When in Chillagoe, people ask what are the best places to visit. Of course the CHILLAGOE CAVES are the main attraction but the locals will also suggest that you check out the old Smelter site (best seen at sunrise), and the Balancing Rock at sunset. These are just some of the great sites to see.
We did take a drive out to see the Smelter ruins during the day, taking in the walk to the lookout to view both the ruins and the surrounding landscape. I had visited this place many, many years ago when one was allowed to wander around the site and actually climb the hill to the big chimney. Today it is closed off for safety reasons.
That chimney stack is a prominent landmark that can be seen from kilometres away.
The Chillagoe Smelters operated from the early 1900’s until 1943 extracting copper, lead, silver and a little gold. In 1901, the railway to the site was completed. Up to 1,000 workers were employed by the mines, railway and the smelter.
There are many information boards here showing the history of the smelters and the process of extracting the ores.
Now for the sunrise. Rising early is never a issue when there is the chance of some good photography in store. Luckily it wasn’t too cold, so we drove out to the Smelter site and climbed the hill to the lookout to await the golden light.
Lots of interesting views pre-dawn and of course that seemingly “never-ending” wait for the sun to come up.
It was a good vantage point at the lookout to see across the landscape and to the smelter area. The chimneys added to the ambiance of the photos.
Now one last look back over the smelters.
Later in the morning we drove out to the Chillagoe Cemetery. Given the history of this town, the headstones would give us a little insight into the hardships of life in those early years. Mining/workplace accidents and childhood diseases in particular saw many people die way too young.
Today, they are left forgotten with faded headstones damaged by the harsh climate or even fires. Some are just mere numbers pegged into the dry earth. Trees and ant beds grow through the graves.
There were simple graves adorned with whatever their loved ones could afford. Not fancy but nevertheless special.
It was great to see present-day interest in documenting the names and cause of death of the people located in the cemetery. This can be viewed in the rotunda.
Black and white photography adds mystery and intrigue to such a place. Time to pause and remember the pioneers of days gone by.
The afternoon was spent at Mungana, about 15 kilometres from town. Once a mining town in its own right, all that stands now is an information board and a few remnants of the old days.
Gotta love the old railway line.
Yet another old cemetery with very few headstones.
We also visited the Archways Cave (more in next post) and the Indigenous Art site which was really impressive.
A trip to Chillagoe would not be complete without a visit to Balancing Rock at sunset. Try to get to the carpark a while before sunset and take the 220m walk up to the rock (a spectacular limestone outcrop that seems precariously balanced upon another rock).
The walk is a 440m circuit so you can see more rock formations and scenery going down the other side. If there are many people, you will need to take your turn at getting that iconic photo holding up the rock.
I tried my hand at using a lensball to get this interesting photo.
Walk down below the rock for different views. Look up, look down and through the rocks. So many different angles.
Then go back to the rock and wait for the sunset. You won’t be disappointed.
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