O’Reilly’s Rainforest Magic

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Moran’s Falls, Lamington National Park

This Easter, Kenn and I spent a couple of days at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park.  You’ll find this wonderful national park and resort  in the Gold Coast Hinterland.   Just a couple of hours away from Byron Bay,  O’Reilly’s  is  one of our favourite places to visit and chill out. As we have been making the trek up the mountain since our children were very young, this piece of World Heritage listed rainforest holds many special memories.  Who could ever forget Christian’s look of amazement at his first bird feeding session? He carefully measured out the bird seed he had purchased from the cafe onto his hands and  before he could catch his breath, he was covered in rosellas. They were perched up and down his arms, on his palms, on his shoulders and even on his head.  They tickled and they nibbled as they made themselves comfortable. This was all so cool until he realised that the bird on his head had left a deposit on his brand new hat! Ah what fun!

This time, we were meeting up with our daughter Lyndsay, who was down from Darwin and her Finnish  exchange student Lila.  We booked directly with O’Reilly’s. They had a great autumn special which included accommodation in a mountain view room, daily buffet breakfast, morning and afternoon tea, a 4WD tour through the rainforest and welcome drinks. A bargain!  You can check out their webpage here  We arrived around Midday and luckily our room was ready and a lovely afternoon walk beckoned.

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View from our balcony
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Our room was lovely. So peaceful and quiet. The timber finishes really complemented the natural surroundings.

Lyndsay and Lila had arrived a day before us and decided to walk the Tooloona Creek circuit. We had walked this track awhile back. If you’re interested in seeing more of this track,  See previous post here  

 We definitely didn’t have time to walk 20kms this time,  so decided to walk along the Border Track until we caught up with them on their way home.  This involved a gentle uphill climb to the Antarctic Beech Forest.

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These trees are relics from Gondwana times. Only the trees not Kenn!

As the track winds between mossy and ferny boulders, I always feel as if I’m in a Tolkien novel and Gandalf  is going to come round the bend.

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About five kms along the track, we met up with Lyndsay and Lila and returned to the resort in time for afternoon tea and a dip in the sauna and hot tub.

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Thoroughly relaxed, we enjoyed a wonderful sunset with pre-dinner drinks in the Rainforest Bar.

The next day dawned cloudy and showery. Grabbing our rain jackets, we met Lila who was joining us on 4WD tour.  A little bit of misty weather can enhance your outdoor experience if you let it. The tour took us on roads we had never traversed.

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This was a fun way to see more of the area

And our guide was very informative.

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This is glow in the dark fungus! Only glows for two or three days apparently. 

Highlights included the short walk to Moran’s Falls and the visit to Luke’s farm.

 

After lunch, Kenn and I walked down to Elabana Falls. This time we didn’t make it past Picnic Rock as there was so much water and every time I put my hand down to balance myself on the slippery rocks to cross over, the leeches attacked! And I hate leeches. Despite the leeches, it felt great to stretch our legs and we didn’t get very wet as the canopy of the rainforest acted as a natural umbrella.

There really is so much to see and do at O’Reilly’s. Usually, we spend our time on completing one of the big day treks but this time we got to explore two of the short walks for the first time. They were to Mick’s tower and the Wishing Tree.

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The track winds down a fern encrusted gully
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to Mick’s tower, where the intrepid can climb five platforms to the top for a view of the canopy
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And then onto the Wishing Tree where you can sit on a log and make a wish in the hollow of the tree.

But all good things must come to an end and all too soon we were winding our way down the mountain again. Instead of taking the highway home, we decided to show Lila Natural Bridge which is part of the Springbrook National Park.  The road from Nerang to Murwillumbah is beautiful. Much to our surprise, much has changed at Natural Bridge since we last visited several years ago.  While the rock pool and cavern are as lovely as ever, you can no longer swim there. To compensate, a new circuit has been built that follows the creek and explores more of the surroundings.

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The water was thundering down
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Just beautiful! 
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This was a quaint cafe just a couple of kms from Natural Bridge. Very enjoyable lunch.

By late afternoon, we were home and taking Lila for her first lighthouse walk. We are so lucky to be able to journey from the forest to the sea in a matter of hours. I hope if you haven’t already experienced the deep serenity of the Australian rainforest, that you get the opportunity very, very soon.

 

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Japanese Snow Monkeys

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Hot stone massage anyone?

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Nosawa Onsen was the tour we took with ixsmtravel.com to Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park which was about an hour away from Nosawa by bus. Some say travel is more about the journey than the destination and at first I would have had to agree: the view from our windows was breathtaking.

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Thick drifts of snow covered the fields

 

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and rivers quietly flowed watched over by the mountains which surrounded us on all sides

Arriving at the Snow Monkey Park, our bus driver had to park a fair distance from the entrance but not deterred we plodded up the hill to the starting point. We all  thought that the two kilometre walk to the Snow Monkeys would be a walk in the park. But  no-one had warned us about just how slippery the narrow path could be. Although we were all wearing proper hiking boots, we all found ourselves slip sliding away as if we were on an ice rink. And I can’t skate!  So we had to go slowly, very slowly for I could far too easily imagine myself turning into a human toboggan, hurtling down the mountainside.

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 Ben showed his exceptional balance and stamina as he carried Huddy on his shoulders the whole way.

Still inching one’s way along has an up side. There was plenty of time to admire the scenery.

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Snowy forest surrounded us on all sides
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And the light breaking through the treetops was lovely

The narrow path eventually led to the  valley of the Yokoyu-River where steam and boiling water bubble out of small crevices in the frozen ground earning the name ‘Jigokudani’ meaning “Hell’s Valley.” But it didn’t seem too hellish to us!

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You climb up from this point to where the snow monkeys make their home. They are very used to humans. Some blithely padded past us on the way up.

It was worth the effort. We saw monkeys frolicking with their babies, monkeys enjoying a dip in the steamy waters and  monkeys scampering up the mountainside.

And one was keeping watch, checking out the tourists. Examining us as we were examining him.

All too soon, our English speaking guide, who was a delightful girl from Northern Italy, asked us to start making our way back.

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From this vantage point, the path seems to go on forever.

After visiting the Snow Monkeys, the tour took us to the historic village of Shibu Onsen. This was once a village that was frequented by samurai, wandering poets and travellers  who, while bathing in the healing waters of the village’s onsens,  took the opportunity to rest and recuperate. Indeed legend says that good fortune will come to those who bathe in all the town’s onsens.

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If you decide to undertake this quest, you are issued with a special card which you then stamp as you visit each onsen.  

In this village, we were able to get a feel for the ‘old’ Japan. The narrow streets were lined by wooden buildings which were hundreds of years old.

There were  interesting shops to explore. Huddy discovered that he loved Japanese biscuits!

There was even a fountain which reputedly bestows good health and long life on those who drink from it. I couldn’t resist. I had to sip. It was  a little metallic tasting but not unpleasant and you never know …

And of course there was a temple to visit as well. By now it was mid afternoon and the temperature was dropping. The arrival of our bus to carry us home was very welcome.

This was a great day out. Try to make room for it on your next snow holiday to Nosawa Onsen. And remember wear shoes suitable for snow and ice!

The Coastal Recreational Path: a walk to remember.

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Sharpe’s Beach at Lennox Head – Our starting point .

Feel like a gentle stroll or bike ride along a path offering lovely vistas of a particularly beautiful stretch of coastline? Then the Coastal Recreational Path might be just the thing for you. The path, which is being constructed by Ballina Shire Council, aims to connect the coastal village of Lennox Head from the Pat Morton Lookout to Angels Beach in Ballina. The southern section from Sharpe’s Beach to Angel’s Beach has been finished and as Kenn and I discovered, is well worth exploring.

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This section of the path is quite short, only about 5 kms return.

We accessed the path from the Sharpe’s Beach car park as this was the closest access point to Byron Bay.  The first section of the path to Flat Rock winds through picturesque heath land

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We’ve had a bit of rain lately and everything is so, so green!
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The actual coast road is behind those pine trees in the distance.

while offering lovely views of the ocean.

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We noticed lots of little paths winding down to the beach, perfect for those seeking refuge from the crowds

When we reached Flat Rock, we found a viewing platform and of course access to a fantastic beach. For those who enjoy camping, there is also a tent park here.

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Even the signposts are visually stunning.
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If you look closely, you can see the flat rock in the water which gives it name to this headland.

Then the path meanders through coastal wetlands and  instead of smooth bitumen we found ourselves on a slightly elevated metal walkway,

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this section was quite shady, a good thing in the heat of the afternoon

wandering past gnarly coastal banksias.

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Native lilies will grow in the most unusual places.

One of the things I loved about the path were the information boards providing interesting information about how the aboriginal people had interacted with the land as well as some of their dreaming stories.

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I love how the boards blend in with the environment.
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The sculptures enhance your walking experience
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My photo doesn’t do this justice. This board utilises archival photographs from the 1920s to represent how aboriginal people might have interacted with the wetlands.

All too soon, we found ourselves at Angel’s Beach.

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I really don’t think you could get lost on this path!

 

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Just another perfect beach. We didn’t think of it on the day, but we could have walked back to Sharpe’s Beach along the beach instead of retracing our steps.  Love dabbling my feet in the sea. Next time?

It was also lovely to see lots of little ones on the path, cruising along in their strollers or peddling their tricycles with Mum and Dad ambling along behind.  The path is very flat, perfect for beginners as well as the more advanced to ride along. We even spotted a toy poodle standing up in a bike basket, paws on the handlebars having the best time.

All too soon we were back in Lennox heading home. Next time we plan to bring our bikes and a picnic. Maybe we’ll see you there!

 

 

 

Snowy Mountains in Autumn

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The mountains seem to roll on forever from the top of  Mount Kosciuszko

Autumn is a delightful time of year. Here in Byron Bay, it brings warm sunny days and cool evenings that invite you to snuggle down under a doona. While it is still warm enough to swim in the bay without a wetsuit, it’s the season for beach walking.

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Perfect for day dreaming  while digging one’s toes into soft sand or checking out the rockpools at low tide.

Lovely as Byron is at this time of the year, there is something missing. I can’t walk through drifts of red, yellow or orange leaves and breathe in the scent of wood smoke. I can’t see  avenues of claret and golden ash trees or bright yellow poplars  blazing against bright blue skies or taste the tang of  early morning frosty air.

Road trip time!

First stop was Sydney and a family celebration. Little Genevieve was turning TWO! And there was the added bonus of spending some quality time with baby Francesca, the cutest little nine week old poppet one could hope to meet. Was it really only two years ago that we joined that wonderful club: Grandparents Inc? So much joy!

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There’s just so much to do and  so much to say  and so much to show everyone when you are just two! And look at the awesome cake, my Nanny Hooper baked especially for me.  Life is good!

Birthday celebrations over,  we took to the highway in search of ‘that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains, where we hoped to climb to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko was our first destination. Autumn was all around us as we stopped for brunch at  the Magpie cafe in historic Berrima.

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Fabulous food and coffee in a very picturesque setting. Wished we had more time to spend exploring this delightful little town. And no, they didn’t mistake me for an escaped inmate from the Correctional centre!

After a  short stop in Jindabyne to gather supplies, we were soon settling into our delightful studio at Snowgoose Apartments. From our balcony we watched as the sun began  to set behind the mountain and the mist started to rise. Yep, we were in “Man from Snowy River” country, ready for some high country adventures.

The following morning dawned as perfectly as one hopes a morning will dawn in the mountains. However, we had been warned that the weather is very changeable on Kosciuszko, so we dressed accordingly: walking boots, merino thermals, waterproof jackets, gloves and beanies. Yes we did indeed resemble Yetis out for an afternoon stroll!

Unfortunately the main chairlift, the Kosciuszko express was out for maintenance and we had to take the Snowgum chairlift to the top of the mountain. This meant that our trek to the summit begun with a very, and I mean very, steep 500 metre climb to the beginning of the Kosciuszko walking trail. Bleating like an injured mountain goat, I scrambled over rocks and protruding snow gum roots eventually finding myself looking up at the Eagle Nest Restaurant, ready to begin the real trek!

To protect the delicate, alpine environment, National Parks have constructed an elevated walkway for the 7 or so kms to the summit. It really is a very pleasant, easy climb. We noticed that many of the small streams that meander across the plateau, had frozen over during the night and that there were still tiny delicate flowers and mosses snuggling between the rocks.

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These little streams become the headwaters of the Snowy River

Soon we had to take off beanies, scarves and coats, it was so warm. And there was hardly another person in sight.  We were alone, just us and the mountains and the sky. Coming to a fork in the track, we saw the sign for Charlotte’s Pass. A trek for another day?

Approaching the summit, the views in every direction were fantastic. Although there was no snow where we were, we could see the snow capped peaks of the Victorian Alps to the south.

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It was a symphony in blue

Soon we were at the summit, celebrating with others enjoying our picnic lunch.

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Very happy

An easy downhill stroll saw us easily meet our rendezvous with the chairlift and we enjoyed our half hour descent. The beautiful weather continued as next morning, we enjoyed the river walk which follows the Thredbo River and Golf Course.

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The river cascades over rocks surrounded by beautiful alpine bush
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A gum tree with character.

Following the call of the road, we resumed our trip, stopping for morning tea at Lake Jindabyne.

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There’s a wonderful walking/biking track that follows the lake shore.

Not only was the lake looking wonderful but there were poplars lining the shore.

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Although they are nearly finished, they were still beautiful

Our road trip took us along the Snowy Mountains highway to Yarrangabilly Caves where we stopped for lunch and a swim in the thermal pool.  Again, we would have liked to stay longer.  Caves House, which has very competitive rates, looked very inviting. Although we have explored the caves before, we would have liked to do so again.

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Yarrangabilly creek, enhanced by Google Photos. Always a lovely surprise.
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But I like the original, beautiful Australian bush
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Although the water temperature was 27 degrees, I still thought it was chilly. But we did have this beautiful spot all to ourselves!

The beautiful town of Tumut awaited us. I knew that the town had just celebrated ‘The festival of the Falling Leaf’ so was hoping that the autumn colour I had been hankering for would still be on display. It was! As we strolled along the Tumut River Walk in the late afternoon, I couldn’t have asked for more.

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Starting our walk at Bila Park, the sun glowed through the trees
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There were trees of every shade of red and orange, enough to satisfy a pyromaniac
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And then there was the river
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a golden river
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watched over by willows and river gums.
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As we finished our walk, the sun was setting behind the hills.  So pretty.

But our road trip was not finished. From Tumut, we traveled to Cowra via Gundagai and Young. Here we were catching up with family and friends. We enjoyed a memorable lunch at the Cowra Breakout, a lovely coffee shop located in Macquarie St and perused the lovely shops nearby. Cowra, too is full of autumn colour.

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Lovely food and ambience

A visit to the Japanese Gardens is particularly beautiful at this time of year.

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Spring too, is a wonderful time to visit: the cherry blossoms are very, very beautiful.

That night, we enjoyed a special country dinner. My sister Jenny cooked the best roast lamb dinner I have tasted for ages. It was so tender and so full of flavour that I wanted to be like Oliver in ‘Oliver Twist’ and ask for more! It was of course, Cowra Lamb, a brand that is finding a lot of fans around Australia and overseas.

But all good things have to come to an end. It was time to return home. Usually the thought of the 1000 km  plus drive would be a trifle daunting. But the countryside as we drove from Cowra across the Central West of NSW and the Liverpool plains as we headed north was just stunning. Full to the brim with mellow fruitfulness; shining with the colours of the fall.

Do you love Autumn too?

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Rocky Mountain High – Jasper in June

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Lake Maligne as viewed from Spirit Island

Sometimes,when travelling, the weather gods are not on your side! Driving  from Clearwater to Jasper,  on the third leg of our road-trip  we intended to stop and see Mt Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. However, we couldn’t  soak in what is apparently an amazing view as we found ourselves surrounded by thick mist. All was not doom and gloom however for as we climbed higher, we drove out of the mist into the sun and found ourselves surrounded by the awesomeness of Jasper National Park. Nestled in its heart is the charming town of Jasper, where we settled into our own little cabin in the woods, a charming and comfortable lakeside cottage for two at Patricia Lake Bungalows.

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Patricia Lake from the porch of our cottage. It was  cold when we were there, so didn’t try the canoes. I probably wouldn’t have fallen in but you never know …

As we were staying for three nights, we had time to really explore some of this amazing World Heritage area. The management at Patricia Lake Bungalows couldn’t have been more helpful and gave us great advice about walks, attractions, the best supermarket, eateries and how to operate the hot tub. Nothing was too much trouble! There was even a special bottle of wine to help us celebrate a special anniversary.

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A very nice drop! Thank you Patricia Lake Bungalows!

Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain

On our first afternoon, we decided to explore Pyramid Lake. Patricia and Pyramid Lakes are just a few kilometres from Jasper township and are connected to each other and the town by hiking trails. In fact, Jasper has so many hiking trails that you have to prioritize.  Even though we were staying next door, so to speak, we drove to Pyramid Lake to explore the lake via a hiking trail which took us along the shoreline, past the resort and across a small wooden footbridge to Pyramid Island. There we admired the wonderful views across the lake of Pyramid Mountain and its reflection.

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It’s easy to see why it’s called Pyramid Mountain!
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The lake was so clear and still, perfect for reflections.

Back home at Patricia Lake, we enjoyed similar views but the snow capped mountains added a special magic I think.

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Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake

We woke to a cloudy day and decided that it was perfect for exploring. About an hour’s drive from Jasper lies Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Although I had read that the upper Canyon could get very busy when tour buses arrive, I hadn’t appreciated what  ‘busy’ meant in this context.  We thought we were relatively early;  arriving at the canyon around 11am.  The carpark was reasonably empty and  we smugly set off  to explore the excellent self-guided interpretative loop trail that follows the upper reaches of the  gorge. We found ourselves crossing the canyon several times, the bridges providing wonderful photo opportunities.

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The water churns along
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carving out caves in the canyon walls
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cascading down waterfalls
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and disappearing into the forest!

By the time we reached the fourth bridge, an hour or so had passed and it was time to retrace our steps, for we wanted to check out Medicine and Maligne Lakes after lunch.  We were astounded by the number of people we encountered walking down, as we climbed to the top. The tour buses had arrived … in droves. Despite the crowds, which at times resembled a herd of wildebeest scrabbling for a spot at the waterhole,  this was a wonderful place to visit and explore. Next time, we would like to allow more time to explore the canyon further, as far as the fifth and sixth bridges perhaps.

Leaving Maligne Canyon, we drove past Medicine Lake to the beautiful Maligne Lake. Everything about this lake is wonderful.  It is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Ringed by snow-and-ice-capped mountains, the 22 km long lake stretches past serene Spirit Island right to the melt-water channels of Coronet Glacier.

We lunched at the Maligne Lake Day Lodge & View Restaurant which had an adequate menu and a fabulous view and then explored the foreshore of the lake, learning about some of the history of the area,  while some of the locals tried to say hello.

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I can see you!

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The path winds past the historic boat shed where there are canoes for hire,
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while the  changing colours  of the lake invite you to linger … and contemplate.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we returned to Jasper where we still had time to wander around, looking for that special souvenir to bring home and enjoy a leisurely dinner in front of the fire,  overlooking Patricia Lake. Bliss!

 

Spirit Island

Morning bought sunny weather, so  we returned to Maligne Lake and took the Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island.  This boat cruise was definitely one of the highlights of our Canadian holiday. Excellent commentary and amazing scenery made for an unforgettable experience.

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The boats are not so big that they intrude on the landscape or impact the environment in a negative way

On the water, we were amazed by the changing colours of the water.

 

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Is it blue,  blue green, aqua, turquoise, jade ……?

But nothing prepared us for what awaited at Spirit Island.

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 Here it is impossible to take a bad photograph for it is so beautiful where ever you look! 
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An amazing place!
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Even google liked one of my photos and decided to ‘play’.

Alas, our cruise was over all too soon and we headed back to Jasper. Reluctant to let go of the magic, we decided to have a late lunch at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. There on the deck, overlooking the pool and Beauvert Lake, enjoying a delightful meal and exceptional service, we certainly felt we were living the good life.

All too soon, our time in Jasper was at an end. There was one disappointment. We travelled to Jasper in early June and the road to Mount Edith Cavell was not yet open. Locals had rated this hike as good as the boat cruise if that’s possible, so this too, will also have to wait till … next time.

 

 

The Flinders Ranges in Springtime

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The Chace Range in the Flinders Ranges,  as viewed from Rawnsley Park

Our recent road trip to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia could best be described as serendipitous. Quite by accident,  we found ourselves in the right place at the right time to witness one of nature’s miracles, a once in ten years sort of miracle!

Following extensive and unusual winter and spring rainfall, the dry, red countryside that we expected to find was carpeted with an explosion of wildflowers and greenery. And this carpet was not just here and there, but stretched for hundreds of kilometres, from Nyngan

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Drifts of wildflowers near the Bogan River in Nyngan

to Broken Hill

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blue puff balls as far as the eye could see

and from the South Australian border

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As we drove to each new town in South Australia, there were drifts of gazanias in every colour imaginable!

all the way to the  green oasis of Wilpena Pound in the  Flinders Ranges.

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Open grassland in the middle of Wilpena Pound.

We enjoyed the journey to the Flinders via NSW. Although much of the region was affected by floods with many roads and highways closed, with the exception of a little bit of water over the road on the outskirts of Warren, the Prado didn’t get its feet wet, let alone test out the snorkle. Each town had something to remember it by. In Nyngan we spotted this heritage building.

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Nyngan has been a boom and bust sort of place.

And in Cobar where copper  is mined, a lookout on the edge of town lets you look down into the big pit while the museum and visitor centre is worth a visit. The museum offers insights into the indigenous, mining and pastoral history of the region and the everyday life of the early settlers. In those days, a woman’s work was never done.

 

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I’d need a good hand cream after this and my back hurts just looking at this equipment!

Broken Hill did not disappoint either. We enjoyed exploring the city streets where there were lots of interesting things to see such as ‘The Big Picture’ and the heritage listed town of Silverton where the Mad Max films were made. The sculpture park on Sunset Hill was striking and the sunset beautiful. As well, we found a delightful cafe which had excellent coffee and a fresh menu, always a bonus when you’re travelling.

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Sun nearly gone!

But the star attraction of our trip were the Flinders Ranges. We stayed at Rawnsley  Park Station  www.rawnsleypark.com.au  which has a variety of accommodation options to suit most budgets. We chose to stay in one of their self-contained holiday units which we found very comfortable.

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We stocked up on supplies in Broken Hill and Hawker. After breakfast, we packed lunch to take with us on our explorations , returning for a leisurely dinner each evening. 

There are some delightful walks at Rawnsley Park Station. One that  we completed was the Ferntree Falls Walk. We were fortunate again because the falls don’t always flow, only after rain! And it had rained a couple of days before we arrived!

 

.The following morning we set off to explore. First stop was Wilpena Pound.

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Wilpena Pound from the air! An experience not to be missed.

There is an excellent information centre at the Pound and soon we found ourselves walking along a silver gum lined creek

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These gum trees looked as if someone had spray painted them silver. And they were so tall!

 across bridges

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The creek twists and turns

to the Hills Homestead, the early settlers of the Pound

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A lonely life

on our way to the Wangara lookout where the view across the pound made the climb to the lookout worthwhile.

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It just goes on and on.

Returning to the visitor centre, we had our lunch on the shaded deck while we worked out our itinerary for an afternoon drive. We decided to explore the Bunyeroo and Brachina gorges.

Bunyeroo Gorge is one of the main gorges which runs through the Heysen Range towards Lake Torrens. The drive down the Razorback Ridge to Bunyeroo Valley gives spectacular views South towards the Pound Range.

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Kenn has always wanted to drive this road. Finally got his wish and a couple of watery creek crossings as well.

We then drove north to join the Brachina Gorge road which meanders its way through sharp sawtooth ridges of resistant quartzite. This spectacular gorge was once used as a pass through which bullock teams pulled their loads and is now a favourite picnic and camping area.

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It was awesome to see where we had driven from the air

Early next morning, we decided to do one of the longer walks at Wilpena Pound: the 18.8 km Bridle Gap Walk which takes you across the pound and back.

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The walk captured in bronze

This walk forms part of the Heysen Trail, one of Australia’s Great Walks but it was the wildlife that we saw which made this walk very special. We spotted wallabies and some very friendly emus. For a moment or two, I thought they were going to be too friendly!

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The emus were on the lookout for something to chase: a wallaby jumped along and obliged

I also had fun testing out how waterproof my hiking boots were as we crossed little cteeks and lagoons on the walk. Needless to say, my feet in my Scarpa boots stayed dry. These boots are made for walking!

That afternoon, we explored other gems including the Cazneaux  Tree. Cazneaux was a famous photographer. One of his  most famous images was taken on 1937, of a solitary river red gum tree, near Wilpena Pound which he titled “The Spirit of Endurance”. Like many others, I took a photo of the same tree which still stands today.

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Hopefully, it will still be standing in 100 years time.

There were Aboriginal rock sites to visit and admire,

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just beautiful

lookouts to visit which had vistas over the ABC range and towards the north and  a thrilling flight over the area to enjoy. We considered booking this before we left home, but weren’t sure which flight would suit us best. The friendly staff at Rawnsley and Wilpena Pound were very helpful and in the end we decided on a half hour flight from Rawnsley over the Pound and the Gorges.  It was not difficult to book a time which suited us and our pilot made the experience one to savour. Thank you, Alex!

All too soon, we were bidding farewell to the Flinders Ranges. We returned to Byron Bay via Mildura where we stopped for two nights. This is a lovely place on the Murray River in the middle of wine growing country. Couldn’t resist trying the local drop and bought a couple of bottles home to share with friends. While in Mildura, we went to Sea Lake.

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As you can see, not much to see at Sea Lake except your reflection! We watched amazed as hordes of Chinese girls, dressed in designer clothing walked into the lake and posed while their boyfriends took their photograph in the murky salt lake.  Apparently, when there are some clouds, it looks as if you are walking on the clouds!

A couple of family reunions, an extra 6000 kms on the clock and all too soon we were driving into Byron Bay. Home until … the next adventure.

 

Waterfall Wanderings in the Canadian Rockies

Waterfalls and raging rivers dominated Stage 2 of our road trip as we drove from Whistler to  Jasper along  a ‘road less traveled’ via Pemberton,  Lillooet, Kamloops and Clearwater. This was a very rewarding experience as we were not surrounded by hundreds of fellow tourists, allowing us time to drink in the silence, to find the special magic, that something unique and wonderful that nourishes a connection with the wilderness.

 Whistler to Kamloops

 Nairn Falls

We left Whistler on an overcast but dry day. We  had lots of time to stop and explore along the way as we were only driving to Kamloops and it’s light well into the evening in early June.  Just outside Pemberton, we stopped at Nairn Falls on the Green River to stretch our legs and check out our first Canadian waterfall. The walk to the waterfall, along the Green river was lovely.

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The path climbed a little but was quite easy. It is a 3 km return walk.
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Occasionally, I just had to find a seat and enjoy the view and yes the leaves were really this lovely shade of green as the sun was  peeking through!
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The falls at the end of the walk were quite impressive. They are 60 metres high and you can view both the upper and lower falls.

Joffre Lakes

All too soon, we were in the car. Passing through pretty Pemberton, our next stop was  Joffre Lakes. We had learned about them from a couple from Adelaide, as we lay soaking  in the hot tub at the Summit hotel in Whistler. Alas, Kenn and I didn’t have the four plus hours  needed to complete the 10 km round hike, so we just walked along the path to the lower lake.

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Imagine what the other lakes are like if this is the least scenic!

Then came the best part of the drive to Kamloops. The road to Lillooet winds through snow capped mountains that seem to hover all around you. The sun kept making an appearance, breaking through banks of clouds,  making  glaciers gleam and sparkle and frosting the tops of the deep green trees which lined the valleys. Then this alpine perfection changed. As you drive further inland towards Lillooet, the road enters a rain shadow and the countryside becomes sparse and dry creating an interesting contrast with the coast.

Lillooet

This is a little hamlet on the Fraser river and was our stop for lunch at the Rugged Bean Cafe where our meal and coffee were delicious.

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I think that British Columbia is the hanging basket capital of the world.

Earlier than we had anticipated, we found ourselves in Kamloops. This was only an overnight stop so we quickly booked into our motel, Accent Inns, Kamloops.    (https://www.accentinns.com)  We were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and well equipped our room was, considering this is a 3 star rated motel.  Guided by a lovely receptionist at the Inn, we explored the riverside park in the heart of the city where the Fraser and Thomson Rivers meet.

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There was a river beach but it was  quite dangerous to swim there according to the warning signs
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Indigenous carvings enlivened the park

Kamloops to Jasper

Clearwater and the Wells Grey Provincial Park

Next morning, after a simple breakfast at Accent Inns, we found ourselves bound for Clearwater, gateway for the Wells Grey Provincial Park. No-one seemed to know about this park back in Australia but I was intrigued by some comments on a couple of blog posts I had read while in the  research phase for our trip. Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls, the blog posts enthused. Worth a stop I thought!

Clearwater was only about an hours drive from Kamloops and our first port of call was to the park information centre. With a limited time frame, they were able to advise us which of the many waterfalls we should visit and which walks were feasible. So map in hand and my navigator’s cap on, we drove into the park. Our first waterfall was the Spahats Creek Falls.

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Falling into a steep gorge, this waterfall impressed
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We were reminded a little of the Blue Mountains in NSW

Next came the Dawson Falls or ‘Mini Niagara’ according to the locals. This too, was quite impressive I thought.

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The path takes you along the river to the top of the falls.

But we saved the best for last, the lovely Helmcken Falls on the Myrtle River. Firstly, we  walked for about an hour to the top of the falls along the Rim Trail. This was a great hike as you follow a rampaging river hurtling along to the falls. The sound is amazing!

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You wouldn’t want to slip!

Reaching the top of the falls, you find yourself surrounded by mist and spray.

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It’s a long way down!

 

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Now you see it, now you don’t

Retracing our steps along the Rim Trail, we encountered a young couple coming towards us exclaiming excitedly, ” Did you see the bear?” We hadn’t, but soon after heard some ominous growls emanating from deeper in the woods.

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‘There’s a bear in there … ‘sang Kenn to torment me!

Thankfully however, we didn’t have a close encounter  (I love bears … from a distance) and I can assure you that while I didn’t set a new land speed record, I did make it  back to  the car very, very quickly.

Soon, we were on our way to the viewpoint for a panoramic view of the falls. the waterfall was really beautiful and I loved the way the Canadians have made the viewpoint so accessible  for everybody.

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So beautiful and we could see where we had hiked – notice the spray near the top of the falls? That’s where the Rim Trail leads to.

Finally, our day trip into the Wells Grey Provincial Park ended with a visit to an early settler’s now abandoned homestead. One could only wonder how they coped with the isolation and the cold in those early years.

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Such a simple life!

Finally, it was time to retrace our steps to Clearwater and find the Hummingbird BnB, our home for the night. We were thrilled to see some deer and a couple of bears crossing the road on our way. One of the benefits of staying in a BnB is that you get to experience a place like a local. Some of our most memorable meals in Canada came from a recommendation from a BnB host. Doris, our hostess in Clearwater, recommended the Hop “N” Hog Tap & Smokehouse.  And it was wonderful. Sipping signature beers and working our way through a gigantic plate of amazing ribs, we wished that we could stay  a little longer here and perhaps take a white water rafting trip. Maybe next time.

Next morning,  while Doris served up a lovely breakfast, we saw hummingbirds for the first time in the wild. So tiny and so fast! Then we were on our way to Jasper. Doris had recommended stopping at Mount Robson Provincial Park on the way, but when we got there, it was so foggy and overcast that we drove on past. I will have to look at the highest point in the Canadian Rockies another time. This part of the drive to Jasper was spectacular. I suspect that I looked a little like one of those clowns that you see at a country show: mouth always open, head moving constantly from side to side!

A road less traveled and that made all the difference