Thursday, April 13, 2017

Camping in New South Wales Australia, December 2016 (Part 1)

Australia has been destined as our camping trip for our family holiday for many years. This time, we travelled to New South Wales, Australia during the year end school holidays 2016. To accommodate our family of three comfortably, we upgraded to a bigger tent.

The route covered Blue Mountain, Hunter Valley, Port Stephens and Sydney. We did not pitch a tent on the last leg of the itinerary which was in Sydney city. Instead, we put up at the Market Street Hotel which was near to the train station for the convenience and ease of travelling downtown.
It was summer during December.  We planned our 14 days itinerary from 27 Nov 2016 to 10 December 2016 so that it would not coincide with Australian kids school holidays which commenced from mid December 2016 onwards. We spent 4 nights in Katoomba, 2 nights in Hunter Valley, 3 nights Port Stephens 4 nights in Sydney.  This trip was supposed to cover some nature trails and at the same time, satisfy Papa's desire to catch 'Kangaskhan' (Pokémon) there.

Katoomba (Blue Mountain) - Scenic World - Wentworth Falls
It was around 4.10pm when we touched down at Sydney International airport after a frustrating delays of our flight with Scoot, not once but twice!  It was our maiden flight with Scoot Dreamliner and the last flight probably:((  Although Papa got the business class seats for us which was super spacious, lots of leg room and able to recline comfortably, I have difficulty in getting a good sleep onboard.  Because of the delay, we were caught in a traffice jam on the highway heading to Katoomba. There was a light drizzle and mist as we approached Katoomba.  Katoomba is a town close to the stunning attractions of Blue Mountains and many more.  Our tent site was located at Katoomba Falls Tourist Park which was walking distance to the famous Three Sisters, Scenic World Skyway and Katoomba town.  It was cold, wet and misty as we pitched our tent at night.  Temper flared as our clumsy son attempted to help Papa.  I was irritated by Papa's body language and harch words used towards a child. My son was being elbowed, pushed away and demanded to get out of the way!  "Why did Papa push me?" he whispered softly.  Feeling hurt, my boy stepped aside and watched quietly till the father finished.  Stomach rumbled and the kid was famished.  We were lucky that Woolsworth supermarket opened till 10.00pm.  I was too tired to cook at the camp kitchen.  So, we ate instant noodles we bought from the supermarket.  For the first time, I fed my kid with instant noodle.  "So yummy!" he commented as he wolfed down the cup noodles. We quickly changed into clean clothes after a nice warm shower and snuggled into our tent, wrapped ourselves with down feathers sleeping bag.  Temperature fell to 14 degree celsius outside the tent.  The cold crisp air sent us to dreamland almost immediately. 

Reading corner at the Camp kitchen

Scenic World
We were grateful for Papa to have the tent pitched despite his obnoxious mannerism.  We woke up fresh and energetic after a restful night.  And we ventured out to the famous Scenic World Skyway after a simple breakfast; bread spread with peanut butter and chia seeds.  Originally, it was a coal mine railway that carried tourists on weekends and holidays.  Till the Hammon family bought over and developed into the Scenic Skyway.  Getting around was easy.  First, we took the the famous giant skyway with a see through glass floor panel.   It was a breathtaking sight in the blue mountains surrounded by lush greenery.  The stunning Three Sisters was just magnificent where we could see it closer from the giant skyway.  Next, we rode the cableway as well as the steepest railway; a remnant of the the area's coal mining days.  The young boy loved the 'cliffhanger' thrill of the railway ride so much that we went back a few times. Then, we did the Giant Stairway trail from the Echo point.  Lots of steep stairs to climb but we were rewarded with fantastic view.  It was absolutely worth it!  We made it to the honeymoon bridge leading to the first Sister and did not go beyond because our legs began to wobble.

*********** Honeymoon Bridge ****************


Cross over
On the bridge

First Sister

Wentworth Fall
Next day, we hiked up Wentworth Fall undertaking the National Pass route, a 4.5km loop trail. We began at the Wentworth Falls picnic area and ended at the Conservation Hut.   It was the best bushwalks in Australia we ever had and were so proud that we accomplished Grade 4 hike which took us about 4 hours.  Despite being slow, we took our time and enjoyed the different landscape endowed with spectacular views; the Grand Stairway, cliff edges, beautiful cascading waterfalls...etc  At the Grand Stairway, we were marveled at how the historic Grand Stairway was built by hands using picks and shovels and dynamite in the old days. The commemorative plaques and information panels installed on the claystone provides visitor glimpse of the history and restoration work . 

After descended down many steep stairs, we reached the bottom of Wentworth fall.  At this point, we were exhilarated and exclaimed : "We made it!"  Be mindful of the slippery rocks because we witnessed a young lady lost her footing and slid right into the freezing water.  Luckily, it was shallow and she quickly pulled herself up.   The crystal clear icy cold water was inviting.  The kid could not wait to dip into water for a splash.  Unfortunately, we did not bring extra clothing.  Hence, we took some pictures and soaked our bare feets in the water.  Soothing and relaxing indeed! 

There was not a single dull moment in the entire trail.  We ducked under the overhang clay cliff, walked on the unfenced ledges and slippery rocks. Trying to spot any lyrebirds and water dragon but there were nowhere at sight.  Instead, we were greeted with a large black bird that responded enthusiastically to our call.   A lighted hearted moment that we found it amusing. We lingered on that spot for a while before moving on when we discovered swarm of mosquito waiting for a feast.  The national park was well installed with handrails and some parts, sandstone blocks, making it safe and fun to walk.  As we headed back to the Conversation Hut, we passed by Emerald Fall where we saw a few people abseiling down the waterfall.  My son was in awe of their adventure.  Midway, we also met a hiker who asked for food.  We did not carry any food as our plan was to walk back to the café at Conversation Hut for lunch.  At the café, locals were having their afternoon tea by the time we arrived.  We were daunted at first if we could complete the hike with my 8 years old boy.  But I was glad that we did it!  It was an awesome hike and I strongly recommended it.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to Wentworth Fall lake for a stroll.  We sat on a bench enjoying the breeze while my boy chased after the ducks with his new found Aussie girlfriend and the latter's baby brother in the park.  It was such a pure bliss.
Grand Stairway

Govetts Leap - Katoomba Fall
On our last day in Katoomba, a thunderstorm was forecasted.  Hence,  Papa planned for a short hike to Govetts Leap lookout, Blackhealth.  There,  we sighted a water dragon sun bathing on a rock! Slowly, the sky began to overcast, we hurried back to camp site to collect our washed clothes which we had sun it earlier in the morning.  As predicted, torrential rain was pouring cats and dogs by afternoon.  We took shelther in Katoomba town and shopped at the camping stores there till the rain stopped.  The boys bought Macpac backpack each for themselves.  Back at the campsite, we were surprised to see many wild cockatoos around the park, seemingly busy eating. My boy tried to feed them and got bitten on his fingers

Staying so near to Katoomba Fall, we have yet to explore the area.  Because it was wet, muddy and slippery after the rain, we took a stroll down the trail but did not complete it in the evening.  Instead, we drove to Echo Point for the last glimpse of the Three Sister. Sunset was beautiful like a perfect orange egg yolk. The night was chilling but the gorgeous Three Sisters glowed like a proud peacock as the spotlight shone on it.

Till now, my boy is still reminiscing the fond memories of our hikes in Katoomba.  Wish we could have stayed longer.

Stay tune for our next adventure in Part 2.

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