Since we had a hire car we might as well just use it, so we left the house 9:15am to drive down into the Royal National Park for the day. The plan was to hire some mountain bikes for an easy two-hour ride and then head down to the Figure Eight pools by the coast.
Arrived in Audley 11-ish, got our day pass and had a coffee at the cafe there. You can’t properly start the day without coffee, right? Really nice little place, Audley. Touristy, sure, but still nice. It was sat by the Hacking River surrounded by wild thick bush land. Cockatoos where in abundance here, trying to get some scraps from people eating at the cafe. I had heard them a lot of the time and seen them flying high above, but now they were up close and it was once more the first time I saw an animal in the wild, which I had before only seen on telly or in a zoo. Awesome!
Walked across the river to pick up a couple of hire mountain bikes. I guess for $22 for two hours you can’t really complain, but they were pretty shit, to be honest. Heavy, rusty, creaking, gear only working every now and then. Brakes worked though. We still decided to give it a go. The Lady Carrington Drive was an old 4WD track closed off to vehicles, so how hard could it be, right?
Started cycling 11:30 slowly figuring out how to make our derelict bikes work. I think at that with decent bikes, we would’ve needed 40% less effort, but hey, who doesn’t like a challenge, haha.
The path was broad at first, then narrowed a bit, leading all along the Hacking river to our right. There were some ups and downs, some bumpy bits and some less so. Overall pretty easy, but with our extra effort we got a good sweat going.
Despite the slightly annoying fight with our bikes, I was happy as, caught myself grinning the whole time. We were surrounded by thick bush full off such a variety of trees, shrubs, plants and teeming with birds. At times it was so noisy that we stopped and listened trying to tell apart all the different bird songs. It was magical! We spotted at few on those short stops as well. The ever present Cockatoos of course, but also smaller ones fluttering around in the lower bushes.
A hill at the end of the path got us proper sweating and out of breath we took a short break at the car park there, watching longingly the many motorbikes passing by, enjoying the twisty ride through the park.
The ride back was a bit quicker as there was more downhill. 2.5k before the finish line Rich got a puncture. Didn’t surprise us really. We were almost surprised the bikes had made it that far. I cycled ahead dropping off my bike, letting the guy there know, that Rich was going to be a bit later. Then got water from the cafe and walked back up the track to walk with Rich. He had not hung around and I found him sooner than expected.
Dropped off his bike, got $5 back for the trouble (nice touch) and then had some nice Ploughmans lunch at the cafe around 2pm.
We were both quite tired after those 20k, more than expected and much later than expected, too. So we dropped plans for the Figure Eight Pools which would’ve been a 6k hike each way and instead decided to drive the 30mins down to Sublime Point, a viewpoint from an escarpment over the coast.
Arrived at Sublime Point 15:30. Got us a fresh OJ at the cafe there and indeed the views were stunning from here. Hazy, but still stunning! There was an infamous walk down through the bush. Only about 700m long, but with around 1000-ish steps! Ha. Challenge accepted.
So off we went with 1.5 hours time to do it, before the park closed. Made the way down the steps and ladders with more lovely views down to the coast and once more thick flora surrounding us. We were really enjoying this and Rich was indeed happy to do this walk. With a laugh we were half questioning the purpose though. Why walk all the way down this path only to walk it up again? We couldn’t really find an answer to it other than “Because it’s nice and it’s a bit of a challenge”. We met quite a few people on the way sort of confirmed our theory.
Took us half an hour down. Just before the bottom I decided to race it up. How fast could I go up? Rich was a bit sceptic as to why I would do such a thing, it was going to be hard as it was, just getting up at all. I just like a challenge.
So up I went with just the car keys in case Rich was late, so I could drive the car through the gates before they closed. Going up 1000 steps as fast as possible sounds not like fun, but I really enjoyed it. The ladders towards the end were the easy bits actually, as I could use my arms as well to get up. I was huffing and puffing lungs deprived of oxygen more than my legs were burning actually.
A lady eventually caught up with me who was only just a little bit fast than me, so I kept at her heels for a bit somehow finding the breath to chat. Turned out she lived at the bottom and used this as a training ground for skiing or hiking trips. Awesome.
Made the whole way up in 21:15. Quite impressed with myself. Dragged myself back to the car, got water and walked back to the track only to see Rich appear just as I was about to sit down on a bench. He had made it in 29mins going at a committed pace, but not racing. Well done Rich! Really didn’t expect him so early.
We were both pooped now and decided to rather drive back home instead of going into Woollonga further South. Arrived back home 6pm. Showers and a pretty good take away curry was all we managed to do after another brilliant day.
Royal National Park was amazing. We only had half a day, but if I lived in Sydney I’d get a yearly pass and do the many walking and mountain biking trails or ride through on a motorbike. We saw quite a few trail runners as well. Brilliant way of spending a day out in nature.