Long Weekend – Sunday

The second day of our long weekend in the Blue Mountains area.

In and Around the Town of Lithgow

The weather was OK. At least it didn’t rain and the skies were mostly clear. We decided to explore the Lithgow area. There was a conveniently located tourist information office just a little further up the Great Western Highway from the motel. Better than that, it was open. All the tourist information offices are now open I am glad to report. The helpful man in the office pointed us to an easy walk for a six year old plus a couple of local historical sites.

Hassans Walls Lookout

The first stop was the Hassans Walls Lookout. An easy drive-walk with a little bit of fun rock climbing for Dani at the end of it. This escarpment overlooks the Hartley valley and the Blue Mountains.

Steel History

Lithgow became an important staging post for trips to the west once the railways arrived. Also there was already a thriving steel industry in the town and there has been an attempt to make the site of the old works into a tourist attraction. Not a great deal of fun for all I will admit, but having worked in the steel industry I wanted to take a look. There is very little left of the old buildings and even if Dani was not too impressed his old dad found it quite interesting.

The curved shape is the left overs from one of the furnaces. Mostly a “slag” and iron mix showing the shape of the furnace.

Gun Emplacements

This was probably Dani’s favourite of the day. These anti-aircraft guns were set up in 1937 to protect the area from enemy fire. Lithgow was a target during the second world war as it is also home to a small arms factory (the museum of which was still closed). It is free to enter and you can wander in and out of the bunkers and climb all over the guns. Surprisingly well kept considering.

Old Hartley Village

Just off the Great Western Highway between Mount Victoria and Lithgow is the old abandoned village of Hartley. This was once a thirving staging post especially during the gold rush for those making their way to the western goldfield towns. Then along came the railways and Lithgow became the natural stopover of choice. This village has been well kept with the old court house a museum (closed though – the coronavirus thing still affecting tourism). The sites include the perfectly preserved St. Bernards church and fully restored Presbytery which now acts as accommodation. Or at least it would do if it wasn’t for – you guessed it – that pesky coronavirus.

Old Courthouse
St. Bernard’s church and Presbytery

People used to stop for a photograph outside the old court house before continuing their journey.

An early “bus” trip via Hartley village

As usual there was not enough tome to visit all the places we wanted to. Plus some are still not open. One of these attractions is the famous Zig-Zag Railway which as the name suggests winds through the mountainous region. It was surpassed by the newer train lines which tunnelled through parts of the route to make the journey more direct. The Zig-Zag is not open right now but not (only) because of the virus thing. It is being refurbished. So, another time for the Lithgow area… maybe for a little camping trip on one of the area’s lakes?…

Queen’s Birthday Weekend – Saturday

Well the plan went according to plan. We visited the Red Hands Cave and stopped at both Blackheath and Mount Victoria.

The Red Hands Cave

Technically not a cave – as Dani was quick to point out. More like an overhanging rock shelter type thing… Hard to explain, but maybe it was a cave once. There is a metal cage protecting it from human contact for obvious reasons. This thing would not last one tourist season if everyone placed their own hands over the painted hands. Which of course they would. Even if you paid them not to, the internet would soon be full of photos of people doing it.

Red Hands Cave Paintings
More hand paintings…
Metal cage keeps the paintings safe…

Probably the reason it is still intact at all is because it is fairly well hidden. It takes about an hour to walk there (so a two hour round trip) from the park entrance. There is a dirt track road which takes you to within a ten minute walk and that’s the route we took. There is no way Dani was walking for two hours. Despite this being a busy weekend we were the only ones there when we arrived.

More of an overhanging rock than a cave?…
Dense vegetation surrounds the “cave”

Like all such things they don’t know exactly how old these hand paintings are. Or what they mean. Just that they are probably very old and were the work of the original dwellers of this land.

Further into the Blue Mountains

From then on we hit the traffic. Typical national holiday traffic – probably in any country. We crawled past several small towns until the traffic thinned out. We arrived at Blackheath about lunchtime. Amazingly there were not too many places open. While the government is telling people to support rural businesses – which they have done since the bush fires – many are choosing to remain closed.  (Those bush fires seem a lifetime ago now eh?).

We managed to eat in a cafe in part of an old converted theatre. Much of the inside is now taken up by antique stalls and the like. An interesting place in the middle of the mountains.

Converted Theatre – Blackheath

Blackheath is an interesting little town with more than a few interesting little shops. It was good to see the place busy. But we had to move on or face more traffic jams.

Mount Victoria

Mount Victoria is a very small village but also has some great little old fashioned places. We had a quick look around and bought a drink from a small café. Opposite the café is the relatively large Victoria and Albert Hotel (plus bar/restaurant). It was closed. When I asked the lady in the café why it was not open on this busy long weekend – I would certainly have had a beer on the terrace – she told me the owner was having trouble hiring staff. Surprised, I quizzed her about this. Aren’t there supposed to be loads more unemployed now after this virus rubbish? I asked. It turns out (according to this lay) that those recently made unemployed are getting more money off the government – to do nothing by the way – than they would working in this rural economy. That money won’t last of course but as part of the government’s plan to “combat” the coronavirus bullshit they are killing any chance some of these places have to get up and running again in the short term. Typical!

Aside from that little surprise the area was great. An old fashioned – vintage even – cinema that they even called the “Flicks” that still operates. Well, when there is no ‘plandemic’ nonsense going on…

The “Flicks” at Mount Victoria – very retro!

Some 7km out of the village is the Victoria Falls. Nothing as grand as those cascades on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border of course. In fact we ever saw the although we could hear the water. The view point overlooking the falls (hidden in the trees below) is perfect however…

Victoria Falls Outlook

And another…

And further out West…

By now it was getting late. For the time of year that is. Only an hour or two more of sunlight. So we jumped back in the car and made out way just outside of the Blue Mountains to the motel at Lithgow. A town of around 13,000 inhabitants, it was a sort of staging post and still a rail junction that links the Blue Mountains (and Sydney) with the central/inner west. More on this later…

The Queen’s Birthday – Long Weekend

This coming Monday is a national holiday in Australia. And it amazed me when I learned about it. The day is a celebration of the Queen’s Birthday.

What amazes me about this is that we don’t even celebrate that in the UK. At least not with a national (bank) holiday. That is not to say we shouldn’t. I happen to think another national (bank) holiday in the UK is needed and why not this one? So why doesn’t the UK celebrate this day?

Queen’s Birthday? When?

It is not the actual day of the Queen’s birth (or reigning monarch) but a nominated day which can vary in different Commonwealth countries where the Queen is still head of state.

In the UK the day has moved a couple of times and is now (since 1959) on the second Saturday of June (the 13th this year). Although it is not a national holiday for the public it is celebrated with the famous Trooping the Colour ceremony. A fantastic military spectacle in which the Queen inspects the various regiments on display. In Australia – Canberra – there is a smaller scale version I believe. In Canada they celebrate it at the end of May while in New Zealand it is the first Monday of June.

Is it even going to happen this year? what with this virus nonsense? Hmm…I suspect not.

In Australia the designated day for celebrating the Queen’s Birthday is the 2nd Monday of June. The day falls on June 8th this year.

Long Weekend

So what this really all means is a long weekend for Dani. So we are heading off to the Blue Mountains again. This time to spend a couple of nights up there. The plan is to go up to Glenbrook as early as possible Saturday morning and have breakfast there. Sounds like a good plan eh? But never easy getting sleepy head Dani up early. Especially on a non-school day. Trust me this kid can sleep – see this post from just over three years ago).

After breakfast we plan to visit the painted hands caves which we missed out on last weekend. Then further inland stopping at Blackheath and Mount Victoria before checking n to a motel in Lithgow. that’s about another hour and a half further up the Great Western Highway from Glenbrook. I wanted to see past Katoomba – the furthest we have been inland so far – plus everything was booked up further down the highway. It promises to be a busy weekend as people escape the city for the Queen’s Birthday holiday.

Well that is the plan at least. We shall see how it goes…

Fuel Crime

This weekend is not only a long weekend it is also (officially) the first time people are allowed to travel within the state. Also the caravan, camp grounds and national parks are now all officially open. Ahem… let’s pretend the previous few weeks never happened then shall we?

Because so many people will be driving away this weekend look what has happened.
Fuel Price 5th June 2020
The fuel price had risen from that decades low price of around 90 cents per litre. Back to around $1.10 or more. Then they have recently crept back down to less than one dollar only last week – to leap again during the week. I noticed only yesterday that this petrol station had risen to $1.18 per litre. But today!? A massive leap up to $1.34. The robbing thieving bastards!

Another Great Ale Tale

At the risk of seeming to be turning into an alcoholic here are some more craft ales I have been sampling. Strictly for the research purposes of course, and definitely not becoming an uncontrollable habit. Although I think I will make this a regular feature. Say, a weekly update? What do you think?

One From WA

That’s Western Australia. A Freemantle based brewing enterprise produces this one. Nicely named and that simple beer can design that seems to grab my attention.

Atomic IPA Beer Project

The Gage Road Brewing Company also put this on the side of the can: “Bold upfront pine aromas, zesty citrus & tropical fruit characters, balanced with subtle malt and a lingering bitterness”. Hey! That’s exactly what I was going to say. A very nice IPA.

Mad Cow Beer?

This one comes in a simple can design and with a daft name. There’s two photos of it here just to show the whole concept (now there’s an arty word!). Who’s not gonna try this one eh? Pretty good beer actually.

What’s in here?
It’s Moo Brew Pale Ale

Dani’s Pick – It’s a Biggie!

When you let a six year old choose your beer for you then you can expect the worst. Or at least the unexpected. Right? That is exactly what happened with this rascal from the aptly named Feral Brewing Co..

Biggie Juice XPA

Now as you may already realise I would have overlooked this one as the garish design would have been seen as an unnecessary distraction. Dani on the other hand thought it looked great and made me buy it. And guess what? It tastes great too – as most of the XPA types seem to.

So it’s a big-up to Biggie Juice! As if to prove the point this one was sold out on our next visit. They have several similarly scary beer can designs on offer but I intend to wait a while before trying more of the Feral brews.

Genuine Lockdown Beer – Really

These tinnies caught my eye immediately. Of course all beers being sold these days are for lockdown but these have taken it to that next level. Now anyone who has read this blog will know I could not be more against this “lockdown” nonsense that has been spiralling out of control across the globe. But I did see the funny side to these and, let’s be honest, there is  also a touch of marketing genius. I have no intention of trying the lager as I am sure it will just be like piss. However, that Pale Ale may be worth a try… More on that one as and when…

Lock-In Lager
Stay Home Pale Ale

Last Weekend of Autumn

Winter is officially here. In this part of the southern hemisphere at least.

Glenbrook – Gateway to the Blue Mountains

Well that’s what I heard on one radio channel. The 1st of June really is the start of winter here. This last weekend of Autumn, the final one of May, we took off to the Blue Mountains again. Only to the first port of call which is the small town of Glenbrook. A great little place you could call the gateway to the Blue Mountains.

This Angelic looking kid moaned almost all the way here and all of the way back.
Dani on the Jellybean track

The mountains start here. One hour from the eastern suburbs where we are living.

The City just visible in the distance.

I didn’t realise how perfect the reflections were on the pool until I looked at the photos.  Amazing symmetrical photos without even trying hahaaa…

Jellybean Pool
Perfect Reflection.

There are a surprising number of places to eat and drink in Glenbrook. We went to 2773 where the sign says it all. These mountains really are a great place and Glenbrook is ideal. I could live here…

The sign says it all

Quick Visit to North Head

Sunday was a little more cloudy – for half of the day. We headed for Manly and the North Head. Unfortunately the Quarantine Head area was closed off. (See previous post on South Head here) Incredibly the place designed for disease quarantine – the like of which we have supposedly just had – seems to have been closed to the public because of this virus shit. You couldn’t make it up.

The view over to South Head and into the Sydney Harbour and the CBD is fantastic. Many people park up for a picnic and watch the boats coming and going while admiring the view.  The view form this side is more impressive than form South Head. This is another area that needs more exploration…

View from North Head

Pubs Re-open

Today is officially the first day of winter in Australia. It is also the first day of the great pub reopening. Oh; also the libraries are reopening today but that is not as important…

Early Start

The (so called) relaxed “lockdown” rules have allowed the pubs to open their doors to the public once more. The actual rule was for today, 1st June. Some even opened at 7am this morning. I saw one open at 9am after dropping Dani at school and did think about popping in but that was too early even for me. There were already a few die-hards in there however.

I am not a regular user of pubs these days but at times like this it is quite odd. You really miss things the most when they are taken away from you.

Plan of Attack

My plan was to go for a couple of drinks before picking Dani up from school. So just around lunch time I headed for the pub in my shorts and T-shirt – as you do on the first day of winter.

And I should have known better. The pub I headed for was not open. They currently operate one room as a bistro serving food and of course drinks but they do not think the limitations warrant a full opening. They are waiting for the maximum limit (currently 50 people) to be lifted. Bloody typical. Sadly this could be a theme in certain larger pubs.

Plan B

I wasted no time going back to the one that I knew was open. The staff were clearly happy to be working again. Not even wearing face masks. Just getting on with the job of serving beer. They were even accepting cash payments. All good stuff. The customers were in good spirits – as you can imagine. There were no more than fifty customers. Probably about 30 but there could have been more. Some looked like they intended making a full day of it.

They did not have all the usual beers on tap – as I suspected – but there were certainly enough. I had a couple of pale ales and decided that I had better go and pick Dani up from school. Mission accomplished.

One odd thing was that they asked all customers to sign their name and give a phone number. I guess it must be some kind of tracking thing if there is a virus outbreak related to the pub. I should have used a false name and/or number but didn’t. then again I doubt they would be able to read my writing.

The Fifty People Rule

The one problem with all this is clearly that stupid ‘maximum fifty person’ rule that has been imposed. Large pubs can and will hold many more. It remains to be seen how long that rule stays in place or even if it is followed. Will there be some official walking around a bustling pub counting people? If you go in a busy looking pub my advice would be to keep moving. Just in case some busy-body of a council worker is trying to count the number of drinkers. Don’t give the bastards a chance hahahaa…

Not quite back to normal just yet but getting there. Still, get your beer from an open pub while you still can. I am sure if too many people start enjoying life someone in authority will come up with another stupid reason for closing them again.

And the libraries…

The libraries are not exactly open. I checked before going for a refreshing beverage. There are people working there but they do not plan to reopen fully to the public for another few weeks. I really don’t get it but that is what I was told. I did manage to hand my book back however. Two months and a day overdue.