It was around a week later when I finally returned to Narrow Neck. I’d started the day at Scenic World and was on my way home when a spur-of-the-moment decision led me down Glenraphael Road. I thought there might be some birds I could photograph but, upon reaching the gate about halfway along, plan B kicked in. That was to descend to the swamp, for what reason I could only echo Sir Edmund Hillary – “Because it’s there”.
From above it was such a contrast. The charcoal banksias set upon a lush green swamp, flourishing after the recent rains. Then, when I started to descend, the unmistakable sound of water on sandstone. Could I get that lucky?
The descent, thanks to my dodgy knees, was slow and somewhat tortuous. Trying to work out a route that avoided getting black all over my clothes was also time consuming, but the sound was as a magnet. New growth backlit by the midday light was also attractive, shining shades of red, yellow and vivid green were a delight to the eye; but by now I was on a mission.
The banksia forest was a formidable obstacle, the protruding branches still retaining spring indicating they weren’t actually dead, though the seed pods had burst. They were so dense that I didn’t get through unmarked and, once you’ve had a black brush or two, does it matter if you get more?
There was a ledge that perhaps offered a view so I worked my over to it and yes, there was the waterfall, though the view was interrupted by vegetation. Still, it was tantalizing to see some of it and now I wanted more. Looking further along the overhang there was a scary little opening onto a small outcrop; not a place for the faint-hearted.
Without pushing branches aside there was no way through and my clothes were so battle scarred that I pushed through anyway, reaching the viewpoint and then turning around to a stunning spectacle. The creek, I later learned, has a name – Mitchells. It’s not one you’ll find on any guide book for the Blue Mountains and not as exciting a name as Bunba Yaka on the other side. There wasn’t a large flow but, with the background of the massive shaded overhang, it looked stunning and the small rainbow at the base of the cataract made it just that more special.
I sat and soaked it up for a while, scarily teetering on the edge, and listened to the water’s echo; this special place deserved some time. When you leaned over just a little more, the path of the creek way below became evident as a series of cascades took the water away towards Megalong. No doubt the creek was somewhat ephemeral and wouldn’t have been flowing at all just a couple of months ago but now the landscape was truly surreal.
After a time I lurched to my feet and brushed the banksia aside once more, heading for the swamp that seemed so incongruous in this burnt out setting. A lone frog let me know that not everything had died but there was no bird life to be seen or heard. I’d carried my heavy camera gear down for nothing but pondered the fate of the honeyeaters that would normally relish a place like this. Sooner or later every forest suffers the fate of what had happened here but you can’t help but feel a sadness that we’re exacerbating it.
There were some odd plants I’d never seen before beside the waters that flowed through the swamp grass. It’s so different compared to much of the Blue Mountains it’s an environmental treasure. I felt privileged to have spent some time here and, climbing back up, almost forgot that my clothes were getting blacker by the minute, because, by then, I simply didn’t care. The waterfall had made everything else redundant.