Tuesday, April 7, 2015

St. Helena Ridge Trail

Diving was the plan for today, so we where up early. Whilst Iain got things prepeared in the house; I sorted through a load of stuff he had brought along from somewhere (weights, wetsuits,...). We set of shortly after that and picked up Cameron at Kathys house before heading in to Sydney. That was the first real time I realised how far away the Blue Mountains are from Sydney. We took a long while to get to Sydney and then carried on across various bridges to get to Manly. Once in the dive school that Alexander had learned at, we got all the gear hired and ready and then waited for Alexander and his friend to appear. He came along after some time, with a load of other friends, so we hogged the diving shop until Iain had got something from another shop.
We left after he came back and set of for Shelly Beach near Manly Beach. We passed through the “wealthy” district and after looking for a parking place at Shelly Beach (and failing the first time) Iain drove us down closer to the beach where we unloaded all our gear and he went back with the car until he found a spot later. Once we had all geared up we left for the water and got our flippers and goggles on. Dived down after that and lost Alexander and his friend instantly. Only Iain, Brendan and me under water. We didn't dive to deep on the whole dive, maximum was about eight metres. We did spend a while underwater, a bit over and hour, and saw a few fish. Not comparable to the Red Sea corals in Egypt, as it was mainly rocks and sand at Shelly Beach. We did spot a stonefish, Cameron saw three, one of which Iain nearly touched (most poisonous fish in the world). We saw a Wobbegong (ground dwelling shark) lodged in a gap between the rocks and he wouldn't come out, so we only saw the tail. A multitude of small fish and to the end a small shark cruising out in the open (typical shark looking shark). Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, as I had forgotten the battery at Iains home. Alexander and his friend had gone in a lot later than us, as Alexanders friend had had to little lead with him and couldn't get down. They spotted a huge sting ray, we only saw small ones. When we came out the beach was empty, funnily enough. When we had gone in it had been jam packed with people. A glance to the heavens told the story (dark clouds). Once we had all dried up we went to Manly proper and had something to eat and and ice cream. Iain, Cameron and me said bye to Alexander and friends and Iain and me dropped Cameron of at his place before we drove all the way back to Iains.
Big thing of the day, saw a shark.

Tuesday was spent walking, and walking, and walking. I got up after everybody else and by the time I had eaten and got a small job done it was close to midday. I had viewed the area with OpenStreet Map a few times and there was a ridge trail I was rather interested in doing. So I packed all the relevant gear, lots of water and set of towards Wiggins Track, a small but step downhill track towards Glenbrook Creek that was sometimes difficult to distinguish between path and river. I met three people going down there (more than half of what I met that day) and arrived at the river after some climbing over fallen trees. Crossed the river and carried on along the other side until I hit a tenting place alongside the creek After that I followed the river and met the other two people (that was it for the day), trying to keep my feet dry in muddy conditions. Unfortunately the weather was not favouring me at that point and a light drizzle had started. I had mobile phone connection for a few metres, so I wrote and SMS to Iain and Leanne in case something would happen. Carried on alongside the river with some really nice camping ground, the only downside where all the spider cobwebs. Australia, land number one for spiders. I ended up taking a stick and waving it around the air in front of me. One to get rid of the spider webs and as a secondary use, to warn snakes or more likely acts as bait should I get to close to one. I reached a point where they said “only experienced hikers” and as I had everything with me I classified myself as “experienced”. I had some problems finding the trail after crossing the river again but thanks to the GPS I found it again. Unfortunately it was perfect conditions for snakes and lizards, so I was very careful where I put my steps. I met a lizard further up and he photo posed nicely for me. Nice landscape getting to the top of the ridges, only eucalyptus trees growing, but they grow everywhere (sometimes even just on a few centimetres of earth). I spotted some large spider (orb weaver) freeing it's web from leaves. The web had a golden sheen to it, which was weird to look at. I kept my distance from that one. At the top I had a beautiful view of the Glenbrook Creek valley with Sydney in the background and as the sun had come out again enjoyed a meal at the top overlooking the valley with the Sydney skyline in the distance. 
Carried on towards St. Helena Ridge Trail, with a short detour to the Lost World Lookout, and dodged above mentioned spiders twice again. I missed the web at one point and walked into one of the supporting none-sticky lines and they are strong. Found out later in the internet that those spiders do occasionally catch and eat small birds, plus their bite is not something a human would want (their not lethal, just make you sick). Carrying along the trail I had stopped to check the time on my mobile phone when suddenly a branch about six metres away moved. Turned out it wasn't a branch, more along the line of “one metre long, venomous snake”. I froze and let it get away, as I had frightened it and it was making a dash for it. I am not about to get in the way of something that could potentially kill me. Comparing the snake later found out it was probably a blue-bellied black snake, a cousin to the more widely known red-bellied black snake. Still as venomous, but mostly shy. After I had de-frozen I carried on, a lot more aware of all the branches lying around and after a few hours of walking reached Woodford. The weather had been very kind to me, no rain but a lot of strong winds.
I got to the station just in time to catch a train to Springwood and then had a delicious evening meal made by Leanne for Iains birthday.

A track of where I walked at GPSies and beware of Australia snakes.  

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