Oh, Mount Wilson! Blue Mountains, Lithgow and the frozen outskirts of Bathurst

Orange is a five-hour drive from Gosford, so I decided to break up the trip by seeing a few sites along the way. After all, it had been two decades since I found and lost love within the space of five minutes, so what was another few days? The road winds its way through the world famous Blue Mountains, and in the quaint village of Bilpin I discovered something VERY BIG and VERY FRUITY. No, not Kyle Sandilands – The Big Bowl of Fruit! I’d never heard of this Big Thing before, but I went absolutely bananas when I saw it. I haven’t had a set of plums that size dangling in my face since I finished Sunday School.

I spent the first night of my trip west in Mount Wilson, which is 130 kilometres west of Sydney. This cute village sits more than a kilometre above sea level, boasts plenty of awesome hiking tracks, lookouts and gardens, and is home to a bustling population of 99 people. It’s in the middle of nowhere and that’s part of the charm. There are no shops or pubs (so bring a case like did), but there is a well-maintained free campsite within spitting distance of the tranquil Cathedral of Ferns. You wouldn’t head there for your buck’s night, but Mount Wilson is a pretty special part of the world – and it would be even more incredible during autumn, when the leaves on the liquidambars are changing.

Just out of town is the Wynnes Rocks Lookout, which provides epic views of the sprawling valley below. Most of the area was destroyed by nightmarish bushfires earlier this year, and the scars of that destruction remain evident. Thousands of blackened and gnarled tree trunks dot the landscape, but there’s sign of new growth everywhere. There are a few short bushwalks around the lookout, just don’t wander off the path or you’ll be enjoying a dirt nap about 200 metres below. Speaking of heading down the mountain to a dark and gloomy place…

New South Wales has plenty of wonderful places to visit, but you won’t find Lithgow on too many must-see lists,  because it has a reputation for being cold, dirty and boring. In other words, Australia’s answer to Huddersfield. This grim mining town sits on the wrong side of the Blue Mountains and doesn’t inspire feelings of wonder, but it’s the gateway to the Golden West, so I thought I’d check it out. Honestly, it was nicer than I thought it would be, with plenty of old miners’ houses to admire and a handful of leafy parks. I even saw a homeless bloke enjoying a passionate conversation with a dog outside the local Coles!

Highlights of Lithgow include the century-old Hoskin’ Memorial Church, Hassans Walls Lookout,and the Tourist Information Centre, which may or may not be shaped like a giant jug of some sort 🤷‍♂️ Bottom line, the joint is worth stopping at, but if you’re looking for somewhere to spend a lazy two weeks, head to Bali instead.

Keen to continue my journey to find lost love, I bid Lithgow farewell and headed towards Bathurst with tears in my eyes. I set up camp about 20 minutes out of town, in the village of O’Connell (named after handsome American movie star Jerry O’Connell). There’s not much there other than a good pub with a free campsite next to it, which was absolutely perfect for me, and I had a great time getting on the cans with the locals. Unfortunately, the pub shut at eight, and I was shut outside in the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced – and I’ve been to Siberia. It was so bloody cold that my tent froze, and I had to warm up my beers in the engine bay of my car before drinking them. Great weather for penguins, but geez it would’ve been nice to have a cute, warm little spunk to share my sleeping bag with…

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