Winter Hike at Bridal Veil Falls

“Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful.  It is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower.”  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bridal Veil Falls cascades off the cliff at Govetts Leap, and falls 250 meters onto the boulders of Govett Gorge in the Grose Valley.  We have been admiring this beautiful view of the falls and valley from the moment we arrived in Blackheath, and had always looked forward to following the aptly named falls into the valley below.

We set out on a gorgeous sunny winter day to attempt the descent into the valley beneath. Elijah in the backpack on Matt’s back; Leina and Cohen with their sticks as walking aids; and I with the camera, snacks and water.

We were spoiled with impressive views into the Grose Valley wilderness and the Blue Gum Forest and treated to the sounds of some of Australia’s native bush birds.  There is nothing like the sight of white sulphur-crested cockatoos swooping and soaring above the forest below, and perching on the gum trees along the track.  They may be one of Australia’s nosiest birds, but their attractiveness certainly makes up for it.

The track, at times, is perched right on the edge of the cliff with only tall gum trees and low shrubs between you and the distant valley below.  The track takes you in and out of gullies, down well-worn hand-hewn steps, as well as man-made stairs.  The track is narrow in parts, and sometimes saturated and dripping with water.  Matt would help the kids get over the wet areas by lifting them, and they would squeal when running water would drip down the backs of their sweaters from the plants hanging off the cliff face!

The winter day couldn’t have been more brilliant.  The sunshine was creating the most awesome rainbows in the waterfall and on the side of the cliff where the hanging ferns were trickling with water.  We were slowing peeling off the layers of clothing under the suns warm rays during the hike.

We only made it three-quarters of the way down to the falls before stopping for the snacks and water, and then started our grueling ascent, as we were anticipating a lot of whinging on the hike back up (but nothing that a little spelling and “maths” game can’t distract them from!).

We hope to do this hike again before we leave, namely because it is just 10 minutes from our door, but also since we understand that there are “yabbies’” (small little crayfish) at the base of the waterfall that make great little pets (or a dinner main!).   We also really want to see what the Blue Gum Forest and Bridal Veil Falls looks like from underneath – from a different perspective.

And I have to say, that although I have not been inside a church in the last few months, I see God’s awesome spirit on these breathtaking hikes in Australia.  It is there in the azure sky, and the magical rainbows, and the yellow wattle flower and crest on the cockatoo, and in my children’s smiles.  I am feeling very blessed and grateful for the opportunities afforded to us.

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Narooma on the Nature Coast

Narooma is a quaint, picturesque coastal town 4 hours south of Sydney, and we were invited to visit the area by Karyn and Joe and their two children, who are on a teaching exchange from Toronto.  The scenic drive down through the charming town of Bowral and the awesome Kangaroo Valley, had us immediately at “hello” and pining for a return visit to the area.

It is not hard to see why the south coast is popular as a family holiday destination – proximity to the city of Sydney, and beauty of the “Nature Coast” for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, surfing, and exploring.  There are pristine golden beaches that dot this southern coastline, crystal clear blue lakes, inlets and rivers as well as magnificent mountain scenery.

Karyn and Joe are living in Dalmeny, just 10 minutes from Narooma, where Karyn is teaching high school, and the short drive from their home to the town of Narooma has 8 beaches – some ideal for surfing, others ideal for swimming, and all are ideal for admiring the view to Montague Island, 8 kilometers out from shore where you will find colonies of seals, little penguins, and sea birds, as well as a historic lighthouse.

Matt was fortunate enough to spend a day shadowing Karyn at Narooma High.  He was able to see how things worked at a different Australian high school and gained a perspective on teaching at a school with a high aboriginal population.  He was able to spend some time with the woodshop teacher and learnt about some different projects.

While Matt was being hosted by Karyn, Joe and the kids and I got to explore all of the really great parks and play structures in the Narooma area!  We also spent time watching massive seals laze about in the sunshine at the Narooma bar (rocky inlet that protects the Narooma harbour – not the alcoholic kind of bar)!  The kids thought that was pretty neat!  From the Narooma bar we could admire the view of the Narooma Golf Course which is perched on high cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and is home to “Hogan’s Hole” named after Paul Hogan himself!  Yearly membership at this amazing golf course is only $500 – a steal when you consider the location and view!

After a quintessential photo op at the ‘Australia Rock’, we enjoyed a feast of fresh fish and chips overlooking Forsters Bay and on the way back to Karyn and Joe’s, we picked up some fresh, right off the boat, oysters for dinner that night!

Our day trips with Karyn and Joe saw us explore the historic village of Central Tilba, less than a half hour from Narooma.  This 150 year-old village is nestled in the foothills of Mt. Dromedary which towers 800 meters above the town.  Weather-board cottages in heritage styles and colors line the main street of Central Tilba and are home to local artisans, retail and gift shops, as well as jewellery, lollies, and the well-known Tilba Cheese Shop where sampling is highly encouraged!

After stocking up on a few souvenirs, gifts, and lollies, we picnicked at Mystery Bay, made use of the classic Aussie outdoor free BBQ’s and had our own sausage sizzle, and spent a wonderful afternoon running in and out of the waves, building sandcastles and enjoying the company and sunshine.

Karyn and Joe were gracious hosts and it was great to spend a long weekend with a family in a similar situation as ourselves, and to have the opportunity to talk “Canada”.  The kids played swimmingly together as the boys, Cohen and Tristan were similar in age and Elijah found a playmate in Kira!  Leina was happy to tag along wherever she fit in, especially playing “tip” (Australia’s version of tag), and singing karaoke!

We have been invited back for a visit in October as we understand the whale watching at that time of year is spectacular.  So like the whales and their newborn calves, we’ll head south too, for more fresh seafood, time on the beach, a trip out to Montague Island and another catch-up with new friends!

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