the adventure continues:- It is truly a place where all things become less relevant and pure joy pervades above all else.

Travelling down through to tablelands of New South Wales from the coast reminded me of the rural life that I had experienced as a child when we would go on holidays. Its beauty and richness are second to none in this world. I did have to travel to thirty countries and spend a lot of time learning to appreciate this, but now I know just exactly what it is Australia means to me.

Our goal today was to reach the “Roof of Australia”. I know it sounds all very strange and questions are raised by this statement, however we do have a highest point in our country and I really wanted to stand atop of it with my lovely lady. It would be our second mountain in the year and it is by all account a very different place to be.

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The Snowy River

Karine was seemingly amazed at the fauna and flora of the area as we came into the Snowy Mountains Area. It was a cold and cloudy day, with minimal blue patches peering through the white cotton covers. We had packed for a good hike and by all standards it was apparently that. 13kms of well paved walking to the summit and back down. I thought a walk in the park……Literally.

When purchasing the lift tickets, I questioned the cashier about the hike and she said “officially today it is closed because of the overnight snow fall, however if you choose to go……Do so at your own risk”. I like a good disclaimer as much as anyone, said thanks and we took the chair lift to  the top station.

Turning the corner of the lift station and seeing the beautiful granite formations forging their way out of the alpine meadows and through the snow was a wonderful site. We walked on and began snapping shots of the surrounds to try and capture memories of this amazing opportunity that we had ahead of us this day.

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Granite everywhere………awesome… !

 

At this time of year snow this late is not a common occurrence and it had dropped a bundle overnight. Fresh powder on the ground and the old melt creating a stunning cascade of babbling brooks and flowing creeks was wonderful. The ice naturally creating magical moments that time-lapse photography can only create.

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As we approached the lookout stop for Lake Cootapatamba, the highest altitude lake in Australia, I noticed the path disappeared up ahead into the snow. Footsteps continued on though and I was happy that we were not the only ones heading for glory. Lake Cootapatamba is located at 2,048 meters, which is about 800 meters south of the summit.

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This is where the real beauty of the hike kicked in for me. I was in the high country, walking through snow and on my way to the top of Australia. I had wanted to do this for many years and for many reasons had not. Karine was slightly trailing behind with her camera working overtime, capturing this incredible landscape. I have always associated snow with pine trees and mountains, but this landscape is truly unique and truly ours in this great southern land.

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Another snow drift ahead and then another as we reached about 2000 metres ASL. We were both really enjoying this experience far too much and I was ecstatic about this. It was now getting colder and according to the weather bureau it was apparently around minus five degrees celsius. Fortunately we had prepared for this possibility and were toasty warm in our down jackets and wind proof soft shells. Thanks again Patagonia and North Face.

I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful I was feeling as I was about to head out into the beautiful white wilderness ahead of me to begin the final section of this hike. I also knew Karine was really stoked to be here too. She loves a good hike and also loves being in the mountains. It is truly a place where all things become less relevant and pure joy pervades above all else.

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As we reached the summit we were not a lone by any stretch. There was a group of high school children standing atop the mountain and a couple of others lurking around solo. We were standing on the highest point in Australia and it was beautiful, wild and rugged. The wilderness will always draw you in if you remain unaware of its agenda.

Staring out across the southern alps standing on top of Mount Kosciuszko, I smiled and thought of my dad and all he had made possible for me. I thank him most days for my good fortune and ability to approach my fears head on. I kissed Karine and we stood there for a while just staring out in amazement…..

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Walking back down “the hill” we enjoyed the snow drifts again and the scenery continually changing. We wandered slowly stumbling from time to time due to a little fatigue as we had driven a long way and then completed our adventure for the day. We felt a sense of achievement that was only ours and we were looking forward to a warm meal and a nice glass of red wine.

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The mountains are always unpredictable and exciting to be part of.  🙂

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the adventure continues:- A place near running water………that special touch of paradise…

Taking someone to a place that you have loved since the time you first saw it is always one of those “OMG I hope they like it!” moments. There is a level of anticipation that just sits there waiting to be absolutely shattered or to be raised to a point that can only be reached by the Saturn 3 rocket.

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This beach is pure heaven……..its just stunning.

Today was one of those days. I took Karine to little paradise in the Royal National Park just South of Sydney. This is possibly my favourite place to hangout on a hot weekend or better still during the week when it is less busy and more tranquil. This place is Wattamolla! Wattamolla is the local Aboriginal name of the area, meaning “place near running water”.

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Providential Cove, Wattamolla NSW

I think this place is one of the prettiest places NSW has on offer. It captures every single aspect of what I think Australia is. There is raging ocean, rugged sea cliffs, white sandy beach, a waterhole that has an abundance of life and the wildlife is spectacular.

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Stillness in the creek above the waterfall…..

As we walked out to the look out, I remembered when I was a late teenager that we used to come out here and jump off the small cliffs into the ocean. I also remember there was a spot out beyond the look out that Ii would not stand. I was too frightened and I never did it. Today at 50 I stood out beyond the look out and stared down into the raging waters below.

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These cliffs have seen some pretty wild seas at times………sandstone choss at its finest.

Introspectively, I felt a sense of completion and also one of clarity. I have not felt a great sense of clarity for a long time now and for the first time in a long while I am safe and feel fulfilled.

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Happy times in the Australian sun……….mid back flip!

Karine was loving seeing this amazing place and was a little nervous about the cliff edge, which I can completely understand, but she wanted a photo of herself standing on the hanging rock platform. We walked a little further and decided it was time to eat. Heading back to Bundeena for a burger before our trip back to our home base in Abbotsford.

the adventure continues:- Experience the wildlife from behind the fence…….its a lot safer in Oz.

Finally a chance to sit and write has presented itself and here I am taking advantage of this moment.

About a week ago now on the recommendation of my mother, I took Karine to Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary. This was one of the best things I could do as I had talked up all the creatures great and small that our beautiful land has to offer.

Karine was definitely nervous about a lot of them as we had been spending time walking through the bush and climbing in the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park area. These very secretive and timid creatures are present whether you can see them or not. So I thought it best to do a “from behind the fence” style introduction. We arrived at the sanctuary and began our little adventure into the unknown.

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Iconic Aussie bird……The Kookaburra

Karine was in her element! Birds flying around in big aviaries, but close enough to be seen and heard. She was amazed with the colours and the sounds that Australian birds made. Sometimes sweet and beautiful, at other times quite prehistoric and scary, especially the big and boisterous cockatoos. The Casuary was very much a point of interest as its colours and protruding bone-like horn intrigued Miss K greatly.

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A Casuary walks the fence line waiting for kids with snacks………they can be very vicious when it comes to food.

The Wombats, Wallabies and Kangaroos were definitely cute and truly friendly as they are in close proximity to humans on a regular basis. Then the Koalas came into view and that was it. They were the high point of the day for K. She was just gob-smacked at how cute these fury little things were and she now understands just how lazy they are too. There were a few with little ones hanging off them and K couldn’t stop looking at them.

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A Wombat……..only a small one…..weighs about 30 kilograms.

We spotted the Crocodile enclosure and witnessed people saying “Is it a model?” or “Is it dead?” I knew well enough that this stillness people were seeing was normal. This was one of the biggest Saltwater Crocodiles I have seen. Coming in at about 4.5 metres (just under 15 feet) in length, it was “a beauty”! K was again fixated on this amazing creature basking in the harsh sunlight.

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Old Salty!

The reptile enclosure was a very confronting experience too, but we wandered in and viewed some of the most amazing and dangerous creatures the country has to offer. The pythons were of course a very inquisitive bunch of creatures, but the tiger snakes and the mating taipans were something to be hold. Beautiful yet deadly, they performed their dance, much to the amazement of onlookers.

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The inquisitive Carpet Python coming to check us out…..incredibly beautiful creature.
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Taipans…..most venomous snake in the world. Here are two mating right in front of us.

Karine was absolutely amazed at the array of creatures she was witness to. It was a day well worth  experiencing for her as now she has an idea of what things actually look like and possibly a different respect and understanding of what is lurking around in the bush when we are walking, hiking and climbing in this arid and wondrous place.

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The ever entertaining Frilled Neck Lizard.

There truly is no place I have been in the world like Australia. 🙂

the adventure continues:- Just do what you love and believe in it and it will come naturally…..

Well just a couple of days ago I decide it was time to take charge and try and spend a little time on a route that I have wanted to try for about the last four years. I have been putting it off and putting it off for all this time because I was lacking confidence, doubting my abilities and self-sabotaging…………well not anymore.

With Karine and my longtime friend and great climbing buddy Rob, I warmed up and on a few cruisy routes with the intention of beginning work on this incredibly inspiring and demanding line.

I packed my gear after the warm up and began to walk around to the cave where my real battle would begin. Thinking back on it, the real battle began when I decided that I would actually get on the route.

During my time as a climber I have battled demons of falling and possibly dying, committed crimes upon myself mentally, but no crime has been greater than the self-sabotage I have committed upon myself. Today was a day of reckoning for me and I was about to embark on a new journey of self discovery and continued growth. As the great author Samuel Butler once wrote “He has spent his life best, who has enjoyed it most.”

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Moving into the crimps before the next big thing…….

Today was also the first day I would begin my work on “The Way of All Flesh”. A steep enduro pumper that doesn’t give up until you have clipped the anchors. I was attempting the route graded 26 M0 (7b+)(5.12c).

Note** The route off the ground is 28 (7c+)(5.13a), but many, like myself “batman” up to the first draw, hence the aid rating (M0). I was feeling good and definitely quietly motivated to try hard.

I tied in and headed for the first draw, pulling on the rope with Rob doing his best to keep me going upward. Finally was sitting at the base of my project. I looked up and breathed out deeply and said “It’s gotta be fun mate, its gotta be fun!”. I pulled on and pulled through the first few moves to the first pinch move. Not sure where to go I just stopped and looked above and sat on the rope for a little time……like three minutes or so.

Once I had sorted out where I wanted to place my hands and feet I moved up again to the next pinch and held on tight, this move was hard for me. I pulled through to a good hold and placed a draw and stopped to check out the next section. Moving up into the crimps just below a huge bucket, I held on tight and pulled through the moves and up into the steepening roof.

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Working a little hard pulling out of the rooflet, heading for the small traverse to the next draw……….

Resting for a little while, I started to climb again, feeling solid moving through the next section……and here is where I opened a nice gash where my left ring finger joins my palm. Blood began to run and I fell off going for the big cross over to the next good hold……..

This is where to first day ended, but as I said before……..It is only the beginning! 🙂

 

Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.

– David Frost

the adventure continues:- The Echo Point Loop via the Federal Pass and Clifftop Walk…….

The days in the mountains come and go like the seasons. I love that about them. Awake at about six every morning and the day starts with coffee and some basic exercise to wake up the body that has become bound by sleep. K continues to sleep in a little as sometimes her sleep patterns are a little irregular. We really don’t know why…….lots of processing going on I guess.

This morning we were keen to get out and do a decent walk through the bush somewhere and after a couple of good conversations with people and a look at a local guide book, we decided to do some of the Federal Pass. It looked stunning and we could do a loop from the bottom of the escarpment to the top again, ending up back at the car.

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Parking in Katoomba a little ways away from the Echo Point lookout we wandered down to the lookout and headed left following the signs as we strolled along. Each view point is worth stopping at along the top of the cliff before you start to descend into the deep and lush eucalyptus forest.

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Heading down the stairs is a really nice way to see the enormity of the valley and it gives the layperson just the right amount of exposure to feel a little overwhelmed and induce feelings of vertigo form time to time. The birds were noisy and we were welcomed to the lower valley by a very talkative Crimson Rosella. Gaan Gaan were screeching off in the distance and the sounds are quite Jurassic at times.

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At the bottom of the stairs we turned right and briefly chatted to a local who said “There are a few reptiles about, so just be aware.” This sent Karine into mental overdrive as she has a very serious fear of snakes. Especially the Australian ones……..because they can all kill you! This is not entirely true.

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As we walked through the track and took in the wildlife and the environment in became very apparent to me that, there was too much noise being made by humans. Most of the reptiles wouldn’t come near us in the first place. They are timid creatures and would hide in the undergrowth, completely obscured in the dappling light being cast from above.

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Continuing towards the West, our destination was The Scenic Railway. I really wanted Karine to experience this as a bit of a touristy thing but to also see how they transported the coal and the miners up and down into the valley back in the old days. There is a venerable history here in the “Bluies” that is often missed by a lot of people who frequent this place.

As we reached the top of the cliff in our kid infested car, the screaming subsided and the teachers regained control over these terrified and excited new humans. We disembarked and headed to the cliff top walk to return to Echo Point. The vistas here are just sensational and you get a real sense of what its like to walk along the edge of the cliff.

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K and I mucked about taking illy photos of each other standing as close to the edge as our little scared heads would allow and laughed at how seriously chicken shit we were. It was a great way to spend and early afternoon and we worth the effort. Round trip for us was about two hours and twenty minutes but we did walk a little faster through the undergrowth……..to deter any scary little critters along the way…….. 🙂