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Day 1 - It's all about the sleep

Kerrie and I got up at 3:30 getting things ready to pick up Rochelle and Sam at 5:00.  Only half an hour late wasn’t too bad and we left Algester service station at 6:00.  We took it pretty easy driving and had compulsory toilet stops, mainly my fault due to coffee consumption.  The boys’ car was pumping music and I can only think the same thing was happening with the girls (different music though).  This didn’t stop the guys (for simplicity sake, when I refer to the “guys”, it is inclusive to boys and girls) from sleeping most of the way.
Lunch spot
 
We made it to Burning Mountain just after 15:00.  Not the greatest camp site but only a couple of cars there.  So we only had to share with several million flies.
Not the best shot, but at least showing some of our friends.


We decided to hike up the mountain before we set up camp to see whether we could score the prime site, which currently was taken up by a lone car.
Burning Mountain is named for the underground coal seam that has been burning for over a few thousand years.  It is cool place with extremely hot air coming out of vents in the ground.
Testing the hot vents
This time around we didn’t see as much steam as last time, as the weather is pretty hot, which also didn’t draw any animals this time around.  We couldn’t stay too long as the fumes were pretty overpowering.

Getting back to the car we had no luck with the prime site as it was still taken.  We set up at the next best spot and went to bed early after a sausage sizzle.


It was lovely listening to the passing trucks and occasional coal trains rumbling past, but soon sleep took us anyway.

Day 2 - Up in smoke

We all slept pretty good, even with the passing traffic (Rochelle didn’t even hear that) and we were on our way at exactly 8:00.

Arriving at our campsite just ready for lunch, we were not too impressed.  The sites are mainly dust and dirt, but what the heck, we are not going to spend too much time here anyway.  But that was just the start.  Soon a van with two French guys and one woman turned up blasting music and smoking funny tobacco.  There is also a distinct lack of water i.e. there is no way of tapping into the rain water tank. But on the plus side we are surrounded by forest filled with beautiful birds - black cockatoos, crimsom rosellas etc.



Not to worry, we set up camp and were entertained by the antics of the French.  The kids went in search of water and found the camp site down the road pretty empty but no water.  After a vote we decided on not moving, as it would be all too hard.

Next arrived a friendly woman in a camper van who proceeded to sit on her mat having a bit of a puff as well.  What is this, are we in Nimbin? A single guy is our next neighbour, surprisingly he seems pretty normal, i.e. don’t see any smoke puffs and no music pumping. Not to despair, our next neighbours pull up in a Jucy van and in no time we are witnessing some yoga action.

The kids have decided to go in search of water at Blackheath and have missed our last two arrivals.
Now I am having a beer to attune to my new surroundings.



OK, I may not be Einstein, but I came up with a new equation:
WB2 = SNOOZE (Whacky Baccy to the power of 2 = Very Sleepy)
 
Cheech, Chong and friends were all in bed by 18:00.  It was extremely quiet.  Everybody else was in bed by 19:00, which left us as the noisy ones until 20:00.  Then all lights were out.

I am still trying to figure out how our puffing neighbours, three guys and one girl, could sleep in a small van with a single mattress, and that being filled up halfway with stuff.  I was going to ask how that works in the morning, but Kerrie said to just leave it to my imagination.

Day 3 – Bath time

5:30 and my alarm wakes me out of an awesome night’s sleep.  I was rearing ready for an adventure day, and it didn’t disappoint.

I went for a morning jog looking for a path up into the mountains, but with no luck, so I ended up going down the country road crossing paths with a fox and wallaby.

I came back to early action in the camp.  Sam was giving the Thunderbox a good workout with an upset stomach.  Kerrie was whipping everyone else into gear to get ready for the day.  I was totally awestruck so I set down to have my second coffee.

Today was Medlow Bath day and on our walk to the rock climbing wall we came across the historic bath at the top of the cliff.  It would have been an awesome place to relax, enjoy the views, drink a nice class of wine and cheese and crackers.  We could only dream about that.

Relaxing in the old bath

View from near the bath




Followed by some pretty hair raising cliff edge walks and stairs.  I guess it doesn’t matter if the fall is 50m or 200m the result would be the same.  So we just moved on having fun.




A huge landslide gave us a big challenge and we tried to get across it a bit further down, only to turn back again in defeat.  But we gave it a good shot.







We left the boys to their climbing (Sam still with movement in his inside) and headed off exploring.  We soon came upon some magnificent views,




We got back to the boys just in time to see them finishing off a multi pitch.  It looked awesome seeing them up on the wall, but a little scary too.  But I have faith in the boys’ ability.




But no time to dally we were off to do some more exploring.  Up and down we go bashing through the snow (hang on, that’s wrong, it’s 30 degrees and no snow).  Next stop the cave house.  It was the ruins of an awesome cave converted into a house.  Some obscene graffiti prevented us taking more photos.  Rochelle’s caving instincts started to kick in and she was exploring ways on how she would be able to go deep into the mountain.



Soon after we found the huge hydro hotel (a monstrosity of colonial construction) and lost our path, so we walked about 1 km back and forth for a while until we found where to continue.  Not long after we stumbled across another historic bath, oh how good it would be if it still held water.  Tash’s knee was swelling up from some sort of plant stings and we were starting to get sunburnt.  All was good and we were having fun.

But this was not all we also examined the remnants of an old flying fox that serviced the bath from the hotel and found the three brothers.  Sorry, three sisters, the boys trump (not as in the US president) you.  They may not be as tall as their siblings but in a much nicer setting in the bush.

We decided to have lunch with Lachlan, Ham and Luke (the names given to the three brothers).

Three brothers

Now it was time to race back to the boys for some girl power climbing action.  Rochelle was out the front when she came across a black tailed, yellow headed, great ferocious brown snake (didn’t know what type of snake it was so came up with a new name).  After our new friend vacated the path we moved on.

Sam set a top rope for the girls.  Meanwhile a storm was closing in, but that didn’t bother the girls to smash the climb.








Luke managed another ascent and Sam was looking forward to his banana that we would get on our way home to plug up his problem.

The storm never eventuated and we got back to camp around 17:00 for showers, afternoon tea and some games.  The campsite was almost empty with only a couple of other camps.  But we were not disappointed, another Cheech and Chong, this time from the Northern Territory set up camp beside us.  Maybe this will help to keep the mossies out.



Not long after dinner, all apart from Rochelle and Luke went to bed and we had a solid night's sleep only hearing poor Sam vomiting in the middle of the night some time.  As he felt a lot better afterwards we soon were back asleep.

Day 4 – A bit of a juggle

We woke up reasonable early and Kerrie had us running around like chooks with their heads cut off getting things ready for our canyoning day.  The plan was to do Jugglers canyon and if we have time, maybe Grand Canyon.  Kerrie is always the optimist.
It was very pleasant as we headed down the track towards the canyon and we had no trouble finding it.  Soon after dropping into the creek we needed to use our short static rope to scramble down a slippery slope.



Although this canyon was rated 4/10 it did not disappoint.  We ended up doing 5 abseils and 3 hand over hand rope descents.








I was the only one slipping and crashing into the water.  Once again I was the coolest dude in town.

Just before the last abseil was an awesome opportunity for lunch.  This left a bit of a hair-raising abseil to the end, which we managed perfectly.

We dropped out of the canyon around 14:00, a bit later than we thought due to the number of abseils and we decided to leave Grand Canyon for tomorrow.

The hike out was pretty awesome too, along the Grand Canyon walking trail and then up Pilcher track back to the car.  Pilcher track was pretty steep and the sun was beating down on us, but we marched on and made it to the car by 15:00.



Sam was pretty buggered because of being sick yesterday and had a bit of a rest, while Luke, Rochelle and I went to get some firewood.  We headed left out of the camp ground, but couldn’t find anything suitable so decided to go down the valley instead.  As we passed the camp ground we spotted the fire brigade putting up a fire ban sign.  Well, I guess we didn’t need to get any wood after all.  The fire ban is only in place from midnight tonight for 24 hours due to the hot and windy day tomorrow.

Ended up having some nice neighbours with a couple from the guys’ rock climbing gym turning up.  Otherwise there are only another couple of campers.  Now we are just sitting back relaxing and preparing dinner. It turned out another to be another quiet, uneventful night.

Day 5 – Oh, that’s just grand

Off we went on our Grand Canyon adventure.  The Grand Canyon walk must be one of the nicest walks in the Blue Mountains.  It took us about 20 minutes to get to the anchors for the abseil into the canyon proper.  It looked very mysterious, a gaping hole into nothing.  Sam was the first to venture down and we could hear sounds of amazement coming up through the opening.  As we all abseiled we knew why.  It was a great free fall abseil into a spectacular canyon with high walls.








Although it was a dry landing we decided to put on our wetsuits as it was pretty cool in the canyon and we could also see lots of water blocking the path ahead.

Good choice, we soon got to our first water hole and the “happy camel” (that’s my new name, as I seem to need not much water and end up carrying peoples stuff) was tasked to literally test out the water.  I plunged in and the cold nearly took my breath away, but of course I didn’t show it.  One after the other all went in for their first plunge, except Luke and Sam who managed to bolder around the water.  That didn’t help them much as they soon got drenched as well.











We couldn’t believe the canyon, it just kept on going in spectacular fashion with high walls, great pools of water, giant ferns and terraces covered in green.




We all had great fun but were cooling down fast.  Sam was pointing out that on his first day down here he had a tummy bug, the second day he was heat exhausted and on the third day he nearly suffered from hypothermia.  I wonder what he is in for tomorrow.

The final 30-meter swim was a good test of endurance, especially when Kerrie asks you to stay still in sub zero temperatures to take photos.




We made it out onto the main track and as we got out of our freezing wetsuits a few touristy Grand Canyon trail walkers gave us a weird look and kept on moving fast.  I guess they were a bit confused why there were people on the track that were shivering at 32 degrees, half out of their wetsuits, some wearing jackets, some wearing bicycle helmets and others being barefoot.  Who said we are normal?  We also decided to ignore the tourists and had a nice lunch while we were warming up, before we headed up the track to our car.





We are all getting a bit tired, but it was just an awesome experience that the photos don’t do justice.  The guys are back playing cards and are rejuvenating for tomorrows climbing adventure.  Kerrie and I are kicking back and enjoying a little beverage.

We are all looking forward to a cooler change tomorrow.



Day 6 – Great for ducks

Well, the cooler change certainly came through, but unfortunately so too came the rain.
A small river was going straight through our campsite underneath our table.  Ah well, if we wait long enough, maybe we’ll have our own canyon.

Next thing we realised that Tash and Rochelle’s tent was standing in an average size lake.  So out came the shovel and axe.  We started digging trenches that soon morphed into moats.  Their tent ended up on dry ground with enough fortification to keep out a minor army.

Sam was combating the rain by staying in his tent, which also started to float.  No problem, we were getting pretty good with this trench digging.

Amanda and Justin, our neighbours from Brisbane were so flooded that we had to move their entire camp-site.  Not even our trench digging skills could help them.

The forecast was bleak for the next two days, so we decided to head indoors.  Kerrie took the clan to a rock climbing gym where they met up with friends from Brisbane.







I decided to take some time out and chill at the campsite.  I was looking forward to the nice and quiet, but it seemed everybody at camp was bored and when they saw me alone, came over for a chat.  Everybody had a great day although it was wet.  The kids pumped at the gym and I read a book for most of the day (apart from when I was entertaining guests).

But now we are ready for some more action.

Day 7 – We join the ducks

Unfortunately, the rain is still coming down.  They say you sometimes have to fight fire with fire, so why not fight water with water.  We decided to head to the Katoomba indoor pool, where we soaked our dirty camp bodies for awhile, followed by immensely long and enjoyable hot showers.  Particularly Kerrie who shared the showers with 6 eighty year old ladies that just finished water yoga.  Lucky Kerrie.

All clean we went out and hit the town for some grocery shopping and sight-seeing.  By the time we got back to camp it started clearing up a bit and it looked more promising for tomorrow.

Day 7 – This is where the action is

The morning was nice and sunny and only the moats contained water.  Our river system through camp has dried out. 

The boys decided to go climbing with the neighbours at Sublime Point near Leura.

The girls opted for a nice bush walk along the cliff tops all the way to the Three Sisters.  Although the Three Sisters are overrun by tourists it only takes going down the giant stairway to be all alone in the mountains.  I was totally amazed by the giant stairway and how they carved it out of the rock and attached the metal steps.













I finally was back in my favourite running area and enjoyed a nice hard 5 hour hit out in some of the best scenery in Australia.  The constant stairs are just awesome and I respect the people who actually built them.  My run took me past spectacular lookouts, waterfalls and forest glens.  I was totally stuffed but also felt more alive than for a long time.  In the end, all I could do is to make sure no one overtook me.  With only the last stretch to go between the points I managed to get lost and after half an hour ended up pretty much where I left off.  Another hour later I managed to drag myself to the car, where the boys were waiting.

The girls had a great walk as well and all of us were pretty worn out by the afternoon.  With the weather looking promising, we went to bed early ready for our next adventure tomorrow.

Day 8 – Going up the wall

The morning looked spectacular and the boys and girls were ready for some climbing action.  The boys went to Barden’s lookout to do some harder climbs, while Rochelle challenged me for a trail run down and up Cox’s road.  It was a fun run down and a challenging run back up.  I couldn’t shake Rochelle and at the end she caught me napping and overtook me to beat me up the hill.  We gotta work on tiring this girl out.




Meanwhile Tash had a nice walk with Kerrie to check out some wells, which turned out mossie infested pools.







Back with the boys they were climbing some challenging stuff before we had lunch on the lookout. 










Then we headed off across the road for Soft Parade where there was plenty of climbing for the girls.  Sam and Luke set up some nice top ropes and the three girls did well.


 






I had a bit of a nap and enjoyed the nice mountain air.  The boys also got some more climbing in.

The clouds started rolling in again in the afternoon but not much rain.  It was drizzling most of the night but the forecast was for it clearing.

Day 9 – Hot and cold flushes

It started out cold with the clouds hanging low and a light drizzle.  It was about 10 degrees and the boys were talking to Justin and Amanda where they should be going climbing.  They decided to check out Shipley’s and if that is too wet go to a sheltered wall nearby.

I headed off with the three girls to do Hat Hill Canyon.  Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, not that a canyon is named after a hill, but that we would do a swimming canyon at 10 degrees’ air temperature and goodness only knows what unearthly temperature the water would be.

We dropped off the boys and soon after found the start of our walk.  We were all a bit cold starting off down the hill.  About half an hour later I made a wrong route choice and we ended up on a ledge of a cliff.  We all decided that this was a bad idea.  It must have been really bad for three women to agree on the same thing.  The adrenalin got everybody sweating and the cold was temporarily forgotten.  We headed back up the hill and soon found the track, which was easy to follow into the canyon.



Soon after we hit the first pool of water we had to swim through and everybody was freezing from the water that was very close to becoming solidified.  The canyon was in three sections and the first one was already spectacular.  There was a lot of scrambling and mostly wading through chest deep water.











After the first canyon section we warmed up nicely only to be immersed into it all again for stage two.  It was an exciting plunge down a hole into the creek and we were frozen stiff again.







After the second section we came upon some nice caves and what we suspected would be the way out up a steep creek bed.  But the third section was still ahead.  So we pushed on through some more awesome canyon.  In between we had our lunch in a clearing with the sun beating down, before we had to turn around to get back to the exit.  It is mazeballs how much harder it is to go up a canyon rather than down.
 
We got to the exit feeling like icicles.  It felt good getting changed into our dry clothes and we started to warm up a bit.  We struggled up the steep creek and soon were sweating like warthogs.  Everybody was longing for a swim.  We got to the top all pumped.  Following the ridgeline out was a good 1.5 hour hike with some awesome views.  




We struggled up Hat Hill proper and had some fun taking photos. 




It didn’t take long for us to cool down again so we dashed off onto the road back to the car.

Both girls started to tire by now and just plonked into the car.  Once back at the campsite Tash went straight for the tent as she was cold again and Rochelle had the giggles form exhaustion.  Yes, we finally have worn her out.

Luke and Sam got back not long before us and were getting the fire and showers ready.  They also had a great day climbing with Justin and Amanda and Sam even got some great photos.




Now we are all ready to cook our roast chicken with macaroni.  For some reason I think it is going to be an early night!


Day 10 – Mixed Bag



The mornings are getting harder, ie we are all tired and sleeping in more.  Luke & Sam eventually got organised and set off for a multi pitch climb at Medlow Bath. Alex took the opportunity for a restful morning – he drove them to the cliffs then sat to read a book for a few hours. Justin & Amanda (our camping neighbours from The Rock) also joined them. It was a rappel in and climb out.  All was good except Luke showered Sam with rocks and Sam broke a hold off the wall!!!  The girls had a sleep in and late breakfast before heading into town to buy fresh rolls for lunch and to get some more water and of course take advantage of the free wifi at the information centre.
We all then met up at the picnic area of Empress Falls for lunch before walking down to do our final canyon of our holiday. Well – what a fun canyon.  Empress Canyon involved numerous jumps, small slides and a bit of swimming.  It wasn’t long before we reached the end of the canyon and the highlight of the canyon – a 30 metre abseil down a waterfall into the pool at the bottom.  One after the other we abseiled down with the water pounding us, but with smiles from ear to ear.  This was one of the most awesome abseils and certainly a highlight of our holiday.







Another great thing was the walk back to the car was short. It was then a quick trip via the shops to buy dinner and ice creams before relaxing around the campfire.

 
 

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