Day 3: FROM PORT MACQUARIE TO ARMIDALE
With the long drive ahead of us, we woke up at 6am and left Port Macquarie at 6:45am. We barely got to know what this town was about, but given our late arrival from our bad shortcut yesterday evening, we now had to press on.
We had to go west on the Hwy 34 so we were essentially backtracking the route we took last night. We were driving at a deliberate pace due to the fear of kangaroos and the insufficient daylight from all the long morning shadows.
During the drive on the curvy highway, we realized that the bad shortcut we took last night was actually even worse when we realized that we were pretty far west on the highway (about 97km west of Port Macquarie) when we finally caught sight of the familiar road junction.
Eventually at 8:55am, we arrived at the car park for Tia Falls after going on a 7km unsealed road off the Hwy 34 to get there. At least the route was very well-signed.
As Julie and I got out of the car, we then proceeded onto the 30-40 minutes return walk that skirted the Tia Gorge until we reached an obvious lookout with railings of Tia Falls, which was tumbling with a muffled roar from across the canyon. The falls was definitely tall and attractive, and it easily trumped practically all of the waterfalls we had seen during our November 2006 trip to the southeast of Australia.
Julie and I almost forgot what it was like to visit a big waterfall like this in Australia for it seemed like it had been quite a while. Meanwhile, the track and experience so far had been very tranquil and quiet. It seemed like we were the only ones here.
Anyways, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do at the overlook other than to check out the falls. We continued on the track towards the Tia Gorge Lookout, which was the turnaround point of the hike we were on. The view of the gorge was against the sun, but we could totally see the V-shaped contours of the valley below.
So the next stopping point was Apsley Falls, which we arrived to its car park at 10:20am. This was after a futile attempt at 10:05am in search for Stoney Creek Falls. I suspected that we must have missed some side road on our left prior to the Stoney Creek Bridge. I guess I might regret not backtracking to find it, but since we were already determined to see Apsley Falls, we mind as well visit that one then deal with what would come next.
At Apsley Falls, we descended onto a lookout with a close but shadowy view of the falls after going down several steps. This seemed to be the short way to see some part of the waterfall. But we noticed there was another trail (called the Oxley Walk) on the other side of the gorge, and I was keen to at least see what the view of Apsley Falls might be like over there.
So we returned to the car park at 10:45am, then proceeded to walk towards the Apsley River where the watercourse seemed to be calm with some purple growth on it.
After crossing the bridge over the river, we then followed along the gorge rim on the opposite side. Eventually, we were able to get more direct views of Apsley Falls (albeit a little more distant) though the shadows didn’t help our cause too much in terms of photographing it.
We then continued further down the gorge until we got to an overlook that let us look down at the Lower Apsley Falls, which fell right into the steep gorge below. Again, the morning sun was working against us on this day, but at least the whole falls was in shadow so we were able to resolve it on our photos.
Anyways, the both falls were pretty much look-but-don’t-touch. The walk ended up taking on the order of an hour (not including the initial McMillan Lookout).
After some more driving northwest, we passed through Walcha and then eventually went straight north towards the town of Armidale. We arrived at the accommodation we’d be staying at in Armidale at 1:30pm, then we checked in, examined the brick interior of our room, dropped off our stuff, then headed out 15 minutes later at 1:45pm in search of Dangar Falls (or Dangarsleigh Falls).
We’d ultimately take a road from Armidale right to the Dangar Falls and we’d arrive at 2:15pm. However, when we eagerly went to the overlook hoping to see the falls (especially after having seen both Tia Falls and Apsley Falls perform), we were quite disappointed to see the Dangar Falls totally dry. That was a real bummer.
So at 2:35pm, we returned to the car. We were back in Armidale at 3pm. We were a little fatigued from all the driving and perhaps a little waterfalled out. So we spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling out in our motel room. There really wasn’t a whole lot to do in town so we only left the motel room for dinner (don’t remember much about it) before returning to our room to get all cleaned up and to catch up on some sleep.