Day 3: WAY OUT-OF-THE-WAY SIDE TRIP
After spending a couple of days in Sydney to get accustomed to the local time zone, we had no trouble checking out of the Leisure Inn Park Regis in Sydney’s CBD at 6am and motoring our way out of the city and into the Blue Mountains. In my mind, it was the first day of nature touring and given the rain of the last couple of days, I was anxious to see if there would be waterfalls flowing up in the mountains.
And so there we were – back out on the highway driving on the left side of the road. It didn’t take long before we had to dump some coins at a toll station (very reminiscent of Norway) as we had left Sydney. I sure hoped there weren’t many of these. I didn’t recall seeing any of these in our last trip to Oz six months ago. They didn’t take credit cards either so that was a bit of a nuissance.
The plan for today was to head for the Kanangra Walls, which were well past the Jenolan Caves, which in turn was well past our accommodation at the Katoomba Town Centre Motel in Katoomba. We were on the hunt for Kanangra and Kalang Falls as well as some arches near the Jenolan Caves. Then, we would spend the remaining hours of the day looking for more waterfalls and views in the Blue Mountains itself.
By 7:46am, we had made it to the Katoomba Town Center. It was already biting cold and the rain and wind made it very undesirable to be outside the warmth of the car.
It was still too early to check in to our the Katoomba Town Centre Motel, but we did pick up some meat pies for breakfast (or brekkie as the locals would say). By 8:15am, we continued to head further west.
It took over another hour or so of driving on a combination of well-paved (albeit hilly and curvy) mountain roads. The whole time I was worried about cops and kangaroos so I was passed on numerous occassions by other motorists. But eventually at 9:25am, we drove our right through an impressive arch called the Grand Arch before getting to the parking lot for the Jenolan Caves.
We had spent some time walking around the facility and checking out the maps. After seeing what tours were available and when they took off, we opted not to do them. Besides, we had already seen numerous caves in the past so we weren’t regretting this decision. Instead, we decided to walk to the Carlotta Arch from the back at 10:25am. The stairs going up to the arch from the front leading away from the front of the Grand Arch was closed probably due to cliff instability. So we took the longer back approach instead.
And so we wasted no time in getting up to the arch and back. We couldn’t actually get good views of the arch because they closed the trail leading closer to the arch’s opening from its back as well. So I went past the barricade and took whatever photos I could before getting back up to safety. By 10:41am, we were back at the car.
Next, we proceeded to continue driving towards the Kanangra Walls. The road had been paved but single-lane and winding in many spots around the Jenolan Caves area. Once we climbed out of the canyon, we took the spur road leading to Kanangra Walls, which was unsealed.
The unsealed road was pretty wide and not too rough. Julie scared me when she saw a kangaroo hopping before us and gasped. Not wanting a repeat experience from the last trip, I was especially keen of these guys jumping in front of us even in broad daylight!
Finally at 11:23am, we arrived at the Kanangra Walls car park. There were quite a few other cars here, but I honestly couldn’t tell where these people went. It sort of seemed like we had this area to ourselves.
So off we went on the trail in search of the waterfall here.
The walls were basically a long section of exposed cliff averaging about 130m (roughly 400ft) in height. It was quite an impressive sight and it was also possible to see other features in the distance including Lake Burragorang – Sydney’s water supply.
As we continued our walk, we were quickly confronted with some signs indicating the 1-hour return Waterfall Walk. Apparently it headed to Kalang Falls, but I was a bit puzzled as to where Kanangra Falls was.
I figured we could see Kalang Falls first before looking for Kanangra Falls and so that we did. We headed down the steps with some slippery parts. Eventually, we made it down to the Kanangra Brook where some precarious (i.e. slippery) scrambling took us right to the plunge pool of the falls.
Unfortunately, the falls were not flowing particularly well. Apparently, the rains of the last few days either didn’t touch this area or it simply wasn’t enough to rescue this waterfall. It began to make me wonder whether this was why Kanangra Falls couldn’t be seen. It also made me wonder whether the rest of our waterfall-viewing experience would be as disappointing as this considering the drought they’re in.
So after spending some time looking at these disappointing falls, we headed back up. Julie continued to the car while I went looking for the so-called Turat Lookout. After a few minutes of futile searching and tolerating the noise pollution of dirt bikers who used the trail as their road, I rejoined Julie in the car. By then, it was 12:52pm.
As we proceeded to drive back to Blue Mountains, I couldn’t help but feel how this detour out to the Kanangra Walls wasn’t what I hoped it would be. Now I also feared our Blue Mountains experience wouldn’t be up to par either. But now that were here – thousands of miles away from home with nearly four more weeks to go – there was no stopping what we were going to do anyways…
There was an expansive overlook adjacent to the car park. From here, we could see deep forested valleys below us with some exposed cliffs towering over the scene. Off to the far right was a light but free-falling waterfall known as Bridal Veil Falls.
The falls was certainly what I expected from our preliminary trip reports. Sometimes I wondered whether it always flows this way or if it has a very short season and shouldn’t really count as a legitimate waterfall.
There were walking tracks that were supposed to take you closer so we decided to spend a few minutes to check them out. The first track we took promised to get us a better look at Bridal Veil Falls, but it didn’t really deliver. There was too much foliage obstructing the view.
That was pretty much what we wanted to know. No falls, then no further exertion on our part – especially since Julie had already indicated we had to get back to Katoomba before 4pm.
But the weather quickly deteriorated into overwhelming fog and rain. At 4:15pm, we decided to first check out Echo Point, where we might finally see the Three Sisters. But as we had feared, we couldn’t see a thing and the rain was miserable. We also couldn’t find legal parking so we just parked on the street with no intention to pay at the self-help kiosk.
We sought shelter in the visitor center looking for maps and literature that might help us on this trip or for our trip logging. But other than that, we didn’t get much out of this visit.
So ten minutes later, we got back in the car and arrived at the Katoomba Falls kiosk just after 4:30pm.
But again, it was very rainy and foggy. So we gave up on any additional walking and waterfall viewing. The kiosk was also closed so it wasn’t like we could chill out inside and try to wait for an opportunity to see the falls if the weather would improve.
Not knowing what to do, we returned to Echo Point and back to their visitor center. We ended up buying some Blue Mountains maps but really didn’t do much else. We did momentarily see the Three Sisters from inside the visitor center, but we decided to try again tomorrow.
At 6:30pm, we were left with the task of trying to figure out where to eat. After seeing this expensive but tasty-looking cash only place called Paragon Cafe (which indicated they were open but their doors were locked), we ended up eating at Cafe Zuppa in the town center. It had been six months since we had sticky date pudding and of course we had to have that for dessert.
So with the weather not cooperating this afternoon, we had a lot to do tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will let up somewhat. And with that we went to sleep.