We arrived at Tibuc, nestled on the edge of the Warrumbungle National Park, in some light rain and hoped it would stop before setting up the van. After our initial rain experience we were keen to keep things dry!
It did stop, and we set up the van just in front of the cabin that we stayed in last October with Sam and Khaiam when we visited the amazing Siding Springs Observatory for #starfest. Meg and Peter, who own the place, kindly allowed us power and use of the cabin if we needed, which turned out to be so wonderfully convenient! (more being spoilt at the start of the trip!). Meg is the Principal of the Warrumbungle Environmental Education Centre, and involved with School of Ants this year.
We were greeted with a giant bowl of fresh produce from their garden – more amazing gardeners, who once again have the most inspirational garden! This time almonds, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, beetroot, beans, apples, and capsicum, some of which is still feeding us a week later!
If you’ve never been to the Pilliga (or Pilliga Scrub), do yourself a favour and do so. The forested area of the Pilliga is around 3000km2 of semi-arid woodland, the largest tract of continuous forest in NSW, and part of Gamilaraay country. The Aboriginal people used sandstone caves scattered throughout the Pilliga, as well as more protected volcanic areas in the Warrumbungle National Park as dwellings, and harvested yam daisies as a mainstay of their diet. We were lucky enough to see wild yam daisies with Peter of Tibuc last October, but it wasn’t wildflower season this time round.
The Warrumbungles are an ancient volcano that erupted 17 million years ago through sandstone beds of shallow inland lakes. The lava spilled out onto the surrounding plains, and over time the soft sandstone has eroded away leaving a wonderful array of hard, volcanic dykes, spires and tors, one of which we climbed.
The kids and I were able to show Jezza the sandstone caves and Pilliga Pottery in one day; they are very nearby. WELL worth a visit if you’re travelling along the Newell Highway between Narrabri and Coonabarabran. The shapes and colours in the sandstone are mesmerising. I could walk among the caves for hours. Such an ancient landscape.
Mia absolutely loves Pilliga Pottery, and spent a good hour playing with clay there. After sensational milkshakes and coffee it was time to head back to Tibuc, and dinner with Meg and Peter.
Most of dinner came from their garden, harvested just that afternoon. We sat in their large lounge-dining-family room that looks out onto a Warrumbungle hill burnt by the fires there almost 2 years ago. I think Mia’s trip was made second time round that night (she’s big on food quality!) after Meg’s homemade fresh tomato soup!
We really wanted to try a walk in the National Park up around the Breadknife and Belougery Spire. I have such fond memories of that area growing up visiting the Park, and I really wanted to share the place with my family. Troopers that they are, both Mia and Charlie managed to walk a six and a half km track up to Macha Tor. It’s a gentle walk along a valley floor which then rises relatively steeply to a then very steep rock scramble to get to a fabulous view point of the Grand High Tops skyline. Charlie made it up about 20m of the rock scramble before his sense of danger and my mummy sense of total and utter terror set in! So we sat there and ate chocolate until Mia and Jez summited, took some photos and came down!
Swims in Meg and Peter’s pool and a walk around their property finished off such a beautiful visit.
We braced ourselves for the heat west of the Warrumbungles and set off into the flat brown plains toward Coonamble. I have a real soft spot for Coonamble since my Dad grew up going up there from Sydney during school holidays to stay with his Grandpa, and it is the hometown of one of my most beautiful friends, Lin from Christmas Island.
Next stop – Brewarrina for School of Ants day #2