Berowra Waters Hiking

Our group’s hiking scorecard to date:
1) Bouddi National Park Walk: Supposed to end at McMasters Beach, we turned around at Little Beach (14km walk). Shortened the walk in favor of eating and drinking. (0/1)

2) Mt Kosciuszko: Supposed to do the 18km trail, we maybe did 5km if even. The weather felled us, so we decided to eat and drink instead. (0/2)

3) Kangaroo Valley: The directions on the map we had was flat out wrong. So we did a steep 12km trail instead of the 16km trail we’d ear marked. The wine post-hike at our camp site was stupendous though. (0/3)

4) Berowra Waters: We were supposed to do the 16km walk from Galston Gorge to Berowra Waters, but after laughing at 2 dudes we met on the trail who had somehow managed to walk a loop back to Galston Gorge, we ended up doing the same exact thing. Karma. Then, we decided to just drive to the end of the trail at Berowra Waters and walk part of the trail from the end. And half an hour in, we managed to get off trail and had spend the next hour bush whacking our way back out to freedom. Maybe 10km. But the post-hike food and drinks made up for it. (0/4)

At least the company and food / wine / cocktails were good.

thebotanist

It will be ok, hopefully

​Grateful for the opportunity Thursday to step away from the office and hit the open road to Wollongong to test drive a series of Audis. 

Like Obama said, the one certain thing is that the sun will rise – and it did, after heavy thunderstorms last night. It will rain again tomorrow and over the next couple of days, but on Thursday, feeling the wind in our hair and seeing baby whales joyously breaching in front of the harbor, gave us hope. 

People may suck, but nature is glorious. There in of itself, is hope.

Happy

What a beautiful, glorious day. I actually woke up at 420am, intending to catch the sunrise. But I’m a huge sucker for clouds at sunrise, and there wasn’t any to be seen this morning – just the stars. 

So I messaged C and we rearranged to soak in the sun instead, five hours later. 

We took a long, leisurely stroll around our neighborhood, through bushes, quiet residential streets with the lovely purple blooms of jaracandas, and wound up sitting alfresco at a cafe for brunch and Bellini. 

One of those days where, even if you didn’t do much, you feel so intensely alive, and happy. To see the clear blue skies overhead, watch the sparkle of the water below, feel the cool breeze on your face, and smell the gentle fragrance of flowers in bloom.

An interesting Spit to Balmoral Paddle

Joined a new meetup group today for some paddling, because Jeff is out of town and the group I usually paddle with was fully booked. 

We met bright and early at Spit Bridge. The original plan was to do a long full day paddle, with a beach BBQ in the middle, but the winds were strong, and expected to pick up as the day went by – gusts of up to 50km/h. So the new plan was to just do a 2 hour paddle to Balmoral and back. 

Sounded easy enough, and so our 12 boats, a mix of singles and doubles took off. But it quickly became apparent that this was no leisurely stroking in the sun. At certain points I had to physically punch into the wind to move forward. Still, everyone got to the nude beach Obelisk Beach upright.

It was when we turned back that things started going awry. The organizer was towing a lady who was out on the water for her very first time – and in a single! – so he went ahead. The rest of the group was quickly spread out, everyone intent on trying to staying afloat. Then the first boat capsized, a double. I tried to steer towards them to help, but even as I did so, I could feel my boat wobble dangerously in the waves. I saw another double kayak sprint towards them, so I decided to concentrate on trying to save myself.

When I next turned around, the other kayakers that had kept even with me were now out of sight. Uhoh. 

I caught up to the organizer who was looking increasingly anxious, so I took over the towing from him while he doubled back to round up everyone else. 

Thankfully, as we struggled back towards shore, a couple rescue boats came zipping by, and in minutes, had on board the kayakers who had capsized and couldn’t get back into their vessels.

When we finally reached shore, the tally: 4 boats capsized – of which 3 needed tows back in; the 1 lady that needed help from the beginning; and the 1 guy who called it quits at Balmoral Beach and flagged a cab back to Spit instead.

But the sun was shining and nobody was freaked out. Which was really quite incredible! Everyone had the most positive of attitudes, even the first timer who couldn’t tell which way was up on her paddle. And so we spread out our picnic blankets in the sun and had a delightful BBQ.

All’s well that ends well. 🙂

Start of alfresco dining

alfresco dining love

I’ve been down fighting a cold for the past two weeks, and it seems, half the Australian population as well. But the weather is improving, and yesterday was such a beautiful day that we couldn’t let it go to waste.

So we finally strung up the hammock and invited our friend over to hang out. Nothing like good wine, mouth watering grilled barramundi on banana leaves over the barbie, to bring the promise of summer.

A paddle out to Clifton Gardens

When I had checked the weather forecast earlier in the week, it seemed like Sunday was perfect for our long paddle. Balmy temperatures, sunny blue skies…

But you know where this is heading. It was freezing when we started to build our origami Oru kayaks in the pre-dawn, and it seemed that the winds only picked up as we paddled out of our little bay East towards the Sydney Opera House.

At least it was quiet on the water, save the occasional ferry already plying it’s first passengers from Manly. We paddled past the Opera House for the first time, and at the governor’s mansion turned back to admire the city view. We kept on going, heading towards Taronga Zoo, then past it, all the while keeping our eyes peeled towards the Middle Harbor for a wisp of spout. You never know. Whales have been regularly spotted as far inland as the Opera House!

We weren’t lucky that day though. Finally, as we rounded the bend to Clifton Gardens, we decided to turn back. Jeff’s hands were starting to turn red and swollen from the cold; my ass was getting sore from the thin padding on the seat. And we still had to battle the headwinds to get back. 

All said and done, it was a great 16km paddle. I love quiet mornings. It would have been quite perfect, had I not accidentally dropped one of my kayak’s seam channels into the water by our jetty when I was dismantling it. Dismayed, I actually dove into the frigid waters to try retrieve it. No luck. 😥

Winter day paddle to Cockatoo Island and Goat Island

oru kayaks

We hadn’t taken our kayaks out on the water in a while, so I was itching to get in some paddling last Sunday, when it was nice and sunny out. The warm rays of the sun felt good on our skin. We launched at the jetty by us, and decided to paddle west towards Greenwich and Cockatoo Island.

I’ve heard a lot about Cockatoo Island, about how it’s an urban getaway island with a lot of history. It just looked very industrial to us though, not very attractive. I can’t believe that people actually paid $800 to camp overnight there on New Year’s Eve. Goodness. The setting seemed quite perfect for a dystopian film, say Divergent, or a hideout of drug cartels in some action movie.

Goat Island, which we paddled to, on the other hand, appeared greener and more idyllic. It had the added advantage of facing the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House too.

kayaking sydney harbor bridge

All in all, it was a great day to be out on the water, and we even got to paddle up to Balmain, which I still haven’t been to visit. On the books the next sunny weekend: paddling out to Taronga Zoo.

goat island kayak

Catching Vivid 2016

The verdict’s unanimous – Vivid this year rocks. That’s what everyone has been raving about at any rate, even jaded photographers online who say they are otherwise tired of jostling with the crowds.

So I checked it out. Once, on Wednesday, when I walked home from work. Through Circular Quay and up the Sydney Harbor Bridge. And another time last night with friends. We walked to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair first, thinking that we’d be able to cut across the Botanical Gardens to the Opera House, but it turns out they’d only opened a small portion of the Botanical Gardens for the light festival, so we had to walk the long way around. Still, despite the crowds, it was a beautiful evening to be out.

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View from Mrs Macquarie's Chair

View from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Loved the video projections on the tree, very Avatar-esque

Loved the video projections on the tree, very Avatar-esque

Intel had a drone light display

Intel had a drone light display

The cathedral of light walk

The cathedral of light walk

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Weekend in the Blue Mountains

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Lithgow Glow Worm Tunnel

We went up to the Blue Mountains last weekend. Because we had made plans to meet friends at the Three Sisters lookout at Echo Point early Sunday morning, I decided we could make a weekend of it and go camping. And get both the Lithgow glow worm tunnel and astrophotography checked off at the same time. Heh.

The forecast was rainy earlier in the day Saturday, but I figured since our main agenda during the day was the glow worm tunnel where it’s covered, a bit of rain did not matter. In any case, by the time we made it 30km past the bumpy gravel road to the trail, the rain had stopped.

The glow worms in the tunnel are much smaller – and sparser – than the giant ones we saw in Waitomo caves New Zealand. So much so that on our first pass through the tunnel, we completely missed them. But once we turned off our headlamps and stood a few seconds in the pitch blackness to adjust our eyes, we could see the blueish glow. Faint, but visible. And I’m stoked I finally managed to get a couple pictures of them.

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Night sky at Perryman’s Lookdown

By the time we finished our walk, night had fallen. We drove in the darkness back out to Blackheath, and ducked into the first restaurant we saw for dinner. Ashcroft Bistro – awesome food, and better money spent than on a couple of overpriced beds. Haha. In fact, we made it back to the restaurant the next morning at 8am!

Initially, I’d picked out Ignar Campsite near Wentworth to set up camp for the night, but given that it’d rained the day before and the reviews warned of a boggy road to the grounds, I decided to scout around for another site. There was Blackheath Glen right around the corner, and a short drive away to Govett’s Leap lookout for good astrophotography. But it was a built up campsite and we wanted something a bit more rustic, so we checked out Perryman’s Lookdown. By then the clouds had miraculously cleared and I was able to get off a couple quick snapshots of the milky way before we retreated to our little strip of woods to set up camp.

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I love our new lightweight tent, but geez, I was somewhat chilly the entire night even in my -15 degree bag. The temperatures went down to as low as 1 degree, just above freezing, but I’ve really acclimatized to the temperate New South Wales weather!

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And in the morning, we made it back out Echo Point in time to catch up with our friends, especially H who is visiting from Singapore for the week. The sun came out in full blast too. What a glorious day!

 

Camping in Central Australia – Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon

When we started looking at travel options for exploring Uluru and it’s surrounds, I knew I wanted to camp. What better way to experience the Australian outback than sleeping in a swag under the skies?

I quickly decided on joining a tour rather than wing it on our own, usually our preferred option. It just seemed easier to have transportation, food, and accommodation sites organized, particularly since we were rather tight on time.

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Moon rise by Uluru

We went with Mulgas Adventures in the end. Although most of the travel outfitters, by and large, have the same itinerary, right down to the trails and campsites, Mulgas had the best rating reviews on TripAdvisor. Haha, I have to admit though, the first evening after we had settled down to try to get some shut eye for the night and shouts of laughter and chatter were still coming from the bedrolls just a few feet from ours, I wondered if we should have paid a bit more to get a tour with people more in our age group. But maybe few people in their 30s travel anymore, or at least elect to camp?

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Sleeping under the bright moonlight

Subsequently though, after we had much more rest in our system, and gotten to know our fellow travelers, we had a blast. Ours was a good group – everyone happily pitched in to help with the cooking, cleaning, and packing up, and for the most part, were punctual with the set times our guide set us. We had long full days – waking up at 430 usually to grab a quick bite of breakfast before driving to a great spot to watch the sunrise, then hiking for a few hours before driving to our next campsite at dusk.

By the end, we were quite sad to be leaving. If only we had more time to properly explore the surroundings, especially Kings Canyon. It’s really quite an isolated region though. We never did get up Alice Springs, so we don’t know how that town looks, but otherwise we never drove by any sort of settlements at all. I suppose the Aborigines live in communities far off the main highway, and the farmers are also spread out all over the land. All we saw were scrubs, the occasional outcroppings of rock that rise up over the flat landscape, and the few dusty gas stations by the side of the road. It’s a harsh place to live in that’s for sure.

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Kata Tjuta sunrise


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Kings Canyon rim walk

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Garden of Eden in Kings Canyon

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After we’d collected firewood (i.e. uprooted small dead trees), we drove to our private bush camp in the outback

 

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Cooking pasta bolognese, outback style

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Soda bread, fresh out of the cast iron pot

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For mere minutes, the curtain of clouds parted enough to show us the stars

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View from my swag in the early hours. Got up to add more wood to the fire

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Pit toilet with a view of Mt. Connor

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Sunrise over Mt. Connor – we didn’t get a chance to visit this though, only admired from afar