Katoomba - The Blue Mountains
May 4, 2005
|Another full day of driving, this time heading inland so no more ocean views :( only National Parks that last for miles and miles. I think that every square inch of forest in this country belong to a national park. Guess it keeps things clean and green.
Our eyes are sore from looking for koalas in the trees and kangaroos in the bush. They fool you by posting signs with pictures of a koala bear or a kangaroo or the lovable wombat -- "Next 12K" and we have a fleeing moment of excitement as we think we see one then realize its a shadow on a tree. Or perhaps a dead one on the road. We have about given up.
Our next destination was the Blue Mountains - another "must see" destination recommended by Sue. We arrived at a campsite after dark so really didn't know where we were or what we were in for.
But woke up early the next morning to a gorgeous, blue sky day and realized all of the hiking paths were right in front of us. Bonus! L could hardly contain his excitement to hike for the next few hours - we all know how much he loves being one with Mother Nature.
Though he won't admit it, he loved it for the most part. For me, it was nice to finally stretch my legs and actually burn calories rather than take them in. We hiked along the mountain to a spot called Echo Point which offers more spectacular views of the mts on the other side and the endless valley below - another Kodak moment. From there we also had perfect view of the famous Three Sisters -- three identical rosk formations at the top of the mountain we were on. I now refer to them as Lisette, Valerie and Stephanie...
Then we hit The Giant Steps - which led down to the bottom of the mountain to a path that curled around the base. It was either go down these or turn around and try another path. Believe it or not, L suggested we take the steps and the 4K walk to theother side! So we did. Had no idea what we werein for but the steps lived up to their name. Not only were they giant stpes carved from the mountain itself, but there were a ton of them! OK, not a ton but 900 to be exact - and quite steep in certain spots. We managed to make it down, wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever want to walk up them, much less suceed in doing it.
After that, it was nice to be on flat ground again - we hiked the path another 4K to the end. Where fortunately The Great Railway beckoned us to take a train back up to the top. This is listed as the steepest railway in the world -- and that's no joke. The ride lasted about 2 minutes, but it was literally a vertical climb the whole way up - like being on a giant rollercoaster climbing slowly up before you leave your stomach behind and plunge into the fun stuff, only you're facing down not up... With no seatbelts and only a chain to close the car, it was a bit scary - but as soon as it started, it was over and yet another box to tick.
By this time it was only noon, so we took Lily into town, grabbed a light lunch, window shopped for a bit and hit an Internet cafe. Then back to the quiet campsite where we shared a much-deserved bottle of wine and L cooked us dinner. Once again, early to bed.
Over dinner I joked about waking up early the next morning to hike the other side of the mountain. L basically told me I'd never do it, and if I did, I would be on my own. He had had enough excitement for one holiday... We have been waking up at about 6:30 anyway (after 8 hours sleep) so I decided since it was light our, it had to be done. Probably more to prove my husband wrong than because I wanted to get more hiking in before we left the mountains...
But I got dressed and hit the mountains by 7. Me alone with Mother Nature. It was a misty, cooler day so made for a completely different experience from the day before. My plan was to take the path down to the bottom of the Great Railway, thinking it would be a fairly easy descent -- then I was planning to hike up the Giant Staircase (just to prove to myself I could do it). But as most of the hike was downhill and it took me more than an hour to get down the trail of paths and steps, I realized I didn't have enought time to get to the other side then hike up in time for our 10am check out. On the way down, I stopped to admire the views from the other side of the mountain, including a full view of Katoomba Falls; Lisette, Valerie and Stephanie covered in mist and only the tips of the mountains in the distance which were perfectly visible the day before. When I reached the bottom out of breath, I dreaded to think what was ahead of me. The train up was not an option as I insisted I would climb up. So I did - using exactly the same path I did going down. I also said I would stop counting the steps at 700. I lost count around 845 at Witches Leap where the face of the rocks looks like a witch -- eerie yet cool.
But I made it to the top again, back to the camper van at 9 where L had already showered and was ready to go. Tried to tell him all about my wonderful hike, how proud I was to have done it, etc. He was so sorry he missed it -- NOT!