A two hour drive into the Blue Mountains from Sydney took me to a place I had only dreamed about. Set in the Wolgan Valley, the Emirates One & Only resort is surrounded by rock escarpments under deep blue skies.
I wanted to see a different part of Australia from the big cities and this two day stay did not disappoint. We stayed in a ‘Heritage Villa’ which sounds as if they are authentic homesteads from the 1800’s. They are definitely not. Gas fires built to heat both the lounge and bedroom, four poster bed and a bathroom where the bath looked out across the valley. There is an original homestead where it is alleged that Charles Darwin once stayed. A more rustic affair. To me this was my own little piece of paradise. I came here not for the luxury but the wildlife. Dawn and dusk are the best times to see what the valley has to offer.
Dragging myself away from the villa I encountered wallabies or were they wallaroos or kangaroos? By the end of my stay I knew the difference. A large, furry creature was ambling across the field – a wombat that had emerged from its underground home. When I was a child in the 1960’s there was a programme on a Sunday – the Tingha and Tucker Club – two koala bear glove puppets and Willy the Wombat, all of the memories came flooding back and I recall joining the club and receiving a boomerang which never worked!
In the evening we attended the Stargazing talk. Being in the southern hemisphere I expected the sky to be different but the Plough was still there and this made me think of my Dad who was the first person to show me this constellation. Because there was no light pollution we saw Magellanic Clouds which are dwarf galaxies only visible in the southern hemisphere. A magical moment.
The following morning I was up early and sat on the steps outside the villa watching the wallabies having an early morning feed. It was cold and there was dew on the grass and droplets of moisture on the wattle bushes. A stillness pervaded the valley and it was a time for contemplation and appreciation of the beauty of nature. My feet became cold and I attempted to go inside but couldn’t get in. I had inadvertently locked myself out. Knowing my dearly beloved was fast asleep I patiently waited another 30 minutes in the cold before knocking on the bedroom window to be let in. The waiting time was spent watching three crimson rosellas in the trees above the creek.
After a hearty breakfast of porridge which made me feel like Goldilocks eating Daddy Bear’s porridge we prepared ourselves for the day. We kitted ourselves out in long walking trousers and stout walking boots as the ranger who briefed us told us this would protect us from snake bites. Yikes. We also had to take a radio in case of emergencies. They weren’t really selling the experience with all this risk mitigation but off we went for a leisurely 10 mile hike.
The air was clear and the sky a deep blue with the sun high above the mountains. Under all the trees were family groups of kangaroos. There was always a male at the front – standing up straight and showing us who was boss! Joeys were hopping around until they saw the perceived danger and proceeded to disappear, head first, into their mothers’ pouches. How I longed to see one peeping out at me. As a child who watched Skippy the Bush Kangaroo this was the ultimate in kangaroo viewing.
There were wombat holes everywhere and armies of ants across the whole area. Fortunately we didn’t encounter any snakes. Tucked under the trees were the smaller, shy wallabies that watched us for a while and then bounced off into the forests of eucalyptus and cypress. The air smelt of resin and reminded me of home. There were curious squiggles on some of the tree trunks and I learned that they were Scribbly Gum trees. The marks were caused by the larvae of the Scribbly Gum Moth.
Although we could hear birds in the trees they were elusive, apart from the magpies and pigeons which were ever present during our stay. There were beautiful plants which appeared in clearings in the eucalyptus forests.
On the final day I was out early to see the wildlife feeding before the sun became too hot. I walked for over two hours taking in the wildlife, landscape and the memories of this place.
On a wooden post sat a Laughing Kookaburra and I remembered a song from my time in the Brownies:
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry, merry king of the bush is he,
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be
The variety of birds was amazing; Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, Fairy Wrens, White Naped Honeyeaters, Australian Wood Ducks, Dusky Moorhens and the incredibly Noisy Friarbirds.
Towards the end of my walk I was rewarded with the sight of a kangaroo family and a joey peeping out of its mother’s pouch.
The two day experience was unique; memories made and memories retrieved from my childhood. A place that will stay with me forever.