There’s a serious problem with the Christians in Katoomba. It seems they will park anywhere. From the Christian Convention Centre roughly ten miles in either direction, there are thousands of signs telling them they can’t park. As you drive along the scenic route that is Cliff Drive, the lookouts are littered with the signs. I guess the locals want to make sure that tourists get to see the views rather than a whole load of fish badge bearing parked cars.
And I see their point. This afternoon (moving into evening) we did the lookout trail and managed to pull in at just about every one along the way. Had our way been blocked continuously by permanently parked cars…well, we’d not have been happy. And we’d been happy all day and it would have been a shame to spoil it.
It started slow enough (as usual) after a leisurely start at the hotel. A hotel, incidentally and coincidentally, that was (probably) the very first place Mirinda ever stayed at in the mountains back when she was about ten. It wasn’t called Waldorf back then and the swimming pool plus breakfast room is sort of new but, otherwise, it’s pretty much the same.
Our first stop was the Leura Cascades, which features a lovely, gentle set of steps following a cascade of water as it heads for the edge of a great cliff which winds up at the bottom of the valley. Believe it or not, we were one of the first cars in the car-park, though this changed by the time we returned.
On the way down we met a family on the way up. I was taking a photo of the water and the father of the group said that that was the one thing he forgot. I was a bit surprised and asked if he meant he’d forgotten his camera. He said yes. I didn’t ask if he had a phone but I find it quite surprising (these days) that there’s anyone without some form of visual recording device. He even had a son.
We passed quite a few people though it wasn’t at all crowded. The path continues along to, eventually, The Three Sisters so there’s a bit of foot through traffic I suppose. Everyone was cheery and friendly so I have to assume they’d not been walking for long this morning.
When we reached the bottom it was a little something like this:
Apologies for how dark it is at the end but the lookout at the end of the steps was amazing and such a surprise that I just had to film it…even badly.
After successfully reaching the car, instructing people about the length of the track and Mirinda surviving the extremely smelly toilet, we headed off on our other pilgrimage: A visit to our old house.
It’s hard to imagine that we lived in the log cabin at number 42 over 20 years ago but we did. It’s not hard to imagine how much the trees have grown since then. The house is very hard to make out now from behind the foliage. And the acer that Mirinda reckons we planted, is doing quite well…though a bit small for her liking.
It’s hard to tell but I think there’s different people from the last time we visited. The place looks somehow different. That was at least five years ago so anything could have happened I suppose. Whatever inhabitants, the place conjures up a lot of memories for us. It was a house we both loved and hated leaving. It will always be a favourite place and we’ll always return to make sure it’s still there.
Conversely, the shops a few roads across from the house seem to be all but abandoned. When we lived there, it was just a corner shop then, the last time we visited, it was a parade of shops in a brand new building. Now the place looks almost derelict. I’m thinking it was a rather short-lived venture with the locals going into Katoomba to shop rather than locally. I guess it’s a shame but, really, I thought the corner shop was more than enough for the essentials and this whole thing was probably the result of someone with big ideas and little common sense.
But that wasn’t all the reminiscing we had to do. We then drove into Katoomba, parked up and headed for the Parakeet Cafe where Mirinda used to sit with a coffee and read the European magazine cover to cover and dream of living in the UK. Except it’s no longer called the Parakeet Cafe. It’s now Vee Cafe and the furniture is different but, it’ll always be the Parakeet to us.
While drinking our coffees we were party to an odd conversation between the two guys behind the counter. One was this muscle bound chap in his 20s while the other guy was as skinny as a very skinny rake and aged about the same. The muscle guy was explaining how he didn’t need friends because he, basically, preferred his own company. The skinny guy was just nodding his head and making the sort of sounds one makes when an acquaintance is making no sense at all.
Mirinda said for a guy with such a well developed body, he was still waiting to develop some maturity. (I should add that there was more to the conversation and our opinion wasn’t just formed by the above.) She told me later that the manageress had told him to stop talking like that in front of the customers. Always a good idea when you’re dealing with the public.
On our way back up Katoomba Street we stopped off at the Carrington. This is the big, old hotel that sits at the top of the town which was never open when we lived in Katoomba. We went up through the newly renovated gardens to the front door. We then went into the bar where Mirinda had tea and I had a very nice ale (though it was a bit too cold).
The hotel was first opened in 1883 as The Great Western. Then, in 1886, it was renamed the Carrington after the then Governor of New South Wales. All was well until it closed down in 1985. The poor old thing stood miserable and falling to bits until it was bought in 1991 and the restoration began. This is what we remember: lots and lots of scaffolding and Heras fencing.
In December 1998 (while we were setting up in the UK) the Carrington re-opened to great fanfare. While work continues, the place now looks fantastic to the point that we’re dining there tonight.
Speaking of ‘dining’ we then drove back to Leura only to find everywhere was full and booked out. We decided to have a wander around and wait for the starving tourists to eat their fill.
It was around this time that we popped into a jewellery shop and I discovered the mother lode of amber. I looked at all the wonderful earrings and selected a pair (Mirinda was elsewhere engaged). I looked at the lady behind the desk and said “Excuse me? Could I get some earrings please?”
Mirinda suddenly appeared and said I sounded imperious. I was confused and I asked the lady if I sounded imperious because I didn’t mean to. She laughed and said she thought I sounded decisive. I agreed with her. Then, when I paid, I had exactly the right amount and she declared that I was, obviously, “Decisive and perfect.” I couldn’t argue with that.
I wished Mirinda happy birthday and gave her the earrings. We wandered a bit further and, finally, happily we settled in to the Red Door Cafe for a delicious post Carb National Day lo-carb meal. The salmon (Mirinda) and cured trout (me) were both perfect. We left replete but far from stuffed…like last night.
On the way back to the car we came across a crazy cockatoo that ate crackers in front of a whole load of Japanese tourists. They were enthralled.
We then hit the scenic circuit, hopping from lookout to lookout.
Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel in order to ready ourselves for dinner which Bob was meeting us for. At 8pm we arrived at the Carrington to find Bob sitting reading the paper in the lounge. We took our seats and settled in for a delicious dinner with an excellent bottle of Australian red.
On the way back to the hotel we thought we’d stop at The Three Sisters and check out the view under spotlight. Unfortunately the clouds had drifted in and the spotlight was shining on it instead of the rocks. It was all a bit…well, nothing, really. We went back to the hotel.