What could be more refreshing than visiting a variety of South Sydney’s greatest waterfalls to beat the heat? The Newsroom’s Jade Loiterton dives in to find out more.
Nellies Glen: The falls I barely survived
Nellies Glen is a two-hour drive south of Sydney near the small town of Robertson in the middle of Jamberoo Mountain. It’s the kind of place you need a 4WD that’s sturdy enough to survive the dirt roads, pot holes, and fallen tree limbs left lying across the path from past storms.
My cousin and I had heard that the national park had a spectacular waterfall. Believing the hype, we set out to find it. We drove down Cloonty Road road near Carrington Falls. If it wasn’t for luck and a good eye, we would have never have spotted a fairly basic sign post with information about the flora and fauna of the area, rather unhelpfully leaving us with little direction. Without anywhere to park the car, we dumped it where we could. That’s when we set out into the scrub.
Let me tell you, hiking in a mini denim skirt on top of a bikini with thongs is a really bad idea. What was worse is that we had no idea where we were going. After walking in three different directions, I could see the waterfall, so close but not close enough. I couldn’t figure out how to get to it. It was as if I had died and I was looking at the gates of heaven but the gatekeeper broke the ladder and was laughing in my face.
By this stage, I had been battered to the point I started looking like an exhausted troll who had just come out of army training, puffy and covered in mud. Finally, after two hours of blindly walking, we found ourselves standing at the top of the falls, not exactly sure how we’d gotten there.
Realising we had another problem: I couldn’t see my way down to the pools. I was contemplating whether I should just jump and end my misery. I decided it wasn’t worth the possibility of surviving and swallowing the murky water that was being churned by the crashing stream.
Having had enough, we tried finding our way back to the car, which ensured more torture thanks to dense shrubbery designed to scratch legs. Eventually getting out of a forest that was designed for nightmares, a relief filled me that was almost knee buckling.
Nellies Glen, had outsmarted me. I arrived smelling good, clear skin, and completely clean but don’t get me started on how I left. Simply put, I looked and felt like a drowned gutter rat. I’ll get you next time, Nellie.
Belmore Falls: The view that blew my mind
Belmore Falls is my go-to place when I want to impress someone. The drive there is just as sketchy with a road completely filled with potholes that you may need a search party on standby. Nellies Glen had nothing on this. Note to self: buy a ute.
The signs scattered through Robertson made finding the road ridiculously easy.
This time, there was a pathway and stairs. They actually led you down to the lookout, surrounding you with metal bars just in case the beauty was so intense you slipped over the edge. Although I don’t have a fear of heights, once I reached the cliff I looked upon the largest gully I have ever seen inflicting a fear like no other. It felt as if my heart stopped, if only for a split second.
But man-oh-man. My eyes burned, slightly going cross-eyed just from staring at the vast space in front of me. I struggled to catch a breath. Leaning against the post I stood for hours, mesmerised, the waters spray shimmering in the afternoons light.
Down below I can see a pool formed by the waterfall. It screamed for attention as it was battered by the cascading falls, sending out little hands of droplets begging you take a step closer. There are people swimming and picnicking there who, from a jaw-dropping height of 552m they look like a colony of ants. One of them even had the audacity to dab.
I can’t see any way to reach the falls. I’m completely baffled by how they managed to navigate their way down to the water, had they taken a private helicopter? Or maybe they were related to Superman and could fly. Even though I couldn’t see their expressions, you could tell they were enthralled, even the dab master had to stop his dance to take it all in.
I arrived at the falls at 11am and I didn’t leave until 1pm. My legs were numb from the lack of movement but my heart was full.
Kelly’s Falls: The waterfall handcrafted by Sirens
Kelly’s Falls is something I will never forget. Just thinking about it makes my whole body tingle. If you have ever seen Midsummer Night’s Dream, a re-write of Shakespeare play, you would agree that the sway of the trees and the tiniest sparkle of sunlight bouncing off the leaves was a mirror of the forest where the fairies lived. But I don’t think the fairies had such a hard time hiking down.
Hearing rumours that you had to do a bit of rock climbing didn’t phase me, per usual my egotistical side assumed it was an over exaggeration. I couldn’t have been more stupid.
Wearing sandals to climb down the side of a cliff is an experience I wouldn’t recommend for anyone. The pathways weren’t the problem. No, they were well maintained. It was when the walkway turned into a steep drop, with a well-worn rope dangling over the edge that things became a bit tricky.
Dangling over this miniature cliff side with only my strength and a fraying rope was not ideal. Sliding down the side I had to rip off my shoes, dropping them. Better my sandals than me.
Reaching the bottom with raw hands and a fire burning through my arms, I practically hunched over in the safety position. You know, the one the air hostesses show you just in case the plane is crashing?
I reached the bottom alive, maybe not all that well, but still breathing. I continued down the trail slipping here and there, grasping onto the dangling branches barely saving myself from becoming the next Humpty Dumpty. You better hope you have a good balance because you’re going to need it. I had to walk across a fallen tree that had become an obstacle over the cliff, balancing, trying not to fall.
Finally, I was there.
The water slammed against the pool at my feet, crying a song that stole my soul. The green moss crawled up against the rocks like little tendrils reaching out to the water for nourishment, willing me to join them in their despair.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t blink.
The trees wound around the falls completely shading the boulders below. Although the water was murky, the pool beckoned you to dive into its depths. Like a siren’s song begging you to never leave, stay.
I arrived at Kellys Falls around 11am and I didn’t leave until five in the afternoon. When I was walking away it felt as if my heart was like an elastic band slowly snapping with every step I took. A piece of me still lingers in those crystal waters, lazing on the rocks.
Kellys falls is an hour’s drive from Sydney, easily accessible in Stanwell Tops thanks to the only road that left my car in one piece. Although the hike down proved to be extremely tricky, I would gladly jump over the cliff, just to witness it one more time. – Story and photos by Jade Loiterton