Shoulda, coulda, woulda

In my recent post Postcard from the Blue Mountains, I mentioned that we should’ve travelled there by helicopter from Sydney rather than driving. Let me explain why.

I had planned to arrive in Wolgan Valley well before dusk (which is when you have to watch out for wildlife on the roads). I was thwarted by my beloved scheduling a meeting with a leading orthodontist based south of Sydney, which meant we set off several hours later than I’d anticipated.

We had with us our trusty satnav, purchased several years ago, which inexplicably decided to give up the ghost as we left the orthodontist’s practice. So we wasted further time trying to find our way onto the correct route. At this rate I thought we’d be lucky to arrive in time for dinner!

Finally we were heading in the right direction, following the directions provided by the resort. I now have to hold my hands up and admit that I misread said instructions and for reasons known only to Orange  – possibly lack of coverage – our mobile phones wouldn’t work, meaning we couldn’t access Google Maps, ring or text the hotel. As per map above, we should’ve taken the right-hander to Newnes, instead we drove almost as far as Mudgee.

As light started to fall, we spotted a tourist rest stop and asked the janitor if he knew where to find Wolgan Valley. He had no idea, not a good sign, but I spotted a map which showed we’d overshot the turn off by some way (British understatement). There was a public telephone at the stop so we contacted the hotel for directions.

Finally, we were headed in the correct direction and easily spotted the turn off to the Valley (at the petrol station). An hour later we slowed to turn into the resort, what should’ve been a three hour journey had taken close to seven! Of course, it was now well past dusk and my beloved had already dodged a few kangaroos on the road. He was fortunately at a standstill when one decided to use the front of our hire-car as a launch pad.

The roo was fortunately unhurt, the same could not be said for our hire car (later repaired in Brisbane for a very reasonable AUD$385). However, we were just relieved to have finally arrived at our destination. We dropped off our luggage in our accommodation and went straight into dinner.

As the resort is fairly remote, it offers an all-inclusive package, including a wide range of alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) beverages. To celebrate our safe arrival, I suggested that we had a nice glass of red wine at dinner which wasn’t part of the package.

As is his want, my beloved spent ages perusing the wine list, pretty useless since he can see very little without his glasses! There was a Pinot Noir he’d wanted to try for a while and by chance the sommelier knew both the wine and the vintner’s family well, I chose a Penfolds Shiraz without really glancing at the price. I have to say it was rather delicious.

My beloved had a second glass of Pinot Noir but I passed on a further glass of the Shiraz. During dinner, the sommelier was incredibly attentive and happily told us all about the respective wines. The resort has a high staff to guest ratio (100:80) giving the former plenty of opportunity to engage with the latter.

After dinner, I signed the bill but even my eagle eyes couldn’t read the grand total in the flickering half light. But how expensive could it be? I discovered the answer the following evening when I managed to get my mitts on the wine list first.

My beloved’s Pinot Noir was AUD$41 per glass, he had two glasses so that was AUD$82. A mere bagatelle by comparison with the price of mine (AUD$333), thank heavens I’d only had the one glass! I’ve since seen a bottle of the same wine for sale in a very upmarket off-licence in Brisbane for over AUD$ 2,000 a bottle!

I suspect that’ll go down as the most expensive glass of wine I’ll ever drink! Was it worth it? Well, let’s just say I’ll be dining off this tale for quite sometime. Now, perhaps you’ll understand why I said we should’ve taken the chopper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postcard from the Blue Mountains

A mere three hours drive from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are easily accessible by car, or via a dramatic scenic helicopter flight. We opted for the former – we should’ve gone for the latter, but that’s a whole other story – to reach our home in the Wolgan Valley where we were anticipating much cooler temperatures than in Sydney. Daytime temperatures of just 10 – 15°C, though at night, at this time of the year, these temperatures can drop to as low as -3°C. Consequently, we’d packed anoraks, stout walking shoes and cashmere.

The Blue Mountains are one of Australia’s natural wonders and the World Heritage area combines eight individual conservation reserves – Yengo, Wollemi, Gardens of Stone, Blue Mountains, Nattai, Kanangra Boyd, Thirlmere Lakes and Jenolan Caves Karst Reserve. I doubt three days will be sufficient to see all these wonders.

According to the ‘blurb, the Greater Blue Mountains is an accessible wilderness, covering more than one million hectares of rainforest, canyons, eucalypt forests and heath lands in New South Wales. It’s an area of breathtaking views, rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs, deep valleys and swamps teeming with life – none of whom I suspect I would wish to meet! The unique plants and animals that live in this outstanding natural place relate an extraordinary story of Australia’s antiquity, its diversity of life and its superlative beauty. It really is a nature lover’s paradise with an abundance of colourful bird and animal life, the greatest concentration of eucalypt diversity on the continent, and landscapes ranging from rainforest to heathland.

More than 400 different kinds of animals live within the rugged gorges and tablelands of the Greater Blue Mountains. These include threatened or rare species of conservation significance, such as the spotted-tailed quoll, the koala, the yellow-bellied glider, the long-nosed potoroo (what a fab name), the green and golden bell frog and the Blue Mountains water skink. Flora and fauna of conservation significance and their habitats are a major component of the World Heritage values of the area.

Your home in the wilderness

Well, the Blue Mountains more than lived up to its reputation and, thanks to the guides where we were staying, I now know and understand a lot more about the important conservation work that’s  being undertaken in the area.
Wolgan Valley is the world’s first carbon neutral resort, set amid 7,000 acres, nestled between two national  parks within the UNESCO World Heritage site. Spread out in a valley at the foot of towering cliffs, the resort has an admirable commitment to broader social, ecological and environmental sustainability.
It was a a wonderfully relaxing stay and we particularly enjoyed getting up close and personal to the resort’s abundant wildlife, particularly its 5,000 strong herd of kangaroos, wallaroos and wallabies, its comical, camera-shy wombats and its many noisy birds. All too soon our stay – more of which later – was over and we were driving back towards Sydney, and the next leg of out Adventure Down Under.

Friday holiday photos #2

Today we’re starting our drive along the NSW coastline towards Brisbane. Here’s a few photos from our time in the Blue Mountains, a truly magical place. My photos really don’t do it justice. There will be further posts in due course about our stay here.

View from the dining room
Looking up towards the resort from our bungalow – one of only 40
This is Russell