Now that I’d spent a few days charting the less travelled corners of the Blue Mountains, it was time to hit the main drag and see the big ticket attractions, not that I was really sure what they were. I’d came to rely on the CAMPS road atlas as, not only a great source of sleeping spots but also, having a not bad bunch of tourist attractions and beauty spots marked on it, so I made Katoomba and the Three Sisters my next stop.
Katoomba, although a quaint town, didn’t spark much interest from me on the way through – I probably could have spent a bit more time exploring it but wasn’t really in the mood at the time, and I the main reason I hate driving as a means of seeing an area is just because it’s conducive to that ‘ah, I’ll just keep driving’ attitude – and after seeing the slightly steep parking prices, any interest in seeing the Three Sisters was lost. After all that unmotivated driving, I headed round to Leura and spent a while at the quiet but quite impressive lookout at Sublime Point.
I took a drive through Mt Victoria, on the Bell Line Of Road, doubling back at Bell towards Lithgow to try to get a view of the Zig-Zag railway, but the road never seemed to open up any views of the line that I’d seen and heard a bit about. I checked out the station at Clarence then got distracted by yet more dirt road that promised some caves and camp grounds, but after maybe half an hour and a few not very well signed junctions in what felt like never-ending forest I doubled back just in case I got lost or ran out of fuel, or both.
Back on the main road, I headed east, now fairly intent on making this my last full day of driving – I think the consistently hot days, lack of showers, banter and good food combined to make getting a hot shower and a good bed to sleep in at my family’s house the next night seem like a very attractive option.
There was quiet rest area tucked just off the road at Bilpin so I had yet more 3 minute noodles there for lunch then kept going towards Richmond. I saw a lookout marked on the map on a road SW of Kurrajorong Heights but the road got a bit rough, and private, so that joined the growing list of missed or avoided attractions for the day. On the main road there was a lookout to the SE which gave an impressive view of the sprawling flatlands of the Hawkesbury Plain hundreds of metres below, as well as large bushfire and the massive plume of smoke rising from it.
Descending into the plain to Richmond, I dipped below 1000m above the sea for maybe the second time in 4 days, and the heat was borderline unbearable. After getting some supplies from Coles I closed my curtains, opened all the windows, and had a very sticky late afternoon nap in the carpark, not that I felt any better for it afterwards, or indeed for the rest of the day. Somehow I ended up deciding to drive to Hawkesbury Heights and ended up at the lookout there, which also looks down over the plain from the edge of the Blue Mountains Tablelands, to find that the bushfire I’d seen hours early was still raging but now, in the fading light flashes of fire crews’ vehicles and helicopters’ strobes could be seen everywhere around Londonderry.
If I was unsure of the severity of the fire, the dozens of other people at the lookout watching the fire, as well as fire fighting personnel confirmed that it was a bit serious. Just as the fires seemed to be getting reigned in, a big storm rolled in from the west, looking set to deal the final blow to the fires, but instead it missed the fires and even brought some previously subdued fires back to life with its draughts. As night fell, everything was eventually brought under control as I watched the brilliant lightening show head towards the distant glow of Sydney.
Now that it was dark, and I wasn’t feeling great either, the car park had to make do as my sleeping area for the night. Annoyingly the whole car park is sloped, making sleeping in the boot pretty uncomfortable, and that’s before the added humidity because of the rain all night necessitating the windows being shut. It turned out that the lookout was a popular spot with the local hoons so I had to put up with engines of varying calibres being revved outside my window for the first few hours of the night.
I wasn’t looking forward to trying to find my way back to the Bondi, in the Eastern suburbs, from the west of the city so I cut my, already short, sleep short at 4am so I could hit Sydney before Friday’s rush hour kicked in. After my sunny escape from the city on Sunday, this rainy drive in the dark before sunrise seemed like a bit of a depressing end to the trip, which only got worse when I bashed the left wing of my car into the side of a pickup truck. Half asleep, driving a car which I didn’t yet legally own and without my driving licence on me, this was not an ideal situation to be in at 6.30 in the morning, but to my disbelief the truck didn’t stop, so I kept going with the lane-change that had me in the debacle in the first place before the other driver had time to reconsider that bump he’d just felt, and that was that. The rest of the drive through the city was thankfully a lot less eventful, although I still needed to stop a few times to check where in the ridiculously big city I was before I found myself on the familiar stretch of road from Bondi Junction to the beach.