Roads I have travelled down

Cee’s Black & White Challenge this week is roadscapes. Here are a few shots of roads from my travels.

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moorhen at Centennial Park
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Walking home from work

I admit it: that heading is misleading. Walking all the way home from work would take hours. On nice summer days, though, (assuming I’ve remembered to bring shorts, etc) I do like to get off the train one stop early and walk from there. Click here for a map of the route.

Leaving Edgecliff station, I head along Ocean Street in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. Much of what is now Woollahra was once part of the 1130-acre estate of the Cooper family. The name Woollahra is believed to be based on the Aboriginal word for ‘lookout’ and was chosen by Daniel Cooper for his proposed house in 1856. There are many lovely old houses along this tree-lined street.

(click any image to expand a gallery)

Now I leave the suburbs of the rich behind, and head into Centennial Park through Woollahra Gate.

Woollahra Gate Centennial Park

Woollahra Gate

The area where Centennial Park was built was originally swamps. In 1827, using convict labour, construction began on an underground tunnel to bring the fresh water to Sydney. Lachlan Swamps served as Sydney’s main water supply from 1837 to 1859. The Centennial Celebrations Act of 1887 set in motion the construction of Centennial Park. (By the way, the centenary being celebrated was that of the founding of the colony of New South Wales in 1788.) Centennial Parklands, as it is known today, has an area of 220 hectares. (Refer to the walk map for an idea of its size.)

Now we come to my favourite part of the walk. Behind one of the ponds is a small planting of pine trees, which are rare in Sydney. At this time of the day, with the early evening light slanting low and golden, it’s a beautiful, glowing spot. The wind in the pine trees creates a sound quite unlike that of rattling palm fronds or rustling gum leaves.


What would a park be without birds and flowers?

If you’ve enjoyed this walk through parts of Sydney that tourists rarely discover, be sure to check out Jo’s Monday Walks.

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Serenity at sea

“And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity.
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.”
– Christoper Cross, ‘Sailing’

Lord Nelson Indian Ocean

Just before dawn, Indian Ocean ‘Lord Nelson’

Sunrise, Indian Ocean  'Lord Nelson'

Sunrise, Indian Ocean ‘Lord Nelson’

The most serene time on a tall ship is just before dawn. The ship’s crew are all asleep, except for the duty watch and the officer of the watch. As the stars give way to the sunrise, you feel as if you are the only people in the world.

(I couldn’t decide which of these photos to use, so went with both.)

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Bench Series: In the Garden

HeyJude’s first ever challenge is a good one: benches! The challenge runs for all of 2015, with a different theme each month. January is In the Garden. The benches below are all in the Botanic Gardens in Sydney.

Botanic Gardens Sydeny roses

I wonder if she’s reading one of my novels? 😉

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A wooden bench tucked away in the shade.

Botanic Gardens Sydney

This curved stone bench is almost invisible.

Botanic Gardens Sydney

Sydney is not all sun and surf! We get a lot of rain.

Botanic Gardens Sydney

I like the fern backdrop to the fern bench.

February’s theme is Wooden Benches. I’d better get snapping!

New Year’s walk – a giant stairway and a miniature train

Blue Mountains near Leura - no crowds and no parties here!

Blue Mountains near Leura – no crowds and no parties here!

New Year’s Eve in Sydney – either you embrace it, or you escape it. As much as I love the fireworks, I hate the crowds. I also hate being subjected to the parties going on until the early morning in the back yards of the houses down the hill or in the flats adjoining mine.

So, in a decidedly “bah humbug” frame of mind, I left Sydney after work on 30 December to spend two days in the Blue Mountains. My base for two nights was the Leura Gardens Resort.

On New Year’s Eve day, my plan was to walk the roughly 10km (6 miles) from Gordon’s Lookout in Leura to Scenic World in Katoomba.
First, though, a stroll around the resort’s gardens was called for. The grounds incorporate the Lady Fairfax Garden, created by Paul Sorensen for Lady Mabel Fairfax in 1933. (more about the gardens here)

Then I caught a cab to Gordon Falls Lookout (no point adding extra kilometers!) to begin the first leg of my walk. I followed the Prince Henry Cliff Walk as far as the Three Sisters in Katoomba.

The path, as you might guess from the name, runs along the edge of the cliffs and offers sweeping views over the hills and valleys, and also lovely, tranquil paths through the forest. The path was constructed in the 1930s – spare a thought for the men who built this trail with pickaxes and shovels, carving steps from the rock, building metal stairways, fencing off the lookouts perched at the edge of thrusting spurs with vertiginous drops. The walk was named in honour of a son of King George V, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, who spent 20 minutes at Katoomba railway station in 1934. (source)

This walk is rated “medium” for difficulty. My book of walks (Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks) breaks it into two sections: from Gordon Falls to Leura Cascades, you descend 110m and ascend 150m; from the cascades to Echo Point (the Three Sisters), you descend 170m and ascend 90m.

link to map 1

click for larger image of Bridal Veil Falls

At Echo Point, it was time for a toilet stop and a cold drink. There are also fantastic views of the Three Sisters (a series of cliffs that jut out in a point), but I’ve seen them a number of times so skipped the view, although I have included an older photograph in the gallery below for reference.

Now came the fun part: the stairs.

Oh pooh pooh, you say, how hard can stairs be? Well, it’s not called the Giant Stairway for nothing. It’s 540m long and descends around 300m (or ascends, if you’re coming up!). Some 900 stairs are cut into the side of the cliffs making up the Sisters, or, in places where that is not an option, metal stairs are bolted to the rock. According to the book, there are “910 stone steps and 32 steel staircases of almost vertical descent”. These are not stairs for the faint-hearted or those who have a problem with heights. At times, there is only a metal grid between the soles of your shoes and the valley floor hundreds of metres below. Looking at the Three Sisters photo below, the stairway is on the other side; the path then runs out around the base of the cliffs and back.

Construction began in 1916 but was halted two years later. Work resumed in 1932 and was completed that year.

link to map 2

Once at the bottom, in the cool dappled shade of the forest, it was time to sit for a while until my leg muscles stopped trembling. I’ve gone down the stairway a number of times, but never up! I can’t imagine how a person’s legs feel after slogging up those stairs and ladders. The rest of this walk is a tranquil stroll among trees and ferns, past little waterfalls and over tiny streams. The sounds of birds fill the air, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot a brightly coloured parrot or two.

Of course, at the end of the walk you’re still a few hundred metres from the top of the cliffs. There are two options: walk back up to the top, or take the train. Yeah, you know what I opt for!

The Scenic Railway ascends 310m and is the world’s steepest passenger railway, at an incline of 52 degrees (click on the first picture below, I’ve circled the top and bottom points). When you get into the cars you are uncomfortably sprawled backwards, but as the train starts moving up that cleft in the cliff you are pushed forward. Hands shoot out to grasp the overhead rails and knees press against the padded rail in front.

The walk from Echo Point to the base of the railway is graded “hard” due to the stairs, but the actual walking is easy. After all that, I felt that I deserved a cool refreshment back on my balcony at the resort.

A well deserved cool beverage.

A well deserved cool beverage.

The next day, New Year’s Day, I had time for a short walk before returning to Sydney. I settled for a 4km jaunt from the resort to Inspiration Point and back. (I couldn’t find a map of this walk on the National Parks site, so the one in the gallery below is a rough approximation.) This little walk is graded easy, with ascents and descents both of 70m over gradually rising (or falling) stairs.

The two lookouts offer more stunning views of weathered cliff faces and gum trees sweeping to the horizon, all under the deepest blue sky imaginable. Then it was back to the resort to take a cab to Leura station for the train to Sydney.

click for larger image of the stunning view

Oh, and in Sydney, one of my neighbours had a party that started mid-afternoon and went on into the night, so my cunning plan to avoid the doof-doof-doof of music and the shrieks of drunken delight was not entirely successful.

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This post is my first contribution to Jo’s Monday Walk. You can find interesting walks by Jo and other bloggers on her site each week.

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