A Trek to Victoria Falls & Cascades
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Following my bucket-list trip to the Snowy Mountains in January, I found myself spending a substantial amount of time sitting behind my laptop. I had plenty of photos to edit, and stories to write.
I also had a website to create. Or recreate - 12 months after my first attempt which I had given up on and hired a professional. The second attempt with the professional ended 8 months later when I decided the page was too tricky for me to use, so it was created and live for 8 months and shut down without anyone ever seeing it. My third attempt, well 3 times is a charm!!
I built the complete site in around a week, and while there were some frustrations moving my domain name across, I had complete control over the design and the content, and I must say I'm thrilled with how it looks (let me know what YOU think in the comments below).
Now, in saying all that, I was not necessarily designed to spend long periods of time behind a desk, it can start to offend my somewhat adventurous nature.. As I typed away on my amazing little laptop, I found myself staring longingly at my little camera family, sitting there unused and seemingly forgotten, until enough was enough.
Letting the perfectionist in me go, I finally published my site and jumped on social media to tell the world. I have a great family and wonderful friends, and I was thrilled and encouraged with the feedback.
Now, when I published my Brumbies of the South photos, I received tremendous feedback, my photos received 30,000+ views and 500+ shares. It was absolutely thrilling to have had so many people view, and enjoy, these photos.
But, how do you follow that up? The Brumbies weren't only about pretty pictures of pretty horses, they were images destined to provoke thought and conscious about a very sensitive issue; the culling of our heritage horses, done in a unconscionable & poorly researched and executed manner. I will be journeying down again in the next month, so there will be more pictures and more discussion on this later.
The truth is, there is no follow up, you can't just build and build upon something like photography, because while one picture may engage more people than the next, the whole point for me is to provide images of different subjects, different topics and different aspects of humans and mother nature. So, I went back to something that I enjoy photographing very much, waterfalls.
Now, true to style, I jumped in Nudge with my camera and 4 lenses, 2 tripods and no plan on what I was actually photographing that day. Started driving South, racking my brains on things to photograph, then did a u-turn and headed North West up the Bells Line of Road. If you're from NSW and have a keen sense of direction you'll probably tell me they are definitely not the directions, however it sounded good to me.
About the weather that day, it was fairly overcast so the landscape was dull with no real light to create contrast, but the clouds were long and low and I knew they were going to be the heroes of my photos today.
A quick stop near Mt Tomah for a facebook live and some landscape shots, and I all of a sudden knew what I wanted to photograph today, given the dull weather, WATERFALLS!!
Okay, next step in "Erins thought process", where to go to find a waterfall?
My usual's are Wentworth Falls, Empress Falls and Katoomba Falls, however, it was Valentines Day and I just knew that every couple under the sun would be taking a romantic hike to a romantic location to have romantic time, so I whipped out Mr Google and realised I had no reception where I was.
Next best idea was lunch, so off to Blackheath I went to grab a burger and some reception.
Victoria Falls - (google search - remote waterfalls). How come I haven't heard of Victoria Falls before? Or had I, and the "2 hours grade 5 difficult" classification had put me off? Likely. Very likely.
Now I had some direction!! I turned Nudge onto the Victoria Falls road, a 5km stretch of dirt road and we preceded to rally it the whole way there, handbrake and skids all the way. Okay, we didn't, but Nudge would make a great 4WD Rally Car.
Onto my next usual tough decision, which lenses do I take? I don't like leaving them in the car, but I also can't take them all as it would be over 30kgs with the tripod, water, lip gloss, hairbrush etc etc
I settled on two, so I was probably around 15kgs on my back. I had a quick grimace at the signboard which confirmed I'd be walking 2-3 hrs of "steep" terrain and off I set.
The path was steep, it was basically 80% steps and 20% downhill path for the first 30 or so minutes, but the scenery was beautiful. It has been amazing to witness the bush coming back from the fires, we are able to see far more of the terrain than when it was covered in scrub and trees etc
30 minutes in and I met a family coming back up, they looked pretty fit, if a little red, and had 2 little girls who looked like they were just strolling to the shops. Of course the first question the masochist in me wanted to know was where on the scale of "am I there yet" we were currently sitting. The mum said "umm well" the little girl said "we've gone up 760 steps" and the dad said "it's worth the view". I drew my own conclusions as to where I was on the "how sore are my legs going to be tomorrow" scale.
Around a few cliff bluffs, past some shallow caves and a few photos later, the path seemed disappear around a corner, except it wasn't a corner, it was just a 2mtr scramble down a rock face. Now the downhill started in earnest!! Less steps but a steep, muddy track to follow (with a few steps still thrown in). If you want to know how steep, it had u-turns, like what cars have on steep hills. Yes, a walking track with u-turns, seemingly to bleed off any uncontrollable downhill momentum one might find themselves with.
At this point my shock absorbers were half shot and I was definitely considering tumbling down the gully as the easier option.
I continued to ask every couple (yes apparently leg torture is romantic) that I passed how much farther, though I don't know why I bothered as no one gave me the answer I wanted to hear!!
Approximately (very, I forgot to check my timer) 1.2hrs later I seemed to level out and the tumbling water that had been teasing me for the past 40 mins seemed to be just out to my left. I saw the sign - cascades to the right, falls to the left. 20mtrs v's walk to the bottom of the falls = cascades first.
It was AMAZING! 100% worth seeing! There was a good flow of water, and the cascades are wide and tall, with a nice rock pool at the foot.
Out came the camera straight away to photography a Lizard who was sunning himself on a log.
I did a rather ungraceful, very cautious scramble over the rocks to find a place to set up, pulled out my other vital piece of equipment, my tripod, and got ready to start playing with my camera settings to get the shot I had envisioned.
I wanted the nice long exposure shot. I wanted to achieve that nice creamy picture where the water appears to just flow with interruption. To do this you need to open the shutter for at least 15 seconds (you're essentially taking a photo for 15secs). To do this in broad daylight, you need a few things. You need your camera in manual, you need a tripod because it is impossible to hold a camera steady any longer than 1/60 of a second, and you need some natural density filters (ND9 in this case). ND filters are essentially "sunglasses" for your camera, and act by cutting out a lot of light which makes it possible to keep your shutter open for so long without completely over-exposing your photo.
If you've read a few of my blogs, you'll probably guess what happens next in this one.. Take a guess??
Yep, I forgot something. Well actually in my defence I didn't forget, I just grabbed the wrong tripod clip. At this point I probably looked like a 1 year old trying to fit a square block into a round hole, as I helplessly realised that sometimes my style of "winging it" can be my downfall lol.
Next best option was my hat on a rock with my camera on top. It wasn't a complete disaster at the end of the day, where there's a will there's a way.
I managed to take 15 odd photos that I was happy with before the tourists started dive bombing the pool, so I set aside my camera and just enjoyed the view and the peace and the general jelly feeling in my legs.
I'm going to gloss over the ascent of the gigantic mountain range, and will just say I was as nimble as a Klipspringer and as graceful as a Thomsons Gazelle, going up that never ending hill.
*note - this is an accurate description of the hike into Victoria Falls if you are similar to me in that you don't undertake a huge amount of daily exercise and you like to complain.