National Pass – Blue Mountains

The National Pass is a fantastic walking trail established a little over 100 years ago in the Blue Mountains.  After descending a seemingly never-ending staircase carved into the bedrock, we found ourselves at the base of Wentworth Falls, a spectacular drop with a small swimming hole at the base that also doubles as a fine picnic area.

Except we weren’t really at the base, per se.  We were at the base of the first drop of the waterfall.  What makes the National Pass trail unique is that is takes you midway along the sheer cliff face, following a natural ledge that separates sandstone cliffs above and below the trail.  It is a tough hike due to the massive sets of stairs that bookend the walk, but well worth it for the vistas and numerous waterfalls encountered along the way.

Photos taken 07 Jan 2012

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

ku-ring-gai chase NP

Start driving north from downtown Sydney, and within an hour you’ll find yourself at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  This amazing landscape is situated where the Hawkesbury river meets the Pacific (Tasman Sea to be precise), and is an absolute treasure to Sydneysiders.

We started our exploration at the western inland region of the park.  First we walked the nature trail at Kalkari Discovery Centre, a large enclosed area.  We encountered the Australian Brushturkey, and our first semi-wild kangaroos!  They weren’t easy to spot, but we managed to catch a glimpse off the trail on our second go-around.  There were also spectacular views of our next destination down by the river, called Bobbin Head.  There we explored the mangrove boardwalk.

Next, we headed out to the West Head region (which is the east side of the park) with a spectacular drive along the spine of the peninsula all the way to the tip.  There, we caught the tail end of a wedding (quite the backdrop!), and took in the outstanding view.  Then we backed up down the road to hike the America Bay track that brought us to the top of a small waterfall and yet another amazing vista.  We had quite the time listening to and recording some bird calls on this hike.  We wrapped up the day with another gaze out at West Head.  Then it was back to Sydney, but not before stopping to enjoy dinner with one of Andrea’s work mates who lives nearby in the Mona Vale area.

Photos taken 29 Dec 2011

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Mount Annan Botanic Garden

Over the Christmas holiday, we were fortunate to have the use of a vehicle for a couple weeks.  One of Andrea’s mates from the acupuncture clinic was off to Bali and graciously allowed us the use of her 1994 Holden Commodore wagon.  Freedom of the road!  I’ll admit, the first hour or so of driving on the opposite side of the tracks was a little unnerving, but eventually my brain adjusted, and it was smooth sailing from there on.

Our first jaunt was to the Mount Annan Botanic Garden, out on the western fringe of the Sydney region.  It is associated with the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, and is the largest botanic garden in Oz.  It is interwoven with bike paths, so we loaded up our wheels for a ride.  One thing that struck us about the place was how much it reminded us of western Maryland around the Frederick area.  Sure, the trees were completely different, but the feeling was the same.  Amazingly, the area is actually called the Cumberland Plain… both sharing British Royalty as their namesakes.

Bonus: Andrea spotted her first wild wallaby/wallaroo/hopping marsupial.

Photos taken 28 Dec 2011