According to the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney and its eastern seaboard neighbours had the wettest March since 1975. It was getting to where I considered buying a raincoat and wellingtons. Of late though, our autumn weather has been spectacularly pleasant. Today, for example, is 22’c / 71’F with clear, sunny skies punctuated with fluffy clouds.
The perfect conditions to have two of the grandchildren for a four day visit. The first two day’s activities centred around the beach followed by the swimming pool, but on the third day, we packed a picnic lunch and went off exploring.
We started with a drive up into the escarpment behind us, to take in the scenery from the Mount Keira lookout.
In the below shot, you can see the main road snaking up Mount Ousley which is our starting point for driving north to Sydney. It is often fog bound even if it is clear on the coast. I came home in a lashing thunderstorm last month, and I can tell you it was hazard lights all the way!
Moving the camera slightly to the right, and you can see how the residents of this part of the coastline are sandwiched between the ocean and the escarpment.
In the next shot, taken looking straight ahead over Wollongong from the lookout, the little blurs on the ocean are the various ships waiting for a berth at Port Kembla. Mostly coal carriers and some other bulk vessels. The car carriers are on a tight schedule and come and go within the day.
Slightly further to the right, and you can see the sprawl of Wollongong city and its suburbs.
Port Kembla is a short distance further south. In this shot you can just make out the water of Lake Illawarra on the far right. It demonstrates the narrow isthmus which separates the lake from the Pacific Ocean.
I tried to zoom in on my phone camera, to give a better look at the port. There are grain silos on the left, and coal loading on the right. There is a car carrier in port. The smudge of buildings that it is pointed towards is part of the steel making complex of Blue Scope Steel (formerly BHP).
We then set off for the Fitzroy Falls, situated in the Morton National Park. We chose a long route that took us through the autumnal landscape of the Southern Highlands towns of Mittagong, Bowral and Moss Vale. The temperature drops significantly in this English-like region, so deciduous trees were ablaze with colour.
After fortifying the kidlets with our picnic of fresh bread rolls, ham, left-over lamb roast from Easter Sunday, salad and fruit, we set off on a bush-walk . . . with the promise of more drinks and snacks on their safe return 🙂
We took the West Rim Track, which requires moderate fitness. The track is fully formed, however there are some steep steps, and one small part was water-logged and slippery. It’s not a huge distance, about 4km (2.5 mi) return, but it did feel longer, especially as there is so much to stop and admire. Casual visitors can reach the first lookout within ten minutes and look sideways at the main waterfall. You can make out the structure in this photograph.
Looking straight ahead from that point, you can appreciate what a task the early explorers had to find their way through this rugged landscape with its ridges and ravines.
As you walk on, lookouts lead to other waterfall views. The white streak at the top of the photos is the waterfall of the previous shot.
Then we crossed a ford at the head of one of the waterfalls.
At one point, the grandchildren and I scrambled down a steep, short, damp staircase into a grotto. Bill stayed up top to welcome us back.
Rock erosion forms amazing sculptures. Can you too picture a face in this one?
Autumn wattle was beginning to bloom.
And another wildflower I couldn’t identify.
Our grandson declined to be photographed again, but our grand-daughter was still smiling as we made our way back.
Towards the end of our walk, I heard the familiar sound of a whip-bird, followed closely by the choom-choom of the female. And then . . . another bird, and another bird, then a camera clicking, then the throaty warble of a magpie, followed by various other sounds. All coming from the same place. I pointed out to our grandchildren there was a lyrebird hidden behind a leafy hill. I tried to capture some of his sound, until other walkers came along. Of course, the moment I stopped recording, he went into full throttle mimicry, but here is a taster:
Shortly afterwards, we came across one. This fellow (and it is a male, because he has the show-off tail) must be used to the walkers, as he scratched and strutted happily despite our presence.
Which reminds me that earlier in the walk, we had heard, then seen in flight, three white-tailed black cockatoos. That is a rare sight indeed!
I do hope you can read it, but if not, don’t hesitate to ask me!
We had such a fun time with our grand-children and part of the enjoyment was keeping busy every day without the need to spend oodles of money or be constantly stimulated or entertained by forces beyond nature. That night the four of us chatted over the dinner table and for a long time afterwards until we finally sent them to bed around 11pm. They are old enough now at 14 and 12 (yes folks, that boy is only twelve!) that these are memories that will remain embedded long after we have gone. Just to be sure though, I will use the construct of social media (aka blogging) to preserve this day 🙂