After a great night’s sleep we were up and away reasonably early and headed off along the New England Highway. Today was a driving day but as we have left the motorways behind we can enjoy the experience and explore a lot more. This area along the New England Highway is really amazing with plenty of wineries and vineyards, as well as pick them yourself strawberry farms, home-made chocolates, and all sorts of other gourmet foods, plus B ‘n’ Bs for the gourmet travellers.
Stanthorpe seemed to be a nice country town and we had a quick stop for diesel at Wallengarra, which claims to be the last shop in Queensland, then crossed the border into NSW. The next town was Tenterfield and it is a delightful and interesting town. I was particularly taken by the Post Office building. We also visited the Tenterfield Saddlery, immortalized in the Peter Allen song. The Saddlery was originally built in 1870 from local handcut granite and its 20 inch walls made it ideal for later use as a bank, before being used as a home and again as a saddlery in 1897. Unfortunately the Saddlery was closed for renovations so we only had a peak in through the front window. We enjoyed a delicious coffee in a beautiful old, restored, building before resuming our travels.
From Tenterfield we continued down the New England Highway but the scenery changed from vines and the like and became a lot more cleared land with cattle and some sheep. We also saw quite a bit of smoke, and there was a strong smell of smoke in the car. The bush fire season has started early in NSW. Then, from grazing land it became quite mountainous with plenty of exposed rock faces. Also of interest was a particular section of road where wattle was in bloom – we didn’t notice wattle blossom anywhere else.
Glen Innes was our next stop and again the Post Office building caught my eye as we had a good long walk around town. For lunch we stopped at the Australian Standing Stones, which is a fantastic monument to the early settlers of Celtic origin who helped build the Australian nation and is built along the lines of Stonehenge in the UK. The town of Glen Innes was selected as the location for this national monument which features traditional symbols relating to the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, etc, as well as the Southern Cross and other Australian symbols. Glen Innes will host the 2014 Australian Celtic Festival at the Standing Stones.
At Glen Innes we also did a quick shop and bought a newspaper which confirmed how close we had been to the bushfires. Our travel plans have changed as a result of the bushfire threat and we left the New England Highway at Glen Innes to head further west along the Gwydir Highway.
About 40 kilometres from Glen Innes we stopped at the Swan Bank Rest Area and set up to free camp for the night. This is a delightful spot and we were able to park right next to a small creek. There is a toilet, rubbish bins, undercover areas with tables and chairs and room for maybe 8 or 9 vans at a pinch. Horses were in nearby paddocks, frogs were in the creek, and there were blue tailed wrens and rosellas in the surrounding trees. We were joined at the free camp by another couple in their van just before dusk, and after a bit of a chat we retired to our respective vans for tea.
As there was no telephone, internet or TV access we did some reading before having an early night.