It had been quite some time since we had had a decent lab bush walk, so we planned an overnight walk in the Blue Mountains for one weekend in October. However, the weather looked slightly dubious in the days preceding, so we took the namby pamby option and decided to explore the Royal National Park on a day walk instead. This meant that Robyn could join us without fear of having to resort to using the bush as her bathroom... The rollcall consisted of Jacqui, myself, Gareth, Arwen, Robyn, Socks, Ann, Ann's friend Michelle, and Tony - the new English chap in the lab.
We thought that we would enlist the services of a local guide, and turned to Gareth Denyer - an academic in our School who lives in Heathcote in a place that almost backs on to the Heathcote National Park (which is just across the road from the Royal National Park). Gareth (and his unique neighbour) have made it their hobby over the last few years to seek out interesting places in the HNP, forging the odd path themselves and leaving subtly positioned cairns in key places to mark their routes.
We put ourselves in Gareth's hands for the day and he came up with a cracking route, taking in more fabulous spots than you can shake a waratah at (and we saw a record number of these impressive flowers). Without giving too much away, we spent the morning exploring HNP - on a mixture of tracks and faint footpads, discovering most excellent pools (that you could easily spend all day at in summer) and great views. The wildflower season was in full swing too, and I saw more varieties of flowers than i have ever seen on a one-day walk in Sydney. The only downside was that it showered a fair bit for the first couple of hours, but our intrepid party didn't seem to be too discouraged by that - they were too busy beating the bushes aside!
Seven hours later, we emerged at the fish and chip shop in Waterfall, having gotten through half of the planned walk! A cunning plan was hatched that involved doing the remainder of the walk more briskly (pretty cunning, eh?). Half of the party decided to walk a small part of the way to see a waterfall on Kangaroo Creek and then return to Waterfall to catch the train. The other half forged on and had a couple more hours of great Sydney bushland - following Kangaroo Creek almost all the way back to Heathcote. Views were superb and the creek was crystal clear - there was even a sighting of a platypus ducking beneath the creek bank at one point.
In the end, we made it back before dark (we were counting up the headtorches for a while...) to a sumptuous spread and fine hospitality laid on at Gareth's place by his wife Alison- she is clearly used to returning smelly hordes! A great day out and some superb Sydney bushland - I am already plotting a creek-based escapade in the area for later in the summer...
[Click on the thumbnails to get a caption and a larger image]