Travelling Australia - Journal 2008
2 February 2008 - Cassilis Park to Sofala via Gulgong
Location map We had a quiet night in the rest area; there is some truck traffic on the Golden Highway but very little at night and we were not disturbed by trucks. After we left the rest area the Golden Highway continued rising gently until, eleven kilometres from the rest area, we passed a sign telling us we were at the top of the Great Dividing Range. This route via Cassilis crosses the Great Divide at one of its lowest points and was extensively used until the railway line over the Blue Mountains was opened. Once over the top we entered the catchment of the Macquarie River, a part of the Murray Darling system. The sign said the local elevation was 692 metres but our satellite navigation system was reporting 545 metres; either waywe were now out of the Hunter River coastal catchment and officially in Central New South Wales. The countryside was open woodland with large flat pasture paddocks and cattle were grazing. We continued along the Golden Highway to have a look at Dunedoo where we filled with petrol and looked at the town before backtracking along the Golden Highway to the turn-off towards Bathurst with Gulgong as our immediate destination.

The road south to Gulgong passed through cattle, sheep and pasture country and was fairly hilly with elevation up to at least 574 metres. In Gulgong (467 metres elevation) we parked on the side of the road and went walking in the centre of town which has preserved many 19th century buildings (about 130 of the town's buildings are registered with the National Trust). Gulgong traces its origin to the discovery of gold on Red Hill on 14 April 1870 sparking a major goldrush. There were 500 people on the site within six weeks and when the town was gazetted in 1872 there were reputedly 20,000 people in the area. We went to the Henry Lawson Centre which commemorated the life of that poet and author who lived in Gulgong for a few years as a boy. After lunch I went to the Pioneer Museum which overflowed an entire block and included a remarkable range of exhibits; there was little explanatory material but the material was well presented. Particularly noticeable was a collection of horse-drawn transport of every kind including a Cobb & Co coach, wool drays, buggys and wagons all stored under a weatherproof roof on a concrete floor but crowded in, often one on another, and no details displayed. Farming machinery was similarly crowded; many other items dealt with every aspect of life in and around Gulgong in the past. It was the sort of museum where a researcher with knowledge of a topic could recognise interesting items. Before leaving Gulgong we went to the railway station which is said to represent a typical station built in the early 1900s when the rail system was expanding; it has been well restored.
Gulgong buildings Gulgong has preserved many 19th century buildings such as these businesses.
Pioneer Museum Gulgong Pioneer Museum displays an astonishing assortment of items from the pioneering days in the Gulgong area. This is one of the buildings on the $10 note.
Coded symbols A system of coded symbols used by the homeless to exchange information has been documented and symbols installed in the footpath around Gulgong shopping centre.
Gulgong Train Station Gulgong Train Station opened in 1909 and now restored. This is said to be a good example of train stations built during the railway expansion early in the twentieth century.
Leaving Gulgong later in the afternoon we headed south on the road towards Mudgee. Initially we passed vineyards which soon gave way to the sheep, cattle, pasture combination. We did not stop at Mudgee but took a roundabout way through the town which was fairly large with a good selection of older public buildings in good external repair. Still heading south from Mudgee the country was quite hilly with some fairly steep hills in the road which continued climbing until we were above 900 metres above sea level. The hills were an unexpected work-out for the Territory towing the EuroStar. By the time we reached Ilford, south of Mudgee, the road was running along the top of the Great Dividing Range between the Murray-Darling catchment on the right (west), specifically the Macquarie River system, and rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean on the left (east). The main easterly flowing watercourses were headwaters of the Colo river flowing into the Hawkesbury River.

At Ilford we turned towards Bathurst but stopped for the night at a rest area about six kilometres east of Sofala beside the Turon River. Sofala is a very old township established during the first gold rushes in 1851 and retaining a very informal street layout without curbing or guttering on the two streets. Once we were in the rest area I ran our generator for half an hour or so while I downloaded pictures from the camera into the laptop which has an ageing battery and no longer holds a charge for very long. The Turon River was the scene of frantic activity during the goldrush but is now a quiet country river with she-oaks lining the banks.

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