Blue Mountains - Feb 11-12
Feb 12, 2010
|February 11, 2010
Waking up fairly early and leaving our bulky bags behind, we headed down to Central Station to catch the train to Katoomba, some 2 hours away. The train ride was nice and easy with the scenery becoming ever more picturesque the further we got away from the city. It also gave me time to get caught up with some reading. We’d been picking up books here and there as we’ve travelled and at the last count we had six which I hadn’t read although Elizabeth was a step or two ahead of me on the reading list! I had started to read “The Great Train Robbery” by Michael Crichton during our flight to Sydney and had read little bits during the week, too. However, with a couple of hours to waste I soon finished off almost all of the rest of it and Elizabeth managed to finish reading her book.
Our hotel is right next to the station and is called the Hotel Gearin. Apparently it is well known here as the owner is a famous actor. I’ve never heard of him but then I’m not really into Aussie TV anyway. The hotel is actually a large bar and restaurant with some rooms upstairs and we found the “reception” at the bar, surrounded by locals tucking into their lunchtime beers! Our room wasn’t quite ready so we headed to the restaurant for some lunch, making the most of a 2 for 1 offer on meals. I had barramundi and Elizabeth had risotto. Both were really good and great value.
When we had arrived in Katoomba the sun was out and the sky was blue. By the time we had eaten lunch and put our bags in our room, the grey clouds had formed and the sky looked menacing. Regardless, we headed through the town, heading towards Echo Point, one of the viewing areas overlooking some of the valley here. It was quite a walk to get there and the main road had a fair few small hills going up and down along the way. As we reached the information centre, the rain had just started to fall and the thunder in the distance rumbled away. The view here was stunning though; from Echo Point you could see a rock formation called the Three Sisters as well as many peaks in the distance and the valley immediately beneath.
After a brief stop in a local shop for some wine tasting (and wine purchase, of course), we started to head back just as the rain intensified along with louder thunder and accompanying lightening. Thankfully, the rain never got too heavy and we made it as far as the supermarket without getting completely drenched. After purchasing dinner for tonight and breakfast and lunch for tomorrow, we headed out to find the rain had ceased and we could continue on and dry off! The one good thing about the rain was that it had helped the temperature to fall and made it much more pleasant walking.
On the subject of walking, I’ve been trying to work out how far we’ve walked this past week or so. Apart from getting from the airport and the train today we’ve walked everywhere else. I imagine the 30-40 minute walk last night to the observatory was a good couple of miles and today walking to the viewpoint was probably a similar time and distance. Even at a conservative estimate, I reckon we are easily doing 4 or 5 miles during the course of a day. I suspect this will decrease once we have the car hired in New Zealand. I also suspect our transport outgoings will increase at the same time!
I completely crashed back at the hotel, falling asleep almost immediately and not waking up until after 7pm by which time I was starting to feel ready for some dinner. We’d bought our usual, bread and cheese, as well as some roast beef and potato salad to accompany our wine. We didn’t have any wine glasses, or any glasses at all in fact, so we had to make do with drinking from the bottle! We had plenty of food left over for lunch tomorrow, too.
After settling down and finishing my book, follows by a couple of episodes of Heroes on the laptop, we both fell asleep.
February 12, 2010
We had purchased tickets yesterday for the trolley tour around the town. The trolley did loops every hour stopping off at different points. Rather than sitting on it all day though, we chose a couple of points we would visit and walk between. Having got up and had a croissant for breakfast, we jumped on the trolley and headed to the first of our stops, Gordon Falls. From here you could walk along the ridge of the mountains looking down into the valley. Every couple of kilometers or so the trail met up with the road again so at any point we could get back on the trolley.
We planned to walk as far as Echo Point where we had been yesterday and we reckoned this was about 5-6kms and we reckoned with the inclines and declines and the muddy track it would take us just over two hours. We left Gordon Falls, a pitiful excuse for a waterfall (!), and followed the track around to the Leura Cascades. The walk was really pretty and the tree cover along the way was a wonderful aid to block out the sunshine. Along the way we saw lots of pretty plants and flowers, a number of lizards, spiders and other creepy crawlies and, of course, some amazing views over the valley.
The walk to Leura Cascades took just over an hour due to us stopping and starting to take pictures and to patch up a blister Elizabeth had. We had plasters we had bought yesterday but they weren’t sticking very well so we had to replace them about every 15 minutes or so!
It was getting quite hot but we decided to carry on going. The second half of the track was much more difficult with steeper inclines and more muddy patches! However, it didn’t seem to take us as long to do this section as we expected and we were at Echo Point by around 12.30 – perfect timing for a lunch stop and perfect timing to eat before the next trolley came along in 45 minutes!
After last night’s leftovers, we got the trolley around to an area called Scenic World. This was an area of the valley which was quite enclosed and had a couple of different cable cars and a railway connecting the ridges at the edge and the bottom of the valley to the top. First up, we took the “Skyway”, a cable car which went from one side of the ridge to the other with the valley floor some 200m below us, clearly visible through the glass bottom of the cable car. From this vantage point we got a great view of Katoomba Falls which had considerably more water falling over them that Gordon Falls this morning. After the cable car, we took the “Railway”. This is apparently the steepest railroad in the world and at times it seemed it was almost vertical. Of course, it was made all the more interesting by the Koreans and Japanese screaming and giggling around us.
Once at the bottom of the railway, we had a choice of three paths to walk and we chose the longest of the three, wanting to make the most of our day of exercise and hiking in these beautiful mountains and forests. This track took us about 40 minutes to walk around and the views were amazing, the tree canopy providing shelter from the sun and the spot of rain when it arrived. We’d been told all day to expect thunderstorms but so far we’d stayed dry. I have to admit though, by this point I was quite hot and sweaty and a nice soaking might’ve felt quite refreshing!
The final ride back to the top of the hill was on the “Cableway”, another large cable car which provided great views of the Three Sisters rocks as well as a lovely overview of the entire Blue Mountains region. This area is listed as a World Heritage Site and whilst it was beautiful and had amazing views, I’m sure there are plenty of other places in the world equal or better to this area. We’ve been to some bizarre sites which have been listed as World Heritage and it would be nice to know a bit more information and why they were deemed as such!
After a short wait we caught the trolley back to the train station and headed for our hotel, glad that it was close enough to avoid too much further exercise for today! The rain had continued to stay away so we even got back dry. Yesterday, when we forgot our waterproof jackets, we got soaked. Today we remembered them and it didn’t rain. I think that is what us English call Sod’s Law!
In the evening we had a nice meal in the hotel we were staying in – I had a $10 steak which was actually two large pieces of tasty steak and Elizabeth had a lentil curry, which was surprisingly good.
Katoomba had been a nice little break from the city and came at the right time for us. It is good staying in some places a little longer as you feel more settled but when the hostel you are staying at is awful and the weather is muggy and hot, you don’t really feel like doing anything so getting a break from Sydney was good.