Travelling & Sydney – day 290

Woke up with the sound of the wind pounding against the window and decided it was far too windy to spend another day walking out in the Blue Mountains, especially as my ears were already hurting from yesterday’s exposure! So, after breakfast, we headed back towards the train station and caught the train back into the city. There were planned engineering works on the line so we could only get half way before we were put in a rail replacement bus service to take us the rest of the way into the city. Was kind of nice navigating the streets from the coach window, recognising places we had been to! At the central train station, we walked the 20-metres to our hostel – the Railway Square YHA. Actually it’s not just central – it is actually in Central Station! The nouveau-industrial renovation turned a former parcel shed (complete with platform) into a hostel. You can even sleep in a dorm in one of the converted train carriages. Unfortunately, we weren’t in one of these dorms, but our dorm window looked out onto them. They looked incredible and when we are next in Sydney we will make sure we are in one of those rooms!

Had some lunch in the hostel before deciding to walk Sydney’s most famous, most popular and (so we are told) best walk – the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk. We jumped on the bus and used the last of our Opal credit to get us to the beach. We started at Bondi Beach, watching the surfers (and wanna-be surfers) ride the waves in the crystal clear turquoise waters. We then headed up the steps at the south end of the beach, passing the Icebergs Swimming Pool (a lovely outdoor pool nestled in the rocks). As we continued south, we were treated to views of stunning sandstone cliffs next to never-ending views of the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, due to storm damage from earlier this year, some of the coastal path was closed but there were clear deviation signs to show us where to go. We passed through Tamarama beach (which was small but perfectly formed) before descending into Bronte beach, full of young people drinking beers next to a sign that said ‘alcohol prohibited’. A little bit further along the coast, we walked through the Waverley Cemetery where some famous Australians are buried. 

The views from the cemetery were stunning and we looked out to sea in an attempt to spot whales or dolphins but no such luck. We walked past the bowling club towards Burrows Park and Clovelly Beach before we came across Gordons Bay – a place that may have stolen a piece of Jayne’s heart! It has an underwater nature trail for scuba divers and clearly is an amazing place to do shore dives, especially given the amount of divers in the water and dive vans in the car park. Finished our walk by passing through Dolphin Point before arriving at the gorgeous Coogee Beach. Feeling slightly tired after our walk, we jumped on a bus and headed back into the city. Stopped by a supermarket to pick up some snacks for tomorrow’s bus journey before grabbing some take away food from China Town to eat back at the hostel. Ended up sitting outside on the terrace as the dining room was incredibly noisy! Went upstairs to pack up our stuff so we wouldn’t have to do it at 6am tomorrow morning (and be hated by our roommates!) when we got a video call from Ed. He was keen to show me Ben’s obsession with the Hoover, however as soon as Jayne came on the phone he stared waving and making noises (not happy that another Park child prefers Jayne to me!!! Lols). A quick shower before climbing into bed, falling asleep with the sounds of the railway station slowly closing down next door.

Saturday 23rd July 2016

Blue Mountains – day 289

Although the name Katoomba is used as a name for a crater on the planet Mars, it is not specifically commemorating the town. Kedumba or Katta-toon-bah is an Aboriginal term for “shining falling water” or “water tumbling over hill” and takes its name from a waterfall that drops into the Jamison Valley. I’m sure it was this waterfall we saw from Juliet’s Balcony and Rainforest Lookout yesterday. Today, after a nice lie in and breakfast we went off in search of more ‘shining falling water’. We headed back down to Echo Point and saw The Three Sisters more clearly than before. We went down to the Honeymoon Bridge Lookout which is a small joining bridge between the headland and Meehni. Then plodded down The Giant Stairs to the valley floor and the start of a more relaxed, quiet adventure.  We followed the Dardanelles Pass in to the Leura Forest. With occasional views of the cliffs above us and the dense temperature rainforest around we soon reached ‘Lady Carrington Dining Hall’. The original tea house built in the late 1800’s was destroyed by a falling tree, but walkers can still enjoy the historic rotunda, foundations and enjoy a picnic in the area. We carried on for a bit off the beaten track. We planned on going as far as Wentworth Falls on the routes marked on MapsMe. With none of these paths becoming apparent, even after crossing streams, we gave up and went back for a spot of lunch. Under the shade of the lilli pilli and coachwood forest we were watched by some magpie-like birds for any tid bits we may have dropped. 

On a less adventurous, but significantly more signposted route up to the cliff top, we went past a number of quaint little waterfalls and through an area named Fern Bower. Protected from the heat and providing a great environment for fern trees, bracken ferns and moss to thrive, the area was different shades of lush green with moisture in the air. It was a beautiful area to discover and with only a handful of people spotted for the entire day it was blissfully isolated from the frantic life up top and by the famous landmarks.  Up on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, more towards the starting point of this route, we came across yet another memorial to Lady Carrington. Lady (Cecelia) Carrington was wife of Lord (Charles Robert Wynne) Carrington. The couple explored parts of the Blue mountains in the late 1800’s and had a number of places named in their honour. Lady Carrington Lookout is long, narrow and fenced (twice). The lookout is perched up on a sandstone block and provides views over Jamison Valley. We got uninterrupted views of the forest below, undisturbed by tourists but visited by a few Crimson Rosellas, Eastern Spinebills and New Holland Honeyeaters – none of them being interested in a photo.

Back at Echo Point before we realised it, we could easily have started another trail or stayed longer for different routes. Alas, back to the hostel via a new road, we had a lovely meal of fish, baby potatoes and broccoli bake. All thanks to the fact that the YHA had an oven and there was free goon in the fridge to make the cooking easier and the last blog writing that bit smoother and less tedious. Friday 22nd July 2016

Travelling & Blue Mountains – day 288

Our drunk dorm room buddy Nathan, the Canadian girl in the room used to work here so looked up his info (not sure she’s allowed do that), was up to his usual antics of arriving late in the night but made no attempt to get in to anyone’s bed. He proceeded to bang around in the early hours of the morning when he left the YHA. So, with everyone else in the room now suitably disgruntled, we crept around like threading on broken egg shells, got our stuff, had breakfast and left. 

Down the alleys and streets of ‘The Rocks’ we found ourselves a quick direct route that doesn’t come up on MapsMe or Google, and got to the railway station at Circular Quay just as a double decker train was arriving to take us back to Central. Quick chat to the lady at the info desk, we worked out that our Opal cards needed $10 top up and it would get us both up and back to Katoomba. Being a lot cheaper than buying an actual train ticket, we were delighted with the saving, but there’s no clear cut way of finding out the fares between stations or journeys like some of the other cities we’ve been to. Sydney… you need some more info boards, get your act together!

Having sat facing the wrong way on the train, we were amazed at how versatile and clever the train seats are – they slide like a fold out bed to face the other way. We of course didn’t find this out until other passengers boarded the train and did this straight away. Soon, we were on our way, passing a beautiful building designed by Florence Mary Taylor, Australia’s First Architect. Although reading about her on a Wikipedia page, she was born in Somerset, England, so not too sure if the big poster next to the building in Sydney can be taken as gospel. A lovely journey up to Katoomba, occasionally listening to the jerk across from us argue with his electric company, we went through some quaint towns, canyons and forests and wandered down the street to our hostel with loads of time in the day to have an adventure. 

We strolled down the road to Echo Point. Deciding that because a) we wanted to save the money and b) we didn’t want to be stuck/restricted on a bus, we didn’t opt for the Hop On Hop Off tourist bus of the area. We weren’t really able to see the infamous ‘Three Sisters’ with the weather obscuring our view. The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters, Meehni (922m), Wimlah (918m) and Gunnedoo (906m), lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from the neighbouring Nepean tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.However, Dr Martin Thomas, in his work “The artificial horizon: imagining the Blue Mountains”, clearly shows that the “aboriginal” legend is a fabrication created by a non-Aboriginal Katoomba local, Mel Ward, presumably to add interest to a local landmark. The story originated in the late 1920s or early 1930s and is unknown prior to that date.

Whatever is fact of fiction, the clouds drifting over the valley added a sense of fantasy and tranquility to the cliff top walk. The sun made some rare appearances during our promenade and we got to see the sights with different hues and colours changing the landscape and stone to various shades that were all captivating and breath taking. There were quite a few ‘Wow’ moments along the walk and we didn’t feel we missed out once by skipping the cable car across the headlands. 

We finally reached the Scenic World lookout points and took much longer than the suggested trail markers to reach our destination. I don’t think the paths covered in water and muddy patches were to blame, but the scenic backdrops of every lookout we passed. But, we did call a halt to the day, walked back to the hostel via Aldi. Cooked a nice peanut butter paella-like chicken concoction and watched some Friends before snuggling up in a dorm that felt a lot more cosy than the one in Sydney. Thursday 21st July 2016