Field Trips

Blue Mountains NSW

We walked. We stood. And we walked some more. We wore ourselves out.

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There are two types of holidays. There’s the one with so much crammed into each day that you regret not taking time to soak in the particulars of each place. Then there’s the other where you take it slow, with a splash of spontaneity, and then regret not doing this or that or the other. There should be a middle option, but I’m starting to think it’s not a continuum. It will always be one or the other.

We stayed at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains of NSW for two nights, thus ensuring we had an entire day, from sun up to sun down, during which to explore.

We walked. We stood. And we walked some more. We wore ourselves out.

The walking was great. The standing triggered ideas about comparisons and closely-packed contrasts.

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We started our day at Govett’s Leap Lookout and then headed off along the Fairfax track. This track was chosen because it was categorised as “Easy”. And it was. But significantly, it was packed with interesting things to stop and see. Different types of trees and bark. A fascinating nest built into a tree hollow. My first wild waratah.

Enlivened by the experience, we selected another short walk, this time along the cliff top to the Bridal Veil Falls and back. We could tell it was short because the sign said 15mins. We didn’t realise it was so steep; a lot of standing while we caught our collective breath.

Panic is interesting. While walking down to the falls, the realisation that one has to walk back up was ever present in the red and sweaty faces of the people we passed. The panic didn’t hit me until I actually started up the steps. There’s that moment early in a long walk uphill when you feel as if the wind has been knocked out of your sails. You gasp for breath. The imperative is to stop and turn back. Unfortunately, there was no turning back this day. It was onwards and upwards, or sit and rot.

Standing there, looking through the trees at the gorge below, gasping for breath, I reminded myself – out loud – that I’ve been in this situation before, that I would get my second wind, so no point in panicking. Do you find that saying things out loud helps?

We’ve yet to work out why the walk up the stairs seemed shorter than the walk down when, technically, all the stopping made it longer.

For the afternoon, I thought a bit of rainforest would be an interesting contrast to the traditional Australian bushland at Govetts Leap. Scenic World at Katoomba is a theme park. The “rides” are there to facilitate your experiences of nature and history by getting you to the valley floor. Instead, they overwhelm almost everything, particularly if you include the time queuing. Scenic World must be a tour operator’s delight. They can sell one stop as both exciting and educational, a thrilling ride with the added advantage of being able to tell those at home you’ve “seen” the Australian bush. Visitors don’t even have to set foot in the dirt.

I am a bit harsh, but I’m not complaining. I checked the website first and decided experiencing the world’s steepest railway was not to be passed up. However, I’m sure it didn’t travel so fast when it was full of coal miners back in its working days. Mum was right. It would have been interesting if it had been slower.

After submersion in the latest tourist blockbuster, it was necessary to end the day back in the National Park, to re-establish a sense of wonder at something not man-made, to overwrite the bright red of commercialism. We called in at Evans Head Lookout, back at Blackheath, and drank in the setting sun bouncing across cliff faces opposite.

The view from Evan’s Head Lookout, bathed in the setting sun.

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But, to begin, it’s the gentle morning light at Govett’s Leap Lookout.

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Fairfax Heritage Track, flat, paved and a great start for beginner walkers, even if you start at the bottom and head uphill.
Fairfax Heritage Track: flat, paved and a great for beginner walkers, even if you start at the bottom and head uphill.

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In contast, the boxed-in stairs and tunnels we slowly moved through when queuing for the Scenic World railway …

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… and the stairs we tackled on the Bridal Veil walk.

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There was the tentative red of the budding waratah …

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... and the brash red of metal.
… and the brash red of protective metal.

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This view of Bridal Veil from Govett's Leap should have been a clue to how far down, and then how far up, we would have to walk!
This view of Bridal Veil from Govett’s Leap should have been a clue to how far down, and then how far up, we would have to walk!

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The railway platform

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The view from the valley floor …

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… where the surfaces of rocks receive very little sunlight.

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On the cliff top, exposure to the weather creates a myriad of colours.

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The end of the day, heading towards Evans Head …

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… to remind ourselves what it’s really all about.

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Looking back, I’ve decided that this trip was the second type of holiday. The Folder of Possibilities contained numerous pages printed from the internet, but we only managed two of them that day.  I had hoped for about four.  We did this and that, but missed out on the others.

Nevertheless, the weekend was a success. We explored and experienced.

… and, to top it off, great company to explore with!

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