Just some stuff I want to share with you

Monthly archives for April, 2009

There’s another “Grand Canyon”…

And you can find it in Blackheath a small town just west of Katoomba. The lady of the visitor information centre warned me about the potential masses of tourists that I will encounter in the popular places today. Therefore she suggested walking the Neates Glen – Grand Canyon – Evans Lookout track. Most of the walkers will do it the other way around, but she explained that this was the better way: “you will end up with the best views, instead of starting with them”. She was very convincing and I don’t know anything about this place, so let’s find this big gap in the ground.

The weather was a bit strange today. It’s unclear whether it’s going to rain or not. The good thing about the clouds is that it will keep the sun away. The potential not so good thing: it may get wet…

When I got to the parking area, I noticed that there were already a lot of cars. Hence there must be quite a few people walking around here. But initially I saw nobody. The start of the walk wasn’t that exciting. Along some steep steps downwards and through a rather boring valley.

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But then things become more interesting. The views got better and the path more exciting as well. And there were some other people here as well. Most of them “going the wrong way around”.

It’s almost impossible to show the size of things in pictures. So just to make it clear: everything is big in this place. The trees are very tall, the rocks are big and the way down is long enough to make sure that you don’t go there.

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By the time I got to the river that runs though the valley, I stumbled upon a group that was going in the “right direction” as well. And it was good to have them in front of me, because at some points the track was not as clearly visible as before. Especially when we had to cross the river.

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The valley and the river were for sure the most beautiful part of the track.

And then there was the hard part: getting up again along a long long step way. But the views from the top were good as well. And guess why they call it the Blue Mountains…

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One more try to show the size of this place. Look at the trees…

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After a short break, my legs informed me that two walks like this after so little (= no) training were perhaps a bit demanding, it was time to see where all the tourists were. Well a good place to find them should be “Scenic World”. And yes, there they were: truck loads of them. It was interesting to see that most of them were from Asia and India. And they were here on a organized tour: the tour leader showed them clearly when to take a picture and when to get on the “Scenic Skyway”, “Scenic Cableway”, “Scenic Railway” or walk the “Scenic Walkway”.

So what’s here? Well this:

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By the time I took these pictures, it was getting dark and it was time to find my new room for the night. As I explained in my previous post: I will move on to a nicer and cheaper place tonight. It was a bit difficult to find in the dark, but it is correct: it is much nicer. And Greg (he runs the “Bethany Manor” bed and breakfast together with his wife Jill) welcomed me and showed me around. Very nice this personal touch and hospitality.

That’s it for today. Nothing more interesting happened. More to do and see tomorrow.

The track of today:

Sunday 12 April 2009

Blue Mountains here I come.

Today I will need to plan my next few days in the Blue Mountains. Since I don’t have time to do all this planning myself my first stop of the day will be the visitor information centre in Glenbrook. This is one of the reasons I choose to stay in Windsor last night: it is only about 45 minutes away from Glenbrook.

On my way out of Windsor I passed this military airport.

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When I got to the information centre and told them that I had nothing booked and wished to stay in this area, they started to smile… “Sir, it is Easter and the whole of Sydney has a few days of which they spent in this area.” Okay, so it will become a challenge to find a room. Let’s give it a try… Well, they booked me the last room they could find. And guess what: it is only 5 minutes away from Echo Point in Katoomba. That’s sort of the most popular point in the most popular town. Tonight (Saturday night) was the difficult night, because every hotel room was more or less booked. The following nights are less difficult. Therefore I will move to another (cheaper and nicer) place tomorrow.

When the rooms are booked (the lady that helped me was proud that she managed it), it was time to work on a “what to do” schedule. She explained the area and all the highlights and gave me enough information to make sure that I would not end up in places with thousands of other tourists that were there for only a few hours or a day.

First stop of the day: the Wentworth Falls. The lady of the visitor information centre suggested a nice walk here and therefore it was time to put on my walking shoes… And it was a nice walk:

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After about two and half hours of going up and down it was time to move on. The memory card of the camera was nicely filled up with new content for the website and my feet and legs informed me of a serious energy loss… It was time to find my room in Katoomba.

After I had my shower the weather had changed. It started to rain and it was getting dark. I hopped in my car and drove the 1000 meters to Echo Point. Then I illegally parked my car, took some pictures of the Three Sisters and then it was time to find a restaurant and call it a day.

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I consider the Wentworth Falls walk as one of the highlights in my holiday. This place is magnificent and the walk itself was quite challenging. When I looked at the map that I got from the visitor information centre, I noticed that this walk was classified as “Hard”. Well out of the 7 tracks, 4 are classified as “medium”, 1 is “easy”, 1 is “expert” and then the one I did is classified as “hard”. It’s probably not the most common way to start walking in this area I guess, but then I really enjoyed it.

The track of today:

Saturday 11 April 2009

Good Friday

Today I will leave the wine area of Hunter Valley and will head on to the Blue Mountains. Because of the distance, I will not make it in one day. Therefore I have picked Windsor as the next stop. It is Good Friday today and everything is closed and everybody is enjoying this day off.

The route from Pokolbin to Windsor leads me over the Putty Road. This road is long, extremely twisty and goes up and down for kilometers. This means no photographs while driving, it would kill me… And there is certainly no way I can pull over and take some snapshots either: this road is so small, that I would block a lane. And since the visibility is low due to all the turns, it would also be very dangerous. Hence there are not a lot of pictures today. I managed to pull over on one or two locations along this road and here are the results:

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As you can see: hills and trees. And this for something like 150 kilometers… When I get closer to Windsor, there are some houses and even small towns along the road. And then within say 10 kilometers, the landscape changes dramatically. The trees are more or less gone and there is grassland. And the country becomes more or less flat again. And then there is Windsor…

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Well I expected a small town, but this is much smaller than I thought it was. It took me some time to realize this. But since the drive over the Putty Road was exhausting, I wanted to make sure that I had a bed for the night. I found the motel (read: I found more or less the only motel), took a shower and then “hit the town”…

There is a small park along the river and because it is Good Friday, there are a lot of families having a picnic or barbeque. Here is a short impression:

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There are not a lot of restaurants in town. There are more than enough fast food places, but it took me some time to find a place where you could sit down and eat something that didn’t come out of a “hot oil bath”… Then after dinner it was time to sleep. This road killed me. It was beautiful, but all this turning, up and down, speed up, breaking again over such a long distance was extremely tiring. This road kills as well! I saw several places where people had accidents, since there were flowers and crosses to remember them. Well, I made it to the metropolis (yeah right) called Windsor and tomorrow I will move on to a more interesting place: the Blue Mountains.

The track of today:

Friday 10 April 2009

From a burning mountain to a red nose…

I looked at the map last night and tried to figure out whether the options that my new friends from Newcastle gave me were realistic. And I think they are not… They suggested visiting the zoo in Dubbo. This is the biggest zoo in Australia and according to my book and the articles I found on the Internet, it’s for sure worth visiting. But this wouldn’t allow me much time in the Blue Mountains anymore and I would have to drive for over 8 hours to get there and back. I am on holiday and not only want to see highways for days in a row. And I can’t see it all: this place is far too big to see everything.

So the plan is now: go to Hunter valley, one of the biggest wine areas of Australia and then on to the Blue Mountains. Today I want to end up close to Cessnock. Time to leave Scone. But before going south, I will go back on the highway I came in yesterday. I passed the burning mountain yesterday, but didn’t have time anymore to go there. So I will backtrack the 20 km for a nice walk there.

The day started grey and cold again. The clouds are covering the tops of the hills around me.

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But by the time I got to the Burning Mountain nature reserve, the sun was shining again. And the temperatures go up again. Well I will not spend too many words on explaining the story of this place. Just look at the pictures.

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And yes: this mountain is burning! You can see the smoke on the pictures. If not: you will just have to believe me…

Then it was time to hit the road. It’s a long drive to the Hunter Valley and according to my book the drive is not going to spectacular. And the book is correct again… I stopped at a visitor information centre along my way to ask if there was a more interesting road to where I was going. The man said: sure there is, just follow this route. Well he hasn’t been out of this region for some time, so it’s hard for him to compare it to what’s out there.

Along my way I stopped at the Arrowfield winery. Just because the man with the “yes there is a nice route” info suggested it. After about 10 minutes I was back on the road… This is not my cup of tea.

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I would see another million or so wineries before getting to the Hunter Valley Visitor information centre. The nice lady here booked me a room in the Hunter Valley Resort. The “resort” is basically a vineyard that has a motel and restaurant. It’s a nice place to learn everything about wine and I “tested” quite a bit of it during dinner.

Well that’s all I will find out about wine today. I must have heard at least 10 different names for wines and grapes, but I can’t recall any of them. It’s that name thing again…

The track of today:

Thursday 9 April 2009

Moving on to: Scone.

According to my book the next part of my track south isn’t going to be that interesting. It’s a big country and it will take some time to get somewhere. So today I will do a lot of driving, just to get closer to Sydney. I will continue inland and the blokes in the pub last night gave me some suggestions of places to visit. But to get there I will need to do a lot more driving so I am not sure if I will follow up on their advice. Target for today: Scone. It’s on a crossing of some of the highways that will allow me to decide tonight where I want to go for the next few days.

Before I leave Armidale, I will need to take a few snapshots. Hey, I need prove that I have been here. And I need a nice walk to wake up… Yes, it’s going to be a long day today after all those pleasant moments of last night.

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Hey I thought I was in Australia. So what’s my local bank doing here?

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The weather is very good again. Temperatures go up to the mid twenties in no time, there’s no wind and hardly any clouds. Ahaa, a “lookout” sign; time to change my heading. You can’t tell from the pictures, but the road you see is very steep. Trucks couldn’t get to the maximum speed of 80 km anymore and they have a lot of horsepower these beast. I have had some overtaking me on a few uphill tracks.

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Look at this friendly hug… He will not let go of his friend anymore.

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Then I got to Tamworth. It’s quite a big town and they consider themselves as the the Australian version of Nashville (US): the country and western music capital.

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One more try of reckless driving…

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Then I got to Scone. What’s in Scone? Well in one word: nothing… It’s a small town that has a lot of motels. Ideal for people on the move that need a place to stay the night. No visitor information centre today, so I just stopped at a motel that looked ok. And it was. It’s cheap, it’s clean and has its own restaurant and therefore that’s my endpoint for today. The book was right: it wasn’t that an exciting track today. It was just right; a pleasant drive to make some miles to get closer to the next, more exciting, place.

The track of today:

Wednesday 8 April 2009