Monday, October 14, 2013

In Sydney again

We have visited Sydney many times over the years, and of course this means that we have visited the majority of the "usual" tourist spots.  As we were staying near Blacktown in a home we stayed in last October it was not that long ago that we had visited.  We decided this year to try and check out some areas we had not previously visited, or it was a long time since our last visit.

We arrived on a Thursday and had a quiet couple of days staying very local to the house and just reminding ourselves what was in the local area.  Stanhope Gardens is a large newish housing area, with many new homes built over the last five years or so.  It is well services by buses that connect with the local train station at Blacktown and there are also buses that go directly into the city via the harbour bridge.

A check of the local newspaper advertised a regular Sunday market at Blacktown.  As usual the commence early, and in this case 7 a.m. but we didn't leave home until around 10 a.m.!  The market is not in the built up area and until a short time ago would have been considered quite rural.  Now there is significant building underway as a new water slide adventure park is being constructed - we understand that this is a Wet n Wild complex similar to the one on the Gold Coast.  It is certainly going to be big when it is completed and will become a very popular outing for locals and visitors.

Adventure park construction
The market was on land adjoining an outdoor drive in movie complex - we are not sure if the drive in is still used very often but may even get a face lift with the opening of the water park.  Parking was at a premium and we parked on a side road and walked.  We were surprised to find that we had to pay to enter the market - not something that we have encountered previously.  We were disappointed with the market.  There were lots of people there, and many stalls but 90% of them would have been junk and we are not into buying junk sourced from garage sales, second hand shops, commercial sale ends etc. We had more expected a farmers market and were disappointed.  I could have left in five minutes, but Peter was happy to wander the rows of the stalls for a while.  What did we spend our money on, in addition to the entrance fee?  A large pumpkin from one of the two fruit and vegetable stalls we saw. I was cheeky enough to ask the stall operator to cut the pumpkin in half so I could confirm that it was mature before I handed over my $4.  It was, and I have to say we ate every last bit of that pumpkin as it was dry and had plenty of flavour so was a good buy.

We then spent the balance of the day pretty much relaxing - just like our two household companions.

Patra and Cleo
Monday we decided on a day out.  Back in the early 1980's my friend Pauline Cave and I had visited Sydney and Toowoomba together and stayed with friends of Pauline's.  While staying with Lorraine and Roy in Camden we had a day trip to Warragamba Dam.  We decided that as the dam was just fifty odd kilometres from Stanhope Gardens a return visit was due.  We packed a picnic and off we went initially following the freeway and then rural roads.

Warramgamba Dam is one of the most visited tourist destinations in western Sydney and attracts thousands of visitors every year.  It is the primary reservoir for water supply for Sydney.   In November 2009 the grounds and visitors centre were upgraded and now you can take a self guided tour.  When we visited it was school holidays so there were quite a few family groups and a couple of buses with school holiday program participants.  We were surprised that there were not more visitors as the grounds are huge and there seemed no one about.  We parked in the lower car park near the visitors centre so that we could park under the trees as it was very warm, and we were the only vehicle in that carpark and could count on one hand the number of cars in the other carpark.

We had our picnic first and then visited the visitors centre which overlooks the dam and spillway.  The dam was constructed between 1948 and 1960 and is one of the largest reservoirs for urban water supply in the world.  The visitors centre has been built with an environmental design and appears to blend in with the dam.  We initially saw the dam from one of the viewing decks below the visitors centre and then after seeing the displays inside the centre we climbed the stairs down to a lower viewing platform.

Dam and visitors centre

Dam from lower deck with visitors centre on top of wall
Inside the visitors centre there are a number of exhibitions with photos taken during the build and lots of technical information.  There is one room set up for lectures and as it was school holidays they had holiday activities available for the children.
Dam from lower deck with visitors centre on top of wall
After viewing the visitors centre we followed the road through the town to see the dam from further down the river where there is another viewing platform.  It was certainly interesting and the work undertaken to complete the build was enormous.

Dam from down the river further
The township of Warramgamba was built as housing for the dam workers and at the completion of the build a number of workers purchased their homes.  The majority of the homes are very basic and we were interested to note that a lot of thought went into naming the streets - 1st Street, 2nd Street etc.  I guess it made it easier when a workers was allocated a home - number ..... in 5th Street would have made it easy to find it.  There is a public school and a few shops and small industrial area.  Many of the homes are still occupied by workers from the dam and there was a population in 2006 of around 1200.

After visiting the dam we made our way back towards the freeway through the small rural villages. We saw one of the brown visitors information signs pointing to a river viewing platform so decided to take that but after driving for about half an hour with no further information, and by then on a gravel road, we came to a fence and advising walking tracks only.  We parked, and locked up the car but after commencing the walk there was a very small sign saying that there was still five kilometres to walk so decided that walk wasn't for us late in the day.  So a quick view of the area, with no river in sight, we headed back to the car and home.

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