Cyclone Oswald to the Blue Mountains

Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 17 Feb 2013 10:58
Where did we get to last time - waiting for the remnants of cyclone Oswald to arrive. The forecast was for up to 100 km winds (around 54kts), but most of the time where we were, there was no wind at all, just solid nonstop rain straight from heaven (stair rods come to mind). As the darkness fell it became increasingly eerie with still no wind - the calm before the storm perhaps. By late evening the wind started to rise but only gusting to 20kts. Staying up until 1 in the morning, when the worst was supposed to happen, there was little change, so it was off to bed, but not before having set the wind alarm for 25kts and putting the anchor alarm on, just in case something happened while sleeping. We didn't wake until the next morning. The rain had stopped and the wind had eased, only recording a maximum of 23.4kts overnight. We had been lucky. Others had it much worse. Being behind the southwest corner of Scotland Island when the main wind was from the northeast must have helped. The only damaged sustained was a wooden block being ripped off the deck when the mooring rope got caught under the anchor in a gust and put too much side pressure on it. It shouldn't be too difficult to fix.
We've been in organising mode as far as work on the boat is concerned, exploring and researching improvements that might be possible, finding out how much they might cost and when they could be done if we decide to go ahead. At the same time an order for various spares went to Hallberg Rassy in Sweden and a big box arrived a week later. However, work was put on hold due to another much nicer arrival. Having said goodbye (for now) to our Australian friends Geoff and Judy on Ka Mate who are heading towards Tasmania, we said hello to our UK friends Janice and Clive who flew out from the UK to see us and tour Sydney, the surrounding area and then drive down the east coast to fly home from Melbourne at the beginning of March. So there was a day out on the boat to visit the National Park that borders the western side of the Pittwater inlet. Then, with light winds forecast for several days, we left Aurora B on her mooring and the 4 of us headed west to the Blue Mountains for 5 days. They're only a couple of hours drive away by car, but the scenery is completely different and quite spectacular. They're called mountains, but are more like huge plateaus that have been lifted up to over 3000ft with almost vertical cliffs dropping off to vast canyons below. The canyons and plateaus are thick with eucalyptus trees and the oil from trees generate a blue haze across the whole area, giving it its name. It's a lovely area, full of awe inspiring walks and waterfalls. One of the most famous landmarks is the Three Sisters rock formation at Katoomba and our motel was just 5 minutes walk away from it. Nevertheless, arriving last Sunday, we decided to look at one of several waterfalls in the area, the Wentworth Falls, and leave the Three Sisters until Monday morning. Almost a mistake! Monday morning we awoke to find the town of Katoomba and the whole area engulfed in thick low cloud - fog so thick you could barely see 15 metres in front of you. So no Three Sisters that day and it was off to see the Jenola Caves - the fog wasn't a problem underground! Luckily the cloud started to clear later on Tuesday and we had clear sight of the magnificent scenery until we left on Thursday afternoon. Having said goodbye to Janice and Clive yesterday, it's time to open that box of spares!           
Refuge Bay in the National Park on the west side of the Pittwater inlet, about a 2 hours sail from
our mooring. It's a very pretty and well protected anchorage. But you don't need to anchor as
lots of moorings have been laid here. With the main holiday season ending at the end of January,
there were only 3 or 4 other boats there.
Although we complain at the rain, it does make for good waterfalls!
The next bay along, Americas Bay, showing evidence of the recent bush fires in the area.
Our first sight of the dramatic scenery of the Blue Mountains, overlooking Wentworth Falls.
The top section of the falls before they plunge over the cliff. This was our first day and it was T-shirt
weather of over 30 degrees, even at over 1000 metres (3300ft). The temperature dropped
dramatically after a thunderstorm that day, then the cloud rolled in and it was fleeces and coats to keep warm
at around 17 degrees (11 overnight).  
The river heads for the cliff edge and .......
.......plunges down several 100ft to the next ledge on it's way
down to the valley floor.
There are cliff-top walks and some that go down along the side of the cliffs. This picture from
1912 was on one of the paths, showing what it was like then. Nothing has changed .......
...... the same path today that we went along. It's not a place to drop something over the edge -
it's over 2000ft straight down!
The Jenola Caves are an hour and a half drive from Katoomba and in our case much of it was in
dense cloud. It was not a nice drive, but it was worth it; the caves are spectacular. There are
at least 300 caves,  10 of which you can visit if you have the time and energy (hundreds of steps
down and up). Each tour is around 1 1/2 hours so for us it was the Orient Cave in the morning and
Lucas Cave in the afternoon.  
The Orient Cave was full of features like this, made even more dramatic
by the lighting used. Each feature has been given a name. Can't remember
what this was called but it reminded me of Davy Jones in Pirates of the
Some were dramatic and some exquisitely beautiful.
Known as the Indian Canopy.
A bit more colourful than sparrows! One of a small flock of Crimson Rosellas waiting for food
dropped around the picnic area.
No, we didn't have to climb this! The ladder is a fixture from early days
and was used to service the lighting.
The Bishop!
Returning to Katoomba, from the top of the plateau a cable car takes you down to the valley floor where there's a board
walk through the temperate rainforest. They advertise it as 'It's better when it's wet'! Just as
well, as it was wet. Even the valley floor was covered in cloud. Seeing a rainforest in rain is quite
atmospheric (and wet!).
The cable car descends through the cloud. On a clear day it might have been quite scary descending
1700 feet down the cliff face, but it wasn't a problem to us as we couldn't see more than a few yards! 
Temperate rainforest, including tree ferns.
If you don't fancy the cable car there's normally a train that you can take,
the steepest train track in the world at an inclination of 52 degrees. However,
they're currently upgrading it and replacing the track.
There were many varieties of trees, so not just eucalyptus, including a number of these at 7ft feet
or more across.
Having spent most of the day in cloud, returning to the motel in the evening the cloud cleared
and we got our first view of the Three Sisters.