From the Top to the Bottom

Kevtoberfest #11 Blue Mountains Part Two

After wandering at a leisurely pace from Katoomba Falls to Echo Point and stopping again to admire the expansive views, our walk continues to Spooners Lookout. There’s a good reason we’ve chosen to walk in this direction. The next section, downwards from the Three Sisters to Dardanelles Pass at the base of the cliffs, includes 900 steps!

From Echo Point we’ve already seen where we’re going next – to Honeymoon Bridge. This narrow footbridge links the main part of the range to the first of the sisters. It crosses the gap high above the valley floor and leads to a wind-eroded sandstone overhang halfway up the rocky outcrop.

We cross the bridge over and back, and then begin the downward climb on the Giant Stairway. Some of the 900 steps are metal and easy to negotiate, while others are made of timber sleepers or simply cut into the sandstone.

There are switchbacks and curving turns, wider sections where gaps between the trees reveal more beautiful views, and several benches where we stop to rest awhile; we’re in no hurry.

Near the halfway point, we hear bellbirds. Their chiming song fills the canopy, although again the elusive birds remain hidden in the dense forest.

Finally, we reach the last few steps down to Dardanelles Pass. More benches set into the narrow pass at the base of the steps beckon and we take a break for lunch.

After walking down the Giant Stairway, the next section of level track is easy. We turn onto the Federal Pass track, which curves around the base of the Three Sisters and heads across the valley towards Scenic World. Tree ferns shade the path and, as we look back, we can clearly see where we’ve come from.

Ahead we hear moving water. After flowing over the cascades at the top of the range, the waters of Kedumba Creek drop over the cliff edge, falling more than 200 metres to the valley floor.

At last we reach the entrance to Scenic World.

After meeting only a few other walkers on the track, we can now hear many people up ahead. They’re seeing the Blue Mountains from yet another perspective, and we’re about to join them.

To be continued…

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More Than a Walk in the Park

Kevtoberfest #10 Blue Mountains Part One

There are many ways to enjoy the splendid scenery of the Blue Mountains. From lookouts like Echo Point, perched on the edge of the escarpment, views of the sheer sandstone cliffs and forest-filled valleys are magnificent.

More than 400 kilometres of walking tracks allow visitors to explore both on top of the mountains and down below.

For those less keen on hiking, there are options to soar above the valleys in Australia’s highest or largest cable cars, wander through the forest canopy on the longest elevated boardwalk in the country or ride on the steepest passenger train in the world. When it comes to seeing the Blue Mountains, it’s possible to take advantage of all these choices in a single day.

Our day long exploration begins at Katoomba Falls, where Kedumba Creek tumbles down waterworn cascades before wending its way to the cliff edge. Here the walking is easy, along a level graded path with wide steps leading to the beginning of Prince Henry Cliff Walk.

Not far from the start we come to the Scenic Skyway East Station. We’re right on time to see the cable car silently gliding over the valley, soaring like a golden bird 270 metres above the forest floor.

After the station, the track becomes narrower and hugs the edge of the cliff, skirting between massive sandstone formations and windswept eucalypts clinging precariously to the steep edges.

There’s not always a fence and we are careful to walk closer to the rock wall, slowing down when other hikers pass by.

There are many lookouts on the track and, although this is listed as a 45 minute walk, we stop so often it’s nearly two hours before Echo Point and the Three Sisters come into view.

Even though we’ve already been to Echo Point we halt once more, lingering to take in the beauty of this place before walking on.

To be continued…

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By Day, Into Night

Kevtoberfest #9 Echo Point, Katoomba

The Blue Mountains Region, west of Sydney, is part of the Great Dividing Range and covers an area of 11,400 square kilometres. The rugged sandstone escarpments, sheer cliffs and deep valleys filled with dense eucalypt forest are World Heritage listed and visited by millions of people each year.

One of the best vantage points to view the splendour of the mountains is Echo Point, at Katoomba. Perched on the cliff edge are several lookouts, some jutting out over the valley floor.

With spectacular views of the Three Sisters, the lookouts are popular at any time of day, and especially at sunset when the colour of the stone and sky changes by the minute.

There’s a sense of excitement as the sun begins its descent but, when the last rays of light disappear behind the cliffs, most people watch in silence.

Even the sulphur crested cockatoos, settling into the gum trees for the night, cease their screeching as the daylight begins to fade. It’s an awe-inspiring sight for everyone!

Did you know? We didn’t!

Kevtoberfest #8 Capertee Valley

Begin a conversation about canyons and most people would probably think of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. It’s one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions, with more than five million visitors each year. But they might be surprised to learn that the Grand Canyon ranks fourth in order of the world’s largest.

Until we stopped at Pearson’s Lookout on the Castlereagh Highway, we would have been included in that group: we didn’t know Australia has the world’s second largest enclosed canyon. One kilometre wider than the Grand Canyon but not as deep,  Capertee Valley is the widest canyon in the world.

From the lookout, there are 180° views of sheer sandstone cliffs rising up to 627 metres above the valley floor. The scene is dominated by Pantoneys Crown, a craggy sandstone monolith surrounded by dense eucalypt forest.

Capertee Valley is recognised by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area and is listed in the 50 top birdwatching locations in the world. On the day we were there, it seemed as if the valley was filled with bellbirds. Although we didn’t see any, we could hear their tinkling songs rising up from the treetops.

So the next time you’re talking about canyons, you’ll be able to impress your friends with your knowledge by telling them about Capertee Valley, the widest canyon in the world!

His, Hers, Ours

Kevtoberfest #7 Mudgee

In the last few years Mudgee, in central New South Wales, has gained a well-deserved reputation as a food and wine lover’s paradise. With more than 40 wineries and many local food producers, it’s easy to fill both the larder and the cellar in Mudgee. With so many choices we could have eaten our way around Mudgee all day, but with Kevtoberfest looming, we had just three destinations in mind.

At Baker Williams Distillery, delicious liqueurs have been crafted on site since 2012. The distiller was generous with his samples and we tasted Limoncello and Orancello, fresh and zingy and flavoured by locally grown citrus. My purchase though was a bottle of the distillery’s signature creation – Butterscotch Schnapps, smooth, sweet and irresistible.

Honey in 25 different varieties is produced at Mudgee Honey Haven. Ironbark, stringy bark and yellow box honey have been flavoured by the blooms of the surrounding bushland, while chilli, lavender and strawberry honey have added ingredients. We sampled many of the products before selecting two – creamed cinnamon honey and ginger honey. But the greatest temptation was the mead, a brew of fermented honey with its origins in ancient Greece. Glen chose the Spiced Mead while my pick was the Honey Mead. (I was so busy tasting honey I forgot to take photos.) 

Our afternoon ended at the Mudgee Brewing Company, located in town in a 100 year old wool store once owned by the neighbouring Anglican Church.

While Glen ordered a sampler of eight different beers, I opted for a warming hot chocolate, conveniently accompanied by a generous slice of upside down pineapple coconut cake.

Glen’s brewery purchases included a bottle of the famous Mudgee Mud. Originally made by the Federal Brewery, the label “mud” comes from a time when poor quality water was used and there was more sediment than beer in the bottles! Luckily, today’s Mudgee Mud doesn’t need straining.

While we put our jars of honey in the pantry to have on toast for breakfast, the schnapps, mead and beer were added to the Kevtoberfest stash, for sharing on the party weekend.

Road Trip Tally: Breweries 5/Craft shops 1

The Ten Dollar Town

Kevtoberfest #6 Gulgong

When decimal currency was introduced in Australia in 1966, the newly minted bank notes featured images of notable Australians and scenes connected with their lives. The town of Gulgong, in central New South Wales, was depicted on the original ten dollar note. What was it about Gulgong that distinguished it from countless other small country towns?

After gold was discovered in 1870 Gulgong flourished and the population rose to more than 20,000, although today it’s closer to 2,500. The narrow streets are lined with distinctive 19th century buildings, whose wide, shady verandas and ornate wrought iron lacework are heritage listed.

Australian opera diva Dame Nellie Melba once performed at Gulgong’s Prince of Wales Opera House. Built in 1871, it’s the oldest performing arts building still in use in the southern hemisphere.

While the colonial architecture of Gulgong is historically significant, it was the town’s connection with one of Australia’s best known writers which led to its inclusion on our currency. Henry Lawson – poet, story teller and bush balladeer, was born on the gold fields of Grenfell. In 1873, he moved with his family to the Gulgong district, following his father’s relentless search for riches. Henry went to school at nearby Eurunderee and spent his childhood in the area before moving to Sydney with his mother in 1883. His experiences of country life influenced his writing and Henry often referred in his work to the people and places he knew so well.

Gulgong celebrates its connection with Henry Lawson with an annual festival in June and a small but comprehensive museum. At The Henry Lawson Centre, once the Salvation Army Hall, a collection of documents, photographs and copies of his works tells the narrative of his life, from his birth to his sad decline into alcoholism and poverty.

Best known for poems like The Ballad of the Drover and Andy’s Gone With Cattle,  Henry Lawson remains forever remembered, along with the town of Gulgong, on Australia’s first ten dollar note.

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Showing Its Age

Kevtoberfest #5 Cassilis

After leaving Tamworth later than we planned, our scheduled stop at Mudgee was out of reach. Instead of pushing on in darkness, we stopped for the night at a small campground outside the village of Cassilis. Across the road was a field of canola, its golden glow almost iridescent in the late afternoon light.

Next to the campground stood a small country church. It may have only been little more than 100 years old but, having withstood the harsh seasonal extremes of central New South Wales for more than a century, the church was showing its age. From the rusted iron gates to the weather-worn sign, the Anglican Church of St Columba of Iona looked as if it had been there for much longer.

Some of the older headstones in the churchyard had seen better days, while more recent ones showed signs of loving attention.

As afternoon became evening, the fading light accentuated the weathered stone of this sacred building.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Weathered