Date: 10/3/2019
Trip leader: Bruce Stafford
Party: Alec, Aleksi, Alice, Allie, Celine, Christy, Eric, Guanrong, Hei Lam, Hui Jung, Jacky, Jasmine Zhanqing, Julie, Marian, Marjolein, Pablo, Samantha, Vivien, Yichuan, Zeyu
Photos: by Bruce

Valley Heights steam tram

Things didn’t work out quite the ideal way I had planned it. Most of the group had turned up 15 minutes before train departure time, so I got them to go into the second front car to get seats in one group before the tourist hordes arrived. Unfortunately just 7 minutes before train departure, the train staff discovered a broken window in the second car and moved everyone out of it and into the remaining cars (two of which were “quite carriages” not suitable for our group!). And it was a 4 car train!So they all got scattered around the third car, meaning that I would have to go searching for them after Katoomba Station (where most of the tourists get off). We all got seats though, but only just. People getting on at the last minute and at later stops ended up standing or sitting on stairs. That also mucked up another plan: getting people to use the train toilets on the way to save time later. Not only was access to the toilets thus made difficult but two of the train’s 4 toilets were in the locked car. Incredibly, one person (not in our group) had boarded this packed train at Central, only to get off at his stop at Strathfield!! That’s despite Strathfield having suburban services (with plenty of seats) every few minutes). Obviously no brains!

Anyway, once settled in nothing much happened. I pointed out the bat colony at Clyde, and we also saw an 1891 steam tram running alongside the train at Valley Heights (where there is a rail museum). On getting to Katoomba most of the tourists got off, so it wasn’t too hard to find the group and get them together at Blackheath Station. After a photostop at the scenic Station we headed off to Blackheath shops, and the toilets. The delay was thankfully fairly short, and we headed off to the start of the Pope’s Glen Track via Blackheath War Memorial Park. Near the duckpond we took advantage of the taps there for people to fill up their water supply, as some had come with somewhat less than the requested 1.5 liters as per the walk description. I had to assure some overseas people that Sydney Water tap water is quite safe to drink, as they had heard otherwise back home.

After passing the duck pond with ducks snoozing we had a short road bash to the start of Pope’s Glen track. Pope’s Glen track is not (yet) within Blue Mountains National Park until about 3/4 of the way along, where a “no dogs” sign is displayed. We sat the first of many skinks along this track as well as a small dragon, and lots of “fence” lizards (the very small skinks). Eventually we came to a junction where a 20 minute detour is possible to get to Boyd’s Beach, a small swimming hole sometimes used by local in summer. I decided to give it a miss though, and then a group we encountered returning back up the Track said that it wasn’t worthwhile visiting as there was hardly any water in it. So on we went to reaching the point were the Pulpit Rock Track comes down from Govett’s Leap and crossed Pope’s Creek. Across that, then a steep short climb up to encounter the first breathtaking view of the Grose valley, which is why Charles Darwin called the view “stupendous”. After a photostop there we were on our way to Pulpit Rock. The track rises a bit steeply there but that is not what makes it a bit hard, but rather the track at this point is quite rough (and also at a couple of places further on). There was another photostop and a water break at yet another lookout (plenty along this track), and then on to Pulpit Rock itself, reached after an hour’s walking. The sheltered cave there was occupied by a large family group so no chance of using that. (And I noticed that one was smoking, which would have earned him a fine of $300, but it’s an ongoing saga: NSW NPWS is being starved of funds by the present NSW Govt so few rangers around).

So we made do with an area just above Pulpit Rock in the sun, with thankfully some shadows from clouds but also strong winds.After an exploration of Pulpit Rock, we headed back the way we came until reaching the previously-mentioned Pope’s Creek Crossing. Then we climbed the steep and badly eroded track up to the top at Govett’s Leap,and the Toilets there.As we had actually made good time, I worked out that we had time to spare to catch an earlier train at Blackheath instead of the planned one. That would save a half hour wait at Blackheath doing nothing (as Blue mountains cafes usually shut by 4pm.) So off we went.

Now, you would expect a 3km footpath bash back to the Station to be uneventful. No so! Just before the first houses on Govett’s Leap Road and next to the Information Centre, a large Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus) was spotted on the road (yes, on the road!) soaking up some warmth from the bitumen. On the approach of the guys at the head of the group, it scurried off quickly into some leafy undergrowth to hide. Marian took some photos and a video (attached). At first they didn’t realise they were looking at the World’s 4th MOST VENOMOUS land snake, then got a scary realisation when I told them that that’s what it is.

So after that excitement, it was a routine walk was resumed back to the Railway Station. As most tourists get on at Katoomba, two stops further down the line, we had no problem getting seats. On the way back, Kangaroos were seen in the grounds of UWS near Werrington.

It was a good walk with excellent views in good weather (the Strong cool winds tempered the forecast 27 degree there, although the heat could be felt on sections of the stony path exposed to the sun. Most of the group were eager to find out new things and ask questions, and learn some Aussie idioms like “chook” and “dunny”, and that in rural Aussie towns definitely don’t ask where the “bathroom” is!And that Sydney Water is not poisonous!

Two people pulled out, one with a bad ankle and another with “personal issues”, but there was one outright “no show” who has yet to contact me. As a result, one person on my wait list missed out on a spot.

Link above is to my walk photos (which includes two snake photos and a video by Mariam. (warning: scary snake video!).

Tiger Snake, World’s 4th most venomous land snake.

Bruce Stafford.