Monday, November 18, 2013

Australia road trip day 10 - Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters

18 November 2013

I woke up to see Xena's happy face nestled against mine. She was awake and mumbling something about Queen Victoria. It seems like the queen had made quite an impression on my princess. Then she suddenly remembered she hadn't said good morning to anyone, so rushed out saying, "Good morning, Aunty R! Good morning, excavator!" (There was an excavator just outside the house which she used to find fascinating.) Within 15 seconds, she ran back inside, saying, "Too cold too cold!" She had forgotten her footwear and the floor was indeed very cold. In fact, I had a hard time getting her to use the toilet because the seat was so cold she refused to sit on it.

The plan for the day was to drive to the scenic blue mountains, a major tourist attraction. Though our host checked the forecast and advised us against it because it would be too rainy and foggy to actually see anything, we decided to go ahead anyway, because we were leaving the next day so we couldn't postpone it. 

Xena and I got ready first. While waiting for the others to get ready, she sat by the window and asked me to blow on the glass to fog it up so she could write the letters of the alphabet. She got me to hold her hand and help her trace out each letter. 

Xena planning the itinerary for the day, singing her own version of 'Row, row, row your boat.' Hers went something like 'Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Melly melly melly, like a butter dream!'

In the beginning, the weather was fairly clear as we drove. 

Xena, who was fascinated by the GPS, demanded to know who the 'aunty' accompanying us was, and why she kept talking all the time. I told her it was the 'GPS Aunty'. Every time GPS Aunty said something, Xena would ask what sounded exactly like "Depressed Aunty kya boli???"

Xena was thrilled to see this train.

After a looooong drive, the city of Blue Mountains welcomed us.

'Blue Mountains counselling for men'?!

We finally reached Wentworth Falls, the first one in our itinerary. 

Viv parked the car and Xena wanted to have a go at driving. So we let her pose in the stationary car. 

We had to walk to the Wentworth falls lookout point to see the falls. It was still drizzling lightly, so we took out our trusted Penguin Parade raincoats from the boot of the car and put them on. Then we started the trek towards the Wentworth falls. I was feeling quite cold so I started jogging to keep myself warm. Thankfully, the route was not too long; we reached in about 10 minutes. 

Viv trying to show Xena the falls (you can spot it if you look closely at the space between his face and hers.)

Father and daughter, all bundled up

Mommy and Xena

And the one shot where she actually smiled... was with her beloved grandpa, or 'Thatsie' (variation of 'Thatha') as she had christened him during the trip

Thankfully, the fog had cleared a bit, giving us a clear view of the Wentworth falls. The falls were named after William Charles Wentworth, one of the leaders of the 1813 expedition that was the first successful crossing of the Blue Mountains.

I jogged on the way back too, but paused briefly for this family picture.

Soon, we were back on the road to see the Three Sisters, something that we knew we might not be able to spot at all because of the fog, but went ahead anyway. It was foggy and rainy and just plain miserable. Most of the tourists had huddled inside the visitor centre and gift shop.

The baguette-shaped bench near the lookout point was wet and empty.

I took Xena for a toilet break, while Viv and Appa waited outside the visitor centre, along with many other tourists. When we came out, I burst into laughter at how easy it was to spot them. The same blue raincoats that had made it so hard to identify my family at the Penguin Parade had made it so easy now. The drizzle got lighter, but the fog showed no signs of lifting so practically everything was invisible.

I took a picture of the tourists who were waiting at the lookout point for the Three Sisters. You can see that they could see nothing. 

On a whim, I decided to take the winding path down to the lookout point, but Viv was not too keen. Besides, Xena would be too cold out there. So I decided to go by myself. Appa then said he'd come with me, so we went together. 

Viv and Xena outside the visitor centre

We went down and it was totally foggy. We could see nothing at all. 

See? Nothing!

Appa against the backdrop of... nothing!

Check out how my raincoat is trying to escape!


We took a few photos and joined some other tourists at the Queen Elizabeth lookout. 

The sign showing what we were supposed to be seeing...

We waited for a long time, but nothing was happening. We only saw fog, but nothing whatsoever of the Three Sisters. At last, we, and many others, decided to head back. Just as we took our first steps back, we heard clapping and screaming from behind. There were four young men at the lookout point making all that noise. And just when we were about to dismiss them as rowdy youngsters we realised why they were behaving in such a crazy manner - the Three Sisters were visible! 

The wind had pushed the fog and for about three seconds, we had a clear view of the three sisters. Of course, before we could take out our cameras, the fog had enveloped them again. But we decided to wait it out anyway to get another glimpse. We decided to stick it out for another 15 minutes and then leave. Three or four minutes later, there was another gust of wind pushing the fog away and once again we saw the sisters, this time armed with out cameras. 

The fog lifts...

A little more...

Some more...

And there they are... the Three Sisters!

The Three Sisters are actually just a rock formation, created by erosion of the sandstone, averaging about 900 metres tall. Of course, there is a legend about them, possibly fabricated to add interest to the landmark, but it's fascinating nonetheless. It is said that three sisters -- Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo -- were members of the Katoomba tribe who lives in the Jamison valley. They fell in love with three brothers from another tribe, but were forbidden to marry them. The brothers decided to attack the Katoomba tribe and capture the sisters. A tribal battle ensued, and an elder in their tribe turned the three sisters to stone to protect them. He was killed in the battle, and no one else could turn the sisters back to their own selves. 

Within seconds, the fog enveloped them again. 

And they became invisible. 

I took this shot of the deep, dense forest below. Scary. 

We did another cycle of waiting and watching and then returned to the visitor centre to report our findings back to a very surprised Viv. He asked us for the exact location of where it was happening and he went down. Sure enough, it happened again and he came back smiling. What a pity that the other tourists had no idea and were just going back disappointed. What a difference a few minutes of patience makes! 

By the time we were done, it was about 2:30 pm. We were hungry for lunch, but I wanted to take Xena to Featherdale wildlife park, which closes at 5 pm. So we decided to skip lunch and do with the snacks we had in the car. We got to Featherdale by about 3:30 pm, but it was raining very hard and Xena had fallen fast asleep. 

My sleeping child

We decided to wait it out in the car till she was done and try to go in by about 4 pm so we got at least an hour inside. The rain was pouring down, but I was hoping against hope that it would stop. Xena loves koalas and had been talking nonstop about how she wanted to touch one, and Featherdale has an all-day koala encounter. Finally she woke up but it was still raining very hard. The park is an open one, and would be impossible to do in the rain. Plus, we were not sure if the koala encounter was cancelled due to the rain. Finally, we gave up and drove off. 

Goodbye, Featherdale. *sob* Next time, maybe!

We stopped by at an Indian restaurant called Indus Valley and had a super late lunch at 5 pm before heading back.

Parting shot of the day - an awake and refreshed Xena

Next up - Eastern Creek car racing and off to Coffs Harbour



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