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Saturday, 26 April 2014

CASTLE HEAD WALK, NARROW NECK KATOOMBA, BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA



If you stand at Echo Point and look across to the Ruined Castle, Castle Head is the point of land immediately behind it. What appears to be a solid tableland is in reality a narrow projection of land into the valley. Near its end it’s only a few metres across, making it an exciting place to stand. Like most such places it is only dangerous if you do silly things.
To get to this spot looks difficult. It’s not. Take the road to Narrow Neck from Cliff Drive, Katoomba. You’ll find the turnoff (Glenraphael Drive, an unsealed road) on the left as you drive around past Scenic World. It’s the only left hand turn along here.
The road descends to the first Narrow Neck before rising again onto the higher ground beyond. There is a car park at the track turnoff to the Golden Stairs, and another at the locked gate across the road shortly after. (There is a steep concrete section of road between the two, constructed to overcome severe erosion problems on the steep hill.)

From the locked gate on, you walk. The track to Castle Head turns off on the left about 15 minutes after you start walking. It’s marked by two round posts, the left one has “Castle Head” written on it in pencil or charcoal. (The track is not shown on the map opposite.) From here you are on a narrow foot pad through the bush, which soon comes to the cliff edge and then follows it to a Trig station (surveyors mark) and finally to the end of the headland.
Hikers on the Ruined Castle
The views along here are amazing in all directions. You can see the 1931 landslide, Katoomba Falls, Echo Point, the Three Sisters, Sublime Point and across to Kings Tableland. Below, looking east, is the Ruined Castle itself (which is the origin of the name Castle Head), behind which is Mt Solitary with the track to the summit easily visible. To the right of this is the gorge of Cedar Creek with Lake Burragorang beyond. (This is the water backed up by Warragamba Dam). A continuous vista of cliffs and valleys leads around to the continuation of the Narrow Neck peninsula. If it’s been raining, you will see a waterfall coming over the cliffs opposite.  .                                                                    
The distant view of Katoomba Falls
Yellow-tailed black cockatoos

This is a popular abseiling spot and there are quite a few YouTube videos about this. The link to one of these is here. My video of the walk is here, the Wild Walks file is here and a Bushwalking NSW link is here.
It is about a 2 hour return walk from the locked gate, one that you will always remember. Happy hiking! 
My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/geology, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

BONNIE DOON TRACK, KATOOMBA BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA



View of Nellie's Glen from North's Lookout
The area known as “Bonnie Doon” lies on the western side of Katoomba, south of the “Explorers' Tree” and adjacent to Nellie’s Glen. There have been tracks through this area since the 19th century, though the present day one appears to have been constructed about 25 years ago, judging from its deteriorating condition. Today’s track seems to be in a different location from those shown on old maps.
The track basically runs between two lookouts (North’s and Therabulat) crossing several minor streams as it winds through bushland. Sadly, there are no views of the cascades and waterfalls which the walker can hear further down the valleys. It is as if the track has been constructed in the most economical way possible to connect two points while staying away from the more difficult places, which no doubt are the very ones the walker would like to see.                                                                                 

It is possible to see the lowermost of the so-called Bonnie Doon Falls from Peckman’s Plateau Lookout, on the cliff top south of Therabulat Lookout (see my video here) or from a track which leaves the Six Foot track in Nellie’s Glen. This is the fall identified as Ethel Falls in early accounts of the locality. The other falls (3, according to the 1909 map illustrated) remain hidden from view.
Access to the area is from the Nellie’s Glen car park (just past the Explorers' Tree, turn left off the highway), which takes you down to North’s Lookout and from the end of Stuart’s Road, off Cliff Drive. This leads to Therabulat Lookout (take a left branch). Either way, if you  
The view from Therabulat Lookout to Megalong Valley
continue far enough along the track, you will encounter a newly constructed track coming from who knows where (no signpost in March 2014). Why this track has been pushed through a declared Fauna Study Area (thus destroying hundreds of thousands of native plants) is anyone’s guess.
The other disturbing feature of the walk is the evidence which remains around Nellie’s Glen of the environmental damage caused when an attempt was made to construct a fire trail down the Glen some years ago. One could be excused for thinking that the powers-that-be are less concerned about the scenic and conservation values of this part of Katoomba than they are, say, of those around Katoomba Falls and Echo Point. When you read old newspaper accounts of Bonnie Doon you will soon discover that this has always been an area which has suffered from the hands of timber getters, wild flower pickers, bush rock gatherers and the like. It is an attractive and interesting place and deserves to be better appreciated.
From a 1905 guide book
There are many accounts of walks in this area. Simply Google “Bonnie Doon” Katoomba to come up with a list. The Wild Walks information on Devil’s Hole and Nellie’s Glen includes this area. Click here for this. My video on Bonnie Doon is here and the one on Peckman’s Plateau is here. My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.
The top of Ethel Falls from North's Lookout
Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo

Saturday, 19 April 2014

ROCKET POINT LOOKOUT, WENTWORTH FALLS NSW AUSTRALIA



Rocket Point Lookout from Princes Rock
Rocket Point Lookout is one of the oldest constructed lookouts in the Blue Mountains. Like Fletcher's Lookout and the Princes Rock Lookout, which is immediately across the valley, all have a “parapet” construction (now reinforced with the usual steel poles, bars and wire). It is believed that the work was done by Peter Mulheran, some time in the 1880’s and probably largely by him alone.
Mulheran is one of the best known names associated with Wentworth Falls. He was operating a small guest house and guiding service at the time and appears to have undertaken to build many of the tracks we know and love today. Later on he was a member of the Wentworth Falls Reserves Trust. We owe the man a great debt indeed.
Another well known Wentworth Falls name from those days is Captain John Murray. He was the Chairman of the Trust at the time Peter Mulheran and his assistants were engaged in the construction of the now famous National Pass track. This track descends into the valley by means of a staircase carved from the cliff face below the Rocket Point Lookout. Murray is generally credited with having identified the route by being lowered over the cliff on a bosun’s chair. No doubt his seafaring background qualified him for this job, but he would have been over 70 at the time.
Approaching the lookout from Wentworth Falls

The name “Rocket Point” appears in a “Herald” article dated 17th October 1889, which is several years before the Murray’s arrival in Wentworth Falls. Some have attributed the name to his practice of firing off flares or rockets from this point to enable people below to get a compass bearing on the point. The dates are against this being the correct explanation. Others use the name “George Murray”, but I can find no such person associated with Wentworth Falls in those days.
An obituary of John Murray appeared on page 6 of the Sydney Morning Herald for Tuesday 4th February, 1919.
The Mountaineer guidebooks (early 20th century) contain remarks that the cliffs of Rocket Point are the highest in Australia at 1,000 feet, though how true either statement is, I cannot say. Whatever the truth, this is a most impressive spot and well worth a visit. The lookout is only about a 15 minute walk past the stepping stones at the top of the falls, branching off the National Pass track.
The Wild Walks information on Rocket Point may be downloaded here. My video of the walk is here.
Top of the Falls from the lookout
 My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist is here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

HINKLER PARK, KATOOMBA BLUE MOUNTAINS NSW AUSTRALIA



Hinkler Memorial Park is in Warialda St Katoomba, between Katoomba St and Lurline St. What distinguishes it from most other parks in the Blue Mountains is that it offers both a shelter shed and toilets as well as a children’s play area and a pleasant environment. It may not be very large but it is certainly very popular. You will probably only have it to yourself on a wet day.
Apparently the place was known as Lurline St Park before 1933, though I have been unable to find anything to suggest that there were any facilities there at all. All that was to change.
Herbert John Louis Hinkler (always known simply as Bert Hinkler) was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, in 1892. His interest in flying went back to his childhood and it was no surprise that he served, first in the Royal Naval Air Service and then in the
RAF during the First World War, concluding the war as a pilot in Italy in 1918.
He was catapulted to fame in 1928 when he became the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, taking just under 15 ½ days. An unassuming man, Bert became an advocate for the aeroplane as he flew many new routes, solo whenever possible. He was killed in Italy in January 1933 when his plane crashed as he sought to break the new solo flight record to Australia of 8 days and 20 hours. He was greatly admired and Australians everywhere mourned his passing.                      
Hinkler Park 1938
The Katoomba Municipal Council determined to honour his memory by creating the park we know today. As you can see from the photographs and my video (here) they did a great job. See the Sydney Morning Herald article about the opening here.
Commemorative plaque on shelter
You might also enjoy hearing the man himself speak on a recording here
There is one small mystery you might like to help solve. At the top of the plaque commemorating the opening, which is on the side of the shelter shed, there is an engraving of what I assume was one of Hinkler’s planes. It is not the one he flew on the record breaking flight in 1928. Is it perhaps the one in which he was killed in 1933?

My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.