NSW Loop day 9: Mudgee to Cassilis (NSW, Australia)

I start this post by acknowledging the Wiradjuri People as the Traditional Owners of the lands through which I’ve been cycling the past few days. And I recognise their sovereignty over their lands. I pay my respects to the Wiradjuri elders past, present and future, and thank them for allowing us newcomers to this land to visit and travel through sacred places.

I leave Mudgee heading back north. I feel good about my decision to turn around instead of flogging myself. There’s so much country to be seen and it’s nice not to have to rush so that I can actually see it while I’m down here.
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I leave town heading north-east on the Ulan- Cassilis road. It’s early and the vineyards look pretty in the morning light. Vineyards always do and I’m yet to get a really good photo of any. I don’t drink wine (except when I was cycling in Hungary) but I always love cycling through wine areas. Perhaps it’s that they are often in rolling country or it’s the idea of the gourmet food that often comes with the fruit of the grapes. It’s just a shame I didn’t have more time because the vineyards are behind me too soon.
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I spend an hour or so climbing slowly. What I don’t realise is that I’m on the Great Dividing Range. I learn this fact when I come across a sign marking the high point of the range in this area. It’s quite low isn’t it. Naturally, this is cause for a photo because the Great Dividing Range is kind of a big deal in Australia’s geography. While I live to the east of the range, I prefer to travel to its west. That’s where I’m most at homme moving through the landscap. And that’s where my ride home will keep me. East of the range is rainforest, coastline and the convenience of cities. To the west is a relatively flatter more arid agricultural landscape that is wide, open and offers almost unlimited opportunity for exploration. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of what’s west of the divide on my blog this year because I’ll be spending quite a bit of time traveling the Australian bush by car and pushbike.
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I’d been told there was a coal mine out here on the Ulan-Cassilis road. I just didn’t expect it to be so big. The good thing is that the coal must be loaded onto trains because I saw very few trucks on the road. The lady at the visitor centre in Mudgee told me that the local Aboriginal Peoples are upset with the “white folk”. When I see the coal mine I can see why. This is a stunning part of the landscape and is probably sacred due to the way the mountains and rocks are so distinctly formed. And then there’s a dirty big coal mine churning through that land creating destruction in its path. Mind you, I’m not going to get on my high horse and say I’m against mining. I recognise that I use electricity and all the other things that coal creates. I also recognise that Australia is not only built “off the sheep’s back” but also that our modern economic stability is largely in thanks to the influence of mining throughout our history since invasion. So it’s a difficult topic with no easy answers. I guess the lesson is that there are multiple sides to every issue and it’s only when we open our eyes to this fact that we can work together to try to find a solution (mind you, the Australian government’s commitment to coal over cleaner energies isn’t helping anyone).
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But you don’t want to hear about my politics. Besides, it’s incredibly rude for an Australian to discuss such matters in public. So let me change the topic by sharing this photo of two emus. I love emus the same way that I love giraffes (only my favourite animal in the world). They are at once graceful and ungainly. And emus can run … fast!
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Just 10km after Ulan I come to The Drip. This is an incredible place. It’s a spiritual place for the Traditional Owners and I sense it as I walk here. I pay my respects to the Old People as I’ve been taught to do and assure them that I am only walking along the path to The Drip and back. Geographically, The Drip marks the lowest point on the Great Dividing Range. Geologically, it marks the western edge of the Sydney Sandstone Basin. And visually it is stunning. It must be delightful in summer to come here to swim. I’m as wet as a swimmer because it’s been bucketing down with rain since for hours now. There’s no way to describe this place where sandstone cliffs tower above the river, which is currently running quietly like a wide creek. It’s lush and green and alive with energy. If it were not raining I would have stayed for a few hours to soak up the atmosphere but I need to keep moving to get warm.
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So move I do. I pedal northward into the wind and rain. Turril is marked on the map but turns out to be nothing more than a General Store that looks like it hasn’t seen business in a decade. But there is a cute outdoor dunny in a paddock that I have to share. It’s so Australian and I’m glad I’m just young enough to have missed this part of Aussie life. People about a decade older than me tell stories of spiders and snakes living in their outdoor dunnies, and of late night walks through gardens and paddocks just to relieve themselves. That’s one part of the good old days that I don’t think would have been so good at all. Haha.
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It’s only 1:30pm when I arrive at my destination: Cassilis Park Rest Area. It’s a small roadside rest area on the Golden Highway about 8km south west of Cassilis township. The sky is still crying so I pull up under a picnic shelter and make myself at home. After getting dry I consider doing some work or blogging. But decide that for one afternoon I am going to do absolutely nothing. I upload some photos to Facebook then crawl into my sleeping bag for a snooze. For the rest of the night the only things I do are phone home and eat dinner. It’s absolutely glorious to turn my brain off and just relax. I think this might be the first time on this trip that I’ve taken time out to do just that. I lay there in my sleeping bag under the picnic shelter knowing that this is living.

3 thoughts on “NSW Loop day 9: Mudgee to Cassilis (NSW, Australia)

  1. I like your attitude toward the traditional people. An Australian visiting here compared the history here to the lack of it back home. I wondered about the mindset behind that statement.

    • Australians don’t learn about the First Peoples. Well, the schools always said they taught us. But that lesson went (and still goes) like this:
      Captain Cook came in 1788. When he came there were Aborigines. They were nomads who believed in the Dreamtime and the Rainbow Serpent.

      Yes. That’s all 12 years of schooling taught me about Australia’s history.

      When I studied criminology and law at university, the extent of education about the First Peoples was that they are over represented in our criminal justice system, that there is a legal case called Mabo that led to the Native Title Act. Seven years at university and literally that was it. In my education degree we’ve learned that we need to be sensitive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples but that has been lumped into a general one hour lecture on being sensitive to all people.

      And that’s the extent of education the average Australian had about our First Peoples. To learn more you have to search for information and books. It’s like they’ve been hidden away. Probably because they tell the story of stolen generations, slavery, massacre, families torn apart, government control of people’s lives, government theft of land.

      I wish our kids were taught about Aboriginal history, both the beauty of pre-invasion and the truth of post-invasion. I wish we used Aboriginal place names more often (though we are improving on that count). And I wish sacred places were more respected (we don’t walk into a Buddhist temple with your shoes on, don’t enter a mosque during prayer and never enter the priest’s robing room in a church so why do we trample all over sacred mountains and photograph sacred art).

      Only then can this nation I call home grow up and join the 21st century as a land of peace and equality. And only then will the First Peoples start to trust us newcomers with their wisdom, stories and knowledges.

      That’s the mindset behind the statement of your Aussie visitor.

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