Monday, April 30, 2012

Mt Banks

Sat map showing the trail.

I have posted many times before about Mt  Banks and its a favorite of mine for walks and mountain bike rides. The views are stunning and the tracks and trails are easy  and well defined in the main.
There are also less defined trails, that lead to wonderful lookout points and wander deep into gullies.

Brown-headed Honeyeater. (photo c/of "I")
For the inexperieinced I would strongly  suggest sticking to the main fire trails, (its easy  to  get lost), and respect the cliff edges as its a loooong way  down.

My  ankle felt fine and I  thought in order to  get fit again another walk was in order. I  spent 2 hours on the trails and enjoyed the bird life, some I  had not seen before which  was a thrill.  A simple lunch  of chicken and cheese sandwiches, banana and an apple kept the fuel levels up in the 11c conditions.

All in all a fantastic way  of spending a few hours.

Fan-tailed Cuckoo. (photo c/of "A matter of flight").

Birds seen:- White-eared Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Welcome Swallow, White-cheeked Honeyeater, New Holland Honeyeater, Variegated Wren, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Pied Currawong.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wet Weather

With wet weather continuing, the boys decided they should get out in the mud and ride. So they did.

Both Honda 250 "R"s are very quick race bikes. Logans is a 2008 model and apart from some cosmetics, different exhaust and a slightly different engine position in the frame , they are essentially the same bike. (Logans is on the left with dual exhaust).

There were three major accidents on the track. One rider tried to copy Logans wheel stand, flipped his bike and landed on a rock. He required immediate attention. One rider "High sided" his bike flipping himself over the handlebars and nearly resulting in the following bikes running him over. However the third was hilarious! A rider chose to ride across the water soaked central paddock- flat out he went, then instantly dissapeared. There is a 6 foot drainage channel in the centre he failed to see. No injury, only one drowned bike and an ego shattered!

So, these were the results for us- Two very muddy motorbikes and two very muddy guys!

A great afternoon had by all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Newnes Plateau

The Coach Road. The start of the walk.

With rain belting down and parts of Sydney in flood, I thought rather than sit inside doing nothing, lets go to the Newnes railway tunnels and see what we can find.
It has been about 4-5 years since we were there last and I was curious to see what changes had occurred. The history of Newnes, the township and the railway is a fascinating piece of Australian history and I blogged about it here:- (Somehow I lost all my earlier posts on my blog).

The Coach road was restored several years ago and is still in excellent order.

The drive in was a mixture of fun and sadness all rolled into one. As Sydney has got larger more and more people visit the Newnes Plateau, motorbiking, and 4x4ing. In years gone by there have been beautiful, well kept places to camp in a variety of spots. Forestry NSW kept the pine plantations tidy and roads in good order. This has changed. The camp sites are dirty, polluted affairs with the amenities blocks are long gone. Some of the trails are chopped out eroded gullies- fine if you want to test your skills in driving. Awful to look at.

The Gantry. Could this have been used for a counter weight to assist the coaches?

Forestry had cleared a lot of pine leaving sections looking scared and desolate. We took a wrong turn which turned out to be a bit of fun as we tried to find the original road in. Eventually we did.
Our plan was to walk the Coach Road, joining the old railway escarpment track and follow this through the 400 metre tunnel number 2 and return to the car via the Pagoda track.

A cutting on the Coach Road.

The Newnes Plateau is about 1200metres above sea level and the walk has a great deal of variety as the Coach Road winds down into the Newnes valley.
Looking carefully, you can see the grooves created by the coaches in the sandstone of the road, blast holes where the engineers removed rock to create the road and a gantry. I am speculating here- My theory is that the gantry held a counter weight. Placed at the top of the steepest section of road a cable could have been connected to the coaches to assist in the climb. The weight being lowered to do so. Also attached to the rear of a coach to brake the descent. If anyone reading this could enlighten me I would be grateful.

Beautiful trees in the gully as we descend.

The Coach Road drops from a height where distant pagodas look like Asian temples, into a stunning rainforest environment. Tall gum trees, and tree ferns litter the gully and the sound of Bell Minors, Thornbills and Currawongs fill the air with song.
The rain at this point had eased and we made good progress. The rains over the past few years have really improved the health of the plant life. One thing we did notice as we walked was recent cracking in the cliff faces as well as smaller rock falls along the track. Before long we were at the junction of the railway track. We stopped to enjoy lunch, and before long we were greeted by a Rock Warbler. These wonderful little birds have a very tiny range and are reliant on the sandstone escarpments of the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains. I can go for ages without seeing any. Then, as if all the environmental indicators are right, stumble on quite a few.

A railway sleeper slowly disappearing under a rock slide..

We continued our walk and my disappointment grew as I saw stone walls in collapse, via-ducts washed away and more cliff face fractures. The area is becoming increasingly unstable. Only tiny remnants of the railway line exist- a railway sleeper here and there, some evidence of structure and piping. If you google Newnes Railway images you can see just how over time the bush is reclaiming its own.

Engineering works being swallowed by the rainforest

I have mixed feeling about this- Our heritage is not just about about our basket weaving past, nor our natural wonder. Its also about claiming the wonderful engineering feats of our grandfathers and grandmothers. Its about recognizing what they did and preserving it. We do not do this very well in Australia.

Yours truly crossing the creek towards Tunnel number 2

We pushed on and it was not too long before we arrived at Tunnel number 2. Now encased in Tolkien rain forest growth.
The railway tunnels are know as glow worm tunnels, These tunnels are amazing. Number 2 is 400 metres long and cut through solid rock. Once you leave the light of the entrance behind "stars" begin to appear above your head. Glow worms. It's just simply beautiful.

The rainforest.

On the other side of the tunnel the rain began in earnest. My wet weather gear failed, and I resigned myself to being soaked. We turned left onto the Pagoda track and began the climb back to the car. Once again I hit the "wall", as I did in Barren Grounds and had to "push in and concentrate on walking". Soon we arrived back at the comfort of the vehicle.

By dull torchlight the eerie reminder of railway inside the 400metres of pitch black tunnel

We had a fabulous day. The challenge of driving through flooded creeks and bog, being lost briefly and the walk. It was much better than sittiing at home.

Exiting the tunnel on the south side.

I am going to write to National Parks to express my concerns about the track and its safety in sections, also about preserving our wonderful heritage both in engineering and naturally.

Birds seen. Currawong, Australian MAgpie, Bell Minor, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Rock Warbler, Crimson rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Lyrebird.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

farewell X. hello R

Isn't it lovely??
In amongst my art collection, record collection and sculptures, sit some nice bikes. Today I bought a Honda crf250r. LIke the crf250x, (which I bought before Christmas), its loaded with goodies. Unlike the X its stripped down and lightened for racing- and light it is!!

Traditionally, I have always brought the new bike into the home. This tradition started when I was a kid and moved into adulthood. Today it continues and the R sits proudly with Guillem, Faure, sculptures and paintings... ( Its all about performance).
I will miss the X and the R is higher maintenance... however the results should be good

Tomorrow we break it in... ( mmnnnn I must hang/sell those damn paintings)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Dave 2nd bike from the right at the start.

With Sylvie Guillem getting average reviews in New York, and me being excessively miserable with the last post, ( which I have removed), It was time to take Dave to his first motocross training day and get back my focus.


Its a day filled with the smell of 2 stroke fuel, dirt, dust and engines revving like swarms of angry bees and focused young men looking to vent all there energy on something. Its serious business and I was concerned that Dave could hurt himself. I need not have- he was in the middle of the pack and leaping about as if he had done it all his life... ( which is typical of him really)

I could easily stand under the bike as Dave hits the jumps at speed and height, and this is not the highest jump

However the jumps are huge and it was Daves first day out. 6 hours of solid riding and learning from the instructors made it a day worthwhile. One jump is 70 feet.. HUGE to say the least. There were people of all ages and many of the Dads have expensive vans kitted out with workshops and accommodation. Our trailer and jerry can is a humble start.

After 6 hours of riding the eyes say it all!

The experienced dads were a great encouragement, not only to myself but to Dave as well and I really enjoyed the zest they had for life and fun. It sure beats sitting in front of a play station. Full credit to Dave for organizing the day and getting his race licence.

The Honda 250x held its own, but its not a full Motocross racer- its now time for a Honda 250 R!!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

FJ update.

As you know the FJ is a little project of mine. Toyotas standard tyres are strictly for the road and are really useless in the bush. I also wanted to put the standard alloys in storage and use a more robust steel rim. I had a set fitted on Thursday and they are not good. Too much wobble and we cannot get the balance right. So, even though they look the part I will have to use the off road tyres on the standard alloys.

The project is nearly complete- only a long range tank and roof rack to be fitted and its ready for travel. I am hoping to get away later this week after motocross camp with Dave. It seems the roads along the Darling river may be open in part. We shall see.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Barren Grounds

The track to the picnic area.

I feel a bit flat. Traditionally I travel in April, and enjoy the company of good friends. This April marks 12 months since I last was in Paris, and hosted my friend Jim here with my family. A lot of things have happened since and its not been a great year. So, I chose to get out and get some fresh air.

Some essential equipment.

One of the places we travelled to 9 years ago was Barren Grounds. Located on the Illawarra Escarpments,specifically the Buderoo Plateau, its the home to the rare Bristle Bird and Ground Parrot. The area is a mixture of heath, scrub, tall eucalyptus forests, and rain forests. Its unusual to get an entire mix in just an 8km loop. Both birds require the low dense heath to survive, and I was fortunate enough to see a Bristle Bird the last time I was there. UP to 180 other species of bird has been recorded here. Its an important location.

The start of the Griffin Trail. Pygmy possum research was done on the right.

9 years ago we were one of the last groups allowed to camp there. Basic huts were provided and we worked with a scientist who was studying pygmy possums. Soon after, National parks dismantled the huts and only the stone building remains.

The accomodation.

The drive is beautiful. I chose to head through Bowral and Robertson. These towns are very pretty with there own flavor and quality. Robertson has a very famous pie shop and many a traveller stops to enjoy the pies, Sausage rolls and an apple pie and cream. The track to the picnic area is easy and any vehicle cold do it. The picnic area is neat clean and tidy. A great spot.

Trail towards a creek. Ideal Bristlebird and Ground Parrot habitat.

Memories returned immediately as I set out. I recalled the work we did, meeting other birders- One woman we referred to as "gadget woman"- she had every conceivable piece of equipment, in every conceivable additional pocket, belt, pack and hung around her neck. We concluded she must have been a girl guide leader and went on a shopping spree! However she and her group were very nice people.

Crossing the stone bridge.

It was not too long before I have spotted my first birds. The open areas were quite swampy and the benefits of all the rain were immediate. Pools of water lay on top of sandstone and some were full of tadpoles. Many of the native tress and shrubs were still flowering, making it a haven for a multitude of honey eaters.

Trees in full bloom.

The Griffin loop is 8km and one of the features is the stone bridge across a creek. Naturally formed, the rocks have been hollowed by the water which flows underneath forming the bridge. A steady climb up to a trig highlights the variation of the vegetation.

Outstanding views as I climb towards the trig.

Personally, I went well up to the 5km mark. This was a walk to test my ankle and hip. Suddenly, and without warning I locked up. I cannot describe it. It's as if the bones/joints just go stiff and I walk like tin man. I struggled the final 2 kms and put birding to one side to concentrate on foot placement, to prevent from rolling the ankle on a rock. It was fortunate I had a walking pole with me which provided stability.

Needless to say, walking through the cool of a tall Eucalyptus forest with distance views to the coast and arriving at the FJ was a real comfort. A cup of hot tea, a banana and a vegimite sandwich was very welcome.

A hot cup of tea.

I felt quite nostalgic. It did not seem like 9 years and I learned a lot then. Today I can hardly walk, but the day was well worth it.

Birds seen:-New Holland Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Grey Fantail, Crimson Rosella, Striated Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Welcome Swallow, Eastern Whipbird, White-Cheeked Honeyeater, Brush Wattlebird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Pied Currawong.