Saturday, 10 February 2007
Finally, after two months of being nomads, we have a home again. We are living in the town of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains have been designated a World Heritage Site, in part because they are home to 103 different species of eucalypts. They are also an area of great natural beauty, not really "mountains" by Canadian standards, but ancient sandstone and basalt plateaux. Sheer cliffs fall away into leafy valleys and the air is indeed blue, largely from the sun striking particles of dust and moisture, a phenomenon known as Rayleigh scattering, but here magnified by the volatile oils of eucalyptus that the forests give off on sunny days.
The trees around our home are mostly eucalyptus but there are also some huge pines that are a popular perch for the many sulphur-crested cockatoos that live in the mountains. Other birds that we see and hear on a regular basis include black cockatoos, crimson rosellas, king parrots and an assortment of honeyeaters. At sunrise or sunset, we may be lucky enough to see a small wallaby grazing in the vacant lot next door.
Our property is really a set of three apartments, built in 1936 when this area was just beginning to become a tourist mecca. There are two mirror-image apartments at street level, and, as the lot falls away steeply towards a ravine, there's a third one tucked beneath the back of the upper two. In spite of being one floor down, it is still well above ground level, with enough room for a laundry and storage space below it at the back garden level. All three apartments have beautiful stained-glass windows, high ceilings, picture rails, fireplaces and decorative plaster ceilings in the main rooms. Our plan is to keep the amiable long-term tenant in one of the upstairs apartments, live in the other and, after some necessary bathroom renovations, rent the lower unit by the week to visitors, of whom there are many as Katoomba is a centre for tourists and bushwalkers.
The garden, though obviously once cared for, is sadly over-run with English ivy and self-seeded buddleia, holly and blackberries. Among our immediate tasks will be removing these thugs and freeing the hydrangeas, pelargoniums (perennials in this climate), a Cootamundra wattle and a Chinese dogwood that are struggling to survive. Once that is done. I can start to choose plants to enhance these existing ones. I'm looking forward to finding some Australian native shrubs to add, particularly some of the pretty Leptospermums (waxflowers), but there'll also be room for some of my old favourites, maybe even a rose or two!