Tuesday, 28 October 2014

12 - 16 October 2014 - Blue Mountains

We left Mudgee and travelled the fairly short distance to the Blue Mountains. We were interested in visiting Bathurst but with the V8 Supercar race on there we decided to give it a miss. We had selected a caravan park in Blackheath and when we got there it looked stunning so we decided to treat ourselves to a site with an ensuite bathroom - in other words our own private bathroom next to the caravan!

After setting up we headed out to the botanical gardens in sunny warm weather. The gardens were beautiful but we only had time to see a small part of the gardens with the highlight being the Warratah (NSW emblem) and the Wollemi Pine which was only discovered as a new species in the Blue Mountains just 20 years ago and is a living fossil from the Gondwana period 200 million years ago.

The next day was overcast and we had some rain at the Echo lookout where we only spent a short time as parking was rediculously expensive. The next stop was Scenic World where there are two cable cars, one that crossed horizontally across a gap to the other side of a gorge and the other was to the foot of the cliffs and rain forest below. The other 'ride' is the steepest railway in the world also down to the rain forest. The ticket gave us unlimited rides so we headed down on the railway to walk in the forrest - what a ride and what a lovely walk we had. We finally had a really good viewing of the Lyrebird. This was a female and her chick and they totally ignored us while photographed and videoed them for quite a long while. We then took the cablecar to back to the top and rode the other cablecar which has a glass floor to stand on if you chose! We took another ride on the train so that we could see what it was like at the front - wow what a ride! After returning to the top we headed back to the caravan park and ended up in a massive hail storm. Fortunately no damage was done and the caravan was fine too :-)

As the weather was not looking great we decided to visit the Jenolan Caves the next day. We drove via a very narrow and winding road to the caves with the road actually going through a natural arch/tunnel in the mountain to the village and carpark on the other side. The rain started but we were doing on two guided tours through different sections of the cave complex so the rain had no effect. The caves we visited were the Lucas and Orient caves which were stunning and we took many photos on each of the 1 1/2 hour tours. The tour tickets included a self-guided tour through the Nettle cave with recorded commentry on a little devices we were given for the tour. This section of the cave was fairly open to the elements but in another arch complex so no artificial lighting was required. One thing that stood out as a fascinating feature were cave stromatolites. These features are limestone structures built by algae and aligned to the direction of the light and look a little like the tails of crayfish. These are unique and are some of the oldest lifeforms on the earth.

After the caves we headed back to Blackheath with the temperature dropping to 2 degrees C along the way. The rain continued through supper then at about 9 pm it stopped.  We decided to use the break in the weather to head for a shower. Well, we did not get far because as we exited the caravan we were confronted by huge snowflakes drifting down in the breeze! As you would expect, out came the cameras and a photo-shoot commenced. Keith was initially in thongs ready for a shower and the first foray into the snow brought frozen feet. After warming up we both headed out again suitably clothed with cameras in hand to take some interesting snow photos in the dark. After finally having our shower and getting ready for bed the electricity went out. We had heard branches breaking and falling to the ground so assumed this had knocked out the power. Anyway, we had battery power so we had light but no heating so we jumped into bed. We lay awake listening to branches falling all around and worried when the nice big branch above our caravan would fall on us. Fortunately the tree we were under was a fir and was built for the snow so the branch held firm. We found out the next day that it was the local eucalyptus trees that were losing their branches. The power remained out for 12 hours with major disruptions to roads and specially the railway which was out of action for at least 24 hours.

The next day we were relieved to have come through unscathed and were greeted by a white landscape with TV news helicopters flying around videoing the snow. We subsequently found out that whenever it snows in the Blue Mountains it makes the news. We headed off to some view points to see how much snow there was but found that we had had the most snow in the area which was about 15 cm. We went to the Pulpit Lookout, Anvil Rock and Hat Hill.

On our last day in the Blue Mountains we went to the Wentworth Falls where there were amazing walks above the cliffs, below the cliffs and even along ledges on the cliff faces themselves! We did the cliff-top walk which is known as the 'above cliff' walk and then had lunch at the Conservation Hut Cafe at the end of the track. We then decided we had to do National Pass which is along the ledges half-way down the cliffs. This was spectacular and culminated in the Princess Falls which were stunning. No photos could do justice to the vistas and immensity of the task the builders in 1908 undertook to complete this unique track.

Eastern Spinebill on a Warratah
Wollemi Pine
Superb Fairy Wren
Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters
Rain forrest walk
Lyrebird feeding her chick
Cable car to the forrest
Rain forrest and the Three Sisters
Jenolan caves - veil formation
Various formations in the Lucas Cave
An iconic formation
Vlasta hard at work
Snow in Blackheath
Green trees with snow!
The next day
Falls near Blackheath
A cold lookout
Viewing platform on the cliff
Venomous Red-Headed Mouse spider
Flowers in the mountains
Lookout near Anvil Rock
National Pass
Walkway on the cliff
The National Pass

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