Thursday, July 3, 2008

Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk et al

Posts are a little out of order. This trip was undertaken on 29 June 2008.

We’ve had a long period of quiet hibernation at home and I’m starting to climb the walls. The lack of opportunity to walk whilst in the mountains with the nephews has led to a back up jaunt today for sanity’s sake. It was a possibility for our anniversary trip, but what the heck, we decide to take a run down to the southern highlands and check out the Illawarra Fly Tree Top walk.
We’re late getting away it’s 12:45 pm, so we don’t dilly dally with scenic routes today and just head off to Robertson via the quickest route – though that’s not too shabby for scenery in any case. It is again glorious sunny winter weather and as we pull up at the carpark we shouldn't be so surprised to see the huge number of cars in the carpark displaying number plates from a range of States and the ACT. They’ve built a very large carpark, and clearly their estimate of what would be required is pretty much on the mark, though there’s no need to hunt for a space at this stage.
When last I was here very shortly after opening it looked like some aspects of construction weren’t quite done with with trucks and so on still on site. Today things are clearly rocking along, but it gives off a strong whiff of tourist trap. On a busy day this late in the afternoon it’s looking a bit tired with the heavy patronage. There are still people lining up for tickets and after a quick check of the café we join them and say goodbye to $19 per adult. We are given a map along with a brief verbal description of the walk and are advised that the walk should take about 45 minutes.
We head off down the track lined with recent plantings. Along the way are a series of numbered information points with brief text in our map brochure to match the numbered points. The number signs are positioned fairly hastily and though I’ve done this kind of walk a number of times in similar vegetation communities I don’t find it easy to identify the particular plant they are talking about. As we round a corner the path heads suddenly downhill quite steeply and I am very glad I didn’t bring my mum. There is a roar of noise of people coming from the direction of the walk, which doesn’t bode well I think to myself. We commence on the suspended walk itself and I’m a bit bemused by the level of noise the whole contraption makes. It creaks and groans with ours and other peoples activity along the walkway. The forest below shows the signs of the construction process, but has been planted out and mulched in the disrupted areas and they seem to have kept the disruption to a minimum. It’s kind of interesting looking down on the tree ferns from above, but it’s not mind blowingly awesome and anyway I don’t like looking down very much…so maybe I'm not a good judge. The views along the walk itself are very lovely, but fairly typical for the area. We climb up Knights Tower which is a sort of crows nest and the views from there are about as good as it gets over lake Illawarra and the ocean as well as inland to the ranges. To the east and slightly south is Bass Point. As I emerge from the staircase I run straight into a work colleague and his family – small world, but then he does live not so far away from here. We take our time over the view and climb down. The next viewing spot is out to the eastern extremity of the walk and the views are fairly similar. Knights Tower is the killer view though. Nothing much to detain us so we head on up the hill and notice that there is a collection point for people with mobility problems. These people are collected in a kind of golf buggy type vehicle. As predicted we are done and dusted in about 45 minutes. Not a bird in sight in the treetops. Can’t blame them. If I was a bird I’d keep well away. Perhaps in time it will all settle down a bit.
I decide to show hubby the competition and take him down to Illawarra lookout in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. This is more my style for interacting with nature. There are already – or should that be still – flowers in the heath. Bright little tea tree stars brighten the greyish green of the heath land and banksias are flowering in profusion. Along the walk we suddenly come across a hot spot of birds. A grey shrike thrush, the ubiquitous New Holland Honeyeaters, eastern spinebills, thornbills, yellow faced honeyeaters. After a while I spot a lewins honeyeater. After watching the spinebills and the new hollands flitting about the lewins looks huge, though it also is not a very big bird. Crimson rosellas fligh past to alight on a low tree about 20 metres off. Maybe nothing terribly unusual but this is heaven to me anyhow. Last time I came here on this very path I happened upon a conference of spotted pardalotes. Dozens of spotted pardolotes, close enough to see with the naked eye males, females, youngsters. Unreal. They have to be up there with the most beautiful Australian birds, though this exquisite little bird is also very tiny. They were landing on the ground in front of me, perching in groups of a dozen or more in one small open branched shrub, then gradually flitting of to another nearby perch. I was absolutely transfixed with sheer joy in watching them.
After a little while I catch up with hubby who a little way further on at the turn off to the lookout. We take in the wonderful view. Naturally I say – see – this is the competition. Free.
We set of back to the car. As we walk the views to the west are expansive. We set a course for Berrima to check out the eating options. It’s 5 oclock and we’re a little early for the Journeyman with reopens for dinner at 5:30. The restaurant across the road is closed Sunday night. We couldn’t be bothered waiting around, though Berrima is quiet with the day trippers and weekenders having departed. There is the sniff of woodsmoke in the crisp mountain air. It is delightful. We hop back in the car and head home.
Along the way we spot a wombat walking towards the road. We slow and hope he doesn’t venture out. He’s safe as we pass but there is a steady stream of cars behind us. Hopefully they will keep their wits about them at this dangerous evening time period.
Travelling back along the highway the sky is a fairy floss confection of pale orange, pink and purple. We watch as the orange fades out and the deeper purples blend in with the pink and then that ruddy smudge at the horizon behind the silhouette of trees and finally the darkness.
Another lovely afternoon in the highlands.
Thinking about the Illawarra fly I conclude that it is, and will be a very valuable additional to the local scene. You can do a day trip down from Sydney on the Cockatoo Run – a heritage rail trip on an old scenic rail line no longer used for the main stream railways. It stops with views over the coast also and has an option where they provide a coach to take you to the Illawarra fly then back for the return trip on the train. Not everyone can hire a car while in Sydney and there’s no need to go into the Barren Grounds as well as the visit the Fly. This is good. Not everyone appreciates the beauty of the heathland, whereas many enjoy the rainforest. It reduces pressure on this critical wildlife habitat that the reserve protects. So I would encourage visitors to support the fly… and you really won’t see a better view of the coast than it provides.
The website for the fly says it is awesome in the mist and I can well imagine that would be true. Like walking suspended in a cloud.

barren grounds link

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