|We set off after breakfast at the Club for The Blue Mountains, taking the back road to Springwood. Pretty soon the road started to climb and then we were into steep hairpin bends and we would have had great views but the clouds and rain thwarted us. At Springwood we joined The Great Western Highway which runs all the way through the mountains. A spectacular drive but for the weather!
We left the Highway at Leura, a very pretty little town, where we stopped for a potter around the town, between rain showers. Leura is also the home of various viewpoints from high up on sheer cliffs, overlooking deep valleys and the amazing Three Sisters rock formations. We drove the scenic route but the clouds were too low to see anything. We will return!
Our friendly Maui representative had recommended the Jenolan Caves for overnight camping and stupendous views, so we headed off that way. The mist and cloud got worse and at points, along the very twisty, turny mountain roads, viability was barely 20 metres. Made for very careful driving.
The approach road to the caves was 8km of mostly single lane road, clinging to the edge of the cliffs, dipping and climbing as it wound its way around various very steep-sided valleys. Exciting stuff! Eventually we arrived, to be confronted by a huge cliff face and a large cave (The Grand Arch) through which the road made its way. The cave was just wide and tall enough for our camper, and opened out to reveal a large, late 19th century hotel which seemed totally out of place.
The campsite was on a large car park above the hotel, so we picked a spot near the barbecues and went off to explore. Walked along to a large arch high in the cliff above the road, with a great view of the Blue Lake way below. On down the track, past the hotel, through the Grand Arch to the Blue lake Walk. The track was closed and definitely, no entry. We discovered later, snakes had been seen on the walk so they closed it. So, nothing for it but to climb all the way back up to the camper and have dinner. The climb was about 500 metres and I could see white cockatoos flying about, and could certainly hear them and just about at the top spotted a couple of wallabies, very dark in colour, which made them difficult to see in the misty gloomy evening.
I went to fetch Ruth from her reading in the camper to show her and luckily one was still there on our return, but as we were going back to the camper Ruth spotted a Lyrebird, our first! It moved a bit too quickly, and it was now a bit too dark to get a good photo, but I did get one shot. We made use of the gas barbecue, cooking a whole Barramundi we'd bought earlier. It was delicious.
Next morning we were awoken early by very loud bird calls, not sure who was making all the noise, but sleep was impossible. So we set off down the mountain and parked near the Blue Lake, and after checking with some workmen who were about to carry out maintenance in one of the show caves, we stepped over the no entry sign and on to the lakeside. We had been told it was possible to see duck-billed platypus in the lake and....there they were. They spent very little time at the surface so we had to be quick to spot them before they dived to the bottom. We spent about an hour watching them, absolutely fascinated. No sign of any snakes.
About eight o'clock we thought we should move on, rather than be caught in a no go area by the cave trustees. We drive slowly up and out of the valley, visibility much improved on yesterday though occasional wisps of mist drifted across the road. On the drive out we saw lots of animals, another lyrebird, 13 wallabies, parrots and three very large kangaroos, an amazing drive and due reward for getting up so early.
Once outside the national park we pulled off the road and stopped for breakfast, a much needed coffee and a shower (well, it was a self-contained camper). The mist and cloud had spades need a little, but as we discovered we were at 1,250 metres altitude, so perhaps not surprising. The mist and murk continued until we got to lower terrain though we did get tantalising glimpses of stunning cliffs and valleys. The mist came and went for the rest of the day. We though the weather would improve later so diverted to Lithgow to take a look. Just another town, some buildings from late 19th century, but otherwise unremarkable.
Back on the Great Western Highway to Katoomba to try and see the Three Sisters, the clouds came and went but disappointingly decided to hang around a bit while we waited at Eagle Hawk Lookout. Still, it gave us time to catch up with blog writing, but after an hour or so, the weather worsened so we moved on. A couple km further on we came to the Echo Point lookout and suddenly the clouds lifted. We quickly parked and went down to see the Three Sisters in all their glory, wreathed in mist they were quite a sight. They are three columns of horizontally laid down rocks and very unusual.
Back on the Great Western, which by now we were a bit sick of, huge lorries thundering past us while we stuck to or below the speed limit; they were very aggressive to anyone who impeded their progress. Anyway, we were able to leave the highway at Springwood and head down the mountain to Richmond and the Club we had stayed at on Saturday night. Checked in, dinner, bed.