The best thing about temperate rainforest is you don’t have the sweltering heat, mosquitoes or quite as many leeches as you’d find in a tropical one. At least I assume so.
The one I visited was pocket-sized and formed part of the larger forest covering the Blue Mountains National Park in Katoomba, near to the Three Sisters.
The blue tinge you can see there is entirely down to the trees and their eucalyptus oil, so a scenic walk is good both for you and your sinuses. Since I’m a novice at walking and only brought trainers, I chose the wimpiest walks available from the itinerary and so in total I was only there for about three hours. Some of the trails topped four or five, but due to the train service there wasn’t much time for extensive sight-seeing. That’s also my excuse for not clambering down the 100 plus steps and back again just to put my hand on one of the Three Sisters.
Regardless, I managed to find one rainforest pocket near the elusive Leura Falls and Fossil Rocks, and it had its own misty spray hanging in the air. It was nestled in a bend of the mountain trail and absorbed all noise, as if you had stepped into a different world that even the trees wanted to keep secret. I half expected to see a small dinosaur dash past, but seeing anything dash through the copious amounts of thick mud would be unrealistic, extinct animal or otherwise.
Once you rounded the bend your ears were assaulted by what I assumed to be frogs or birds peeping in the valley below, together with the soft applause of Leura Falls, which despite my best sweary efforts and lack of map reading skills never actually made an appearance.
There was another area of temperate rainforest to poke around, and this was at the bottom of the valley.
To gain access you first went by glass-bottomed cable car, which took me over another Jurassic Park-inspired landscape of urchinesque ferns and dark tree trunks, and past a distant Katoomba Falls dotted by small gnats later revealed to be cockatoos. At the other side of the valley was the Scenic Railway, the steepest railway in the world, and to make sure you knew this, the Indiana Jones theme was played on loudspeakers whenever it rushed you down the mountainside under ever shrinking ceilings of rock. This was enormous fun, although I feared for the sanity of the operator who had to listen to it on a loop all day long.
The trip went from Indiana Jones to Star Wars; winding through the forest were wooden walkways that made me think of the ewoks’ village, and halfway along there was a clearing where men were hefting large pipes, wires and equipment as if setting up an interstellar space gun. It turned out they were just repairing the sky car station.
You may have noticed a gaping hole when it comes to wildlife, and you’d be spot on. Apart from the cockatoos, which are considered as pesky as English pigeons, and the twinkling frogs in the valley, there were precisely zero animals. This made sense as we were in the middle of the day and walking through heavily tramped areas of forest with half a construction site nearby. Hanging around at nightfall might have yielded better results, but given the stern warnings about stepping off the wooden walkways, and not because of the bone-crushing drop of three feet, walking around in the bush in the dark wasn’t exactly an option.
Proving just as elusive was the bus home. At about half past four I came across a relevant bus stop only to find that I had missed the last one by mere minutes. Fortunately, the driver of another local bus was as laid back as I was stressed, and let the party hop on and head back to Katoomba train station. There’s a little non-story for you.
Regardless of the lack of wildlife and the staggeringly tall and beautiful waterfalls, I was able to grasp the idea of woodland other than oak, beech and sycamore, and didn’t need any jabs or ticks removed either. I’d call that a successful day.
Fortunately, I’d already gorged myself on wildlife on a previous outing, and I’m not talking about the Coat of Arms. Our next stop is Taronga Zoo and a behind the scenes tour, featuring an animal that mates itself to death, can poison you for 48 hours, disembowel you, and give you a nice warm snuggle. Just be glad it’s not the same one.