Three days in Katoomba during the fires.
28.10.2013 - 01.10.2013 23 °C
We are on our train to Katoomba. The outskirts of Sydney sprawl forever. A lot of single and two story units. It looks very dry although this is their spring. One hour later we are into hills, young and rugged looking with a red tinge. The Jacaranda are in bloom and look wonderful. To the right we can see smoke from one of the Blue Mountain fires.
We found our accommodations. Located at Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains - is ATELIER, the former studio of renown Australian artist Tim Maguire, winner of the Moet & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship in 1993. ATELIER is nestled in the grounds of historic Burnie Brae (Circa 1908) in a quiet suburban location and is within easy walking distance of the local main street with its shops, cafes and restaurants.
We enter a gate and follow a little path down to a wonderfully bright unit. The main floor is a kitchen living area with a fireplace. A whole wall of windows opens onto the yard. The bathroom is the size of the kitchen with a double tub/jacuzzi. Hmmm I am enjoying a soak as I write this. The bed is in a loft, big and snugly with thick blankets and a heating pad. I love it.
There is a fruit veggie market five minutes away and you can buy a bag of oranges for five dollars! The Coles grocery is one street over and we got groceries for our stay that cost just a bit more that one meal of hamburgers in Sydney. There are lots of places to get wine and the Dan Murphy is huge! We have tried a couple of Aussie wines already.
We hopped on the bus the first night to catch the last one of the day and get a feeling for the area. O my gosh it's beautiful. Jimmy our driver is funny and friendly and greets people like his new best friend. He can welcome people in their own languages, I think he said fifty. The fires are mostly controlled now, but they need rain to put them completely out. The forecast on Monday is a shower or two. Not enough, but it will help. So....the walks in the valley are still closed and the skies a bit hazy.
We get on the first bus on Sunday and get off at Scenic World. The old mine location was purchased by a brother and sister and has slowly become a huge attraction, however because of the media's coverage of the fire the numbers of tourists are way down. We get off at stop nine and take the Skyride across the valley. As it leaves the cliff side the opaque floor clears and you can watch the tree tops. From there we board the cable car which takes us down to the valley floor. We are the only passengers so we chat with Murray the operator on the way. What awesome views. Once on the valley floor there are kilometres of board walk that are still open for the public. We wander slowly in the quiet hoping for a roo or wallaby. Not today, but....we see an Albert Lyrebird scratching around for grubs. Even better we see a Superb Lyrebird dance and sing and shake it's plumage. They sing an elaborate song mimicking other birds and any other sounds they hear including camera shutters and chain saws. There is lots of evidence of the old mine.
We take the steepest cable railway in the world back to the top and then back to the bottom and find a quiet spot to eat our lunches. A few tours have arrived and things are a little noisier, but still quiet according to the staff.
We walk around and take the Skyride back up and start cliff walking with a couple of geocaches thrown in. The cliff walks are all open again along the top, not the valley ones, and they wind around the cliff face, down over the Katoomba fall, which is pretty quiet right now. The vistas are amazing! We work our way to Echo Point before cutting back through the town to Scenic World, to do all the rides again before the last bus.
A funny moment. We took the Skyride down and we waved at those waiting to come up, why not, they were taking photos of the car coming in. When they boarded a group of Taiwanese asked for our picture which soon became a string of photos with members of their group, so we took some of them as well. We get them to understand we were Canadian. We laughed, they exited at the top and we greeted them all as them came out of the car and....thanking them and wishing them a good day.
Did I mention the Cicadas?
Our time here is winding up. We spent yesterday exploring west. From Lovers Point back to the Three Sisters down the stairs over the bridge onto the first sister, the stairs that continue on to the valley floor are still closed. The view is amazing and the feeling is weird as you hang out over space. You'll have to see the photos. Again today it is quiet. Less people than Sunday and we are moving away from the busier area. We grab a geocache and move on to the next cliff walk. This is the Bridal Veil Falls and the Eurasia Cascade area. We climb up and get an awesome view and work our way down to the falls. As we arrive we are met with red tape and a closed sign that indicated the trail we were on was closed....however there were no barriers from the side we came from. We quickly scaled the barricade enjoyed this view point and went on. The water levels are low to the point that Gordon Falls has had no water for the last three weeks. We skip this walk intending to take a further walk....but it is closed so we head up a lane. Sitting off the side of the road is a snake....it is brown. Hmmmmm is it the deadly brown snake? Let's take a photo and leave him alone.
We catch the bus again and head to the EverGlades. It was a retreat for Henri Van der Velte in the 1930s designed by Paul Sorenson. It is a nice place to spend an hour wander the site and the house. Quite the summer house! With the lack of tourists we have the place pretty much to ourselves and the tea room is closed early.
Time to head home after picking up some chicken, potatoes, asparagus and wine. BBQ time followed by Hairspray.
Did I mention the flies?
Last day in katoomba. Today arrived hotter, but clouds began to move in. Here is hoping for rain. We took our time and packed and headed by bus to enjoy our lunch on the cliff top before returning to catch our train . By now the rains have moved in here and we learn Sidney had a terrific wind and rain storm.
We arrived at Penrith where Lou (from the ship) picked us up and gave us a tour of some of the smaller towns before taking us to the prison. Lou works in corrections and with parolees. She just showed her card and drove in to the correction facilities grounds with us in the car. Why....to see the wild kangaroos that live on the expansive grounds. We finally find them and of course are quite excited. When leaving the prison grounds again she shows her id and they search the trunk, but again no one asks who we are.
We swing by the house where, besides humans, the two dogs and five cats live and pick up Jo and head to meet up with Julie and Dave, again all from the ship. We have a good Vietnamese dinner before finding ourselves once more on a train. This one is an express so we are in Sydney in no time at all.
We are now on our train to Melbourne. We have a sleeper. We have a bathroom we share with the neighbours with a toilet that flips down. We have our little comfort bags, towels and a snack bag. Kailey our host takes our breakfast order that will be delivered to our room and we decline the dinner.
The rooms are three seaters with two berths that flip down. There is a toilet area shared between two sleepers. It is kind of cosy for a shower, but so close for a bathroom trip in the middle of the night.
It's a little bumpy and noisy, but I sleep pretty good. So that is why there are ear plugs in the comfort kit.