Before we knew it our time in Sydney had come to an end. We had such a lovely time with The Masons and are so grateful for all they did both for and with us. From showing us the sights, feeding us, sitting in the emergency department with us to curling up on the couch, eating chocolate and having a chin wag. Not only did we monopolise most of their time but they themselves were on the move and relocated interstate (QLD) just days after we left!
The kids loved hanging out and although ready to move on we were all a little sad to say goodbye. Of course at this stage we had no idea that it wouldn’t be long before we saw them again – and in the most unexpected place!
As we left, once again we were reminded just how green the surrounding areas of Sydney are. You really don’t have to drive far from one of the worlds busiest cities before you get a semi-rural feel.
We had decided to head inland rather than sticking to the coast and so headed off towards The Blue Mountains. One of the regions most visited areas is Echo Point. Here there are a number of lookouts over the mountains and the famous Three Sisters. It was really busy when we called in here and parking hard to get – not to mention pricey.
There was no accommodation available in Katoomba so we kept driving and ended up in the town of Lithgow. We headed to the visitor centre and the staff member here suggested we try heading out to the Lake Lyell Campground. This is in a recreation area popular for water-skiing, fishing and bush walking. The staff at the campground were very helpful but there were only a few spots available where we would have been able to get Stan in.
We checked out our options but it appeared that we would be the only family within a large group of young people driving utes and towing jet-skis, all with a beer in hand. Not wanting to cramp their style (and wanting to be able to sleep at night) we kept going up the road and reached Flat Rock, situated between the towns of Tarana and O’connell – what a great spot!
Our initial plan had been to stay overnight around the Katoomba area and then push on. Instead, although Flat Rock was a little out-of-the-way, we decided to base ourselves here whilst checking out the surrounding area and actually ended up staying for five nights.
This free camp is situated next to Fish River, home to some Rainbow Trout. Every morning and afternoon a number of people would turn up trying to catch one but we never saw anyone leave with a trout. We spent a number of hours trying to catch one ourselves. Of course we have no idea when it comes to fishing and it was never going to happen but it was a lot of fun trying! We could see the fish swimming around and every so often we would see one jump out of the water but that’s as close as we got!
Jenolan Caves are situated on the western fringe of The Blue Mountains National park and one of the places we visited from Flat Rock. The actual drive down to the caves was hair-raising and it may be worth mentioning that the road is not accessible to caravans. There are a number of paid tours that can be taken throughout the cave system but as we have done similar things, in other locations, we opted to stick with the free things available; which include walking through the Grand Arch, the Devils Coach House Cave and around Blue Lake.
It was a beautiful area with lots to see and would be a great spot to have a picnic. There is a lot of wildlife around and we couldn’t believe the number of Water Dragon Lizards we saw – they were everywhere!
Of course we didn’t do the tourist thing everyday, some were spent hanging around the camp. exploring along the river, not catching fish and face-painting!
We headed back to katoomba one day to have a look around the town and also to visit Scenic World. For $70 we got a family pass which enabled us to go on the Scenic Skyway, Railway, Cableway and Walkway. All of these are attractions designed to show off differing views of The Blue Mountains. The walkway leads you down into the valley, passing the old coal shafts and mine workings. If you are really keen you can walk out of Scenic World to The Three Sisters and up The Giant Stairway (with over 800 steps) to Echo Point.
We weren’t really keen!
The Scenic Skway travels 720m across the valley, including Katoomba Falls,, at a height of 270m above the rainforest. To make it even more interesting there is a frosted glass floor that part way over the valley becomes a clear glass floor so you can get a bird’s-eye view over the rainforest (gag). Ben and I were more than happy to check out the gift shop while the others went over!
The Scenic Railway is the steepest incline railway in the world and runs just over 400m down the side of the cliff, some of it through a rock tunnel. It isn’t a particularly fast ride but the steepness of it is a little unnerving and if you didn’t have enough going down then you can also hop on and go backwards up the cliff.
When we were staying with Dave on The Gold Coast he had told us about a glow worm walk he had been on with his family, not too far from Katoomba. Since we are now experts on all things glow worm we did a few investigations and found out he was talking about the glow worm tunnel about 30km from Lithgow in Wollemi National Park. The tunnel is part of an old railway that was used to transport oil shale and has been long since abandoned. A large portion of the road to the tunnel is gravel but once there you are rewarded with a lovely walk to the tunnel and then the glow worms themselves. There is a bit of water in the tunnel and you need to remember to take torches so that about halfway through the 400m tunnel you can switch off the torch and see the worms. It was a bit like standing under a very dark night sky full of stars.
It was here that I had a very close encounter with a very large red-bellied black snake. We have had many talks with the kids about bush safety, including the need to remain still and calm if they come across a snake.
Lucky that the poor thing didn’t have ears. My scream would have deafened it for sure!
After one more visit to watch the taunting trout of Fish River jump out of the water and wave to us, we packed up and set off again.
Our next stop wasn’t too far up the road and it was here that one of Paul’s long-held dreams was fulfilled.