Along the Away

travel, dream, create, inspire, appreciate

Archive for January, 2014

I awoke early one Saturday morning and decided on a whim that the day called for exploration – time to tick off another Coastal Walk.

I hadn’t heard of this walk before, and certainly wouldn’t have expected to find a coastal walk in what I vaguely consider the mid north shore, but after studying the map I now realise that the coastline extends inland quite a bit with a series of bays and inlets south of the northern beaches.

The Harold Reid Reserve is named after a well respected town clerk who served the local area in many functions for over fifty years in the mid nineteen hundreds. It’s located in the suburb of Middlecove and consists of a circuit track around ‘The Sugarloaf’ headland.

I drove to Middlecove, parked my car at the end of Sugarloaf Cres and hit the trail.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Yeah! This was a good decision for 7am on a Saturday morning!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I think this may actually have become my favourite walk (but perhaps I will say this after each of them? Possible).

It has everything; well maintained tracks which still retain their natural bushy vibe (I don’t particularly like walking on man-made track structures when bush walking unless they make an impossible walk possible); signposts; spots to sit and admire the view; and friendly locals saying hello (two legged and plenty of four legged ones on leads).

And shadows. Always with the shadows.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I’m becoming truly obsessed with light. Early morning and dusk walks are my favourite, the light is ethereal, such a treat.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I love how this challenge has revealed more dimensions than just getting fit. Striking out on unknown tracks have awakened the explorer in me. And the artist as I snap photos and attempt to record the beauty before my eyes. And the worshipper as I experience overwhelming awe and gratitude.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

On the west side there are mangroves, where the water ripples shades of blues and greens and browns, and the trees stick out of the water giving the distorted impression of a flood zone.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I found a rock to perch on and sat beside the tranquil scene.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Water rippled past. Fish appeared and vanished. Voices wafted from a nearby boat.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Laughter rang from a father and son kayaking north. The cicadas and crickets roared. The kookaburras let loose.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

There is no doubt about it that the Australian bush has been embedding itself deep into my psyche all the more as the years past. I have always loved getting outside for a walk in nature, but lately more than ever I find great peace and connection being surrounded by it.

It’s my happy place :-)

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Look at this bumpy tree branch, so strange, so beautiful! I hugged it – eek! I’m literally a tree hugger, goodness!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I followed the sun rays.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I drank in every view, resisting the urge to jump into the water.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Funny how the water changes colour so; the picture above and below were taken in the same spot.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Being at the water’s edge is good, but so is the climb up worth the effort.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Shadows, oh my heart…

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

The track circling the coastline of the headland eventually led me inland towards this roadway which mirrored the coastline loop on higher ground around The Sugarloaf.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Drape your shadows over me trees!

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

There’s always a reward waiting at the top.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Life on the edge. I’m not afraid of heights but I am extra cautious and move a hell of a lot slower when standing at the edge of extremely high things. I totally felt fine here until I heard the sound of paws behind me and a dog owner wildly calling two dogs to leave me alone. I turned slowly to see two Labradors bounding towards me all happy and joy! At any other moment than one where I’m perched on the edge of an extremely high rock ledge I would be all enthusiasm. Hello puppies! Let me hug you! But I could see only one scenario playing out in that situation. I froze and braced. But luckily the Labs took heed and slowed it down. The owner arrived looking a little frantic, I’m sure she also thought the two of them were going to pitch me off the edge!. But I survived, so all good.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I sat down after that. Just to be safe, yo.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

Less of a threat is the log lizard that basks permanently in the sun at the lookout :-)

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

I followed the roadway around until I found the track to take me back to Sugarloaf Cres. The path featured this super cute mid-rock stairway which I just squeezed through.

Harold Reid Reserve Walk

And that was the end of the beautiful Harold Reid Reserve track – definitely one to do again (and again).

The very first coastal walk in my 2014 challenge was one nice and close to home – #27 Greenwich.

I went in the afternoon after work, starting at 6pm when the golden sun was throwing long shimmery pools of light across the water – oh how I love that time of day!

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I walked to the walk (as strange as that sounds) from Wollstonecraft so that added an extra 20 mins to the walking route outlined in the book, which took me an hour just as it indicated it would. That was with some stops to sit and ponder as I suppose those lonely looking benches facing out at the water are calling for.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

The water was in sight almost the whole way, and there’s much to watch.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

It’s an easy walk; partly bush track, some roadside, a few steep stairs but all clearly identifiable and easily done in thongs/sandals or joggers.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I watched the ferry leaving Greenwich wharf.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

And took every opportunity for sitting and pondering.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Harbour was in glorious form. There is no getting tired off this beautiful sight, especially with so many vantage spots to see it from.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I discovered Greenwich Baths – I will remember this on hot days when I fancy a quick swim but not the drive to the beach.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sun light does brilliant things to the nature so that it changes all day every day, from one to the next and every time I notice something new. This tree’s branches caught my eye – so graceful.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

The kookaburra found me along the way as it so often does (more on that another day); it perched high and proud against the brilliant sky, cackling that chorus so attuned with the close of the day.

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I always inevitably become obsessed with shadows when on a walk – maybe that’s why they take me so long?

Look it’s me!

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track - Shadows

On the wander home, outside the local school, I looked down at my feet and found a D. I looked around and found the rest of the alphabet and then numbers 1-20, but it can be no coincidence that it was D that called to me right?

Sydney Coastal Walk - Greenwich Walk Track

I had had a tumultuous day but the pent up energy and uneasiness I had carried home shed from me as I wandered along. Sometimes solitary walks are just right.

When we woke up on the last day of our Blue Mountains getaway we heard the patter of raindrops on the roof and saw a misty nothing out the windows. We were planning on driving to nearby Katoomba, to visit the part of the Blue Mountains National Park where Scenic World is located. It’s a commercially operated tourist park featuring a scenic railway, cableway, skyway and skywalk – four unique opportunities to see the national park in a different way from hiking it. But – in the rain and fog, was there much point?

We figured it would eventually clear so off we drove through the mist, the trees appearing one at a time a few metres ahead.

Throught the Blue Mountains Fog

We got there early to qualify for the earlybird rate you get if you arrive before 9am, plus the added bonus of not having long queues for the attractions.

Scenic World Map

We hopped straight onto the Skyway which gave us really awesome views of… mist.

In the fog - Scenic World

Ha! It looks a bit like a giant let down, but actually it was really beautiful. The mist wasn’t a constant sheet of nothing, it swirled upwards and around us, showing us sneak peeks of the mountains before shrouding us again. Having spent two gorgeous sunny days bushwalking it was really lovely to experience the mountains in their ethereal glory.

Our friendly Skyway guide pointed out to the left to let us know where the three sisters were situated… supposedly! He promised we’d see them… and after a few minutes as the Skyway car traveled across and up we saw them peeking out.

I have fond memories of visiting the Three Sisters as a kid when we had family visiting us from England, my maternal grandparents and my uncle; so being here with my sis had a cozy nostalgic feel.

Scenic World - in the fog

After we got off the Skyway car we followed the path through the mist to find the Katoomba Cascades.

Katoomba - waterfall

We could have walked back and caught the Skyway back to the Top Station but the track allowed us to walk there by foot so we carried on and stopped along the way to poke around and explore.

The next attraction was a ride on the Scenic Railway – the steepest passenger railway in the world I’ll have you know, it travels at 52 degrees! The railway has recently been upgraded and now offers a fully enclosed car with incline controls – you can tilt your car back 10 degrees to ride at 42 or tilt it forward 10 degrees to ride at 62. You can guess which one we did after a quick conference with the two guys we were sharing our car with (crank it forward baby!)

My sis and I were a little nostalgic for the older style cable car. After a quick call to my mum, I can confirm I was 3 years old the first time I rode it and 5 years old the other time. Back then it actually did feel quite risky traveling on it; you had to hold on for dear life because there was no cover – you did kinda feel like you could topple out. I asked Mum if she had any photos of us two little twinnies riding on it and she said “uh, no! I was holding on to my babies for dear life so they wouldn’t topple out“. Ha, thanks mum!

My uncle was not so lucky, he dropped his camera and it slid down on the floor of the train past everyone’s feet to the front – oops!

Anyway, while waiting in line we commiserated about everything being over-safety-proofed everything these days, ruining perfectly good risky fun. Then the train pulled up and on we got and up we looked. Oh good, not too safe then!

Scenic Railway

Scenic Railway

After we got off we watched the train head back up the 52 degrees to get the next lot of passengers. Then we saw a memorial to the last railway cars – see what I mean??

Scenic Railway

The version before that was even less comfortable – but that’s OK, the only passenger was coal from the coal mine.

Scenic Railway

Next up was the Scenic Walkway, a 2.4km elevated walkway through the rainforest – so beautiful!

Scenic Railway Bush

Katoomba Bush Walk

We were given a sneak peak at Orphan Rock as the mist lifted:

Blue Moountains

I do appreciate how the walkways were built around the trees :-)

Katoomba Scenic World Sky Walk

A Miners Cottage still stands here, offering a peek into the life of miners who lived and worked in the Katoomba Coal Mine during 1879-1945.

Katoomba Scenic World Sky Walk

One final attraction remained, which luckily is located at the end of the walkway to take us out of here! We caught the Cableway back up to the top into the mist.

Katoomba Scenic World Cable Car

And that concludes the Blue Mountains Getaway – a wonderful four days in such a beautiful part of the world. I’m lucky to live close enough to make it a day trip which I vow to do as we drove back to the big smoke.

 

Following the beautiful walk we did yesterday, we were up even earlier on the second of our three day visit to the Blue Mountains to explore some more of the Valley of the Waters area.

Blue Mountains National Park

We started again from the Conservation Hut and walked the Nature Track. The signs and online resources estimated the walk would take 1 3/4 hours to 2 hours; in reality it only took us 1 1/4 hours and that was with lots of stops along the way to appreciate the view, take photos and take the time to sit in the presence of beauty (of course!).

The track was really easy to follow and well maintained, steep in places (particularly the walk back out) but again there were staircases and step supports to make it easier.

Blue Mountains National Park, Nature Track

There is so much to stop and marvel at, always with the stunning hazy blue mountains in the background.

This rocky outcrop was a treat, it is called Edinburgh Castle Rock but the swirly rock patterns on the rocks made me think of the ocean.

Blue Mountains National Park, Rock formation

Blue Mountains National Park, Rock formation

Blue Mountains National Park, Rock formation

When you’re walking down in the valley your eyes gravitate up to the mountains. It’s cool to look down when you’re at the top and see the tree canopy below is just as beautiful a sight, just look at the mottled mix of greens, oranges and browns.

Blue Mountains Nation Park

Around every corner is a surprise, this platform offered an opportunity to step out and feel the wide open space.

And be all “I love you nature! Let me hug you!”

Blue Mountains National Park, nature hug

Following the track down quite a way we reached the bottom, a beautiful mossy little gully call Lillian’s Glen.

Blue Mountains National Park, Lillians Glen

Blue Mountains National Park, Lillians Glen

Blue Mountains National Park, Lillians Glen

And what’s that hidden between the trees? Hello little waterfall!

Nature Track, hidden waterfall

Which turned out not to be so little – what a magical find! We sat here for awhile in the cool misty air, the energy of the water surrounding us, it felt mystical.

Nature Track, hidden waterfall

Nature Track, picnic spot

My sister turned into a little tree monkey for a second :-)

Nature Track, picnic spot

Then the climb back out began – phew! It’s hard work. The talking soon stopped between us, the deep breathing began, the increasingly frequent stops ‘just to take a look’ (yeah right!)

But every climb has it’s view (that’s the point right?)

And this one was Queen Victoria Lookout – breathtaking!

Blue Mountains National Park, Queen Victoria Lookout

All good mountains have ice cream at the top of them too…. Our well deserved treat at the Conservation Hut was some delicious Serendipity Ice Cream. In honour of our surroundings I chose two Aussie bush flavours – Macadamia and Quandong (wild peach). Delicious!

Valley of the Waters, Conservation Hut Ice Cream

The very first day of the year and we left the cottage at the very respectable hour of 9am (New Year’s Day, c’mon that’s pretty good!)

The location of our accommodation, Apple Blossom Cottage, was just perfect for day walks around the Wentworth Falls area. At the end of the same street is the Conservation Hut, a cafe/info centre located at the gateway of Valley of the Falls in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park, where many circuit walks start and finish. I did a bit of Googling beforehand and found the National Parks website, Wild Walks website and Wentworth Falls website helpful, though I admit the options for the area are a bit overwhelming. Some of the various named walks mix and match parts of the same tracks in order to offer something for everyone, taking into account distance, grade, incline, estimated time, heights etc. In reality the track choices are simpler than they appear.

Here’s a map of the tracks in the area, from the National Pass website:

Wentworth Falls Walks

Although we initially made the decision to do the National Pass walk, and I downloaded it on the Wild Walks iPhone app, once we started walking from the Conservation Hut we ended up going with the flow and making detours to lookouts and changing tracks a number of times based on the excellent signposting along the way (including estimated time info).

Wentworth Falls Bushwalking

Wentworth Falls Bushwalking

Wentworth Falls National Pass

I’m glad I downloaded the app as I’m sure it will be helpful in future if I visit areas that aren’t as established as they are here. However if you’re keen to go walking in the area but not sure about navigating yourself, then turning up at the Hut and taking it as you go is perfectly doable. Just remember the obvious bush walking basics though and of course carry plenty of water, sunscreen and I suggest some snacks as well (there are so many beautiful places to sit for awhile and some of the tracks are hella steep – replenishment is appreciated!)

Wentworth Falls Picnic

On the first day of 2014 we walked for three and a half hours on parts of the Valley of the Waters Track, the Short Cut Track and National Pass, starting and ending at the Conservation Hut. It was a wonderful walk, with so much to stop and look at, the time flew by.

Valley of the Falls

In case you are wondering, the Blue Mountains are named for that blue dreamy haze that surrounds the area. The haze is believed to be the result of a byproduct of the mountains’ abundant eucalyptus trees affecting the scattering of light… something like that anyway.

Valley of the Falls

It was not an easy walk, you do need a decent level of fitness or otherwise take it slower with more breaks. It is quite steep at times, though the well maintained metal stair frames and wooden steps make the task feel safe and sturdy (though you’ll feel the burn, phew!)

The main attraction is of course the falls – of which there are many! Valley of the Falls is certainly an apt name, they are pretty spectacular:

Wentworth Falls

This beautiful photo doesn’t even do the actual sight justice. Sunlight streaming down the falls, bouncing rainbows off the water mist… so ethereal and breathtaking.

Waterfall magic

The further you walk, the more waterfalls you find. As well as people enjoying them, like this canyoner – it looked like so much fun!

Canyoning Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls Walk

Wentworth Falls waterfalls

We stopped for lots of little rests and to soak up the serenity of the area; it was the perfect start to the year.

Enjoying Wentworth Falls

My sister and I made an impromptu, last minute decision to get out of the city for New Years and instead retreat to the beautiful Blue Mountains for a few days.

Don’t get me wrong, Sydney is one of the best places on earth to celebrate the New Year arrival – our harbour fireworks are crazy beautiful. But as I live here I guess I feel I can miss one here and there :-)

Last year a group of friends and I camped out all day at Blues Point so we could watch the fireworks from one of the best views along the harbour. To get anywhere along the water you have to claim your spot early morning on New Year’s Eve and then hope you have good weather all day!

We had this gorgeous view (while sweltering in 40+ degree heat):

Sydney Harbour New Year's Day Eve 2012

But those 8 minute fireworks sure are worth it (for the 6.8 million dollar price tag, yo).

Sydney Harbour Fireworks New Year's Eve 2012

Sydney Harbour Fireworks NYE 2012

It’s a hardcore effort though, not something you want to do every year. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 2 million people watched the fireworks from along the harbour foreshore this year. Now, given the harbour’s extensive coastline this includes a lot of vantage points in all directions, but far out – that is a lot of people and goes to show why a Sydney Harbour NYE requires an all day stake-out.

This year, both my sis and I were craving something more low key and reflective. A getaway to the mountains was perfect and although last minute, the universe smiled upon us, we found perfect, affordable accommodation with only a few days notice.

And such a sweet place – a cozy rental called Apple Blossom Cottage.

Along The Away - Apple Blossom Cottage, Wentworth Falls

Along The Away - Apple Blossom Cottage, Wentworth Falls

Along The Away - Apple Blossom Cottage, Wentworth Falls

It was homey, clean and well stocked, a little lived-in with borderline grandparent holiday house decor, but we were having a bit of a nana new years anyway, so whatevs, it worked.

Along The Away - Apple Blossom Cottage, Wentworth Falls

After checking out our humble abode we drove to Leura, a charming little village with painted street murals, boutique stores and cozy cafes.

Leura Street Brick Murals

Painted Brick Murals in Leura

Leura Street Brick Murals

I just adored how the real trees standing next to the wall created a 3D effect in front of the mural, and their shadows spilled down over the painting and across the footpath… just beautiful.

Leura Street Brick Murals

We ate lunch at Wayzgoose Cafe and it was yummy and relaxing. We discovered a delicious Ice Tea called Stolen Recipe, both of us tried the Lemon Lime Peppermint – yum! In Woolworths later we discovered they sold litre bottles of it, I have never seen it in Sydney before. A quick google tells me it is stocked at Thomas Dux at Crows Nest, awesome!

Along The Away - Sisters Lunching in Leura

We did that sort of anti-social sister thing where we both sat at the table sorting photos on our phones and didn’t talk to each other. I listened to the entertaining waitress exasperatedly banging around and exclaiming in the kitchen and at the counter. The male waiter kept catching my eye with a smile every time she was particularly dramatic – I don’t blame her, it was 3pm on New Year’s Eve.

Along The Away - Sisters Lunching in Leura

So we settled in and then headed back to our cottage for a relaxing New Year’s eve night in. We listened to music and drank Moet. We watched some BBC Pride & Prejudice – nana New Year’s OK?

We did light sparklers and toasted midnight with champagne, and talked about all our goals and hopes for 2014. We were excited to get up early on the first day of 2014 to get out into the mountains. It was that kind of New Year’s and I loved it.

The best part of the cottage is that it is in Fletcher St in Wentworth Falls – literally a few minutes walk to the Conservation Hut where so many of the waterfall walks start and finish. We did heaps of bushwalking whilst away, I will share some tales and photos soon!

Year of Good Things

January 4, 2014 Gratitude, Life Comments

I saw this wonderful idea pop up on Pinterest – creating a jar where you put reminder notes of the good things that happen during the year. At the end of the year (or when you feel you need to) you read all the notes in one big happy gratitude session.

Like so many Pinterest finds there are many variations once you start looking so I don’t know who to credit with the idea, but here are some of the ones I love:

Jar of Good Things from benignobjects.blogspot.com.au Jar of Good Things from shieldmaidenthoughts.wordpress.com
Jar of Good Things from www.scathingly-brilliant.blogspot.com.au Jar of Gratitude from www.amykingsford.com

So, I’m going to do this in 2014; my jar is already waiting for wonderful things to start happening:

Along The Away - Jar Of Good Things 2013 Along The Away - Jar Of Good Things 2013 2

Actually, I may have already put a Good Thing in there… we are four days into 2014 already!

I also popped in a little notebook for super convenience – no excuses not to jot good things down and into the jar :-)