Armidale – still up on the Tablelands

The drive to Armidale was made more interesting by a side trip to Captain Thunderbolt’s Cave.  Little did I know when I pulled off the highway that the way to the cave was by an ever narrowing and ever rougher dirt road.  Mrs GPS reckoned the track would eventually rejoin the New England Highway but at times that looked like wishful thinking!

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Oh yes!!  I really enjoy this type of Australian bush.  This whole detour reminded me of my bushwalking days and why I loved it.  Peace, quiet, bird life all around, well away from everyday life and bogans.

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Walking from the “car park” I followed the occasional rock painted white and this single sign.

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and arrived at one of many Thunderbolt’s caves.  Thunderbolt was a bushranger back in the 1800’s : Wikipedia says:

Captain Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt began his bushranging career by escaping from the notorious Cockatoo Island Prison in Sydney Harbour. He was serving a sentence for horse stealing, a very serious offence in those days. The tales of his exploits are many and become more controversial with time. His daring and defiance of the troopers eventually caused his downfall at Uralla.

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So, here I was at an historic site needing a pee.  Just think, Captain Thunderbolt and I may well have peed in the same spot – I am sure he would have been impressed  !

Back to the car.  The route out to the New England Highway got even narrower and bumpier and I drove slowly to protect the caravan (early Jayco’s internals are know to self destruct when travelling over rough roads).  As we neared the highway it got worse with wash outs and deep wheel ruts.  Luckily I am used to these conditions often encountered in Tasmania and so we successfully inched our way through due to excellent driving skills (tongue in cheek) and a modicum of luck.  Eventually made it back to the highway, probably in one piece.  An enjoyable excursion.

On the way I stopped at Guyra.

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The Guyra golf course.  The pale bit is the fairway.

A couple of cycling items from Guyra.  The first was the sighting of signs stating “Rail not Bikes”. I gather a disused railway passes through the town and some well meaning tourist dollar and/or cycling focussed groups have said “Hey, let’s develop a rail trail” and the locals don’t like it.  They want their rail link re-copened.  A similar thing is happening in Tasmania.  There must be a way to say OK, rail is not economic today (hence the disused line) so let’s built a cycling trail.  In the future, if rail becomes economic once more, then let’s negotiate or share.

The second is in Guyra where there are some nice, stylised bicycle shaped racks to which bicycles can be chained.  At the start of each footpath is a stencilled “NO BIKES” which rather defeats the idea of cycling safely into town as the roads are quite narrow and busy.

I also found an exercise circuit and a ‘station’ on it called “The Mother of Ducks” (see top picture).  I asked about this and found TMOD is the name of a lagoon – which is dry at the moment.  There was nobody visibly doing the circuit.

Lastly a notice board proudly declared “Guyra Caravan Park – the highest Caravan Park in Australia”.


After all the excitement of getting here is was a bit of an anti-climax.  The car was in need of a service and so I had organised to take it in.  Expecting a half day to complete the job, things went pear shaped when the oil filter holder cracked.  This meant a new one had to be trucked in – the next day.  Basically I had to spend a fair time over two days waiting around in Armidale for the workshop to call.  I got to know the Mall and other shopping areas, the riverside park and the art gallery far too well.

Armidale is another town best to avoid on a bike.  Traffic is fast and aggressive and quite scary if you are in a car yourself let alone on a bike.  The Information Office did have a Mud Map of cycle tracks but against each ride it said detailed descriptions were available from the Office.  The Official in the Office didn’t seem to think so and when I asked for them, got a bit stroppy.  Why?  That is one of life’s mysteries.

On my last day in town and the day the parts arrived, I decided to ride a path running through the riverside park.  Going downstream it went for a couple of Ks.

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Along the way I found this seemingly meaningless brick wall and an abandoned shopping trolley.  Adding Brompton it became an art installation depicting the intrusion of humanity into nature.

Returning, I tried a picture by the creek looking for an image for cycle365’s August challenge.

The results didn’t grab me.

Just after that attempt I saw a white bird up a tree and realised it was a hawk of some sort.  A bloke was taking a picture of it and we had a chat.  While we talked a woman in a multi-coloured crochet hat and gardening hands joined us.  She knew Bob.  He thought the bird was a White Goshawk.

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After some work on the ‘Net I think it might be a Grey Goshawk.  Anyway, Bob and the lady who’s name I forgot then discussed the state of the creek – they are involved with it’s regeneration.  Right by us was a burnt bit of land and to the left was a mulched area.  They think local aborigines are burning small parts of long grass etc in order to keep the fire hazard down.  The woman had mulched an area burnt last week and now the area next to it had been burnt.  She was wondering what this meant – should she not mulch or should she mulch the new burnt patch?  Perhaps she was overthinking it.

Suddenly a phone call – the car was fixed.

After picking it up I cycled the track again but this time up stream.  There was supposed to be a cycleway out to the University but exactly how it ran was not clear from mud map.  I had a guess and ended up on a road.  Over a hill on the road and a track through further parkland became visible.  This went on for a few ks running past the backs of quite a few newish small houses.  Some looked like rental properties and others may have been Uni Student accommodation.  Eventually I arrived at the start of the Uni grounds.

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Re-tracing my wheel ruts I noticed a number of chalk arrows on the ground indicating the way .. of a Hash House Harrier run I reckon.  Single arrows to say “on track” and double arrows accentuating where turns are to made.

Back to the car, the car started OK and it looks like we are ready to head to Gunnedah tomorrow.

Catch-up.  I have finally managed to upload stuff to YouTube after a battle with WiFi.  Here is my first offering from this trip : a section of the Melbourne Capital City Trail.

I had better update my cycling total too.  Just checked and even with the above ride it is a poor showing for the past couple of weeks!  I hope for good riding conditions on Sunday which will allow entry of a reasonable total.


Author: antc1946

Born in 1946 I learnt to cycle about 10 years later. On a bike with rods connecting brake levers to the brakes - anyone remember those? I emigrated to Australia (from the UK) in 1974 and moved to Tasmania in 1984. Bicycles were in my life for most of that time although sometimes they were replaced by motorised two wheels for a bit more excitement. On reaching 70 I decided to stick to pedal power but in 2019 an electric recumbent made an appearance. it's now 2023 and I have 3 bikes. 2 e-recumbents and the Brompton.

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