Upper Hunter Valley, NSW. Cruising aboard the Southern Aurora

Day 1: On Being without Barrington Tops or Scones but with Fireworks

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Travelling with Heritage Express on the Southern Aurora, a 50 year old inter-city express passenger train. The itinerary says: Explore the Barrington Wilderness from the Hunter World Heritage Drive. See waterfalls and wildlife, the verdant mountain ranges and wander the villages of the Upper Hunter Valley.

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It was rather magical to wake at sunrise and find yourself snaking around the mountains in the early morning mist but rather disappointing that last minute changes to the itinerary meant we didn’t go anywhere near Barrington Tops National Park. After visiting the nearby town of Gloucester we lunched at Carriageways, near Dungog where we were well fed but there was nothing else to do. As it had been extremely hot sitting outside for lunch, even in the shade, no-one was impressed by a very disappointing visit to the Camelot Lavender Farm. Half of us decided to sit it out under cover but without any hint of their lavender scones. No waterfalls or wildlife anywhere in sight either.

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The itinerary says: Enjoy a sunset NYE feast aboard the Southern Aurora accompanied by panoramic views of the Upper Hunter district, before celebrating with the township of Taree beside the Manning River for the local fireworks display.

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Fortunately, after an excellent dinner we had an extra option of travelling by bus from Taree station to Foster-Tuncurry for their Fireworks. Everyone who chose to go was more than happy they did. Having been on the Sydney Harbour for the recent Fleet Spectacular Fireworks I was impressed by the splendid location on the lake and the great fireworks. Thanks to our bus drivers who dropped us off & returned us to the train back at Taree, and the team of tireless volunteers manning the train. It’s a funny feeling to have your accommodation waiting for you rather than you looking for it. Exhausted but happy, some celebrated the New Year in the lounge cars whilst myself and others were soon asleep in our single nooks.  You quickly get used to the comfortable but limited space and the reassuring rocking of the train as we travelled overnight to Werris Creek.

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