Friday, November 16, 2012

One Step at a Time -- Thurs., Nov. 15

As promised, the weather today was much better. We drove up to Blue Mountains National Park and started our day at Mountain High Pies fueling up on meat pies for what was sure to be a hefty hiking day.

Mountain High Pies billboard.
Bob and I have quickly become aficionados of this eating establishment. Their chicken is free range and their crusts are almost completely trans-fat free, not to mention the pies are soft and easy to eat.

After lunch we were raring to go. We drove to Gordon Falls Reserve to take a look at Gordon Falls. The water was not going strong over the falls.

Gordon Falls
The weather was fantastic for hiking (about 73 degrees) and for long-distance views. We are so happy we returned for a second day in the park. What a difference a day makes.

Our plan for the day was to hike the falls at Leura Picnic Area--Leura Cascades, Bridal Veil Falls, Lila Falls, Linda Falls and Marguerite Falls--then drive to Echo Point and hike the Giant Stairway down into the canyon, go around The Three Sisters on the Federal Pass Hiking Track, then come out of the canyon at Katoomba Falls via the Thurber Steps.

Well, as you know, everything is subject to change. We parked at the Leura Cascades Picnic Area, then headed down to Leura Cascades Lookout.

Oops, we missed the trail for Bridal Veil Falls Lookout, so we retraced our steps and took the side trail to the lookout, then went back to Leura Cascades Lookout to continue with our original plan to see the other waterfalls.

Bridal Veil Falls from Overlook.
Bob on the trail.
Once again, we had steps, steps and more steps. We went up and down, but mostly down, and down, and down...steeply. The stairs kept going down. At this point we're asking ourselves the question "Why should we go back up and then have to descend and climb back out again?"

Metal stairs, lots and lots of metal stairs!
This is where we changed our plans. Luckily, we had enough water with us to execute the new plan which was to bushwalk all the way to Katoomba Falls. We knew it was do-able, but we had no idea how long it would take. That way we would only have to climb out once instead of twice.

As we descended the cliffs on Federal Pass Walking Track, we were in cool rainforest next to the sound of running, splashing water. We made it to the bottom of Bridal Veil Falls, then down even more to Lila, Linda and Marguerite Falls. Stunning scenery and shaded hiking track.

A couple we met from Germany.
Marguerite Falls.
After a while, we arrived at a place called Leura Forest, a beautiful picnic area literally miles from a parking lot.

Leura Forest Picnic Area

A family with two young children was at the picnic area, with a stroller no less. I asked Bob, "Is there an elevator and paved walking path we don't know about? How did they get that stroller down here?" We figured the Dardanelles Pass Walking Track which paralleled Federal Pass must have been an easier hike. In fact that was the track we wanted to take from Leura Forest to Katoomba Falls area. Somehow we missed it and ended up taking the longer Federal Pass Walking Track. Oh well.

View from the trail.
We don't do anything half-way, so we finished the hike to Katoomba Falls.
On we went, step by step, to Katoomba Falls. At this point, Federal Falls Walking Track is more level with gradual uphills and descents. We were in thick forest shade so the walking was pleasant.
I feel really lucky to have caught the bird below in a photo. It is a shy, sedentary, secretive bird
Juvenile Eastern Whipbird.
Katoomba Falls.
Even so, I was getting hungry. We had been hiking for four hours, expending lots of energy that needed to be replenished. We still had to climb back up the cliff!

Bob, being the sweetheart that he is, said we could take the scenic railway up to the top. What a wonderful idea. When we arrived at Scenic World at 3:00 p.m., we met some people who let us know that the last train with availability to the top left the station at 2:50 p.m., even though signs on the trail say the last train heads up at 4:50 p.m. Apparently the train was booked solid for two hours. Instead we took the cableway to the top. Yay!

Scenic World cableway. Going up?

The Three Sisters--zoomed in.
Echo Point and the Three Sisters--not zoomed in.
Take a look at the not-zoomed-in photo above. We bushwalked all the way around the point below The Three Sisters. In fact, the photo taken of our boots on the "1/2 Way" rock above was taken almost directly below the point beyond The Three Sisters. We were hiking about half-way down in the forest below the point.

We planned to eat dinner at the cafe at Scenic World, but it had already closed for the day at 3:50 p.m. From Scenic World, we took the trolley into Katoomba and had pizza. Then Bob bought me a wonderful piece of Black Forest Cake for dessert at a bakery in town. We walked about 3/4 mile back to our car at Leura Cascades Picnic Area. When we returned only two cars remained in the parking lot, ours was one of them.

Echo Point was on our list to see. When we were hiking down lower on the mountain, we could not see Echo Point (even though we hiked completely around it) or the full surrounding views. We drove to Echo Point and checked it out.
Bob at Echo Point. Great views from here!
We also hadn't seen the full drop of Katoomba Falls and Bob wanted to see the falls. I stayed in the park with the flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos and galahs while he traipsed off to see the falls.

Pretty bird! Sulpur-crested cockatoo.
Mission accomplished. Our second day in Blue Mountains National Park exceeded our expectations. We also had a sense of accomplishment for the long stint of hiking we did.

Friday, Nov. 16: We packed up and left our timeshare in Bowral and drove eight hours north to Coffs Harbour. As we approached Sydney, the traffic on the motorway we wanted to take was at a dead standstill. There was an option to take the M7 motorway toward Newcastle (which was the direction we were headed) and at the last minute we bailed onto that highway. Good choice. M7 took us west and north of downtown Sydney. I think we got around the city pretty quickly, much quicker than if we sat in traffic for an hour or more!

Today was a good day to travel--it rained all the way to Coffs Harbour. We stopped for lunch (meat pies!) and at rest areas. We arrived in Coffs Harbour a little after 4:00 p.m.

Our resort is bautiful. We have a partial ocean view from our balcony and our room overlooks the golf course.

For dinner, we went out by the jetty and had dinner at an Indian restaurant. Bob had chicken khorma and I had a vegetarian dish with potatoes, cauliflower, peas and medium spice. We shared rice and plain Naan bread. Very good.

Weather forecast calls for rain tomorrow (70% chance). We'll stop at an Info Centre tomorrow and find out if the weather will be any different up in the national parks of Waterfall Way. If we can, we'll hike; otherwise we'll explore Coffs Harbour and the jetty (if it's not pouring with thunder and lightning).

Travel Bug out.