Monday, May 12, 2008

Pulpit Rock

It’s been building for a while. It’s time we went for a walk. It is the mother’s day weekend, so on the whole we’re a bit restricted. Son2 is coming over and it’s a good opportunity to get some learner hours up and walk as well. Kill two birds with the one stone. We are inordinately late getting away, what with Son2’s late rise, late brekkie then lunch…. people who work out have to eat and sleep a lot… it’s always a challenge getting going with Son2 in the mix. It’s lovely to see him though, he works tomorrow so today it is.
Past midday and speed restricted we take the scenic route up the Northern Road from Macarthur. This is a beautifully scenic drive through rolling dales of rich well covered golden pastures, spotted with farm dams reflecting deep blue from the sky. The ridges of the Blue Mountains across the river form a beautiful border to a cloud spotted sky. Glorious.
We make the turn into the M4 for the run up the mountains to Blackheath. Our chosen destination for today. Conversation dominates as we wind up through the long succession of mountain villages. Lower mountain villages appear to be feeling the spill over from the surge in tourism in recent times.
Son2 is hungry again by the time we reach Blackheath. We miss a turn, but that’s a blessing as we meander down a local backstreet arched with the red and gold mix of spectacular autumn foliage. We take a little while moseying along reading through the menus of different outlets. We cross to check out Ashcrofts (one hat) it’s not open for lunch at the time and in any case the menu doesn’t grab me.. and we’re here to walk not eat…. Well that’s the theory anyway LOL. Finally after too much mutual deferral around the group we settle on a table at the Victory CafĂ© at the antique centre. Service was adequate but nothing more. Food was fine, but nothing to write home about. The most impressive aspect I think is that they have a number of dishes on their menu suitable for vegetarian and gluten free.
.finally … I manage to drag son2 and party out of Blackheath and we proceed down to Govett’s Leap with walking in mind. Daughter opts to stay in the car to do some study. Hubby, Son2 and I head off down the hill. It’s 3:30pm so not much time up our sleeves. The view from Govett’s Leap is wonderful. Expansive and interesting cliff faces weaving towering balustrades to the wilderness of the Grose (?) Valley. It is decidedly downhill to the start of the walk to Pulpit Rock, which stands like a single sister on the left hand side of the view. Recent chats on the internet having sparked my interest in this walk I haven’t tried before.
The first section of the walk is labelled for one of the waterfalls. It is old school Blue Mountain walking. The track is graded medium, but it’s pretty challenging. Few level sections, many steep gradients and rough bush stairs hewn into the rocks. Brief level sections are mostly quite wet and boggy. Branches have been thrown in the mud to give something of a firm footing to pick your way across the mud, but they don’t look too inviting. The flattened vegetation indicates that most people pick their way around rather than through via the branches. The going is slow. In places the stairs are greased with dark wet mud and sand swept over the rocks by the seepage that exudes from the rock edges along the path. A sort of hanging swamp effect. The edges of the path are dotted with the rich ruby rosettes of small sundews, glistening with sticky droplets on each hairy leaf.
No railings or even tree trunks close by for easy hand hold. We all take our time getting along. None the less, never ones to miss an opportunity my jeans decide to self medicate a mineral deficiency and I slip in the mud, causing a mix of amusement and concern to those behind me. No harm done. At least the mud is sufficiently wet and sandy that my hands aren’t too filthy. And at least I didn’t land on my bum which would be a pain on the way home. I think I removed the old sheet we use for such things out of the boot not long ago….hmm
We pull up at the lookouts, which are quite exposed and apparently accessible to helicopter drops. Large bags of supplies are bundled at the lookout, and other clear sites along the way ready for the commencement of track remediation. It is possible to volunteer to help with restoring the tracks in the national park. Some quite good weekend deals are available through Conservation Volunteers. Anyway we admire the view down to an adjacent waterfall and the pool below. A natural curve in the escarpment is beautifully decorated with ferns and moss and all sorts of greenery as the moisture seeps down the rock face. Hubby and Son2 toss some small pieces of bark over the edge to watch them spin and twist and be caught by the mild updrafts as they make their way slowly to the valley below.
Skimming stones is one of the great family pastimes especially for the men in the family… but mum the wet blanket puts a stop to any thoughts of tossing any substantial object over into the valley.. irrespective of the appearance of wilderness you never know who might be below and even light things can become deadly falling from heights… even if people aren’t about who knows what wildlife could be caught by surprise…
After a while we come to a substantial little creek (which no doubt feeds the waterfall) at the turn to another track that leads back up to Blackheath via something or other Glen. Signs we have passed have warned not to drink the water. Too much run off from human habitation at this spot. A moment or two to identify the crossing point - a set of stepping rocks -and we head up the equally steep incline on the other side. We persevere to the top of the next hill and the lookout there. The visibility is declining as the air cools and a thin white curtain manifests across the valley. We agree to head back.
The slippery wet stair section is less intimidating on the way back up. We stop again near the waterfall lookout and son, who has been carrying his water bottle, has a brain wave and decides to toss water over the edge. The water forms large shining droplets that waggle and shimmer and break apart and slam into each other appearing to almost vaporise before reaching the vegetation below. Awesome. A very enjoyable experiment so it gets repeated. Son2 is in awe and makes a note to come back armed with large quantities of water for tossing… no doubt he and his brother and dad could have a great time studying falling water droplets…
We manage to make our way back to the main lookout and the car without further incident. With night rapidly encroaching we make a bee line down Hat Head road to the Pulpit Rock lookout. The road eventually turns to a mix of sealed and unsealed, but nothing dramatic. Fine for a 2WD.
The parking area at Pulpit Rock is rudimentary to say the least, just one parking bay, with a couple of other areas to pull over OK. The offspring are happy to stay in the car so hubby and I wander down the 15 min track to the lookout. The track passes an old stone picnic hut and some facilities. It is pretty much a series of stairs downhill to a series of levels with lookouts across the valley. The rock is well named. It stands out into the valley ..well… like a pulpit actually. One of the upper levels you can see to the cliffs across to the north. The sun is setting and these cliffs are in position to catch it. They are glowing like they are lit by fire from within. A rich glowing pink/red. For all the world like the glowing embers of a fire, where the interior of the log shines red with an outer tracery of black filigree. Fantastic!! I draw the line at going right down on to the pulpit, but hubby is drawn down there. I’m intent on watching the fire show on the upper lookout.
As the light really starts to fail we start the climb back up to the car. Calls of creaking doors. I stop to listen to the gang gang cockatoos and think of the father and baby bird we spied in Canberra. I lag behind and pass through a small hot spot of birds. The light is very bad for birding and don’t the birds know it! There is clearly a range of species with a variety of calls from the small bush birds that are my favourites. A flutter of wings and a flash across the path in front of me, I follow the bird with my eyes and am delighted to see an Eastern Spinebill land in the shrubbery. It hovers hummingbird-like to feed momentarily before landing again nearby. Delightful.
Greeted by the kids, we rub it in that they’ve just missed the best Blue Mountains scenery we’ve ever seen. Magnificent. Well be back sometime for sure. Son2 is a bit over the driving and is feeling a bit sleepy, so hubby takes the wheel for a quick trip in on the M4 to drop Son2 home to Coogee. As we return up Hat Head road a couple of yellow tailed black cockatoos call and rise from the roadside vegetation. They fly in the direction we are travelling giving us a great look… a lovely farewell to the National Park.