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

Monday, 27 October 2014

10 - 11 October 2014 - Dorrigo to Mudgee

We left Dorrigo and drove through wonderful scenery with green mountains which slowly transformed into gently rolling hills. We stopped at Ebor for coffee and buttermilk scones at the Fusspots Cafe and bought a cute dress for Kiara. We then headed out to see the Ebor falls where we walked along the gorge overlooking the two sections of the falls and the river.

The next stop was Wollomombi Falls which is a huge gorge but only little water so not so spectacular. Continuing our drive we started to look for a place to stay the night and ended up at the Moonbi Lookout halfway down a steep pass. While setting up the caravan for the night we discovered a stowaway in the form of a large Huntsman spider! We photographed him and then moved him into the bush hoping he had no friends with him.

Next day we headed out again with the Blue Mountains our goal and one more stop in between. We decided to stay in Mudgee and got the last spot in the caravan park because everyone had moved to Mudgee to avoiding the Bathurst V8 Supercar race at Mount Panorama. We walked along the river before having drinks and watching the King Parrots flying around the trees and the aviary nearby. We also spotted a possum in the tree nearby in a hollow log placed there to attract these cute wild marsupials.

Wollomombi Falls
Moonbi Lookout
Huntsman spider
Huntsman released
King Parrots

Thursday, 23 October 2014

7 - 9 October 2014 - Broken Head and Dorrigo

Before leaving the Gold Coast we went to a Holiday Club presentation where we won a 7-night holiday in the Gold Coast, Bali or Thailand (flights not included). After leaving we headed towards Byron Bay and after an uneventful trip we arrived to find it was just another tourist/holiday place with lots of people, and after the Gold Coast in school holidays we did not feel like all the mayhem again. We looked for caravan parks nearby and decided to take a look at Broken Head. This was a great little park right on the beach and we arrived just in time as they were closing the office for the day. We had a very windy and chilly night and got up early to walk on the beach and watch the sun rise. We found a lovely little creek near the beach and spent time trying to find the Whipbird without success. From the beach we could see the lighthouse of Byron Bay which is on the most eastern point of mainland Australia and the location of a shark attack only a week or so earlier!

We packed up and headed inland to take a more scenic route to the Blue Mountains which would be our next major stop.  We had coffee and pies on the side of the road served from a blue caravan with blue table and chairs and a suitcase of second-hand books for sale. We sat and enjoyed the break in this unique setting. Continuing we drove through some lovely valleys then encountered a mountain pass which was long and steep and which terrified Vlasta - fortunately Keith was driving. At the top of the pass was a little town called Dorrigo and after visiting the information centre we decided to stay for the night at a farm that caters for caravanners, campers and backpackers. Well, this spot turned out to be absolutely stunning with views over the valley and mountains. We only had one other caravan with us and we were pretty much in a lovely green paddock. We just had to stay a second night! The old farmer drove round at 6:30 each evening to collect the $20 for the night which included electricity, water and hot showers.

Next day we visited the Dangar Falls which were right next door and then spent most of the day walking in the rainforrest where we saw the Lyrebird, Cat Bird and finally the Whipbird.  We also saw a Red-necked Pademellon, Satin Bowerbirds and Logrunners amoung many others. We decided to have takeaways from the local Italian restaurant which was divine. This was one of the most memorable days so far and we were sad to have to leave. The flowers and blossoms were spectacular around town thanks to being the wettest town in NSW.

Byron Bay lighthouse
Sunrise at Broken Head
Creek at Broken Head
Coffee on the road
Our caravan in Dorrigo
Crimson Rosella
Dangar Falls in Dorrigo
View from the rain forest in Dorrigo
Viewing platform in the rain forest in Dorrigo
Waterfall in the rain forest
Green Catbirds
Male Satin Bowerbird
Female Satin Bowerbird
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Red-necked Pademellon

Sunday, 19 October 2014

3 - 6 October 2014 - Gold Coast

We left Tambourine Mountain for a short drive to the Gold Coast where we checked into the Big 4 Treasure Island caravan park. This park is a kids paradise with water games, jumping pillows and peddle carts. We relaxed and did some shopping and chores.

In the morning we went to Surfers Paradise for breakfast and looked around the beaches before heading back to the caravan. At the last minute Vlasta decided she wanted to do a whale watching cruise so off we went to Sea World and Keith headed back to the caravan to relax as he was not prepared to pay to get seasick!

As it was Yom Kippur we could not see Barry and Di until the Sunday so off we went to have lunch with them in their appartment overlooking Surfers Paradise and the residential waterways in the area. What magnificent views and lovely place to live on the 15th floor above all the traffic and holiday makers. We spent the whole afternoon chatting and really enjoying our time together but the time really flew by far too quickly.

The next day we spent at Sea World where we enjoyed the dolphin show (twice), polar bears, birds, fish, sharks and penguins. The penguin house brought back memories of our Antarctic cruise 11 years ago but at the same time we were very sad to see these penquins locked in a refrigerated room in a sub-tropical city. There were two species of penguins. The King penguin which we did not see in Antarctica, is a magnificent bird with beatiful colouring but quite forlorn. The Gentoo penguin was very familiar to us and the females were sitting on eggs while the males were collecting stones to line the nest. People could pay for a penguin encounter where they sat in the penguin house and handed stones to the male Gentoo penguins who strutted off to add them to their nests. After a long day we headed back to the caravan to prepare to leave in the morning.

Mother humpback whale and calf

A male humpback heading down to feed
Barry and Di's appartment
View of Surfers Paradise from Barry and Di's appartment
Vlasta, Barry and Di
The Dolphin Show
High flying with the dolphins
The shark tank at Sea World
A young polar bear playing with his toys
A King penguin
A Gentoo penguin carrying a stone to his nest
The Penguin House