We turned down a dusty road and moved slowly forward over the corrugated surface. Trin maneuvered Lil’ Beaut around large potholes and grooves on the side of the road.
A few kilometers in, the road began to narrow and climb. I hoped we would not encounter another vehicle coming down the mountain. There were no pull-off points and only a few places that would be wide enough to accommodate Lil’ Beaut and even a small car going the opposite direction. I could not even imagine trying to back down this narrow winding and rutted track with Lil’ Beaut.
Hidden Ghost Towns
We were headed to a place that isn’t in the guidebooks. Vicki, a lady at the information desk in Lithgow told us there is an old abandoned ghost town that only a few know about. She said that she doesn’t tell many people about it. She gave us her personal notes with directions on how to find it. I felt honored that she chose to tell us about it.
We didn’t encounter anyone on that old road off Capertee, nor at the top where there seemed to be space for a small campground. The road continued but was degrading quickly so we pulled in and parked Lil’ Beaut. We decided to walk the last kilometer to the start of the trail.
After filling our day pack we headed down a path littered with the discarded bark of the eucalyptus trees. They naturally shed their bark leaving their upper trunks and branches smooth and bare while their bases are cluttered with bark debris, earning them the nickname Woolly-Butt Trees.
Play me a song Lyrebird
“I really want to see a Lyrebird,” I said to Trin as we walked along.
“There, right there,” he said excitedly, pointing into the trees.
I thought he was joking with his quick response, but there, only twenty feet away was a Lyrebird with its long curled tail feathers trailing behind it. I was so excited, this was one of the birds I’d been dying to see. As we continued up the mountain more Lyrebirds pecked away for bugs, clawing at the leaves on the ground near the trail. Unfortunately, none of them sang for us.
The birds themselves are beautiful, but I’ve read that their songs are even more amazing. They have the ability to mimic any sound they hear. One Lyrebird was caught on video mimicking a chainsaw it evidently had heard. But I was happy just having had the sight of not only one but a few of them.
This video below by BBC Earth is simply amazing. You will also get to hear the song of the Kookaburra I keep talking about that has become one of my favorite birds here.
We continued walking searching the path for little trails headed off to the right. It is on these little trails Vicki told us, that we would find the ruins of the miners’ homes who used to work the shale mine on this mountain.
A rustle to our left and a scurrying of claws brought our attention to a four-foot lace monitor scurrying from the trail. I always think of dinosaurs when I see these creatures. Trin says he just thinks “This it is going to eat me.”
The lace monitor clawed at the bark as he climbed a tree only a few feet away. He climbed high enough for his slithering tail to stretch out on the tree trunk below him. His hug on the tree trunk, clinging with his large claws, reached halfway around the diameter of the tree. The long tongue flicked in and out as it watched us filming him.
Monitors will generally leave people alone if left alone, but they do have venom in their mouths that leaves a nasty bite if provoked. So we watched from the trail fascinated by its colors and size.
Ghosts of the Miners
We began to find little side trails. We carefully followed them and not far into the bush found remains of stone-built homes. In some sites, the fireplace still stood, while others left only a footprint of once tiny dwellings, just enough to sleep in and maybe place a small table and stool.
One location was more like a cave using a large overhanging rock as its roof. They built stone walls along the widening sides and front of the overhang. Inside was an old cot dry-rotted from years of exposure to the heat of Australia. An old metal bowl and kettle sat on the window sill as if awaiting the return of a miner exhausted from his day of work.
In the second room under the large rock, a single green glass bottle sat forlornly in the window. An old pair of leather shoes still sat on a stool and remnants of the mining days lay along the trail.
Originally we had planned only to walk up to the ruins but we were enjoying the trail and its abundant wildlife. So we decided to continue to a lookout that Vicki said was quite a ways in. The trail began to climb again. We were no longer on any marked path in *maps.me. This part was uncharted.
*Note: Since the writing of this article, we have switched to Organic Maps.
Where the forest ends
The trail grew steeper and large rocks loomed as tall as multi-story buildings around us, but we were pretty sure we could now see the end. One last scramble would get us onto the saddle between the two mountains. At the top, the trail and the woods abruptly ended at a cliff edge. Far below us lay a large expanse of meadows.
Trying to take it all in I looked back to find Trin stripping down to his boxers.
“What are you doing?” I laughed.
“It’s hot!” was all he said.
We had not seen another soul since turning onto that dirt road miles away.
We stood on the precipice examining the amazing landscape before us. Backing up we sought some shade from the trees to eat the mandarin oranges that we brought with us. Eventually, we pulled ourselves away from the spectacular viewpoint and headed back to Lil’ Beaut the way we came in.
There sat Lil’ Beaut by herself with the songs of birds all around. We decided to stay in this secluded spot for the night and drive back out in the morning. We pulled out our lawn chairs and enjoyed the breeze of the evening as the sunset. It was a silent peaceful night. On our way back down the dusty rutted road in the morning, we still did not encounter any other people. We love spots like this – Thank you for the tip, Vicki!
All this was just on the edge of the Sydney and Surrounds area in New South Wales.
Up next: Sydney, where we would see lots of people.
A Surprise in Sydney
About two years ago Trin and I went on an eight-day cruise in the Galapagos Islands. There were only 15 passengers on-board. We did everything together for eight days. Thankfully everyone on the boat was pretty cool and we forged some great friendships on that excursion. Three of those passengers were Chinese and did not speak any English except for one who knew a little bit. We would communicate for eight days with them by smiles, gestures, and pointing. We shared many experiences and laughter.
Terry, the one who knew a little bit of English, currently lives in Sydney Australia with his wife Linda and their son. Even though we exchanged only a few words we couldn’t help but like him because he is one of the happiest people we ever met and he’s always excited about everything.
When we arrived in Australia he asked us on Facebook to stop by and say Hi. Of course, we wanted to see Terry again, his joy is infectious and we hoped this time with Wi-Fi a few things could be translated. Maybe we could finally explain why the emergency horn on the ship blew in the middle of the night – because we were crossing the Equator, not a real emergency as the three of them had believed.
We thought we would just stop in for tea and meet his wife. He actually had three days of activities planned for us. He and his wife opened their home and welcomed us in as if it were ours.
Display Hub Decal
Terry owns a print shop called Display Hub. We were excited to discover that his shop could print decals for vehicles. Since we purchased Lil’ Beaut I’ve been wanting to put our blog name on our bus, but most shops take a week and the price is quite steep.
“I do it tonight,” Terry said the evening we arrived. We emailed him our logo which was designed by my friend Paul owner of Travel is Life.
After taking us to dinner at an excellent buffet we stopped at his shop and got to see the process of getting a large logo printed on vinyl. He printed two of them, one for the front and one for the back of Lil’ Beaut.
This was totally unexpected. Trin and I were surprised, elated, and grateful to Terry.
Fog-Shrouded Blue Mountains
Early the next day we climbed into Terry’s Jeep to drive up into the Blue Mountains.
Fog hung in the distance as we began to see the mountains and only grew thicker as we climbed towards our destination. We parked near Echo Point and walked over to the lookout that normally reveals the Jamison Valley. All we could see was thick fog so we walked down the trail to the Three Sisters.
The Three Sisters are three stone monoliths that stand at the edge of the cliff on the Jamison Valley. As we stood there the fog lifted just a little giving us a glimpse of the first two monoliths.
A few weeks later, after touring the Country region of NSW, Trin and I would come back this way and stop to see these views on a clear day.
From Three Sisters, Terry took us to the Wentworth Falls. These cliffs were clear of fog. The path is primarily stairs cut into the side of the cliff leading hikers to the base of the valley and the waterfall. It then heads halfway up the adjacent cliff and clings to the side of the mountain eventually making its way back to the parking lot. Part of the trail was closed so we only got to the valley and partway up the next mountain before having to turn around and head back the way we came.
Terry, I believe, could run up these cliff stairs all the way and never miss a breath. He may be a few years older than us, but physically he is 20 years younger. When we finally reached the top there he was at the viewpoint all happy and excited. It really is a joy just to see him smile, his entire body bubbles with excitement.
Every Sunday Sydney has a special on its public transportation system. For only $2.80 each we could ride as far and as often as we wanted on the local trains, buses, and even the ferries. Taking advantage of this special Terry and Linda took us on a tour of Sydney and then on the ferry over to Manly Island. The views of the bay were beautiful.
We saw the opera house in Sydney Harbor and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We hiked on Manly Island, tooled around Darling Bay in the evening, and finished off the day with a tasty meal in China Town.
Sydney is a beautiful and clean city. It is also a culture that recognizes personal space. Not once did someone run into me as was common in some cities of South America.
In the blue mountains near Lithgow, there is an old abandoned railway tunnel where glow worms have taken up residence. Glowworms produce a small blue light similar to fireflies, only their light is steady. They are shy creatures. If there is any light or too much noise the glow worms will shut down.
The day we went to see this tunnel with Terry seemed to be a popular day. There were many people on the trail and trudging through the tunnel. They each carried a light to keep from stumbling on the uneven rock surface of the tunnel floor. Their lights bobbed and weaved but never seemed to turn off. Experiencing the wonder of complete darkness with the glow worms it seemed might not happen that day.
The lights of all the hikers polluted the air. Some people came to the tunnel with their huge spotlights never looking up, never turning it off and never seeing the glow from the tiny wonderful creatures. I wondered why they even came.
Others thought they could just put their light behind their backs without turning them off, but it reflected off the walls and still polluted the air. I wonder if they had ever truly felt complete darkness, so used to light pollution they didn’t even know it was still there all around them.
Finally seeing the glow
Finally, on the way back we caught a break with only a few people in the tunnel. We successfully got everyone to turn off their lights. Then we waited silently in the cool damp darkness. As our eyes adjusted we saw little specks of blue-green light appear on the opposite wall and reflected off the shallow water of the tunnel floor. Then dots began to glow on the ceiling above like constellations on a moonless night far from the city lights.
On a less busy day or at least one without tourists in a rush, I’ve heard this tunnel can be as beautiful as a new moon night in Warrumbungle. Pure lights in the midst of the deepest darkness are often the most beautiful.
To experience some things we must turn off our manufactured lights and silently observe the beauty around us. Drink in the raw beauty as it was meant to be and find something new.