I camped up in this country a couple of years ago with my son and his partner. We drove up from Canberra and through the rolling landscape in the middle of summer. The grass was long and glistened in the wind as we drove by. In the distance, the hills took on a blueish tinge and the tarmac shimmered in the heat of the day. We stopped off at one of two slab timber huts that was built around the beginning of the twentieth century; a lonesome looking place where it’s the owner, a man named David Bradshaw, had lived alone for some twenty-eight years before succumbing to the elements at the ripe old age of seventy-nine
We pitched our tents high on a ridge above one of the many lakes that have been formed to provide water to the Snowy River Hydro Scheme. These are deep and cold and are stocked with trout from the trout hatcheries in the area. Clearly a draw for the many fly and spin fishermen keen to get away for a few days of fishing
Plants at this altitude suffer from the harsh conditions that they face all year round; in winter it is snow and ice while the summer brings high temperatures and little rain. As a result, the shrubs are scrubby low growing woody things and the trees that do grow here often have that tortured shape crafted by the wind and cold. Here in the national park the grasses had dried out and gone to seed. It seemed shorter than that which can be seen blowing in the wind as one drove up the Monaro Hiway. Lichens grow well in this climate, clinging as they do to a range of hosts from rocks to tree branches.
I woke early after a sleep interrupted by a squalling storm that threatened to flatten my tent, despite being tucked among large boulders. The sun had come up watery but soon had burned off any effects of the night before and the warmth was pleasant on my back as I took a walk around the hills behind the camp. It seems that the animal life that can be seen up here was made up of those that had been introduced as the only other species I saw was rabbits. Again these little guys have made the most of the wild country and have established large warrens all about the banks and mounds.
A flock of Yellow Crested Cockatoos, with their raucous calls, were checking out the ground for some early morning sustenance. As I came close they flew off with even louder calls as if in the indignation of my presence.
I came across several brumbies as I made my way across the hills. I also discovered a crisscrossing of trails all over the hills where the brumbies had created single file bare-earth tracks as they made their way to and from their favoured feeding grounds
One of the oldest places you’ll find in Sydney is The Rocks, situated almost beneath the Sydney harbour. It is a warren of streets and alleys that border the old warehouses near Circular Key. While much of it has been modernised there is still an old world charm about the place and it is easy to imagine the folks of early Sydney going about their daily business.
I decided to spend some time looking around and my first stop was in the park by the ferry terminal. Here crowds wandered along, many checking out the huge cruise ship that was tied up at the terminal. Signs alluded to an afternoon departure and many of the crowd towed wheeled suitcases as they made their way to the customs checkpoint.
I spotted an elderly gent sitting doing a crosword. The lines of age told a story of character but I didn’t realise when I took the photo that this was Mr Graham Courtney. I discovered, after talking with another busker, that Mr Courtney could be found doing gigs almost every day along the promenade and had been for years. The fact that he is an octogenarian seemed to slow him down not a bit.
Along the concourse folk took a few moments to stand and watch the buskers who entertained for whatever donations they were able to encourage from the pockets of the punters. I was intrigued with a suitcase that was sitting unattended on the sidewalk. Not a suspicious item in an obvious way but intriguing because it was set up as a makeshift drum. A young lady sitting nearby told me that her boyfriend was the owner and sure enough a young chap approached and began to tune up his guitar ready for a new set.
When I asked his girlfriend, Carolin, if he was any good, she replied that he had an unusual style but that, yes, in her opinion, he was very good. I decided to stay and asked if I could take some photos for my blog. Unfortunately, I only had a few spare coin in my wallet as I don’t tend to carry cash at all, but I emptied them out for the privilege of taking a photo.
We started to talk about the way people disrespect the buskers on the street by taking a photo on their ever handy phone camera without ever bothering to contribute to the entertainment being given by the busker. To me, this is the height of rudeness. These people, would think nothing of spending eighty or more dollars to go to a gig by a famous band, when the gig is right there in front of them.
As it turned out, Jack Dawson was incredibly good. His style was different but the sound addictive. Sitting, as he was, on the old suitcase, thumping out percussion in time to the rhythm of the guitar he soon drew quite a crowd. Jack does a lot of original songs and his CD was available for purchase as well as information to purchase on line.
From here I wandered further along the concourse and came across another crowd of people taking in yet another display of street talent. This time it was Emma Mohsen, a contortionist with a bit of humour. I first saw her in a very compromised position with Col from London who was lifting her up while she held her legs firmly wrapped around behind her neck
For her next trick, she called on Sam from Sydney to assist. She brought out a narrow frame with a very small glass box at the top. She explained that she intended to fold her body inside and shut the door. After some instructions to her volunteer crew she climbed on the back of Sam and proceeded to do exactly what she had said she would.
In no time she was firmly locked inside the glass structure still exhorting all and sundry to add to her donation box.
Moving on passed the wharf I came to the base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This icon of Sydney was opened way back in 1932 and is the sixth longest arch bridge in the world. At its highest point it is 134 metres and until as late as 2012 was the widest long-spanning bridge in the world.
This is a place where tourist from all corners of the world stop to take a memory of their time in Sydney. Ehsan and Rashid from Iran were two such people and I stopped to chat a moment and take a photo on their own camera so that they could both be in it together.
One of the things about travelling is that one can rarely get a photo of everyone in the party without resorting to the dreaded selfie. Offering to take the photo is a great way to strike up a conversation and get to know more about the fellow travellers we share this world with.
From From here the other icon that sits beside Sydney Cove, The Sydney Opera House can be seen across the water. The angle here gives one a good view of the famous sails that make up its profile
The Rocks is as old as Sydney itself, established at the time of the first European settlement. Prior to this was Tallawoladah and the home of the Cadigal people. From the outset of European influence it gained a reputation as a slum and was frequented by convicts and prostitutes pretty much until the 1870’s
The buildings were made of Sandstone and that influence is still apparent to this day. The style of architecture was fairly drab. Tall straight and as featureless as a row of factories, they dominated the narrow alleys that criss-crossed the town.
Today, the Rocks has been reinvented as a tourist mecca with the obligatory market stalls that can be found both inside the sandstone buildings as well as under marques along the narrow streets. Selling all the usual fare that markets the world over do along with a share of Australiana to provide the tourists with a suitable memento of there journeys
And so my wanderings through the tourist mecca of Sydney came to an end and I attempted to find a bus that would take me to Glebe where I was to meet up with a friend. Not such an easy task and I soon decided that I would be far quicker to catch an Uber Car which, as has been my experience so far arrived in but a couple of minutes and I was soon on my way. Jack, my driver, had a great chat as we crossed the few kilometres to my destination. Still new to the job, he had a good knowledge of the city and with his pleasant personality I am sure he will do well in the job. The car was immaculate and at the end of the ride, Jack took some time to help me find the best place to set down, seeing I was a little unsure of my bearings. Thank you Jack..
In the hinterland behind the Sunshine Coast lies a range of mountains….. Well, hills really, called the Blackall Ranges. They run from South to North and are dotted with some great walks of all grades.
Today I walked the Kondalilla Falls Circuit track from the top to the bottom and back. These falls are a part of the Kondalilla National Park and form a part of the Great Australian Walking tracks.
The carpark is really just a large cul-d-sac at the end of the street and from there, one heads down to a grassy area dotted with barbecue facilities and table/chair benches. There are also toilet facilities here which it is wise to take advantage of as there are non further down.
From the bottom of this area a sealed track take you down a few hundred metres to a small bridge. This is wheelchair friendly but the bridge is as far as you go. There are stairs at the other side which would make it difficult
Here there is a fork in the path. The left leads down to the top of the falls and is perhaps the easier track to take. It is also a part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track. The right fork, a part of Kondalilla Falls Circuit, also leads to the falls but is perhaps a steeper path, although easy enough to traverse.
I took the right fork, and would recommend this, as the return journey is easier if you come back the other way. The track wanders through rain forest and you will see Piccabeen Palms and Bunya Pines growing along the way. You may also see some examples of Pink Ash trees which grow in some interesting shapes.
Just above the top of the falls, these two tracks merge before you head down a series of steps to come out at the top of the falls. Here I met a couple who were resting after the long slog back up the side of the hill from the falls. We chatted for a while about the effects of climate change on the forest before we each continued our respective journeys
At the bottom of the next section is the top of the falls and there is a popular swimming hole, just before the water tumbles over the cliff. There is space here to eat a picnic lunch or relax in the sun on the flat rocks around the pool.
For many, this is the end of the trail but I headed down the side of the cliff face following the well formed Sunshine Coast Hinterland Walk track to the bottom.. Along the way there is a look out where you can see the whole of the falls although on this day, after a long dry spell, there was no water to be seen tumbling down the cliff face.
At the bottom, the creek bed is strewn with huge boulders and here and there are small rock pools which are home to the beautiful dragonflies that hunt here.
Heading on I came to another fork. It is here that the Kondalilla Circuit branches off and returns via an easier grade to the top of the falls. There is a saying that what goes up, must come down. In the this case the reverse applied and, having made my way all the way down from the car park, I now had the climb back up to the top.
The route is around 4.7 kms and doing it the way I did, the return journey was just a little easier. Even so it pays to carry plenty of water as the hard bit is at the end. I had two water bottles and had just opened my second when I started my climb. It slipped from my hand and split open on a rock and I watched as it all soaked away into the dry soil.
From the top of the falls there is a section of over 100 stairs and this is perhaps the most punishing part of the trek. Without water, I was in trouble by the time I reached the top and was thankful that the path had levelled out somewhat for the walk back to the bar-b-que area. The real kicker for me was the short walk from there to the car park. I was dehydrated badly and the track seemed almost too steep to tackle.
A short drive down the road to Mapleton and I thankfully pulled in to a service station to top up my water levels, the first bottle barely touching the sides as it went down
All said and done, it was a great walk and I recommend it to anyone with an afternoon on their hands and wondering what to do with it. Just head up the Blackall Range from Nambour or Landsborough and you will find the turn off at Flaxton.