Our trip to the Blue Mountains – Katoomba, Mudgee, Armidale and beyond – gave us a glimpse of the stunning wilderness that is the Great Dividing Range. Flowing down the east coast of Australia, it separates the populated coastal areas from the interior and stretches from the tropics of Queensland down through New South Wales and then west to the Grampians in Victoria. It is vast, often remote, and astonishingly beautiful.
And of course, as with the rest of Australia,the European ‘rules’ for flora and fauna, wildlife and climate do not apply. Once again we have witnessed the unique and glorious way that nature works in Australia – it still amazes.
In our brief time here, we’ve come across rosellas, gallahs, kookaburas, sulphur crested, black, and salmon cockatoo and some majestic wedge-tailed eagles. We’ve seen water dragons, blue tounged lizards, huntsman spiders and an emu. Koalas, brush-tailed rock wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, dolphins, cormorants and pelicans. Goanna, lyrebirds, red-beak oystercatchers and fruitbats.
We’ve also seen wombats and possums – but only as roadkill 😕. It’s a very different world…
Then there are the gumtrees. Massive, varied, superbly adaptable – from the high Snowy Mountains of NSW, to the dry, hot red centre. They define the environment, and drive the process of renewal that distinguishes this continent from any other.
Of course, we now see them everywhere, Africa, Europe, the Americas, the SE Asian rainforest, devastated by Agent Orange, and garden centres in North London.
Yet until the 1770’s they were unique to this place, with over 700 varieties perfectly adapted to tropical rainstorm, drought, flood, bushfires and extremes of temperature. They are the tallest flowering tree (only the coniferous American redwoods are taller), and some, still standing, predate the European invasion by a hundred years or more.
Our trip from Sydney to just over the Queensland border took a couple of weeks. Driving a hired car, staying in motels, country pubs, Airbnb and Youth Hostels – it’s a different sort of traveling than we’re used to in SE Asia. Though accommodation is expensive, cooking our own food in hostels helps the daily budget.
The cooler climate also means we’ve been able to a lot more walking, and the National Parks are fantastic places to explore Australia’s natural world.
After a few days in the fabulous art-deco Blue Mountains YHA in Katoomba we went via the Jenolan caves to Mudgee where we stopped for a night in a grotty, but cheap bar and then on to Armidale. High in the Northern Tabelands at an altitude of 1000m we felt cold for the first time in a long while.
From there we had a spectacular journey with forest walks and waterfalls, down towards the coast and Coffs Harbour.
The journey to the coast is dotted with country pubs and small town Victorian wrought iron/weatherboard frontages.
The Coast – Coffs Harbour, Evans Head and Byron Bay
We really enjoyed our stay at Evans Head. Catching up with Roseanne and Bill, exploring the local area (this is where we saw the Koalas, Pelicans, Dolphins and Kangaroos above) and relaxing into the way of life.
We also came across some old photo albums from our dear friend Grum, who we first met him in a losmen on Java in 1983. Our paths crossed regularly as we did our first backpacking journey through SE Asia, and he became a great friend. Happy memories, and sadly missed.
The Southern Pacific
Lenox Head and the Cape Byron Lighthouse offer spectacular views of the coastline, wide sandy beaches, waves crashing onto rocks and endless surf.
Our journey up the east coast ended in Mudgeerabar, Southern Queensland. Our diving buddy Lindsay, who we’d met in Komodo last August, was working there, and it was also the childhood home of Rachael, a good Aussie friend from London. We had great fun catching up with Lindsay and swapping yet more travel tales, and it was fantastic to meet Rachael’s folks and make the connection.
Heading back towards Sydney we stopped for a few days at Port MacQuarie (Ozzie Pozzie YHA) and explored the area. The Tacking Point lighthouse again gave spectacular views of the coastline.
We also walked through the rainforest canopy boardwalk at Sea Acres National Park. Made more wonder full, because we had the place to ourselves.
We then visited Roto House, a beautiful example of an old colonial house, built from Australian redwood, with wide, bull nosed verandas and cool interiors.
It’s also the site of a Koala hospital (rescued from bushfires etc) , which gives me the opportunity to finish by posting a couple more pictures of sleepy Koalas.
So, after a brief stop with old friends in Sydney, a quick flight to Melbourne, our next port of call is Tasmania. Despite living in Melbourne for two years, it’s a place we’ve yet to explore…