Along the Away

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Archive for the ‘ Great Southern Land: Australia ’ Category

It was the beginning of 2014 that I set myself the challenge to walk all 37 coastal walks from the Coastal Walks Sydney book… I did 6! But luckily they’re not going anywhere, so I’m still ticking them off in 2015.

I just came off a BIG work project and after weeks without a day off I had five days stretching out in front of me. It’s the end of winter at the moment but Sydney was boasting that gorgeous feels-like-summer weather that often dazzles us at the end of the cold season. I was craving some outdoor time after too many long weeks in the office so the book came off the bookshelf and I did three coastal walks over the next five days.

Spit to Manly walk

First up was the Spit Bridge to Manly walk which is a very well known coastal walk in Sydney. Obviously it can be done in both directions, but I prefer doing it from south to north so that I end up at the beach – and judging from the people I passed it seems to be the most popular direction!

It is a truly beautiful walk, the water is alongside the track almost the whole time, except for a section that heads upwards. It’s fairly steep but nothing a reasonable level of fitness can’t handle. Where there’s a climb, there’s a view – and this one is amazing.

Spit to Manly walk

I was so happy to be back in my natural habitat under the sunshine, amongst the trees and beside the ocean. Nature is a great healer.

Spit to Manly walk

The walk is about 10km and according to the Coastal Walks Sydney book should take about 3.5 hours. Once again, similar to other walks I’ve done in the book, I took much less time to finish – about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I did that with plenty of stops along the way, probably about 20 minutes worth. I’m a pretty brisk walker once I get going!

There are a number of toilet blocks along the way and water bubblers/taps to refill your water bottle. I recommend filling up at every tap you see as they are not as frequent to chance that you’ll see one when you need it. When I did the walk in summer I struggled in the last 30 minutes with an empty water bottle, so this time I topped up at every chance.

Spit to Manly walk

Once I walked into Manly I wandered around looking for a brunch spot to refuel. I discovered a new cafe called Bare Naked Bowls on Market Lane. I was heading to the Swedish Fika Kitchen which is a fave, but Bare Naked Bowls caught my eye. I wandered in to look at the board and on recommendation from the waitress decided to try the Chia Bowl – it was delicious, as was the coffee.

Once nourished, it was time to relax! The glorious thing about coastal walks is that once the hard work is done there is a beach to relax on, which I did… for about three hours! I may have even fallen asleep on the sand. Considering how stunning the weather was I was surprised how quiet it was, I’ve never seen Manly beach this deserted – I guess that’s the perk of being there on a weekday when most people are at work.

Spit to Manly walk

In regards to transport, the walk is fairly easy to get to, coming from the lower north shore I drove to the Spit Bridge and parked in a side street just north of the bridge. There is a timed carpark there but it can be costly, I have always been lucky to get an untimed spot on the road. Once I was in Manly I got the bus back to the Spit. It was a bit tricky as I didn’t realise the footpath stops before the bridge on the north side where I got off the bus. I had to chance my luck across the road and then walk up the steps and around the suburban roads – all without a phone thanks to my battery dying. Next time I will get off south of the bridge where the foothpath extends… or else get the bus the whole way.

I recently spent almost three weeks away on a work trip. No I’m sorry I did not jet-set to New York, I wasn’t hopping around Europe, or navigating Asia. I was on a road trip around the same state I live in, New South Wales, visiting 16 bus depots scattered down the coastline from Yamba in the north, down to the Central Coast and then Western Sydney. I should explain that by day I’m the Marketing Manager for a public transport company hence so many bus depot visits! I love my job and any opportunity to escape my desk for awhile is welcome (even if I don’t need my passport).

Australia is not a bad deal, particularly sticking so close to the coastline. It was hard work, but I did take a few pics while away that I wanted to share.

Here’s a symbolic shot of what I spent a lot of time doing (but I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind being in transit watching the world pas by so it was not so bad):

In Grafton there is a bus route that runs through the stomping ground of a family of kangaroos – there are about 40-50 that hang around the farmland and golf course there.

In the town centre there is beautifully painted street art along the seating and road infrastructure. The local indigenous culture is represented in many of the artworks, they really add a beautiful atmosphere to an ordinary main street.

While out taking photos for our company blog we visited a beautiful boardwalk at Urunga. I snapped this lone pelican, sitting out on the rock thinking about life (or dinner).

We called into the groovy town of Bellingen and had a really awesome meal at 5 Church Street, a funky cafe with friendly service and live music from a young woman strumming a guitar and singing on a small stage. It was pouring with rain but cosy inside; I had the most delicious strawberry lemonade there.

We rolled into Coffs Harbour pretty late but still walked down to the jetty to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. I tried to take some pictures but the iPhone camera after dusk is not at it’s best. Plus it was raining.

Coffs Harbour Jetty

We stopped in a very cool cafe called Old John’s, reminiscent of the funky, hipster cafes popping up all over Sydney but which I found were fairly absent outside the city. I was still pretty full from eating in Bellingen so it all aligned to be one of those perfect scenarios where one is already satiated on the main meal front and can skip straight to dessert with plenty of room to commit to the cause. I had an awesome iced coffee and a rhubarb panna cotta with persian fairy floss. Yep.

There was a stack of boardgame boxes in the corner, unfortunately they must be meant only for show as so many of their pieces were missing. Luckily Snakes & Ladders doesn’t require many pieces – my colleague and I played a round (I lost) and then a few rounds of customised Trivial Pursuit (I won).

We landed in Port Macquarie over the weekend which was truly excellent timing as I have friends who live here. I was able to check out my friend’s latest project, a community garden called The Lost Plot. It was a hive of activity as it was having it’s big grand opening the following weekend. The area had recently had a bucket load of rain so it was MUD-DY! But that wasn’t getting in the way of all the workers putting in paths and finalising the garden’s layout. It was really cool, both my colleague and I felt the green thumb itch while there; the smell of the fresh soil, the dogs running around getting muddy and happy, and all the volunteers gathered in a whirl of community spirit! It was really inspiring and started to germinate a seed of thought I had for community gardens at my company’s work sites…

After visiting the community garden we went with my friend to Wauchope to check out a hip cafe there called the Living Room. It was a laid back space with a healthy, nourishing menu (including meals and liquids – the ‘I Am Love’ smoothie was divine, as was the carrot pineapple cake :-O)

I loved this sign behind their counter ;-) I do like the sentiment (but I do also like free Wi-Fi…)

My absolute favourite thing was the tiles on the toilet floor (I didn’t take my iPhone in there when I went, I had to come out and get it and go back to snap the pic, that’s how much I loved it.) When I own my own place, I am going to have floors just like this!

Kookaburras turn up everywhere around me; they are my spirit animal, I always pay attention when I see them because I’m sure it’s for a reason.

Port Macquarie is an exceptionally pretty part of the world. On Sunday morning I went to Lighthouse Beach with my friend, it’s a dog beach so we took her lovable energetic dog Zali with us. It was such a beautiful morning, the kind you’re glad you’re not in bed missing out on :-)

 

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In the afternoon I went in search of a quiet coffee and on the recommendation of my friend went to Quay Lime Cafe on the Marina. It was really peaceful sitting on the deck reading a magazine (really loving the Renegade Collective mag), sipping my coffee.

  

We moved on to the really small town of Laurieton where our local colleagues told us to take a drive up North Brother Mountain, part of Dooragan National Park for a view of Camden Haven Inlet with the Camden Haven River winding between Queens and Watson Taylors Lakes.

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It was a beautiful view in the late afternoon. I saw a snake on the ground near the entry of a the Laurieton Track but it darted away before I could photograph it (interesting side note: I don’t mind snakes just keep spiders away from me).

We started driving south to our next stop, Heatherbrae but took a wrong turn for a little way. A happy accident though as we ended up at the bank of the Camden Haven River where we saw river dolphins surfacing! We watched the sun setting behind North Brother Mountain where we had just been.

NSW roadtrip

The last stop of our road trip was on the Central Coast. We pulled over to take a photo of Wallarah Point Bridge at Gorakan and spotted this group of pelicans lounging about!

Central Coast Pelicans

Our next stop was Sydney – back home again! Such a great opportunity to see a bit more of the state and the areas my company operate in.

The best thing about road trips is they kinda sort themselves out – you’re bound to stumble across something awesome :-)

Time for another Coastal Walk! To refresh your memory I have set myself the challenge to walk all 37 walks in the Coastal Walks Sydney book in 2014.  This walk is #18 in the book but #5 for me (confusing? yes.) Yikes, only 5, I better get a move on. I walked this one solo on an early Sunday morning, keen to get out into the beautiful day. I started on the track at Waverton, walking in the opposite direction as directed in the book, but it all turned out OK.

The walk is studded with plaques and information notices about the history of the area. North Sydney Council has a handy online reference to this  one of their ‘Plaques Walk‘. The amazing BP Park offers fabulous views of Sydney Harbour as a bonus, but the best part is the feel of the repurposed site. In the 1920’s BP established the site with massive storage tanks for fuel that would come in from the ships. It was decommissioned in the 1980’s and the North Sydney Council transformed the site into something the views deserved.

A framework of steel walkways navigates visitors through the sandstone and concrete, it has such a cool atmosphere.

Moving on, this ‘Coastal Walk’ took me away from the coast for a little while, crossing the train tracks and then back again.

Sawmillers Reserve sits right alongside the train line. It was the site of a sawmill in operation from 1880-1980.

It’s neatly paved and offers a large grassy area perfect for picnics and BBQs.

There are ruins left behind and a ship-wreckage nearby in the water! Full of surprises on this walk.

Blues Point Ferry Depot And here I arrived at McMahon’s Point for this glorious view. As the book points out, it’s the only point where you can stand across from the bridge for a view opposite it’s arch (though I stood a bit further around reserve when taking this photo). Sydney Harbour Bridge from McMahons Point

In a shock turn of events, a long weekend in Sydney dawned clear and sunny, with a brilliant blue sky and toasty warm sun rays slicing through crisp fresh air. It seems like too often our recent public holiday long weekends have been dogged with cloud and rain, so this one was a treat, a perfect day to take on another coastal walk. My twin sis joined me on this one so we decided to pick one fairly local to the both of us – Mosman Bay to Taronga Zoo.

Although starting at the Mosman Bay ferry wharf, almost immediately the walk heads to the street (firstly going up up up) but once you’ve endured this bit of effort then the rest of the walk is a dream with plenty of pretty vistas.

There were a few other people doing the walk but it wasn’t busy. There were more people (and four legged pals) enjoying the sunny afternoon at Little Sirius Cove. Is there any happier being in this world than a dog playing at a beach with other dogs? We stopped to watch a few having the time of their lives running and swimming together. I have a soft spot for Samoyeds (the big white fluffy ones with the permanent grins on their faces), they are such a joy to watch.

Just past Little Sirius Cove is Curlew Camp an artists’ camp that was established in 1890 by a guy called Rueben Brasch who lived there with his brothers and a number of other plein air artists. They lived there in tents painting outdoors and teaching art classes to support themselves. An artist called Arthur Steeton moved to the camp in 1891 when he was 24 years old. He recalled in an interview when he was 73 that they “had half a dozen tents between them and there was a dining tent, a dancing floor and even a small piano.”

There’s more interesting info in this Wikipedia article, I love reading about days gone past in Sydney. These quotes are by Julian Ashton who lived at the Balmoral artists’ camp at the same time:

“I saw Streeton fairly often at this time. He lived in a camp at Little Sirius Cove, Mosman, where he was joined later on by Tom Roberts. He used to do the marketing, and on arriving at the Musgrave Street wharf had to walk around the point and blow a whistle for the boat to come across from the camp. To see him returning on Saturday nights, laden with parcels of bread, beer and beef, and as merry the while as a boy at a picnic, was a delight. In those days the painters’ material wants were few, but their hopes were unbounded.” – Julian Ashton, 1890

“Around the tent climb the Begonia and Clematis and Sarsaparilla the rough winds broken for us by an exquisite fusion of tender gum-leaf. Honeysuckle (like the trees of the old asters). Cotton plants heath and a wild cherry (bright green at our tent door) and the beautiful flood beneath. All is splendid.”

“Tis now 11 O’clock. My tent stands like a quiet glowing lamp on the deep black hill – the sombre night all round – a southerly gale sweeps over the bay the boat bumps against the pier below. All alone in the camp tonight.” – Julian Ashton, April 1891

Seeing as the Sydney Harbour Bridge was not built until 1923, the view across the harbour would have looked so different to the artists in the late 19th century. It would have been dark and still at night, not the glittering, iconic skyline we see today.

There are spectacular 180 degree views at Little Sirius Point; you can sit on the ledge there and soak it all in.

And snap away too of course, such a picture perfect day :-)

The track was so beautiful; nothing beats being surrounded by nature on a gorgeous day.

A heart in the pavement :-)

The walk took us less than an hour one way, that was even with us chatting as we walked and stopping along the way. We had left our car at Mosman so we walked back again which took even less time. It was about 90 minutes return.

And being Good Friday we drove to Balmoral Beach to have fish and chips from ‘Bottom of the Sea’ – the crowd was crazy, we were order number 453 and they were still serving the 390’s when we joined the wait.

Ah well, it was worth it to sit in the sand for a warm Autumn evening’s feast :-)

at Balmoral

What a spectacular part of Sydney foreshore this is! The Cremorne Point walk seemed perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll as I read in the Coastal Walk book that it’s paved the whole way. I had been having a super lazy Sunday morning but the sight of the blue sky outside beckoned me to get out and do something – this was a good low-energy, high-reward compromise.

I drove over to Cremorne and parked on Milson Rd and walked along til I found an entry to the track. I couldn’t help but pine enviously at the view these houses have.

Cremorne Point Walk

The afternoon was hazy, dreamy, beautiful.

And here it starts, a nice neat triangle route water-side most of the way.

Footpaths most of the way made it super easy.

Can we stop for a moment to admire this totally awesome sideways leaning tree?

The path is lined with grassy picnic worthy spots, I’d only been walking ten minutes but it was too tempting to stop and lay down under the trees for awhile.

Usually I take photos of this view from the other side – it looks just as good in reverse right?

A lighthouse sits pretty at the triangle tip.

A community garden lines the eastern side, there is a plaque there dedicated to the local residents who maintain it.

This walk took me about two hours including an hour laying under the trees time (ha, I told you it was a lazy Sunday kind of day!)

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