I wanted to get fairly early start this morning so we could maximise our time in the Hunter Valley.  We had planned a lunch at a nice looking restaurant in Pokolbin that we had an Entertainment Book voucher for, so a light breakfast was in order ?

The morning news had reports of dangerous fires near Muswellbrook, although the app showed they were well away from the highway.

We hit the road just after 7:30 and again headed south with the sky again full of smoke.  The road south was again so dry with lots of evidence of recent fires.  We stopped at a tiny town called Wallabadah, where the general store promised “The Best Coffee Outside Italy” – Challenge accepted ?  Mick said that it was indeed very nice coffee.

Coming into the Upper Hunter Valley we saw many large horse studs.  This is horse country and many top trainers have studs and lodges in the area.  We came across a beautifully groomed fence line and (lush-ish considering the current conditions) paddocks. When we finally passed the gate, we discovered it was the prestigious “Emirates Park” that has produced many top racehorses.

We stopped in Scone to top up with fuel and get some groceries at Woolworths.  I knew that Pokolbin only has a small general store that was sure to be expensive, so I wanted to make sure we had everything we need for the next 2 nights.

Not far out of Scone we saw a very long freight train that had 3 engines pulling it and 3 engines pushing it. We were glad that when we came to a level crossing, we were ahead of the train and did not have to wait for it.

Further along, we came to Muswellbrook and saw huge power stations and caught a glimpse of the coal mines on either side of the road.  We saw more trains and guessed that the one we had seen earlier was a coal train.

Further along and we detoured off the highway to go into the town centre of Singleton.  As we were heading back toward the highway we saw another train and we wanted to try and get a video of it.  We turned up a side street where we thought we might get a good view only to be confronted with a large hedge that we could not see through.   It was then we noticed that the train was actually stopped a Singleton station.   We turned around, parked the car and hurried up to the platform, just in time to hear the horn blow and the train start moving off.   This train had 2 engines pulling 96 coal wagons and one engine at the back pushing.   Each wagon was 15.4m long and from the time the train started, until we saw the last engine, it took nearly 4 minutes to go by.  That sure is a lot of coal.

Back on the highway and we were soon in Pokolbin.  We went to the hotel we were booked into to see if by chance our room was ready, even though we were early.  It wasn’t, but we were able to do all the check-in paperwork.  Coming into Pokolbin, we had seen the restaurant we had a voucher for and wanted to have lunch at, so we headed back there ready for a meal.   Sadly it was very busy, and they could not fit us in for lunch without a booking. 

There are many restaurants in the wineries, so it was not too difficult to find a very nice menu at Brokenwood Wines were had a superb meal and a couple of glasses of their wines.

Luckily the temperature was much better today, so we made the most of being able to wander around without dying of heat exhaustion.   I had to, of course, visit the cellar door of McGuigan Wines.  I knew I would not be buying wine as it is almost always cheaper at the big bottle shops.  Sure enough, the wine I drink was double the price. 

 We stopped off at a couple of the larger places but decided not to do too many tastings, as we had booked a tour for the next day.

We did find a “Dessert Bar” and we chose a tasting plate each. They were yummy ?

I wanted to go to the Hunter Valley Gardens to see the Christmas lights, so we went to see where it was and look around a bit.   The gardens are lovely and have a little village with quaint shops which we browsed through and bought a couple of added Christmas presents.    The problem that we could see was the lack of parking.  We decided that it would be very difficult to park anywhere near the entrance for the lights, and, with daylight savings it would be a late start.

We got back to the resort just after 4:00 and got the key to the room and settled in for the evening with just a very light snack of cheese and crackers.