Thursday, January 3, 2008

Water comes up, Water goes down

Today daughter and I are off for a jaunt. The weather is a bit changeable, showers passing, abundant clouds but also periods of sunshine. The temperature is moderate forecast highs of early 20s C. Beautiful for a drive. Having considered the options and our late start (about 10:30 ish) we’ve opted for the waterfalls of the southern highlands. We head down the scenic route from Camden and the villages of Picton, Buxton and Tahmoor, Yerrinbool once again ending up on the Old South Road, and Range road, which you may have read about in the post of 13 October 2007. The scenic route from Camden is a very pretty alternative to the highway if you’re not in a hurry – or on restricted speed like my L driver. Today we’re up for Robertson’s shops. It’s lunch time more or less and we could use a rest stop. The views are tempting from the cafĂ©, but we’re not in the mood for something that substantial. I follow daughter belatedly into the ice cream shop, and get my arm twisted to get some icecream. Boy, I’m glad I did! Truly superior product at very reasonable prices. Made on the premises. Full of the most authentic flavour, glorious texture. The pick of our selections was the Pear and Cinnamon. You can really taste the pear. Very unusual and delicious. I teamed that with the coffee option, which was also absolutely delicious. The lady obligingly allowed me to have one scoop’s worth with two flavours. Daughter got two scoops and selected honey almond and raspberry with white chocolate. The honey uses .. I think it was Blue Gum honey and you can really taste that authentic flavour. Plentiful almonds. The raspberry was full of fruit. Truly the best icecream product I have had in this country – I’m still nurturing fond memories of the Cold Stone Creamery in Kansas City – but this is just as good (LOL) and very very fresh cones. Superb. Daughter also buys some nougat which was expensive but high quality. Not as good as the pistachio and cranberry nougat we got at the corner store in Central Tilba though. That was nougat perfection and has yet to be beaten. Next stop we are tempted into Gallery Serpentine to look at the corsetry. Daughter tries on a lovely blue underbust corset and a few others. They’d make very attractive formal wear and she is much taken with them. Though some insight is gained as to why lady’s maids were necessary in the days were corsets were the mandatory apparel. Very interesting. Having consumed quite a bit of time we’re back on the road. To balance the sugar and fat of the icecream we opt for some more fat and head to the Robertson Pie Shop for a sausage roll to share. Fairly average. You can get better, but it was OK. We spend 25 cents of remaining spare change on a few Cobbers and gummy lollies. This is THE best lolly shop for buying a few of this or that. Everything very fresh. Fresh Cobbers. Hard to find and hard to beat. They don’t have a huge range here, but they do have a high turnover which is the most important thing. Plenty of places in these tourist prone towns have lolly shops that aim to stock every lolly made on earth, but they generally have minimum purchases and the stock could be fresher. Anyway, fortified we are off to Belmore Falls. View from Hindmarsh lookout. We stop first at Hindmarsh Lookout. This provides glorious views over the valley – Kangaroo Valley? We take our fill of the view and walk the brief track around to the falls viewing area. All the rain of recent times has the falls flowing beautifully and the bushland is full of new growth and wildflowers. Belmore Falls I am particularly taken with a clump of grasses replete with seed heads picturesquely nestled at the base of a tree on the edge of the cliff. The white tea tree flowers are particularly cheerful here and all over the highlands, but there’s also broad leaf geebung in cheerful yellow tubes, and the sentimental favourite – the red mountain devil which will form a seed pod shaped like a horned devil’s head from which little devils are, or used to be, made to sell to tourists in the Blue Mountains. There are also lovely tiny star daisies in clumps, another creamy flower which looks like some sort of pimelia type thing, and another rather like a bottlebrush in soft red. The isopogon flowers of spring have given way to the drumstick heads that give it it’s common name. Even some beautiful purple pea sprays of a hardenbergia climbing up the wire mesh of the fence on the way back up the path. It’s starting to spit lightly with rain so we head back to the car to resume our journey. We’re winging it today so now we have to decide where next? As the falls are flowing very well, we decide to back track through Robertson and visit Carrington Falls. To get there we go back down to the Jamberoo Mountain road, opposite the Pie shop. We don’t stop at the lookouts over the escarpment and Lake Illawarra today, but head determinedly to the falls area. All day we’ve been travelling through verdant pastures with beautiful cattle and expansive views with our spirits soaring. The highlands is beautiful at any time , but in a good year for rain it’s spectacularly lovely. It’s quite a while since we’ve visited these waterfalls. Carrington Falls The kids always liked Carrington Falls when they were small, they were harder to get to back then. Now the roads are better and the facilities a bit better maintained/constructed. The path is paved and even making access to the lookout to the falls easier, though it is a reasonable slope for anyone with a disability or mobility problem. The falls look gorgeous. There are interpretative signs along the paths identifying the plants. Having admired the falls, we follow the path around. It leads to a section of steep metal grill steps that lead down a sharp gully by a natural tunnel in the rock and back up to the upper falls area where there is a rocky area that’s fun for kids to play. I enjoy watching a little boy chasing water skinks with great enthusiasm. (He’s got no chance…. Well I always thought so with my younger son too, but he was extraordinary and could generally catch them – even when they were right near their favourite crevice!. Most kids have got no chance! Those lizards are FAST.) Daughter recalls coming here when she was little and there were dark frogs in the pools. Is there any better way to spend a day with young children than taking them out to run wild in the bush? Ah, how I look forward to taking the grandkids places like this when they come along. There’s a deep waterhole here where swimming is possible, no signs prohibiting. Most people here are geared up to get wet, but noone is swimming in the deep pools. You need to be very cautious in such locations as the swimming is innately dangerous where underwater snags are unseen – and the water is probably very cold LOL. The picnic area back at the cars we note has wood bbq sites. A good spot for a picnic in a few weeks if the weather is good. We reckon my little nephews would enjoy it. An alternative to Leura Cascades which is hard to beat for a fun picnic and bushwalk for the littlies. Last Australia Day weekend picnic, my older daughter caught a yabby in Leura Cascades and the preschooler and baby had a ball letting leaves go to race like boats down the cascades over and over! Great fun! We tear ourselves away yet again and suddenly wonder if the seas are still huge – perhaps the Blowhole at Kiami is putting on a show? It’s just a hop and a skip down the road from here. Recently the cyclones forming off Queensland had enraged the seas so much all the Sydney beaches had to be closed. On new years day, the surf at Coogee was very rough and dangerous and daughter got a big fright, narrowly escaping having to be rescued. So it’s down the Jamberoo Mountain Road we go. There is no end to the beauty driving around this part of NSW and this road is no excepting. Steep, hairpin curves, but a very very lovely drive. Daughter is well practiced at downhill challenges by now LOL. We head in to Kiama, noting the tempting outlets for fish and chips. The whole place is very tidy and up-market. We do the obligatory thing and head first to Blowhole point. Park and wander over to the (very dangerous) blowhole, which finally after several fatalities on the one day they completely fenced. It’s hard to think of anything else looking at this site. If you fall in this hole, you are dead for certain. No chance of rescue in time. How anyone could let their kids get close enough to fall in is beyond me. But one day that’s exactly what happened. A couple of little kids fell in then adults tried to save them by jumping in. All dead. Very sad. Anyway, the unfortunate thing about this blow hole is the entrance faces the wrong way for the swell today at least, but I’d say most of the time really. But we can see the little blowhole performing down to the south and we decide to take off there. Back in to town you turn at the post office and follow the signs. The next turn is signposted just before the caltex petrol station. The little blowhole is at a reserve in a mostly residential area and it is much more fun that the big one on Blowhole Point. Angled to catch the swell it sends up regular jets of water high in the air. Well worth a look and there’s a coastal walk you can talk around the headland. The shadows are lengthening so we get back on the road. We have a choice to go home the quick way or head back through Berry and Kangaroo Valley… no competition. We choose the most scenic route and head south to Berry. This stretch of the coast is I believe our favourite part of coastal NSW. It is simply spectacular. Glorious ocean and lush rural views, the massive escarpment and brooding clouds a magnificent backdrop to both. Stunning. Berry is a busy popular spot, but we don’t stop today. We take the Kangaroo Valley road, shaded and green after the rain. It becomes apparent we have provided more schooling on steep downhills, than on steep uphills, so that’s good. A handy opportunity for tutelage. We can feel the cold nip in the air as we climb the mountain. A welcome relief from the steamy heat of the coast today. The break in the rain and dull light has brought the birds out and we thrill as we disturb a male lyrebird scratching on the side of the road and he scuttles slowly off into the undergrowth not overly fussed. Not far along and what looked like a female satin bowerbird is disturbed from a roadside post. An Eastern Whipbird calls from a gully alongside the road. I’m not the only one who loves the rain! Normally we would turn to Cambewarra lookout and head in along the main drag into the valley for the expansive views all along the way, but today we’re in the mood to explore and so we follow the back road down shady avenues and then into the valley itself. No views to speak of but very lovely just the same. It’s about 6pm by now and we pull up for another break and call home. A drink at the Friendly Inn. Deserving of the name we found. Humourous ditties from the Rutles spinning in both our minds tonight and making us smile we can’t help singing softly to eachother … “I have always thought in the back of my mind - cheese and onions…..” I swear Eric Idle is a comedy genius!. Daughter is frustrated we don’t have time for a game of pool. Ah, if hubby was with us I’d walk into that classy looking motel across the road and enquire about a room. Why don’t we spend whole weekends down here? The down side of being an easy day trip away I suppose. It’s clearly been raining in the valley, I just love this kind of weather. Life would be so dull if you only ventured out on days that are fine and sunny and cloudless. You’d miss the clouds and sunbursts across the landscape. Next pause Fitzroy Falls, but it’s raining more heavily than I’m prepared to withstand and we neglected to pack our rain jackets or an umbrella. Oh well, maybe next time. I bet it’s flowing even better than usual with it’s artificially maintained flow. We punch straight on back in to Bowral and Mittagong and given the time, daughter hands the controls over for a fast run up the highway to home, arriving back at about 7:45. What a great day. Oh how we love a scenic drive and it just does not get better than the southern highlands and Illawarra coast in a good year for rain!
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