A Clamber Through Jurassic Park

Thursday was our first proper day out in the Blue Mountains. We were really looking forward to it! After a restless night for both of us for no apparent reason other than maybe a full stomach Matt – our guide for the day – picked us up 8:30am straight from the house.

The cloud had descended over night so much so, that we almost needed fog lights. There was a slight drizzle every now and then and it felt like we’d brought British weather with us. And with all the shiny expensive outdoor gear back home, we felt slightly unprepared, just like all those oblivious city dwellers we silently shake our heads at sometimes. We simply hadn’t thought we’d need that stuff.

I had brought a rain jacket, but only one long sleeve. Rich had left his waterproof in Sydney. Light approach shoes would’ve also fared better than our trainers which had served us pretty well so far, but were inconvenient for certain parts of today’s walks.

Matt was a super nice and relaxed bloke, we started chatting on the drive to our first walk about all sorts of things and learned amongst other things that the Blue Mountains were formed about 50 million years ago, when the area was uplifted.

From Conservation Hut at Wentworth Falls we started our first walk, a 2hr loop on Nature Track circuit. Until the very end of the loop, we should be the only people on the track. The air was so fresh, cool and moist, with cloud still hanging low, which made our walk evermore atmospheric, even magical. It was obvious that nature desperately needed this, with the last proper rain dating back to as far as July!

We walked in awe listening to Matt pointing out some interesting plants. Banksia Serrata is one of the common large shrub we had seen everywhere, but we didn’t know that it can retract water into a bulb below the surface to survive a bush fire, then use that water to sprout once the fire is gone. It’s one of the first plants to come back after a fire.

Flower of Banksia Serrata

We also learned about a tree where the indigenous people used the bark as bandage or plaster and also found a shrub where you could use the leaves in absence of toilet paper as the underside is nicely silky but also ribbed.

Tree bark that can be used as a plaster or bandage.

As we plunged deeper into the valley it certainly felt remote, wild and primeval, almost as if being catapulted into Jurassic Park. Especially, with cockatoos screeching overhead. We learned from Matt, that what we heard were actually black cockatoos and that their call has a slightly higher pitch. Until now we didn’t even know there were black cockatoos and sure enough a trio of them sailed past not long after. Amazing!

We also came across a lyrebird who was busy throwing up soil with it’s claws looking for food. We watched him for a bit before heading into Lillians Glen. Here the water was low enough to clamber through a gap in the rock to a pool with a small waterfall. It was magical in here and showed us that nature is the best garden landscaper there is, haha. People go through so much effort to re-create something like this, when it’s right here.

Through the gap…
“Secret” cove at Lillians Glen

We did a little detour down to Empress Falls and then walked the many steps back up to Conservation hut for coffees before hitting the road again at 11:15.

Empress Falls

Parked up at Mount Piddington 11:45 to do the Cox Cave Circuit. Another roughly 2hr circular walk. The sun had come out now and it was getting pretty warm, so we were happy for the shade under the trees.

This trail was rougher, wilder, steeper, with more rocky overhangs and narrow paths along steep precipices. We felt even more thrown back into Jurassic times here. Simply amazing.

Climbed the ladder into Cox Cave and made it up the steep sandy slope to the top enjoying a simply stunning view from there. Around the corner we went and then Matt helped us up over a huge boulder blocking the path. There was no way one could climb it alone so he went back down to meet us at the car after telling us how to find the path up to a fire track and then back to the car.

Up a short but very steep and sandy slope we clambered, then found ourselves at a fork in the path. Which way were we supposed to go again? To make a long story short, we tried both and found a third “path” further up as well. All of them eventually ended up in what looked like simply bush bashing with no continuation of the path. We couldn’t really afford to spend hours fighting through the “wrong bush”, so we made a safety-first decision of doubling back the way we had come.

Being experienced and confident hikers we were a bit disappointed and embarrassed to admit defeat. But with a challenging path caution ruled over pride and we chose the 100% safe option out of the four we had. We found a short cut at the bottom of the ladder and made our way back up to the car.

Speaking to Matt afterwards, we admitted we’d not been sure which path to take so had come back the the way we had. Turned out we had actually been on the right path and only maybe one shrub away from it being very obvious again. We agreed that we had done the right thing though and that we were probably simply more cautious than all the other groups he had sent through previously.

Picked up some sandwiches for lunch and munched them at the Mount Blackheath lookout. By then it was already 14:30, where had the day gone?

Smoke from the nearby fires makes for a hazy view

One thing left to do and actually the number one thing to see in the Blue Mountains. The Three Sisters, the famous rock formation everyone comes to see. But instead going to the popular Echo Point lookout we rather stopped at the Eagle Hawk lookout. And sure enough the view was magnificent.

The Three Sisters

Not much to do now to finish off a brilliant day. Matt showed us the way to Minnie Ha Ha falls should we fancy a swim the next day and on the way pointed out the strange looking grass tree flower which looks like straight from an alien planet.

Just before 5pm he dropped us off at our apartment after a fantastic day. We learned so much about the Blue Mountains, the animals and plants that live here. It made the walks so much more interesting and worthwhile and Matt was a great guide. We pledged to meet again should he be in our neck of the woods.

Had a well earned rest at the apartment, then went into Leura to The Garage for dinner, which was excellent and a worthy end to a fantastic day!

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