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Published: January 8th 2009
“Running, Sparkling Water”, Blue Mountains national Park
Thursday 8th January 2009
Charles Darwin spent several weeks getting here by packhorse and claimed that the Blue Mountain scenery was “magnificent”; two hours by train from Sydney, it is still magnificent, with majestic gorges, tumbling waterfalls and its distinctive hazy blueness. The changeable climate has so far given us three days of hot weather hiking and now today, a misty cool day of chilling out. Actually, it is more than mist, more like mountain fog.
Firstly, Monday: we walked from the guesthouse in Blackheath to Govett’s Leap (about 3 kilometres one way); named after a surveyor of NSW named William Romaine Govett, who discovered the leaping waterfalls there in 1831, that drop vertically over the side of the deep gorge down in to the sub-tropical bush below. That’s the official version; the legend is far more appealing. According to legend, an outlaw (in the style of Ned Kelly) had robbed the local bank and was being chased on horseback by a posse of law-enforcers. Finding himself completely trapped, this outlaw, Govett, with the precipice before him and the posse behind, leapt, horse, bags of swag and all, out in
View looking South
to the void and death. A statue of the “Legend of Govett’s Leap” is in Blackheath. Whatever the origin of the name, it is a breathtakingly beautiful and dramatic spot, very unspoilt with some nice rim walks along the top of the gorge.
On Tuesday we went to Katoomba, far more touristy than Blackheath but a “must-do’ with some great mountain views; a second day of tramping! Katoomba was a mining town and originally named “Crusher” because that is where the crushing machine, that crushed up the coal, was housed. Once the tourist potential was realised, the locals decided that they needed a more attractive name than Crusher for their little town, so they asked the local Aborigines what their name for the area was. The reply was “Katoomba”, which means “Running, Sparkling Water” to describe the waterfalls that plunge down in to the gorge. The main sites at Katoomba are too far apart to walk to easily (and to save the legs for the hiking trails in the gorge when one gets there) so the only option is a “hop-on-hop-off” bus (unless one has a car). The problem with this shuttle bus is that it isn’t that frequent
"That is NOT a parachute, its a backpack!"
a service and only runs between about 9.30 a.m. until 5 p.m. We only just made he last connection by waving the bus down. It is also fairly expensive at $20 per adult fare. At one point, called ’Scenic World”, we took a cliff-side railway down and a cable car up. The railway is the world’s steepest and the track was once used by miners. The bushwalk at the bottom, in the Jamison Valley, is the best part, with raised boardwalks (to avoid encountering leeches and other nasty things) that at times is at ground level but at other times right up in the bush canopy. We saw a lyre-bird down there, busy grubbing for food, but no other wildlife other than some colourful blue and red parrots. The bushwalk from The Gordon Falls to the Leura Cascades is also worth the effort, at times more like a rock climb than a hiking trail, because the valley views are glorious and one can enjoy them exclusively, since most people, who are on day trips from Sydney, simply do not have time to walk the trails due to the restrictive shuttle bus timetable. We didn’t take enough water and the day
Backheath High Street
Nice chilled little mountain town.
was hot (about 30 degrees and humid) so by the time we eventually got back to the town we headed straight for the pub. We got our drinks and sat outside at a small pavement table downing the cold Toohey beers. Whoops! Nobody told us that it is illegal to drink on the streets in Oz. We got told off by a loud barmaid (just so that all the passers by could hear her) and were warned that we could get a heavy fine and so could the pub, which was her only worry! Nice to be considered delinquent when you are over 60! Oh dear! Are we bovvered? So, duly chastised, and despite The Mouth, we headed back to Blackheath, having had a good day.
Yesterday was actually the best of the three hiking/sightseeing days here in the Blue Mountains; and this was quite by accident. We had decided to get the bus to Mount Victoria just to poodle around, look at village shops and have a gentle lunch. We thought it was a similar place to Blackheath but obviously read the wrong travel blurb. The bus driver turned off the main road, stopped at a narrow country
junction to let one of only two other passengers off and then said to us “Where exactly did you want to go?” to which we replied that we didn’t really know but wanted to see the town. He said “Well, if you follow this lane it will take you to the railway station.” Thanking him, we got off and walked down the lane to discover that Mount Victoria has a railway station, one pub and some houses; nothing more! So, we got a train to Wentworth Falls, which we had planned to leave until today. Lucky choice! Right now the fog has developed to fog and rain, there is no visibility and yesterday was perfect for seeing the Wentworth Falls; far more scenic even than Katoomba, these waterfalls are truly beautiful. The walk to the falls from the railway station is just under 3 kilometres (so we ended up doing about 10 altogether yesterday), along Jamison Creek also known as Charles Darwin Walk. Darwin discovered these falls (well no, he didn’t, the local Aborigines knew they were there) claiming them as one of the best sights in the area. The walk along the creek passes through unspoilt bush and crosses
the creek, with its little falls and rapids, several times, before suddenly ending at the precipice, to fall vertically down to the valley below. This is Blue Mountain scenery at its very best, with all the ingredients present, rock faces, bush, tumbling sparkling water, blue skies, soaring gum trees and pines; special day out!
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