The Blue Mountains

Woensdag 21november2012

Vandaag rijden we de Blue Mountains binnen. De naam is afkomstig van de olie die de eucalyptusbomen afgeven en zo een blauwe mist verspreiden over het gebied. De bergen liggen 65km van Sydney en hebben een oppervlakte zo groot als België. Het is een zandsteenformatie die doorkruist wordt dor diep geërodeerde valleien.

In de voormiddag stoppen we in Lithgow waar we een aantal boodschappen doen. Het is een niet aantrekkelijk stadje met verloederde gebouwen.
Vandaaruit volgen we de scenic drive tot Richmond. Het is een drukke baan met veel bebouwing. We zijn wel wat teleurgesteld want we dachten dat het een pittoresk baantje zou zijn. Van Richmond naar Sprinwood wordt het leuker. We besluiten om onmiddellijk door te rijden tot de Wentworth Falls en daar een wandeling te maken. En we kiezen er onmiddellijk het zwaarste parcours uit. We combineren de Undercliff/Overcliff track met de National Pass Track. We wandelen onder overhangende rotsen tot aan de voet van de Empress Falls. De wandeling gaat verder tussen de eucalyptusbomen en de hoge varens. Ondertussen hebben we ook zicht op een prachtige rode rotswand.
Daarna gaan we in een hurry steil naar beneden tot bij de voet van de Wentworth Falls. De wind speelt in de waterval en wiegt het vallende water heen en weer.
En daarna omhoog….380 trappen langs de rotswand. Maar ook die huppelen we naar boven met adembenemende uitzichten als beloning. Tevreden komen we boven.

Vanavond staan we in een klein zijstraatje…in de Blue Mountains. Slaapwel en tot morgen voor meer nieuws.

Donderdag 22november2012

Vandaag willen we de 3sisters bezichtigen….maar in de mist is er niet veel te zien!
Dus besluiten we naar de glow worm tunnel te rijden. En nu maar hopen dat die gloeiwormen ook oplichten overdag. En inderdaad… We zijn getuigen van een prachtige kerstverlichting in de tunnel. De wormen spannen draden waarmee ze insecten vangen die op hun verlichting afkomen.
We maken verder nog een wandeling door het prachtige eucalyptusbos in the Wolgan
Valley Railway van het Wollemi National Park.
Nu staan we op een camping bij Perrys Lookdown in de regio van Blackheath.

Zaterdag 24 november2012

We zijn net terug van de Canyon Walk in Blackheath. Het was prachtig. We daalden helemaal af in de kloof en wandelden tussen de varens.
Als afsluiter van de wandelingen in de Blue Mountains reden we nig naar Pulpit Rock voor onze laatste look-out. En amai…geen enkel brochure die dit vermeldt…er staat zelfs met moeite een richtingswijzer…maar wat een zicht!!! Je kan het gewoon niet onder woorden brengen!!

What’s in a name… The blue comes from the oil that the numerous eucalyptus trees spread in the air, giving the area a blue misty view. The ‘mountains’ begin 65km inland from Sydney, rising to an 1100m-high sandstone plateau riddled with valleys eroded into the stone over some 1000 years. By passing the area we got a feeling of ‘been there, done that’, but some nice surprises and beautiful walks make it worth the stop.
The entire area consist of 8 national parks, but we’ll mostly visit the best known – the Blue Mountain Park – with an area from Belgium.

Our trip starts in Litglow, where we try to gather all information about driving routes and walking trails. But the attendant in the centre seems hardly to know what these mountains are…
The city itself is quite a boring and uninteresting sleepy mining city.
With the help of our travel guide and the local brochures we start our trip along the Bell Road. A mountain route which should have some great mountain views. But for us it looks more like a busy transit drive. Quite disappointed we arrive in Richmond, the other end of the Bell Road. We want to drive as soon as possible to the first walking spot, the valley of the waters. Along the road, another surprise greets us. We expected a nice, relatively quiet mountain route, but drive on a busy highway along the different towns…
The trail starts with a great mountain view and we start with the undercliff and overcliff walk. This leads us to the Empress Fall. A really nice type of cascade fall, along which we descend into the valley. From there we walk through the eucalyptus forest to the other fall, the Wenthworth. This one surprises us a couple of times. The central plateau between both water levels, gives this fall a really high discovery element. Above all the wind shapes the fall into the wished direction. A really nice view! Afterwards we have to climb up an uncountable number of stairs, before we’re back at the start point. Like always, we took a hard walking path, but once again it was really worth the effort. We’ve almost forgotten about the slowly start in this area.
During the walking, we start to realise that this spot is comparable with our coast. Only 1 hour up to 1,5 hours driving from Sydney, an easy well-signed and accessible walking area opens up. Ideal for a day-trip or a weekend walk with the family. So a good road network is necessary.
Nearby the valley we park in a small side road for some well deserved sleep.

First stop next morning: the famous ‘three sisters’… But due to the fog, we can hardly see 10m further, so viewing a valley is no option. We don’t get the feeling the fog will clear soon, so we plan an alternative out the central area. We head to the Wollemi National Park to visit the Glow Worm Tunnel.
The last part on our famous unsealed roads, with a small part through a yet unused railway tunnel. This parts becomes a little tricky, because our headlights don’t seem to work anymore. So with very few light we head into the small tunnel and arrive safely at the other side.
The Glow Worm Cave itself proves to be another unused railway tunnel, where numerous of these little worms live right now. In the middle of the tunnel we dim our torches and feel in a starlight cave. Numerous of these small creatures light the roof and walls. Amazing!
Afterwards we take a walk in the park before heading back to Blackheath where we camp at the Perry Lookout Camp site. We end the evening by watching a DVD.

First thing to check the next morning is the fog… This is cleared, so we have a nice view over the valleys once again. When we want to leave our campsite we got another time a flat battery. We played a little too much with our power supplies yesterday, so with little help we’ll be soon back on the road we think.
But the same battery problem as we got on the Gibb, we have again. No problem over here, let’s call road assistance. They come quite soon, but we got a very unpleasant welcome. Your front tyres are ruined he informs us and the mess around the battery is not to his likeness, he orders us to repair these parts otherwise they won’t help us next time… Ouch… What a mess, but Janis drives again happily and a friendly mechanic cleans a couple of the wires around our battery. So this looks much better.
We give the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters another try. This time we see them from every angle… And we test ourselves with some physical training, somewhat 4000 up to 5000 steps in a day, that can count. We explore the entire valley. Starting from Echo Point we head the Giant Staircase – 900 steps – down into the valley and climb up the steps at the Katoomba Falls, walking above the cliffs back to Echo Point. There we descend another time the Giant Steps for the other side of the valley and explore the entire area around the Leura Forest and Leura Falls, returning along the Cliff track.
Totally exhausted but happily we watch the sun set over the sisters, before we head to an Indian restaurant for our evening dinner. Afterward we park the car near the Leura falls track to sleep.

Yesterday we didn’t do enough stairs, so we start again with the Leura falls and the huge staircase around. Some 1500 steps later we head back to the car and drive to the Gordon Falls lookout, no falls but a nice view over the Jamison Valley – including the sisters – are our part.
Thereafter we drive to Blackheath and the Grohe Valley for the ‘Grand Canyon’ walk. Another number of steps pass.along, but it gives us a really nice walk in the canyon, between ferns and eucalyptus forests.
Before leaving, we stop at the Pulpit Lookout, with a majestic view over the entire Grohe Valley.
After that we take a really small, winding road to the Jenolan Caves, a must see herein the region. With Ilses travel guide pass, we receive a big reduction at the entrance fee. The trip inside the caves is a really rewarding one. Beautiful stalagmites and stalactites greets us in this huge limestone cave. As a final part, we head to the underground river with crystal clear waters. This was really worth the trip!
Afterwards we camp at the parking near the caves and relax from some beautiful days in the mountains.

Next morning we start with a self guided tour in one of the caves and wonder once again about the very different forms and timescale we encounter by visiting such an environment.
These caves are some 340 million years old, so the structure got some time to grow. At this moment some 300 caves are discovered and probably another number lies still hidden underground. We end with a lookout from the Arch over the Blue Lake and the cave entrance.
Thereafter we drive in the Greater Blue Mountains area to Goulburn, we have some great views over the hills and the numerous sheep grazing in that area. In Goulburn we refill our supplies, give our roof rack another fault try and drive afterward along one of the most beautiful Highways to Canberra.

However the Greater Blue Mountains area contains many other secrets, we got an impression of the exceptional beauty of the region. Along the way there are another numerous caves, there is the option to canyon through some of the gorges, explore the slot canyons of the Wollemi NP, visit the Capertee Valley – the second largest naturally eroded river valley in the world, after the Grand Canyon, but in fact the Capertee is wider (up to 30 km) and 1 km longer than the Grand Canyon, but is less deeper that its American counterpart – there are also numerous wine regions and many other experiences to explore.

Canberra lies in the ACT – the Australian Capital Territory – and is the official capital of Australia. Because of a rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne to become capital, the Australians builded a new one, just in the middle of these two cities. They created a separated state at the same time, so that no one can be offended.
Upon arrival I get the feeling that it is quite a boring, soulless but ultra-modern town.
In the evening we explore the parliament area with a walk… And yes, there are only few people. Once we head back to the town centre to feel the nighty vibe, only disappointment awaits us. We sleep nearby the lakeside on a public parking.
Next day we take time to visit some of the highlights of the town. We start with a visit to the parliament, take a look into the senate and house of reps and enjoy a town view from the top. Afterward we head to the National Gallery of Australia, with an excellent art collection. Especially the Aboriginal art and the abstract area are our favourites. Then we take a look in the National Museum of Australia, which tells the story of the nation. We end our visit in the War Memorial. A excellent museum about World War I and II, the Vietnam and Korean War and a couple of other wars the Australians fought during their history. The setting is perfect, but this war tale is nothing to my interest.
The museums we visited are all of a high quality and have an outstanding scene setting, but as a town and especially as capital, the city has not that much vibe. Their are lots of green and a well drawn city concept, but their is no soul.

Happily I leave the city for another drive in the Great Dividing Range to Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain and from there further into the Victoria Highlands.