Today I went to Manning's Lookout (near Fitzroy Falls) with Jim, Ian and Len. Jim has been after me for some time to do an exploratory walk for a proposed National Parks Association (NPA) walk.
I had been sent an extract of a bush-walking guide which described the walk. I had previously explored the central part of this walk, with Jim and Wayne. Also, I am familiar with the closer-in parts of the track, so today we were trying to "join the dots" between the familiar sections of the track.
Firstly we went down to my favourite viewing place, near "Rhinoceros Rock". This particular view does not appear to be well known - but I love it. Kangaroo Valley is in the distance, below the cliff top rock. I know the name is not "local" but I cannot think of an Australian animal which this rock resembles. So, please forgive my clumsy name for this rock. My helpful colleagues offered to take my photo if I would pose over there, sitting in the hollow just behind the "horn" of the Rhinoceros. Thanks guys! In fact it is accessible, but there is no way I would ever indulge that fantasy.
We saw a female Peregrine Falcon circle a couple of times, to check out what we were doing in her area. Obviously she decided we posed no threat, and went off about her business. She was a powerfully built bird. Peregrines love cliff lines, for they offer protected nesting sites; and also cliffs give them great vantage points for checking out their prey. Also the winds created by cliffs assist the young birds, when learning to fly.
We then went to the main lookout point, and then on to the next lookout, where I have been before. Then we set off into "unknown" territory (for me). The track is fairly clearly defined, but it goes through dense Banksia scrub, and then large patches of coral fern, which always grows fast and tends to close over tracks, making it easy to miss the track.
The next feature of this track which we came to is "Bridal Veil Falls" - that name is not mine, but is the one applied in the bush-walking guide I mentioned. A small creek drops over a clean drop of about 30 metres, hits a large wide rock and drops another 5 metres, before returning to a normal creek flow. This area is very cool, being in a deep gully, and surrounded by rainforest trees.
Going down into this deep gully there is a series of remarkably well constructed rock steps. The mosses have colonised the steps (and the original rocks), creating this lovely view. We wondered at the time and effort which went into creating this track, and when that might have happened? From some of the materials used at various lookout points, we guessed that the track was originally constructed back in the 1920s - but I stress that is only a guess.
We went further out, towards what the guide refers to as the "lost lookout".
We had lunch together on some convenient rocks, along the path. No sooner had the four of us settled down than the Leeches arrived. Well, clearly the Leeches had been there all along, and it was US who had arrived. This caused us to wonder, was this "chance", or would there have been so many Leeches at any other point along the track? ALSO what do these Leeches survive on when there are no bushwalkers? We saw plenty of signs of Wombats, but no other marsupials. This guy was waving its head around, deciding where to go next, then getting a new grip point, then "looping" its way along my leg. Nice red and yellow stripes on the thick end.
The question arose - which end does the Leech suck with? Clearly it has to be the head, but which end is the head? The issue arises from the fact that leech has two "suckers" (one on each end) with which it can adhere to you (well, my leg, to be precise). Leeches have a "sucker" on each end, but they feed from the head end ONLY.
The thin end of the leech is in fact its head, and that is where its mouth is located. But the confusion about which end the Leech "sucks with" arises because of the fact that they adhere very firmly with the thick end, and hold the head in place with the smaller sucker (on the head end), and that is where their jaws are located. Once the Leech arrives at an appropriate place to feed, it uses its small (head) sucker to stick to your skin, then it uses its jaws to cut into your skin. While it is feeding, it uses the strong sucker on its rear end, to keep itself firmly attached to you. The Australian Museum (in Sydney) has an excellent on-line Fact Sheet about Leeches.
I tried to brush this fellow off, and I could not, because it was using its rear (larger) sucker to stay stuck onto my trousers. Eventually we touched the leech with a stick of insect repellent, and instantly the leech let go, and I was then able to brush it off my leg. Fortunately I had sprayed my socks with insect repellent, and the tracksuit trousers were made of very fine material, which the Leech was unable to penetrate, so I survived intact.
Somewhere along the track we were joined by 3 members of the "Tuesday Walkers" group from Bowral. So it is good to see other people using this interesting track.
While we were out on the track a fog rose up from Kangaroo Valley (below the cliffs). It was not a thick fog, but it serves as a reminder that fogs can appear suddenly, in the Southern Highlands, and that there is always a risk of getting lost if you cannot see where you are going. And it is harder to orient oneself (by the sun) when there is dense fog.
However, the fog did give me this interesting "silhouette" effect because the background view was obscured. So it made this particular rock face even more dramatic than normal.
On the way back we came to a point where we could see the Bridal Veil Falls from along a rock ledge, which served to frame the view nicely. Len suggested that I take this photo, and I was happy to oblige him. It was a particularly nice view of the falls.