Saturday, November 10, 2012

Australia Southern Highlands Waterfalls – Sat., Nov. 10

Kangaroo Valley, Southern Highlands, NSW, Australia.
Today was cool, cloudy, breezy—perfect for waterfall hiking in national parks. Our trip so far has been wonderful. We are learning new words, new animals, new birds, new flora, and new (to us) way of driving on the left-hand-side of the road. Bob has not let me drive yet, so I haven’t experienced the disorientation of watching for oncoming cars on the right-hand side of the road.

Since the air was rather cool when we left our unit, we took our warm coats with us, especially since we would be high up in the mountains. Good call as it got quite chilly.

Fitzroy Falls in Morton National Park, being the national park closest to us, drew us in with its promise of a very high waterfall coming off the escarpment. Cost to enter was $3 for parking and could be used at other national parks in the same day.

Fitzroy Falls, Morton National Park
Talking with the ranger at the visitor center, I asked her about funnel web spiders and what they look like. Funnel web spiders are very poisonous. She had a plastic replica of this spider. It looks like a smallish tarantula with a medium red line radiating out each of its legs. The ranger said, “Don’t pick it up.” (No worries, mate, I HATE spiders in any size, shape or configuration.)

The ranger was helpful. I gave her my list of waterfalls we wanted to hike to. She pulled out a map and marked the scenic route for us to follow to see all of them except one, which was farther to the south.

Bob was antsy to hike, so we hit the track (trail) to see Fitzroy Falls and the West Rim Walk which overlooked the falls and Kangaroo Valley. The first wildlife we saw was a lyrebird, scratching in the leaves for food. Fitzroy Falls had water flowing over it, but the wind was blowing so hard, the waterfalls was going sideways.

The track is well maintained and easy to follow. Next, our hike took us to Twin Falls Overlook (no water in the falls), and then back to the Visitor Centre.

No falls--must not have been enough rain.
On one part of the trail, I happened to snap a photo of the track and an Australian King Parrot flew right into my frame. Good timing.

Male Australian king parrot flew into my photo!
The Visitor Centre had displays of Australian animals: squirrel glider, echidna, wombat, ringtail possum, and gray-headed flying fox (looks like a big bat).

From Fitzroy Falls, we took Tourist Route #2 on very lightly traveled back roads through beautiful, lush, green farmland. The sealed (paved) road ended and we were on an unsealed (gravel) road going through forest (bush). We even drove through a creek! Luckily the water level was low. We were headed to Belmore Falls and a valley overlook. Belmore Falls is a two-tier waterfall which was lovely.

Lush, green countryside.

We drove through this creek... get to Belmore Falls.
Here's part of the trail.

Belmore Falls. Bob wanted to swim in the pool.
Wildflowers are in bloom right now. Here are a couple of different types:

We continued our exploration in the town of Robertson. We found The Old Cheese Factory and Café where we had lunch. Bob had a grilled chicken sandwich and I had linguine with mushrooms, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

The park ranger at Morton N.P. recommended we take time to walk at Robertson Nature Reserve. On the way into town we looked for it where she indicated on the map, but couldn’t find it. At the restaurant we asked locals where the Reserve was, but two different people couldn’t tell us. One thing we’ve found in the U.S., as well as here, is that many times locals don’t know where interesting features are in their own towns.

After lunch we set out to look for the reserve and guess what? We stumbled onto it on the first side street we took. We’re glad we found it. The Reserve preserves part of the rainforest that used to cover much of this area. We were fascinated by the vines that twisted around looking like thick ropes.

While we were on the track through the reserve, I felt I was being watched. When I looked out into the forest, looking back at me was a wallaby! It stood stock still as if we couldn’t see it. I snapped a photo. Love those nature moments.

Toward the end of the walk, Bob pointed out a big hole in the ground which he thinks is a wombat den. The reserve took 15 minutes to walk, a nice leg stretcher (as if we hadn’t had enough of those already today).

Next, we drove to Carrington Falls on the Kangaroo River in Budderoo National Park, parked, and hiked to the falls, going up and down on metal grate stairs and through the forest to see a tall, very graceful waterfall.

The hike to Carrington Falls.
Carrington Falls.
Then, since it was just down the road, we went to Nellies Glen. A natural spring upriver creates a natural swimming hole complete with waterfalls. Bob would have loved to be there on a hot summer day to swim.

Bob at Nellies Glen
The afternoon was wearing on and we wanted to make it to Minnamurra Rainforest with its rainforest boardwalk and trail to Minnamurra Falls. We arrived at 3:00 p.m. and found we had to start the hike to the falls by 4:00 p.m. and the exit gate would be locked at 5:00 p.m. To get to the falls track, we had to walk the rainforest boardwalk (1.6 km total, but the falls track veered off about three-quarters of the way around the rainforest boardwalk).

Minnamurra Rainforest in Budderoo National Park is quite the engineering feat. Many of the trails are elevated metal walkways. Throw in a couple of suspension bridges and metal staircases and you have a sophisticated trail system. We don't mind paying user fees to keep the infrastructure strong.

Love the patterns of plant and rock.
Beautiful patterns in the rocks.
We reached the Minnamurra Falls trail. From that point it was 4.6 km roundtrip on a very steep trail up to the falls. I moaned and complained going up the hill, thinking we weren’t going to make it in time. Bob was sure we could. Next time I’m listening to him. Not only did we make it in time, we rested going up the hill, watched lyrebirds scratching for food in the leaves, and had time at the top to enjoy the waterfall before heading down.

Upper Minnamurra Falls.
Check out the roots on this tree!
On our hike down the hill, we saw momma and baby lyrebird. The mother bird scratched in the leaves for bugs and when she found one, she ran to her youngster on the trail and fed it. The young bird was big enough that it was learning to scratch in the leaves too. Another great nature moment. We felt blessed to see so many lyrebirds in one day. Who knows, maybe they’re as prevalent as chickens on the island of Kauai and we’ll be seeing them all over the place!

Let's play Find the Female Lyrebird!
Male lyrebird.
For the past two days, my feet and shins hurt. Today, my thighs hurt. My muscle rehabilitation continues and what better way to do it than hiking in exotic locales.

We finished up our hiking in Minnamurra Rainforest with plenty of time to spare.

Looking up into the canopy.
Since it was before 5:00 p.m., Bob wanted to drive to the coast. I told him that was fine, but we would have to go back to the coast for me to take photos because the battery in my camera needed recharging.

Our route took us into the beautiful coastal town of Kiama where we drove straight out to Blowhole Point and the lighthouse. Weather was mixed clouds and sun, very windy with a stormy sea. The blowhole was blasting away shooting water up through the blowhole about 20-30’ in the air. The sun was just right and rainbows formed in the mist. Oh for a charged camera battery!

The return route we chose was Highway 48 through Macquarie Pass National Park. This was a very quick route back to our timeshare.

When we got back, Bob made grilled cheese sandwiches which we ate with our left-over garden salad from last night.

Tonight an informative nature show was on TV about Australian animals we don’t know much about: echidnas, wombats, numbats, water possums, honey possums and kangaroos.

While I’m writing my blog, Bob is watching Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Casino Royale.” I watched the opening sequence with him as it endeared me to Daniel Craig when he first appeared as James Bond.

This was a wonderful day that exceeded any expectations we had. Let’s see what tomorrow holds.

We want to spend one or two days in Canberra, the Capital of Australia; however Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla were there today and we’re not sure if they’ll still be there tomorrow. We may spend the day exploring the coast in this area. The park ranger told us Jervis Bay is a beautiful part of the coast. Looks like more exploration is in order!

Travel Bug out.