If you've got young kids, you don't need me to tell you that the winter school holidays can be a frustrating time for parents, especially in chilly Canberra.
With cold southerlies howling and sleet falling the kids are often couped up inside, glued to their screens and devices.
In need of a burst of fresh air, earlier this week I dragged my two girls Sarah, 9, and Emily, 6, away from their iPads and headed north to the not so sunnier climes of the Southern Highlands. However, boasting both a variety of family friendly walks and a selection of quaint cafes for Mrs Yowie to frequent, it's a popular haunt for the Yowie clan.
After a week of showers, it's currently near-perfect conditions to experience the little-known Fairy Bower Falls in all its glory.
Sure, it's a bit of a hike to reach the falls, but unlike most walks around Canberra which involve huffing and puffing up to a summit and only then enjoying the downhill on the way home, the journey to these falls is the reverse.
Fairy Bower Falls. Photo: Dee Kramer Photography and Destination NSW
In fact, due to the amount of water on the track the slippery descent is actually harder than it looks, but along the way there are plenty of distractions from the steep gradient. Sarah and Emily jump over cascading creeks, creep through fern glens and listen out for their echo at lookouts aplenty.
The falls themselves really are a magical place befitting of pixies and goblins. Looking up, long dangling vines festoon the escarpment like a Jurassic Park movie set, while underfoot droplets of water cling to moss-covered rocks and shimmer like sparkling stars.
While little Emily searches earnestly for fairy dust amongst the clear pool of water at the bottom of the falls, Sarah, more practically, wishes for a set of "fairy wings" to wear on the steep return hike.
Water cascades over the path to Fairy Bower Falls. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
However, Sarah needn't have worried, for on the climb back up she barely raises a sweat. There are regularly stops to peer into hidden caves, impromptu games of "King of the Castle" with her sister atop curiously shaped boulders, and testing that echo again.
The sign at the track head says the two-kilometre return walk takes just over an hour. Leisurely pace, we take twice as long, but most importantly we are back at the car in time to treat Mrs Yowie for her well-earned Devonshire tea.
While seated at our table, the waitress glares unapprovingly at our bushwalking attire. I don't know about you, but I prefer to view the muddy state of our clothes as a badge of honour that we've been out enjoying our great outdoors.
Fairy Bower Falls: Located in Bundanoon (about a 100-minute drive from Civic) within the Moreton National Park. To find the track head, enter the park ($8 park pass) at Gambells Rest and follow the signs the Fairy Bower Falls carpark. Note: the roads in the park are unsealed but accessible in all vehicle types.
The Terrace Tea Shop: Serving home cooked treats, including Devonshire teas. 27 Railway Ave, Bundanoon.
Tim's Tip: For the most scenic route from Canberra to Bundanoon, take the Highland Way exit for the Hume Hwy (M31) just north of Marulan and stop in Wingello, where cricketer, Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly (1905-1992), widely regarded as one of the greatest bowlers of all time, developed his passion for the game.
Make a weekend of it: Although the drive and walk is an easy day trip, if you want to explore more of the Southern Highlands, there are many guesthouses and self-contained cottages in Bundanoon, including Morvern Hill Farm Stay (cnr The Gullies Road and Grey Gum Lane) which has three "host-free" cottages. Tailor-made for families with its own creek-side fairy garden and menagerie of farm animals. 02 4883 7057 or www.morvern-valley.com
Can you see the basset hound in this rock near Pretty Beach? Photo: Dave Moore
During a recent walk south of Pretty Beach between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla, Richard Fisher of Mossy Point stopped in his tracks when he spotted this rock near the high tide mark.
"Being a Fred Basset fan, I thought I'd finally met him, either that or a statue in his honour," muses Fisher, who wonders if anyone else can also see the resemblance to the famous comic basset hound.
Can you see the likeness to a dog in this tree? Photo: Dave Moore
It seems that Fred must be travelling around Australia, for he was also recently spotted by Dave Moore in a tree trunk, this time a front-on view complete with those long floppy ears, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
"When I first saw it, I thought I'd gone 'barking' mad," muses Moore.
This column receives many intriguing Canberra conundrums, some which at first glance appear a little more mundane than other. None more so than when Maresa Laird submitted a photo of the giant slab of concrete in occupying the entire median strip at the junction of Eastern Valley Way and Emu Bank in downtown Belconnen.
Do you know the purpose of this concrete slab on Emu Bank, Belconnen? Photo: Tim the Yowie Man
"Sounds boring, but it's one of those things I really want like to know its origins," confesses Laird, adding "it's so odd, no sign of any building having been constructed."
Having never having taken a second glance at the concrete block in the interests of this column's mantra of leaving no stone (or for that matter giant slab of concrete!) unturned, I hastily hand-passed Laird's query on to the crack communications team at Transport Canberra and City Services.
Expecting them dismiss Laird's query as too frivolous, I was surprised to receive the following response from a well-healed spokesperson for the government department, "well, I have actually wondered what that concrete is for, but never thought to ask!"
So imagine the anticipation in the yowie bunker. For several days, I waited with bated breath as to the explanation, checking emails and phone messages regularly. Would it be the hidden entrance to a secret bunker? Perhaps a repository of Belco time capsules to be opened in 100 years? Or heaven forbid, a subterranean station for an expanded light rail for the long suffering rate payers of Belconnen?
However, when the answer finally landed in my inbox, excitement levels promptly plummeted. The missive simply read, "it is a large gross pollutant trap (GPT) protecting Lake Ginninderra," explaining, "GPTs prevent the flow of coarse sediment, trash and debris into waterways such as rivers and urban lakes — the concrete cover over the GPT is to prevent pedestrian and vehicle access."
So there you have it, not the answer I was hoping for, but at least Laird and the communications unit at Transport Canberra and City Services can now sleep well at night.
While one suburban mystery is solved, Fintán Ó Laighin of Narrabundah poses his own Canberra conundrum. "Why are the Kingston Hotel and Kingston Oval both in Griffith, and the Ainslie Public School in Braddon?" ponders my curious correspondent, who asks "are there other such geographical anomalies in Canberra?
WHERE IN THE SNOWIES?
Where in the Snowies this week. Photo: Phillip A Moses
Clue: All that glitters …
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Last week: Congratulations to Steve Hill of Kambah who was the first to correctly identify last week's photo (inset), taken by Phillip A Moses, author of the recently released Clancy's Hat: The story of Tim's lone journey from Kosciuszko and a special hat (Echo Books) as Pryors Hut located just off Mount Franklin Road, in the gap north of Mt Gingera and south of Little Ginini Mountain in Namadgi National Park. Although Hill has "never over-nighted in the hut," as a regular day visitor, he is reveals he is all too aware of "the very friendly Rufus the Rat, who is always scurrying around, every hopeful new visitors will bring him something to chew on – even a toe would be good."
Where in the Brindabellas last week. Photo: Phillip A Moses
Hill just beat Brigitte Tabuteau of Bruce to the prize who instantly recognised the photo after passing the hut many times on walks to Mount Gingera "to enjoy the spectacular views, scenery and Bogong moths".
The hut was built in 1952, by Lindsay Pryor and team, as a shelter for those working in the Alpine Botanical Gardens, an annex to the National Botanical Gardens, and as pointed out by Ian McKenzie of Fisher it consists "of three rooms, with substantial stone footings, the hut is built of sawn timber, set vertically for the walls".
Meanwhile, Ian Faulkner nailed the clue of 'inside our border, just', claiming "the hut is in the ACT and the dunny is in NSW."
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday 15 July, 2017 with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.
CONTACT TIM: Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.