Earlier today Mrs Widds, the Widder cat, and I, were hanging out in our back yard in the sunshine, and watching the antics of the bluejays and robins. The warmer weather had prompted a nest of carpenter ants (Mrs Widds thinks) to swarm. They’d hatched a bunch of flying queens who were going about their business of flying and being queens. The birds were having a field day. All that protein on the wing.
All in all an aerial ballet that was a joy to behold. Although, I’m guessing the ant queens weren’t too pleased about being the main course.
Being in a storytelling mood I decided to relate the story of my encounter with a rather magical waterfall, many a long year ago.
In order for me to tell this story we have to travel to the other side of the planet, dip down into another hemisphere, and do a little time travelling … to Australia – specifically the East coast – about 20 years ago.
If you drive west from Sydney for about 2 hours you’ll reach the heart of the Blue Mountains. I grew up in the eastern shadow of these mountains and vowed that one day I would live on the highest peak I could find … and I did. (it wasn’t all that high compared to the mountains I have in my back yard these days, but as with all things it’s a matter of perspective)
It was a rather magical time in my life when, by inclination and finances, I was living by myself … with three cats and a puppy who thought she was a cat.
In a bygone era, in the first decades of the beginning of the 20th Century, gentlefolk would motor up from Sydney and the surrounding lowlands to escape the brutal heat of Summer.
The area was also renowned for its healing waters, and many a struggling author or consumptive heiress would take the ‘cure’ offered at the palatial hotels that perched on the edge of Megalong Valley.
Walking trails were hewn into the steep valleys and for a time it was possible for those gentlefolk to walk from Mt Victoria (where I lived) to Blackheath, to Katoomba without ever descending to the valley floor or resorting to the roads on the plateau above.
Over time most of these trails fell into disuse, and the ancient mountain range reclaimed her own.
This is where my part in the story begins.
Sunny day? … check. Feeling restless? … check. Always wanting to know what was around the next corner? … check. Unexplored trail beckoning? … check. Small backpack with essential survival gear? … check. Knowing that after my motorcycle accident I could survive just about anything? … priceless.
I’d explored parts of this particular trail before. It sloped down from the carpark towards the edge of the escarpment, and wandered through gullys where huge ferns created tunnels of greenness. It led under sandstone overhangs where flash floods carved out caves deep enough for the first peoples who migrated to this land to live in, and leave their marks on the walls with red ochre and pointed sticks. A tiny rill of water always burbled alongside the track, no matter how dry the rest of the bush was. And that summer had been a particularly long and brutal one.
I followed the trail until it opened out onto the edge of the cliff. I stood on the precipice and breathed in the scent of sun-parched sandstone. The blue haze from the eucalyptus trees that gave these mountains their name hung thick across the valley below. A hint of bushfire (wildfire) smoke rose against the far horizon.
I sat on the warm rock and dangled my feet into the abyss while I decided if I would turn back, or not. I felt hot and sweaty and the thought of returning to the cool path was truly tempting. Just a little bit more tempting was the unexplored path that clung to the side of the cliff and wound out of sight.
As I headed off I took note of the clouds gathering to the north-west. I rightly judged they would pass me by.
The track soon deteriorated into a ledge that hung off the side of the nearly perpendicular cliff. Even with my bum leg I was sure-footed enough not too be concerned, even though there was no place to turn around. What would I do if the track petered out completely? I’d deal with it if the time came.
The time came, right about the same time that those clouds dumped a load of rain into the watershed of a tiny creek that cascaded down the cliff-face a couple of meters from where I’d paused in my adventure to admire the view!
… to be continued …
“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands” – Zora Neale Hurston, 1891 – 1960 … American folklorist, anthropologist and author.