Party: Lauren, Michael, Claire, Tony, Yang, Anqi, Li-Jia and Felix (Photos: Yang and Felix)
Lauren, Michael and I had a sleep-in compared to everyone else who utilised a combination of train and bus to make it up into the mountains. After dumping our bikes into the tray and grabbing a few lemons off the tree we headed to Medlow station. We pulled up beside Michael’s motorbike just before a bus pulled up. Having only received a message from Li-Jia (that she had slept in), we where expecting four to get off the bus… however it was only Claire who emerged from the bus doors…
I soon got a message from Yang, and then Tony that the rest of the group was stranded at Katoomba… apparently they had got onto the bus that terminated at Katoomba; no matter. Assuming sunshine waiting positions in front of the Hydro Majestic we waited about 20mins for their bus to arrive.
The Hydro Majestic has quite a rich history…
After selling off his shares in a Sydney department store, in 1901 Mark Foy purchased Hargraves House with the vision of creating Australia’s first health (hydrotherapeutic) resort. In 1903 he acquired the Belgravia Hotel and the pre-fabricated Casino Ballroom was imported from Chicago.
With guest wings Belgravia (after the former Belgravia), Hargravia (after “Hargraves House, initially on the site of the hotel”) and Delmonte (??), the Hydro Majestic was opened “in the midst of a snowstorm on 4th July 1904.”
“Following the opening of his establishment Foy successfully petitioned the government to change the locality name from Medlow to Medlow Bath” [other sources say the name was changed in 1903]
“The inner workings of the resort were all thoroughly modern and included a steam-driven generator imported from Germany. This generator produced electricity for the resort and the neighbouring township of Medlow Bath. In fact the Hydro Majestic had working electricity four days before the city of Sydney. The resort also had its own water supply, steam laundry, freezing works, sewerage treatment works and a telephone system connected to the Sydney exchange.”
“The establishment did not thrive as a health resort; after a couple of years it became the Hydro Majestic Hotel and it then enjoyed great success.” A number of famous guests stayed in the hotel “such as Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle whose novel The Lost World was inspired by the vast wilderness environment that the Hydro was set in.”
“In 1942 the Hydro was taken over by the U.S. Defence Department and turned into a hospital for American casualties from the battles of the Coral Sea and South Pacific.” The “US soldiers convalescing at the hotel [must have had]… excess … time and ammunition”. Instead of getting out of bed they would shoot the light bulbs, roll garden statuary of the cliff, set up mouse traps on seats and indeed ‘disposed of’ Foy’s imported goat herd!
It wasn’t long before the rest of our more orderly party arrived. After looking at some maps and deciding on a route, we headed down the street named after the Belgravia and then followed a tracked named after the Wonderland Park guesthouse (run by Tucker’s widow <name?>).
The track was surrounded by a good number of large banksia and was quite overgrown to begin with, but after a while it opened up significantly… someone had (perhaps a little overboard) cleared a meter each side of the walking track!
An old sign alerted us to our turnoff and we where soon within the stone confines of Mark’s Tomb. The name for this natural feature comes from the fact that Foy’s will stated a tomb should be constructed; provision being made for six coffins. “The floor to be slabbed with thick billiard table quality slate and … be surrounded by an eleven foot … wall with a strong iron-barred gate… . An acre of [surrounding] land to be fenced with two barbed wire fences eleven foot apart; the space between to be planted with native shrubs”.
I’m not sure if this was to be the location of Mark’s tomb, but it was never constructed and he was buried in South Head, Sydney. [see here for more: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/42727571%5D
Next we visited an overhang that has probably been used as a climbers base. Before moving on, we found a hammer and some rusty chains. The group split here, with some of us doing an exposed traverse around the cliffline and the others heading back up to the track junction where we would regroup.
Once everyone was reassembled, we headed out to what I think is Tuckers Lookout (it was marked in a few different places, depending on what map you looked at) which offered a good view of the Megalong and some power-lines resembling the old flying-fox.
After a short break, we continued down Sentinel Pass. There is some old walking infrastructure here and in one darker sectioned has been widened.
Once down through the cliff-line we headed to the Coliseum. We paused for a moment to absorb in our surroundings, a spectacular curved overhang with a waterfall trickling down in the focal point. There was the remains of some elaborate stone work, again the work of Murdo McLennan.
Instead of reversing our route, the vote was to continue down into the valley through some temperate rain forest thus completing a loop. The end part of this was sunny, well defined, and graded quite low (maybe to accommodate a horse and cart?).
We split up again to ascend through the cliffs; some returning the same way and others taking a more adventurous off-track route involving some free climbing – or optionally tree climbing! – followed by a jump over a crack.
We again regrouped, and after walking past a concrete ring (the remains of a sunbath) followed the cliffs through an area of sheoaks, arriving at the back of the Hydro where we planned to have lunch.
One of our group decided to call it a day, but they where replaced by Li-Jia, who despite missing the start of the walk, decided to join us for the second half!
After some eating, drinking and food sharing we headed off to have a look at the Three Brothers where we again had a long break at a lookout.
To vary things a little we did a little bush bashing along the cliff-line instead of taking the track.
We soon reached the remains of an old Flying Fox. This was used each morning to ferry produce up from the Valley Farm Foy had set up in the Megalong; “on it was a racecourse, stables, diary farm and a piggery. The farm grew corn, turnips and oats.” Access tracks where improved and each afternoon “kitchen scraps were sent down [to feed] … the pigs”.
Again curiosity got the better of us and we explored some rock climber tracks which led us back to the Three Brothers. Taking the main track this time we headed off to find Maxines Bower. We definitely didn’t take the most optimal route here ending up in a bit of a swamp where I believe the majority got wet feet. The water also proved to dissolve some glues as the sole on one of Yang’s shoes fell off!
We where soon back on track and after a couple of slips in a creek-crossing, we located the ‘bower’ shortly after. As far as I can tell this overhang was named after Mark and Elizabeth’s daughter Maxine (born in 1902). I am no geologist, but its formation looks to be very similar to that of Cox’s Cave; my guess is that both overhangs formed via chemical erosion through a fault in the rock.
Everyone managed an exposed traverse onto a sunny rock platform which offered a great opportunity for a group (the new! group) photo.
We continued along the Glen Rosa Track (apparently named after a Spanish lady who worked at the Hydro), pausing for afternoon tea and some shoe repairs. Around the corner at the Coliseum Lookout, we watch what look like a rock plunge down, but just above the tree line its trajectory flattened and a bird soared over the tree tops.
Continuing up now we stopped to fix a second loose shoe sole and soon arrived at Church Cave (also known as Chinamans Cave or Medlow Cave). This overhang was used by Hargraves to entertain guests and permission was also granted for Church of England services as early as 1894.
Cave Church – 1898
Returning to the Hydro we gathered at the train-stop (bus-stop) and thought about heading somewhere for dinner, but most people wanted to head back to Sydney.
I said bye as I would be staying in the mountains to help out at CWBC‘s abseil and prusiking training day.
Thanks to everyone for a fun day. Welcome to the new SUBW members!