Blue Mountains: Grand Canyon Who?

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Oceania » Australia » New South Wales » Blue Mountains
August 28th 2012
Published: August 31st 2012
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Wo- no not good enough, amaz- no still not there, simply phenomenal-take our breath away- rendered utterly speechless- yes that is our view of the Blue Mountains. A two hour retreat from Sydney and you could be anywhere, but no you couldn't with everything we have seen of Australia thus far, it could only be here. We are going to keep this relatively short but sweet, just like our trip here. The worst part- leaving after one night, although eleven hours of bush trekking and our dogs are more than barking- speaking of which we definitely had a near miss!

Our hostel was quite simply the best we had been in, a quad room but only us two, a heater so Lauren could get warm plus a fire with huge wooden table and chairs and a kitchen complete with old fashioned stove. Oh it was a delight, we had great conversations with fellow ramblers and supped hot chocolate, pouring over maps to decide exactly which walks we could fit in.

The first day we got to the main view, Echo Point, home to the natural formation of three cliff like stacks attached to the main cliff edge, known as Three Sisters. Most people come here, snap away, then carry on to the next sight in their car, so we were lucky that for the most part of the next four hours we were alone! We took to the left and down the 889 steps, of which some were almost crumbled, some replaced with steel steps. The time indicator said 30 minutes but we were in the valley floor, having walked around the sisters within fifteen minutes! This was something that continued over the two days, halving every predicted time so we fit in twice as much! We were either fast Trekkers (Ben thought Lauren was way too fast!) or people were really rather slow (which Lauren thought Ben would be if she wasn't pushing full steam ahead!) The valley floor was simply spectacular, home to wandering lye birds, cockatoos and parakeets. Probably home to some other less desirables, maybe that's why Lauren walked so fast- escape quicker plus heavier footed so snakes would hear loud vibrations and retreat! We spent time clambouring through fallen trees in Leura's forest and passed three stunning waterfalls.

The main fall, Leura's cascades, we saw from four different angles which added to the experience, starting at the mouth within the forest and making our way back up the mountains, half way up, plus the main cascades, and further round the mountains at a view point spilling over the edge of the mountain in wondrous form. We walked the couple of km to Leura village stopping for an energy break of cheese twists and muffins before catching a train to Wentworth Falls about 10km back towards Sydney. Time was now getting on, as although the weather was superb again, particularly for this time of year, sunset arrives about 5.30 with it being pitch black by 6.10pm. It was now 4.30 and we were advised it took 1 hour 30 minutes to walk to the falls, plus obviously looking around. We had come this far, Lauren wasn't being deterred by this slight setback.

We took the Charles Darwin trek as advised and walked along the creek passing small water cascades and more fallen trees, although a lot here looked burnt out, perhaps from recent bush fires. As usual we halved the time arriving at 5.20. Again we saw the impressive falls from various places. Starting at the top standing over them before scrambling under rock caves and through a bit of a path to a secluded view point. It was on a cliff overhang, Ben literally shaking in his socks as Lauren shuffled around leaning out to get the right shot as the sun faded reflecting bright oranges on the adjacent rocks showcasing the falls to their full potential. After a small fall, no dramas, Lauren agreed we should make our way back as the sun said goodnight. The next train was 6.12 so again full steam ahead, eventually breaking into a run so we didn't miss it. We had to be back by 8.30 to check in. The beauty of our hostel it was pretty much self run, your name is on a board, take the room key, leave your bags and lock up! Pay when the office is open in the evening!

There was still one more thing to see before we could do this. Lauren had read the Three Sisters were lit up at night and always quiet, so although the temperature had dropped dramatically we walked the thirty minutes from the train station. The sun had been amazing in the day, both wearing just t shirts at one point but big hoodies and hats were on now! We were thrilled the guide book was right and stared at the natural formations amazed that this had not made it into any of the seven wonders of the world lists. Ben, who has been to The Grand Canyon, definitely thought it was a tough call, but for the extra trekking experiences this topped the list. The photos didn't work out well as there wasn't enough light but this allowed us to see the stars twinkle without light pollution and gaze in wonder.

We returned here the next morning after a good complimentary breakfast and set out to the right with a defined path set out. We again beat all times indicated and found our way to the valley floor with another giant staircase, but decreasing over a further distance, more levelled out. We passed yet more waterfalls, one over a set of rocks that looked like a witches face! Our eyes saw some amazing sights that our brain struggled to comprehend this in one small area of such a huge country! Our feet were really feeling the treks and we counted no less than five blisters on one of Lauren's feet! As an impending return train beckoned us in two hours we had a decision to make. Clambour our way back the way we had come (which Lauren hates - she has to do round trips) or go up a different way. We had arrived at scenic world, 4km from our hostel. We had seen a suspended glass floor cable car lift people up and down to the forest valley but Ben made it categorically clear, no freaking way!

There was one other option though, the worlds steepest funicular railway! So with a little encouragement Ben climbed aboard- the front seat- Lauren wasn't letting him off lightly! We travelled up with just the driver for company, we agree Ben would not handle going down, but going up backwards staring down as the track reached 52 degrees took its toll and Ben had his eyes shut till Lauren assured him we were almost at the top! It was a fun experience and we are glad we did it, not feeling lazy in our choice, we still had the 4km walk back - still uphill!

We had been allowed to stay at the hostel to use the showers and kitchen, we grabbed sausage rolls from the supermarket and allowed our feet to recover in front of the fire with comfort food. All in all we had a tremendous time and genuinely will miss this place but if anyone comes on holiday to this area we are coming back with you!

Things of note:

The towns and villages are packed full of cafes and restaurants but are very expensive even compared to Sydney.

The time indicators are presumably set by the slowest walkers of any surveys conducted.

Don't buy a map, every shop and tourist information have free maps and many sights and lookouts are indicated once you hit an outlined walk area

You need good fitness levels, even on easy walks you can easily stumble across fallen trees that you have to negotiate!

Bring plasters, thick socks and good shoes, your new three best friends!

What would we do differently:

Definitely come again and stay for longer, about four days, and go to Blackheath, about 12km away with apparently more stunning waterfalls- Horseshow falls and a spectacular lookout at Govetts Leap.


Near Misses:2. So as we said there was an issue with dogs, we left the top of the railway and wanted to check out the map for the best route to walk back besides the main road. A van used by a gardener was parked up next to the public map so Lauren slid in between the map on the pavement and the van, then a large staffy dog jumped up at her and tore her trouser pocket! She quickly got away but was really shaken up, it came out of nowhere, chained up under the wheel so we couldn't have seen it! It could have been a lot worse. We contacted admin to let them know as a child could pass and be seriously hurt! The second was Ben's turn. We got to the train station with a few minutes to spare the day before and Lauren said she heard the train. Ben put his head over the edge to listen to the tracks saying you can hear them vibrate, well the train bloody arrived as Lauren shouted and the driver hooted his very loud horn, well that woke Ben up!


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