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

Dingle Area – day 269 (J)

They say that a day not spent in Kerry is a day wasted. I’d kind of agree with them. Of the 5 peninsulas of the South West coast of Ireland I think it’s by far the nicest and it has always held a special place in my heart. Lacking the forest areas of the Iveragh peninsula, An Corca Dhuibhna makes up for it with hills, beaches, good pubs, lively music, excellent restaurants, incredible views, and a host of other reasons to satisfy the most adventurous or worldly travelled individuals. 

So when we surfaced we said we’d tackle a life long challenge- to summit Cnoc Bréanainn (Mount Brandon). The mountain is perpetually covered in clouds and mist and one has to grin and bear it and hope for a bit of luck to reach the top. My dad has turned back twice, quite sensibly, but today we had a good feeling about it and lo and behold, we made it. Following the white marker posts up the hill, passing the 14 stations of the cross we made it up despite the blistering cold, howling wind and frequent moment of ‘oh shit, where’s the next marker gone!’ We only had a downpour of rain about 15mins away from the car park at the end of the hike and with only one slip soon into the descent it was a relatively easy climb and quite enjoyable. We were even rewarded with some stunning views over to An Fear Marbh (The Dead Man) and An Thrí Deirfúir (The Three Sisters – although funnily enough, the three headlands are named Binn Hanraí, An Bhinn Mheánach and Binn Diarmada – translating as Henry, Middle and Dermot, all masculine).   A quick change of shoes and socks out of the wet stuff, we headed in to Dingle before shops and cafes closed. Mam and Dad went wandering around visiting gift shops while I headed straight to Strawberry Beds opposite the church on Green Street. Nuala Moore runs and owns the shop and I haven’t seen her for almost 8years when she came to Cork to bring her dog to the veterinary hospital for a cataract operation. The golden lab, Hayley, lived another 4years as a working dog bringing comfort and companionship to the sick and residents of the hospital. 

Nuala and I met at my PADI IDC, down in Waterworld, Castlegregory. She aided Sandra Fitzgibbon in my Instructor Development Course and it goes without saying that I passed my Instructor Examination. Anyway, met up with Nuala and she showed me all her medals and trophies from this year alone, competing in Ice Swimming championships all over the world. She was also showing me photos of a Skype phone call she had that morning to officers in the Russian navy, discussing hypothermia. My parents turned up and we all watched a few videos she made as part of the relay swim of the Bering Strait swim a few years ago between Russia and Alaska. Plus, it was 10years ago to the day that she was part of the relay team that swam around Ireland. An inspirational woman, it was great to see her if only briefly.  I remember when I used to come down to Dingle and help with the Food Festival – as part of my MSc – which is apparently now a massive event. Over the years it has grown and the shops, cafes and restaurants selling food and quality products has rocketed. Can’t complain, the coffee and gluten free cake around the corner were amazing. The service in the supermarket however has diminished and I had to complain to the girl at the till at them trying to cheat me out of twice the price of the product and not refunding my money. But, we got it sorted, ordered a Chinese and headed back to enjoy it with a Ginger beer and a weird Lemon beer I got at Lidl. With such a stretch to the evenings at this time of year we took Griz out again and went to An Trá and did a bit of rock pool exploring. Drove around for a bit, taking loads of photos, before finally heading homeward. Enjoying a nice warm shower, I crashed on to the bed, enjoyed the changing hues of the clouds at 23:00, wrote some blog and finally passed out. Saturday 2nd July 2016