotel
|A fence at Hill End
Sofala, it's the oldest surviving gold mining town and it looks it; if the big bad wolf huffed and puffed he could possibly blow all the buildings down. We had a beer or two at the Royal Hotel and then visited the old jail. This is now operating as a Museum and Coffee Shop. There were plenty of interesting nick knacks to see and some yummy lollies.
We stopped briefly to look at the Lucky Point Diversion Tunnel just north of Sofala. This was built to redirect the water around the point lowering the water level to give miners access to the river gravel around the bends where gold was often deposited. There wasn't much to see and it smelt badly from animal dung. Still raining.
After spending the night camped next to the river we visited the Turon Technology Museum, a Museum of Steam. This is a few kilometres north of the town. The tour lasted two hours and if the owner had his way could have gone on and on and on indefinitely. In saying this the museum contained some very interesting and very old steam engines and well worth the visit.
|The Royal Hotel at Hill End
|A view as you drop into the Turon River valley - a bit foggy on this day
The next stop was Hill End. Many of the buildings no longer existed but plaques put in place told their story. In its heyday Hill End had 28 hotels, so it was only fitting that we stopped at the Royal the last remaining hotel for another beer or two. Surprisingly sunny, for a while.
Time was getting away from us with the sun about to set, so we headed off along the Bridle Track where we were going to camp for the night. The passing traffic (many 2wds) was heavy and we often had to stop which was terrifying for me as the cliffs on the side of the road dropped away to the valley 5000 metres below.
As expected many of the campsites along the river were full but we found a nice spot for our group at the Cave Hole Reserve. The chilly evening air got down to 6 degrees, but Ray's dessert cooked in the camp oven with cream and custard warmed us up.
|The Cave Hole Reserve Camping Area
|Kelly with Heinz Bendinger at the Cornish Roasting Pits
By daybreak we made an executive decision to give the Bridle Track a miss and go home via Dixon's Long Plain and Ophir. The first stop was at the cemetery where headstones told tales of mining accidents, then on to Valentines Mine. The site looked more like a jail than a mine site, with a huge fence all around. We finally located the open mine shaft which seemed to be bottomless.
Minor tracks around the back of the mine possibly lead to the Cornish Roasting Pits, but we chose to follow the main track instead. They used these Pits to roast the quartz to extract the gold. Unfortunately there was none left over for us.
Crossing the Macquarie River we stopped on the riverbank for lunch. Hopping around were some Superb Blue Wrens and goats grazing on the surrounding slopes. Raining again.
Arriving in Ophir it was pouring with rain so we only stopped for a loo break.
Before we knew it we were back on the tar again heading for Bathurst. Just after Bathurst there was a car accident which slowed the traffic down considerably and from there to Lawson it was bumper to bumper. Michael and I decided to stop at the RSL's Chinese Restaurant for dinner in the hope that the traffic would pass (unfortunately our theory wasn't quite right).
Yet another great weekend away!