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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

23 May 2011

Final outing

20th May 2011

Yesterday evening we tried our final bit of mammal watching for Australia, heading out to Royal National Park for some spotlighting in the forest. We saw a couple of Rusa Deer, no doubt introduced some time last century, and a single Sugar Glider which swooped past us through the air to make a perfect four-point landing on a tree trunk before scrambling up out of sight into the canopy. Gliders are a kind of Possum that have a membrane between their front and back legs, just like the flying squirrels of Asia. Anyway, that brought our tally of native mammals seen in Australia and New Zealand to 42, not bad.

Today was our final outing in Australia, a day trip into the Blue Mountains. Only an hour’s drive from the middle of Sydney (I can attest) and the scenery is epic. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as the area is really a series of canyons cutting back into a high plateau. So the Blue Canyons might be better. The roads, towns and lookouts in the Blue Mountains are all up on the plateau and so the views are all from above, perched upon rocky crags looking down into a blanket of verdant eucalyptus forest. With the blue morning mist it’s like peering into a lost world. I could imagine dinosaurs lurking down there beneath the canopy, and indeed this is where the Wollemi Pine was discovered only a few years ago, a tree which was thought to have become extinct many millions of years ago.

The main road through the mountains follows a ridge up through Glenbrook and onto the plateau, exactly the same route taken by the first pioneers to cross the Blue Mountains. Early explorers took the very sensible approach of following rivers inland from Sydney, but every time they found themselves up against canyon walls and sheer cliffs. It took a long time for someone to try climbing up the first ridge they found and following the high ground instead. Somewhat surprisingly that road from Glenbrook through Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, Blackheath and Mount Victoria is pretty much a suburban highway with houses and businesses on both sides all the way. But head less than a mile either side and you’re looking out over rugged wilderness.

In the spirit of winding down we didn’t take ourselves on a long hike anywhere. We had a leisurely breakfast at Glenbrook and then toured along the road stopping for short walks at the various stunning viewpoints and breaking up the day with coffee and cake at the Wattle Cafe in Blackheath. This isn’t our usual thing; I typically get restless and dissatisfied if our day just involves stopping at the obvious views and scarcely walking more than 10 minutes from the car. But today it was just the ticket, and Sydneysiders are exceedingly lucky to have such majestic scenery on their doorstep. It would be like having the Lake District just down the road from London. Actually, Sydneysiders are lucky in general: bay setting, beautiful weather, wilderness on the doorstep, there’s almost nothing to dislike about this sunny city.


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