Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
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14 September 2011 - Tamworth to Casino
Another cold night in Tamworth with 6° in the van at 6 in the morning and zero outside but no rain and a bright, sunny morning which quickly warmed.

Leaving the City Lights caravan park we drove around central Tamworth on the low-level bypass turning on to the New England Highway east of the main part of town. Shortly after leaving Tamworth heading roughly east the New England swings around to the north and soon begins the steep climb up Moonbi Hills Number One and Number Two. This needed second gear for the final section; usually third gear is sufficient for hills but not this one. From the top of these hills the road remained between 1000 and 1400 metres elevation as it went north through Armidale, Glen Innes and several smaller townships. The land is devoted mainly to grazing, principally sheep but some cattle, and cropping. Very large basalt boulders scattered around the paddocks indicate the long-ago volcanic origins of the region which extends into Queensland where the name "Granite Belt" is used.

Weather remained generally good; the wind was fairly strong; we could see tree tops moving along the road but not often felt the caravan moving in the wind. Traffic was very light, some caravans, some heavy trucks and some sedans. The road was mostly two lanes but there were a few sections of dual carriageway and many overtaking lanes; traffic was not heavy enough for much need for the overtaking lanes.

At Tenterfield we turned east onto the Bruxner Highway which would take us down the edge of the Great Dividing Range to Casino. The road here is about 800 to 900 metres elevation. After leaving Tenterfield it passes a few vineyards set in mainly grazing land; approaching the edge of the tableland the cleared land gives way to scattered woodland which becomes thicker and the main descent is through forested areas. The road is two lanes of bitumen with a few overtaking lanes; frequently the bitumen surface was less than smooth and we had to slow down.

The descent from Tenterfield down to the Clarence River is not uniform. Millions of years ago sheets of lava from the north disrupted an existing river system and forced rivers to change direction leaving a very confused topography requiring the road to go uphill during a generally downhill run; many turns and hills make it difficult for faster vehicles to pass slower ones.

At the bottom of the Clarence Valley we crossed the Clarence River at Tabulam via the high, single-lane bridge. The planking on the bridge roadway is being renewed and the bridge is presently closed for a couple of hours from Monday to Thursday; there is no alternative road crossing nearby so drivers have to plan the time they will reach Tabulam or be prepared to wait for the bridge to open.

After passing through Tabulam village the road makes its way up the other side of the Clarence Valley climbing up to the village of Mallanganee near the top of the ridge separating the Clarence and Richmond Valleys. The road on both sides of this ridge is fairly steep for caravans. Then nearly all downhill to Casino and home.

Our main trip for 2011 was over. Now we had to prepare for a hip replacement at the end of October.

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