To the Stars AND BACK

Camp be­neath aus­tralia’s most daz­zling night sky at War­rumbungle na­tional park.

Camper Trailer Australia - - TRAVEL - WORDS EMMA RYAN PICS MATT FELHBERG

There’s an old dad joke about camp­ing be­ing ‘mil­lion-star ac­com­mo­da­tion’, but nowhere does that ring more true than in the War­rumbungle Na­tional Park (NP). Spend a night here and you’ll al­most need sun­glasses to shield your eyes from the ra­di­ant Milky Way above.

It’s no ac­ci­dent that this is the site of Aus­tralia’s premier as­tron­omy fa­cil­ity, Sid­ing Spring Ob­ser­va­tory, home to $100 mil­lion worth of re­search equip­ment in­clud­ing 52 tele­scopes. Po­si­tioned high in the War­rumbungle Na­tional Park some 1160m above sea level, the site was cho­sen for its crisp, clean air with min­i­mal hu­mid­ity, its non tur­bu­lent at­mos­phere, its lack of light pol­lu­tion and its high per­cent­age of clear nights.

And while these con­di­tions clearly ex­cite as­tronomers both pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur, they’re not too bad for campers, ei­ther.

And then there’s the scenery. The War­rumbungle Ranges is the crum­bling re­mains of an an­cient vol­cano that erupted some 14 mil­lion years ago. It rises from the sur­round­ing plains like an un­likely clus­ter of ice­bergs, its jagged peaks and spires vis­i­ble for many miles in all di­rec­tions. And when viewed from the top of the range those end­less plains stretch on for hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres; you’ve likely never seen so far.

These gi­ant, lava-born struc­tures rise from

“there are fire pits, bar­be­cues and pic­nic ta­bles, but our favourite part was the scenic out­look; the camp seems to be nes­tled in against a rocky out­crop”

the park’s sa­van­nah grass­lands and dense bush still re­cov­er­ing from the cat­a­strophic 2013 fires that tore through the park in 2013. Trav­el­ling at 80km/h the fire con­sumed ev­ery­thing in its path and was quite a site for lo­cal res­i­dents liv­ing in nearby towns. A friend from Coon­abarabran told me the moun­tains alight at night closely re­sem­bled Mor­dor from

Lord of the Rings. Scary stuff.

And while the bush is restor­ing nicely and the land­scape is now lovely and green, the upside to the bush­fire and the thin­ning of the veg­e­ta­tion is that it has ex­posed pre­vi­ously un­known in­tri­ca­cies in the rock for­ma­tions. Swings and round­abouts, I sup­pose.

The camper you want is now eas­ier to find

CloCk­wise from lefT: It’s hard to be­lieve that such an ex­pan­sive view is within easy reach at the Whitegum Look­out; Bring your boots as the big ad­ven­tures here are found on foot; Charred trees flush with new growth re­veal na­ture’s restora­tive val­our; The large camp­sites are close to ameni­ties.

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