Blue Mountain Sunsets (Words by Henry Lawson)

Now in the west the colours change,

The blue with crimson blending;

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Sunset viewed from Mount Victoria looking over the Hartley Valley

Behind the far Dividing Range,

The sun is fast descending.

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Sunset viewed from Mitchell’s Lookout, Mount Victoria

And mellowed day comes o’er the place,

And softens ragged edges;

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Sunset in the Hartley Valley

The rising moon’s great placid face

Looks gravely o’er the ledges.

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Sunset in Main Street, Lithgow

Excerpt from The Blue Mountains by Henry Lawson

[Photo: backyard sunset]

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A Well Travelled Road

The Great Western Highway stretches from Sydney to the regional city of Bathurst in the central west of NSW. It is 210 kilometres long, beginning at Railway Square and travelling towards Parramatta before linking up with the motorway to Penrith. Once the Nepean River is crossed, the highway winds its way through the mountain villages before descending into the Hartley Valley via Victoria Pass. The western suburbs of Lithgow are passed by before the highway continues over the Cox’s River towards Bathurst.

Large sections of the original roads through to Bathurst remain in use. There have been inevitable changes and diversions over time, and some of the older sections of the highway remain in use as local roads. The length of the highway across a variety of terrains and grades means that roadwork seems like a perpetual feature for travellers along the road.

I have written before about some of the points of interest along the mountain stretch of the highway. There are many landmarks along the way, including buildings and particular views as the road wends its way, as well as numerous memorials to lives lost through accidents and misadventures along the highway.

I can only imagine the challenges of marking and carving out the original road two centuries ago. Early records attest to the difficulty of travelling along the Western Road (later the Great Western Road, then the Great Western Highway from 1928) and there were many attempts to reduce the impact of some of the inclines across the mountains, as well as easing some of the tight bends as usage changed from mainly foot traffic, horses and coaches to motorised transport. The road was a vital link to the pastures in Bathurst and beyond.

In 1915, there are various gatherings along the roadside as the men of the Cooee March made their way towards Sydney along the Great Western Road. Newspaper articles of the time record the townships along the highway turning out to offer refreshments as well as volunteers responding to the cooee call to enlist. This march has been re-enacted a couple of times including in 1987 and again in 2015 to celebrate the centenary of the march. I passed by the marchers in the most recent re-enactment, a blur of people striding down towards Hazelbrook.

Back in the last days of 2012 and across the first couple of weeks of 2013, journalist Malcolm Brown walked along the Great Western Highway from Sydney out to Dubbo in the central west. The journey of approximately 400 kilometres took a fortnight to complete, and throughout the journey Brown posted stories along the way. There is a clip of him preparing for the walk here, and he notes that there are sections of the journey where he would have to leave the Great Western Highway as there is no provision for pedestrians. There is mention of the road west during the Great Depression where thousands of men tramped through the countryside looking for work: the traffic on the roads was much less and travelled at a slower speed.

There is a collection of Brown’s writings along the road here, as well as articles from journalists in some of the towns he passed through along this extraordinary trek. I spotted him walking along the stretch of highway leading into Wellington, towards the end of his journey.

Have you spotted anything out of the ordinary along a well-travelled road?

[Photo: glimpse of the Great Western Highway from a train at Lawson]

My I Spy: Something beginning with ‘E’

It is with much excitement and enthusiasm that I present my favourite ‘E’ spies from the week that was. Enjoy!

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Emus in the Hartley Valley

Emus

I have passed these birds for over 3 years as I have wound my way through the Hartley Valley. They are usually in the distance, but are used to drawing attention and often loiter near the fenceline in hope of a treat. Knowing that E was coming up, I paid closer than usual interest to their location and pulled over on the way to work recently to take a photo. They weren’t fussed at all. I took several shots inbetween laughing when one of them yawned, and was surprised by the low throbbing noise that they made. A quick Google search confirmed it was normal. Their brown eyes were huge – you can catch a glimpse on the emu at the front. I was pleased to finally make their acquaintance.

Elephants spotted at Vinnies

Elephants

Elephants

Sticking with the animal theme, I spotted these two elephants at a Vinnie’s store, waiting for someone to take them home. I like elephants and have a couple of garden ornaments but I thought there might be someone out there who needed them more than I did.

Evans Lookout

Evans Lookout

Evans Lookout, Blackheath

There is a turnoff on the edge of Blackheath before the road bends its way towards Medlow Bath. The sign is for the Evans Lookout, and despite passing it many times, I hadn’t gone to have a look. I had been to Govetts Leap, which is off the main road at Blackheath, but I hadn’t taken the four kilometre drive out. Thank goodness for I Spy, is all I can say. It was just before dusk and I thought I’d have a quick look. The sheer scope and magnitude of the view honestly took my breath away. As the light faded there were two raucous cockatoos (is there any other kind?) who screeched and wheeled their way into the canyon, quickly becoming mere dots of white against the backdrop. The lookout is named after a local solicitor and landholder, George Evans, and is well worth a stop. It has been my favourite spy so far.

Onwards now with spying F items. You can see previous I Spy outings here: A B C & D. Special mention to Autumn’s D posting featuring donkeys and Pip Lincolne who started me off on this tangent.

My I Spy: Something beginning with ‘C’

I have a sneaking suspicion that I am being lulled into a false sense of security with the early letters in the alphabet. There has been some headscratching over E, and I haven’t thought much about F either, hoping instead that something will come across my path over the next few weeks. But for now, some things beginning with C.

China

China

China

My appreciation of fine bone china is influenced by my Mum, who has a beautiful assortment of exquisite cups, saucers, milk jugs and other tea related items. I cannot resist upturning a teacup if the china feels right, and will gravitate towards light, beautifully crafted but worn pieces over a sturdy white modern plate. The samples above are some of my favourites, including the Cup of Knowledge which sits on a saucer outlining the horoscope. A fine cup is worthy of a good brew, and might explain why I enjoyed a recent trip to Bygone Beauties.

Cloud in the Hartley Valley

Cloud in the Hartley Valley

Cloud Formations

One of the many aspects of mountain life that delights me is cloud formation. Seriously. I am not clever enough to be able to identity individual clouds as such, but I do know what I like. Coming down into the valley through light cloud cover is a delight, and I had to pull over and take a photo of the low cloud, slipping across the top of the trees. I know I’m relaxed when I find myself looking upwards, daydreaming upon cloud formations.

It also makes me think of The Service of Clouds by Delia Falconer, a wonderful novel set in the Blue Mountains. There is a review of the book in the New York Times here. Falconer’s book on Sydney as part of a series on Australian cities is also excellent. There is a review by another great writer, Drusilla Modjeska, in The Monthly here.

Katoomba Court House

Court House, Katoomba

Court House, Katoomba

The growth of Katoomba and the surrounding areas in the 1880s resulted in a deputation of Alderman heading to Sydney to request a courthouse in the town. Located on the northern side of the railway tracks, the court house was constructed in the late 1890s in the Federation Romanesque style and opened in 1897. It remains an imposing presence over a century later.

I am looking forward to seeing what delights my fellow alphabeteer Autumn comes up with for ‘C’, and am off to hunt down something beginning with ‘D’.