Date: 24/6/2023
Trip leader: Bruce Stafford
Party: Duoduo, Jessica, Li, Lishan, Mackenzie, Maritza, Matthew, Ning, Olivia, Ruiqing, Salome, Ting Ting.
Photos: by Matthew

Katoomba Winter Magic Festival walk, 24/6/2023.

Note: My photos are below (with 3 by Matthew where shown), and Matthew’s are in the link above.

As I have to catch a somewhat earlier train at 7.30am from my station, I was up early enough to see the planet Jupiter rising in the morning sky (yes, it’s large and bright enough to been sighted shortly before sunrise). See the first 2 photos. More interesting scenes were available on my way to meet our Blue Mountains train at Strathfield; a large flock of Corellas near my station and also on the tracks! Then while waiting at Strathfield a steam train headed for Newcastle pulled in (photo).

At Strathfield three others arrived to meet me, while the rest had got on at Central as it was more convenient for them. Well, almost all, as Jenny missed it at Central and thus missed the walk.

On the way up to Katoomba we spotted a large group of Kangaroos in the grounds of Western Sydney University near Kingswood.

The Blue Mountains train I had chosen stopped at only 5 local Blue Mountains stations on the way instead of the usual 14 stops which made for a quicker ride, and less crowded. On arrival at a chilly Leura, I collected 12 members on the platform, then got a call from Lishan to say she had got carried on to Katoomba, the next stop (not sure why). Luckily for her, a train back from there to Leura was due in 15 minutes, so I gave her instructions to meet us at Leura Shops. I knew that many would need a toilet break at the Shops which would give her time to catch up. (Someone in the group asked where the “bathrooms” were; I said there aren’t any but there are toilets).

After the toilet break I gathered everyone up and discovered that we were 2 people short. I couldn’t see them anywhere but someone said that it seems they had gone shopping! Sure, enough, they were found in a clothes shop in the adjacent mall! This was annoying as people just wondering off into shops without telling the trip leader has caused confusion and delays on past trips; walks leaders do not appreciate it.

Meanwhile, Lishan had now arrived bringing the number on this walk to 13. There was a further delay when two people wanted to buy sandwiches for lunch as they hadn’t brought any from home. Leura does not have shops selling packaged sandwiches, unlike convenience stores in Sydney, so there was a wait while the cafe made up toasted sandwiches for them. (NEVER assume that there will be food shops on a walk; if this was a Wondabyne walk they would have gone hungry all day!).

“Lone Pine” Tree planted 1919

Once all that was completed, we set off down Leura Mall to Malvern Street, and then left to arrive at the Great War Memorial Gates at the Lone Pine Peace Park. Here I did a group photo before we moved on. Unfortunately, several scenic walks around here are closed due to flood damage or landslides, so we meandered through this park, pausing at the Lone Pine tree planted there in 1919 as a memorial to the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign (see Matthew’s photo above). Because of track closures we skipped the Pool of Siloam and went straight to Gordon Falls Reserve and down to Gordon Falls Lookout. The view was exceptionally clear this day; “The Gib” (Mt Gibraltar) at Bowral could be just seeen in the far distance. People remarked on the beauty of the view over Jamison Valley, Mt Solitary and the King’s Tableland.

Gordon Falls Lookout

More track closures along sections of Prince Henry Walk caused us to return to the Reserve and then a road bash along Olympian Parade to rejoin Prince Henry Walk near Tarpeian Rock, and then follow it to the Leura Cascades track which we followed. The Leura Cascades can’t be seen all that well due to yet another small track closure, but at least we saw part of it. From there the track started to climb up some metal steps and wooden steps as it wound its way back up to rejoin Prince Henry Walk. Along this section is the junction with the track down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, and someone suggested it might be worth a look. The problem is that although the track to the base of the Falls is open, it was not clear if the through track from there to Leura Forest and Dardanelles Track was open. (The Blue Mountains Council map didn’t show it as open). This would mean a hard 40 minute walk down and back, so I decided against it. In any case, lunchtime was getting close, so we pushed on to Bridal Veil Falls Lookout for our lunch break. This gives excellent views as well as being a sunny spot with a view of Bridal Veil falls from above.

Leura Cascades bridge
Junction with Bridal Veil track

By 1.30pm the wind had picked up and it was getting chilly at the exposed viewpoint. So after lunch we continued on until after just 150 metres or so we came out briefly at Cliff Drive (or “civilisation” as someone said!). We only followed this road for less that 100 metres until Prince Henry Walk continued left again in the bushland. Shortly we came to a track going down hill which I briefly followed until coming to an interpretive sign stating that it was the start of Federal Pass. This track goes a long way downhill and eventually ends up at Ruined castle about 10km away! So definitely not the right path! Retracing our steps back to Prince Henry Walk, on we went, After a while I could hear a Lyrebird calling further along the track and down in the forest floor. As we got closer it got louder, and soon we saw it scratching around the undergrowth just a short distance from the track. At one stage it displayed its tail, thus indicating it was a male getting reading for the mating season. This bird, like many large Australian forest floor dwellers, is well camoflaged with its dark plumage, and unless you hear its call you could pass by one without seeing it. (Australian Bush Turkeys and Cassowaries also have dark feathers for the same reason). I took a video of it calling but it can’t be posted here for technical reasons.

So, after continuing along, we came to the side track to the top of The Three Sisters which we followed to its end, at The Three Sisters (of course!). Another group photo here, with again the magnificent scenery in the background of Mount Solitary, and in the far right distance the Oldies Three Peaks Ranges. I give them this name as several SUBW members in times past made it their aim to walk from Katoomba to these peaks and back in 24 hours if possible. By this time we had entered tourist+++ territory and there were many about. The start of the very steep Giant Stairway with its 900 steps starts here, and Olivia was interested ingoing down it. I declined that as once at the bottom, the only alternative is to go back up it again, as Furber’s Steps, the usual way back up again (and 4km away) is presently closed until 1st September (but will be open briefly during the school holidays). There is of course the Scenic Railway, as long as you don’t mind paying $49.90 [$46.90 concession] for the trip back up to the top in their train (no, I am not joking; I will leave a comment at the end).

That walk from Giant Stairway to Ruined Castle will be a possibility once the weather is warmer and the days longer.

Three Sisters Lookout

Back to this walk: after the photostop at the Three Sisters, we continued along to reach Echo Point (with even more tourists) and a toilet (not “bathroom”) stop for some. By that time it was almost 3.30pm and time to go to Katoomba to seethe festivities in the main street. The best option was the bus back to Katoomba station which, because of the road closures for the Festival, went a roundabout way via the golf course. At Katoomba Station we decided to make our own way from there to look around the Festival, as it would be too hard to keep everyone together in the crowds. Thus eventually everyone made their own way home afterwards after “touring” the festival stalls.

It was a good walk, not too demanding although there were some moderately steep sections now and then, and in excellent clear weather, although it got windy and chilly as the afternoon went on. Seeing the Lyrebird displaying was a bonus too.

There was one outright “no show”, one called in sick in the morning, and one other who emailed me on Saturday night that she thought the walk was on the next day! So not a bad turnout. There’s a couple of take-away advices: 1. Bring lunch and water from home; don’t rely on getting any once the walk has started. 2. Communicate with the trip leader if you want to take time out for anything, including ducking into shops while others are in the bathroom, er, toilet. Failure to communicate is the cause of the biggest problems on trips.

Oh, about the Scenic Railway fares: don’t believe any websites that state you can pay $14 (or whatever) for a one-way trip; that information is about 10 years out of date. It’s a $49.90 ticket [$46.90 concession] to cover all the rides available at Scenic World; there’s no longer any fares available for single rides on just the Scenic Railway.

We haven’t had much luck with organising walks in the first Semester, partly due to it being too hot (as it was in March), or too wet, and there are still a lot of track closures everywhere. It looks though that the normal trend for NSW of a relatively dry winter and early Spring will return, making better opportunities for maore walks in Semester 2.

Bruce Stafford.