Saturday 1st October 2016
Here is the map of our journey from Manly to Blackheath, the starting point of our ‘expedition’ into the Blue Mountains.
I woke up at 6am, got out of bed, dressed, brekky and then grabbed my 21-kilo backpack and started walking around 6.25am towards Manly wharf along the sea side of North Steyne. It was a beautiful sunny day and there were no waves to surf, which is quite rare in Manly. A great day to head to the mountains! I took right onto ‘The Corso’, the ‘Champs-Elysees’ of Manly where a cool bar had been setup in preparation for the Manly Jazz Festival we were about to miss.
Arrived at Manly Wharf.
I arrived at the ferry earlier than ever! It was 6.47am and the wharf was empty.
Jon arrived shortly after me and then the Narrabeen ferry.
Christina made it just on time, as usual. Christina and I take the 8am ferry together every morning and she always arrives just on time, so I was not too worried to not see her until the last minute. 🙂 And here we were, on the first Saturday ferry, the 7am one, soon in our favourite spot, sitting at the back of the ferry, outside, upstairs and enjoying the view. Bye bye Manly, see you in 2 days!
There was a lot of space so we could put our backpacks on the bench in front of us. On the shot, the great new hiking pant of Christina she bought at Mountain Designs in the week when we met there to purchase the Back Country food bags. She kept telling me how she looooooves her new pant so it had to make it into the photo! Right, Christina? 🙂
We arrived at Circular Quay, seeing for the 100th time the Mighty Opera that I never get tired of photographing.
At Circular Quay we took the train to Central Station. The train was pretty empty.
And soon we were on Platform 7, ready to embark on the train to the Blue Mountains!
Yep, that’s the one! 2h16 minutes and we would arrive in Blackheath station!
Central Station too was empty. A really different vibe from the week peak hours.
We got onto the train. Those seats as most train seats in Sydney are really great because we can slide the back of the seat to make them 2 sitters or 4 sitters and sit to face the direction we want. Pretty cool feature!
The ride was not too special. The three of us were quite tired and slept a bit. I was already hungry again and ate the snack bag I had taken for that day. Right! That started well! What would I eat on the walk then? Luckily, Christina had brought a massive bag of almonds, sultanas, raisins and cranberries she shared around. Roughly 20 minutes before we arrived, we called the Blackheath National Park centre to confirm we could borrow a beacon, which can emit an emergency signal when the antenna is pulled out. We also called the one unique taxi company which operates around Katoomba and Blackheath so a taxi would be waiting for us in Blackheath. We made it to Blackheath around 10.30am. It was raining when we got out of the train. Great!
We got into the taxi which drove us to Blackheath National Park Centre. There I registered to borrow the beacon which is offered for borrowing for free as a security measure. There was quite a lot of questions to answer.
Once we had it, the taxi drove us towards Victoria Falls. The taxi driver had white hair and a long white beard, and sparkling smart happy eyes, he looked like a cool old hippie super friendly dude. We chatted a bit. He was originally from the Snowy Mountains but had then moved to the Blue Mountains where he had been living for most of the past 30 or more years. I asked him which other 3-day hikes were around. He told us about the Kanangra Walls one and told us a cool anecdote. He had dropped a couple there who had then hiked in the wilderness alone for the 3-day hike which is apparently a tougher one than the one we were about to do. And recently they were in the Blue Mountains and he had dropped his daughter in Katoomba somewhere and they had gone to her and told her: ‘Please can you tell your dad that we survived the hike and now we are married.’ That was a cute story! 🙂
We left the normal road and got onto a dirt road. It was funny how our driver knew exactly in and out the spots on the dirt road where there would be a big gap and would anticipate and slow down. He could have driven that road the eyes closed!
He dropped us at the start of the road. We went to toilets, got the gaiters and trekking poles out, put some sunscreen and we started walking. It was now 11.30am already!
Here is the PDF of the 3-day walk we were about to do:
Click to access Victoria%20Falls%20and%20Grose%20Valley%20to%20Blackheath%20Station%20(nsw-bmnp-vfagvtbs).pdf
The sign you see on the left was actually funny because it said: ‘It is a 100 metre walk to Victoria Falls Lookout. However, Victoria Falls cannot be seen from this lookout.’ Ahahahahaha. Right!!!
After 100 meters walk indeed, we arrived at the lookout.
The view was really awesome. A great view to start a 3-day hike! We could look deep down into the Grose Valley and think: over there, far far way at the bottom, that’s where we are heading to!
And so we walked.
We saw this huge termite mount.
Kept walking down some stairs.
We saw a few Waratah flowers which were not opened yet. Spring was just starting!
Going down more stairs.
Passing under some gigantic rocks.
At some point, while waiting a bit for Christina and I, Jon spotted this bunch of larvae clumped together on a tree which looked like caterpillars. So strange. They seemed to be laying eggs.
Searching online, I found that link, I have the feeling the larvae we saw on that tree is the same which would mean it is a larvae of a wasp called ‘Spitfire Sawfly Larvae’.
What caught Christina’s attention and mine much more though was the head of a tree dragon with its dark green eye located to our left!
And off we went, continuing down into the Grose River valley.
We saw this purple flower. After some research, it seems to be called hovea acutifolia and is a native plant from Australia: http://anpsa.org.au/h-acu.html
We saw a lot of these plants at the start of the walk, not sure how they are called though.
We had to pass above lots, lots of trunks.
When we passed above this one, I was at the back and I went high high with the leg to go above it and my backpack pulled me down and I fell on the back softly, I didn’t get hurt, it was just so funny to watch. I was stuck there on my back, lack a cockroach trying to get back on their feet. I had to pass my arms out of the backpack in order to stand, luckily Jon helped me get back onto my feet otherwise I would have stayed stuck there longer ahah!
Looking above to the height we came from, somewhere over there.
We got to this sign and walked right to the cascades.
It was around 1.30pm so we had walked 2 hours so far and had lunch at the cascades. It was drizzling a bit, but no big rain though, luckily. I got closer to the waterfall to get that shot and slipped on a rock and put my foot half-a-second in the water, luckily the gaiter protected my foot and the shoe didn’t get wet. Phew! The waterfall was quite pretty with all the different layers.
After the cascades, we went back on the path and headed towards Burra Korain campground. We stopped again at this other waterfall. Can you see a miniature Jon behind the tree taking a shot of the waterfall? It gives a scale to the waterfall’s size.
I walked to that spot too and the view was great from there too.
Zooming onto the water, it looked like if it was pouring rain.
We continued our walk, made of passing over trunks and crossing rivers like this one.
We walked a lot alongside the Grose River. At some point we saw some cray fish. After some research, it seems to be called Euastacus Spinifer and is an endemic specie to Austalia. There are apparently 139 cray fish species in Australia, 10 of them being in the Blue Mountains.
We continued our walk and arrived at this spot where a few trees completely blocked the path, meaning we needed to slide down to go through on the left side.
I could foresee that something funny was coming up so I filmed Jon and Christina going through. Here is a little video to give you a taste of the kind of path we were on!
After this funny moment going through, we continued our walk. I saw this rhino.
Here are some more photos of the rest of the walk until Burra Korain campground. This purple flower seems to be called pyramid flower or pink matchheads (latin name comesperma ericinum).
We arrived at Burra Korain campground around 4pm and started setting up our tents. A group of 6 young arrived then a French couple and their 2 sons. Here is a photo shot from my tent, we can see the couple setting up the tent in the background and the kids playing on a pic-nic mat.
I recommended my Big Agnes tent to Christina so here are both our twin tents. To the right is the hammock of Lawrence, alias Badger, one guy of the group of 6 which arrived shortly after us, 4 guys, Lawrence, Jason, Sam and Sam and 2 girls Kelen and Michelle.
The campfire around which we gathered later.
Golden light time.
Time to have some dinner. Christina and I had some chicken tikkah masala while Jon had some thai green chicken curry. For desert, Christina and I had some apricot crumble which Christina found tasted like some Austrian desert she had not had for long!
This white-browed scrub wren paid us a visit while we were eating.
Jon had a strong headache so he shortly went to bed. Never fun to have a headache!! With Christina and the group of 6, we found some newspaper inside the bark which helped to start a fire, it was some newspaper probably left by previous hikers that Lawrence named the ‘Bush fairies’. Cute name! We also gathered some wood from here and there.
It was nice to gather around the fire. Sit, relax, enjoy the moment, watch the flames. Adam and Yann, the two boys of the French couple, were having endless fun poking a wood stick into the fire and getting it inflamed. So much better than playing a game on an iPad!
Meanwhile everyone was chatting. Jason was from the British Virgin Islands, a tiny group of islands in the Caribbean about which most of us knew nothing about. It was great listening to him telling us a bit about the life there.
I had brought 2 bananas and 2 tablets of 85% cocoa chocolate and aluminium foil. I learnt that great idea when camping in Queensland with friends in Brisbane and quite loved that. It was great to put these bananas in the embers or wherever they could fit into the fire and take the time to slowly cook them while chatting and finally share them around with everyone once the chocolate and inside of the banana had melted.
The parents and kids went to bed and Christina and I stayed around the fire with the group of 6. They had brought a bottle of Jack Daniels and we all had little sips of the liquor in our cups while contemplating a pot they wanted to clean that they had added on top of the logs with water in in order to facilitate the boiling and then the cleaning.
Of course no one got drunk, we were all just at different levels of tipsy. I showed Christina the 30-seconds standing test we do in France to check if we are drunk or not, where you have to stand and lift a leg, pass your arm under it and go grab your nose while trying to keep your balance with the other arm and try to stay like this for 30 seconds. She gave us a pretty good demo!
After jumping over a log then over the fire then turning around a tree twice each, we all went to bed, and it was probably no later than 10pm when we did!
The next day, off to Acacia Flat campground! Change of clock! We loose one hour in the night but we gain longer sunset evenings, yeah!