Location: Manning Valley NSW
Date: October 2007.

October 28, 2007. Laurieton. Actually, the trip took in Croki, Harrington, Crowdy Bay and Crowdy Head, North Brother Mountain, Laurieton and Hannam Vale. I could have spent far more time exploring all the attractions and getting to know people, but... same old story... not enough time on a day trip. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the bottom of this article.

Croki is a century-plus old village that was once privately owned. The original houses are built right on the river frontage. My guess is that no more than 30 or 40 people live there, even now. Croki was my first stop early in the morning. There's a village green on the banks of the Manning River that provides public access... I even put a few coins in the donation box for its upkeep.

Then it was off to Harrington for a cuppa tea from my new vacuum flask. I'd made the brew 3 hours earlier and it was still steaming hot! Parts of Harrington are pretty old, but the area now has a new lease of life with residential development (Harrington Waters) happening in a big way - together with big bucks. From there I headed to Crowdy Bay, then to Crowdy Head where I took a few pics of surfers doing their risky thing off the rocks. I watched one young bloke waiting for a "big one" before he dove into and through the face of a wave that, a second later, exploded onto the rocks. Yes, he was okay... he knew what he was doing.

I spoke to another young bloke (the blond with his back to the camera, looking at the beach) and asked him exactly where I was according to the map. At first he recommended a dirt road to Laurieton... NO WAY! Had enough of those. So he suggested I return to Harrington (where I took some of the pelican pics on the breakwater). "You make friends easily," I said to a fisherman who was surrounded by pelicans looking for a free feed. "I've caught carp a foot long and given them to the birds who swallow them in one gulp... no worries, mate, straight down the hatch." Carp, by the way, are an introduced pest in Oz and disturb the native fish, so if they're caught they're destroyed.

Then I headed up the Pacific Hwy, as instructed by the surfer. Before I arrived at Laurieton, I saw the Doorigan/North Brother (one of three mountains) Lookout. "Wow" was the first word I uttered as I saw the view for the first time. It's a pity the day was humid and hazy... the pics would have been a lot clearer. Nonetheless, it was a spectacular visual treat. That's where I had lunch... a meatloaf sandwich with tomato and cheese (home made) and a stubby of VB. I noticed a Dutch couple - the guy was testing the wind direction with some little electronic gadget. That explained the hang glider mounted on top of his car (he's the guy in the background wearing the floppy hat). BTW, his car had Western Australian license plates so he must be doing the big round Oz thing. His girlfriend wasn't too thrilled about the sport, and I guessed her job was to drive the car back down the mountain to wherever he landed. But he took soooooooooo damn long to make a decision about the wind that I left before he did the big leap... IF he did. The wind, by the way, is better face on, which is what I figured... and that's the way it was blowing at the time.

I took a quick peek at Laurieton... pretty place, on the banks of the Camden Haven River... boats, fishing, sleepy... all that. Then I returned to the Pacific Hwy and headed home... but, decided to turn off to Hannam Vale, a tiny town but cute as all getup. There are a number of attractions around the area that I'll check out another day.  It was getting a little late, and I could smell a storm brewing. Sure enough, I've been home an hour already and it's raining cats and dogs, with lots of booming thunder just to make it interesting.

One of the highlights was definitely Croki... I went there on impulse. It was delightful, and the kind of place I'd like to spend a couple of days some time. Shortly after I arrived, two ladies drove up to try a spot of early morning fishing. They're the ones setting up on the old timber wharf. Judging by their build, fish is not all they eat. :o) Anyway, enjoy the photo album!

October 21, 2007. Barrington Tops. Whoa! Almost 10 hours on the road, with short breaks here and there. Of course, half of that is the return trip, which would not be necessary had I a caravan in tow. Left home at about 6:15am and arrived at the Tops about 2 1/2 hours later. The final section is gravel road, pretty rough in places, which shook the dickens out of Tough Titties. At times I wondered if it was worth it. Taree => Tinonee => Gloucester => Barrington => Copeland Tops => Barrington Tops, plus a few little villages along the way. Click here for the photo album or read on and click the link at the end of this article.

At one point I turned onto a side road which led to an old Copeland goldmine area and Goldies Place, a B&B accommodation setup tucked away in the woods. I stopped there and had a cup of tea served in a REAL TEAPOT, and buttered toast. Local bread - yum! Other guests tucked into huge servings of bacon and eggs and smoked salmon. A local flock of rosellas (red and blue parrots) got a free feed of seed. The lady owner/manager (a pretty good sort, actually) chatted for a while and gave me a map to study, as well as a local history book about the area and its beginnings as a logging and goldmining district. One of her own photos was of a very distinctive looking rock formation. "I'd love to get my own pic of this thing," I thought. And I was lucky enough to find it further along the road. :o) The roadsign simply says 'The Rock", but you can bet it's been called many other names. Meantime, check out Goldies Place here.

I've seen pretty pics of small waterfalls in the area but do you think I could find one? Nope. But I did find some cute little streams and bubbling brooks. One of them, in the latter series of pics, is the beginnings of the Manning River. I live a block from the river here in Taree where it's a monster... probably close to half a mile wide. But up there in the mountains, it's just a little baby.

On the return journey, I can't begin to tell you how pleased I was to hit the tar sealed road again. I was very tempted to get out of the car and do the Pope trick... alighting from an airplane and kissing the tarmac. Suddenly, all the rattles and squeaks became silent and TT breezed along like the grand old lady she is. Even the Goldies lady commented on TT.

I stopped at Barrington township for a snack at the general store, where the lady called me 'possum'... twice! The town was founded by mostly Scottish peeps, and I actually saw a bloke getting about in a green tartan kilt (not bad legs, either). There was some kinda Scottish fair going on in town. Anyway, my lunch consisted of a Mrs Mac pizza pie and a stubby of Victoria Bitter, which I took to Kia Ora Lookout (as distinct from outlook). There, I met a couple of older peeps driving a Land Rover and Hanna from Switzerland. She's already toured Oz 6 or 7 times during the past 20 years, and intends to come back for more. She's undoubtedly seen more of Oz than most Aussies have. "Don't forget to check aussieodyssey to see the pic of that rock I told you about," I told her. She'll be horrified.

The first lookout, Mograni, takes in the view of the distant Gloucester township, nestled in the valley, from the western approach, and Kia Ora is kinda northish (I think). There's also a communications tower at Kia Ora, being one of the highest points in the area. No, I didn't take a pic of that because it ain't pretty. Bleh.

Gloucester is a nice town but I didn't take any pics of the main center. In my haste, I didn't find any historic buildings or whatever. I did see the cop shop and courthouse, both old timber-cottage type buildings and most attractive... and the Post Office, which is of similar architecture. I thought if I took a pic of the cop shop they might throw me in the clink. The comparative narrowness of Gloucester's (pron: Glos-ter) main shopping thoroughfare was a surprise. Country towns are generally known for their extra wide streets. Once I'm on the dinky di, true blue, fair dinkum Odyssey, I'll have more time to spend poking around.

Another surprise was the number of road kills on the rougher gravel sections of roadway. I was doing maybe 40 kph max (bounce, bounce, rattle, rattle) but I guess some of the more adventurous 4WD motorists travel much faster. I saw a couple of dead 'roos, a few smaller animals (squashed beyond recognition) and a wombat. Not pretty.

So, that's Barrington Tops - or a fraction of it. It's huge and would take a month or so to see it all on a camping trip. The roads aren't suitable for caravans. Yep, not a bad way to spend a day. And I love The Rock. Click here for the photo album.

October 14, 2007. Ellenborough Falls. Left home (Taree) about 6:45am and arrived just before 8am. I was the only bloke there! But more visitors arrived later. Taree => Wingham => Elands => Ellenborough Falls. It was a most pleasant trip through farmlands and forest - very picturesque at that time of day with the early sun, and the cattle grazing on the many hilly slopes. Some of the rolling hills and valleys, dotted with farmhouses, are just stunning. I saw a couple of kangaroos and a wallaby. Most of the road is sealed, but a portion of about 10 kms nearing EF was graded earth, which gave Tough Titties a bit of a shake, rattle and roll. She survived. Click here for the photo album or read on and click at the end of this article.

It felt a little eerie when I arrived and I realized I should have brought Kelly with me. I did the easy lookout walks at first, then decided to descend the steep gorge to the base of the falls. The sign said 30 minutes down and 45 minutes back up. Yeah? I forgot that I am a sexagenarian with a heart 'condition' and the climb back to the top (a zillion steps) was pretty hard going. I rested at several short intervals in order not to strain anything or tempt fate. Then I headed for the kiosk which had just opened (or was in the process thereof). The lady there was very friendly and chatty. I chose a cup of tea and I'm here to tell you, after that marathon climb, it was the best cuppa I've ever had! Not cheap at $2.20 but who the hell cared.

As we chatted, I spotted a magpie doing the swoop thing, obviously telling something to piss off from its eggs or chicks. Well, it was a bit more than something; it was a 5' goanna - the biggest I've seen in real life (so far). Those things walk around like a mini dinosaur and I've heard that they can run like the dickens so I let the camera zoom do most of the approach hehe. I took my eyes off the thing briefly and heard a woman say, "Oh, it's moving!" I didn't check, rather I hightailed it outta there quick smart. "Just make sure it doesn't run up your leg," her husband said. Sheesh! And yes, I did get a pretty cool pic.

A word on the kiosk: it's run by 3 ladies who take turns to staff it (one at a time) on weekends and school hols. They do their own cooking on site.. fresh pies and sausage rolls and lots of other tasty goodies, plus jars of home-made jams, pickles, spreads, etc. The one I met was a real sweetie, and was sure she'd seen me in Taree or somewhere. And, get this, she (along with a few other mature ladies) takes tap dance lessons! "You look like a tap dancer," she said to me. Uh... well... *ahem* She also mentioned that camping was allowed, so I could have (if I had one) taken the caravan there and stayed a while.

As more people arrived, I chatted briefly with most of them and discovered that, just along a short track, is a swimming pool (the natural kind) which is formed by the stream before it reaches the cliff over which it plummets about 200 meters in a sheer drop. Tragically, a young local boy lost his life there in 2000 by getting a little too adventurous and losing his footing on the slippery rocks. He was eleven years and eleven months - there's that 11 business again. No, by that stage I was too buggered to walk along another track so I didn't see the pool. Besides, Mr Goanna was lurking somewhere amongst the undergrowth and I wasn't in the mood for an altercation with that prehistoric critter. Actually, he's probably quite tame and hangs around the park hoping for a handout from visitors. He's not skinny, I can vouch for that!

I included a few pics of the timber walkways and rainforest just to give you an idea of the atmos there. It was very pleasant.. another world. One you might not recognize is an ant nest (probably termite). On the return journey, I took a few more pics, then stopped at the Australian Pub in Wingham for a middie of Victoria Bitter. Wingham is not far from Taree, but has a more countrified atmosphere. All the blokes in the pub knew each other, and it was full of "howya goin', mates".

Yep, a most enjoyable adventure and well worth the effort. Click here for the photo album


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