View from Leura Ampitheatre
My favourite view of the Blue Mountains, but Sally's most feared...she knew she'd have to walk over that bridge which had sheer drops beneath!
We left Sydney behind to venture into the Blue Mountains (on valentines day - not sure how Jason is going to beat this next year!). We caught the 9.55am train, (which had an upstairs and downstairs!) and we arrived in Katoomba two hours later. We had booked a room at the YHA. The hostel was very nice with huge communal areas and a big, well equipped kitchen. We had lunch at a nice cafe and decided not to waste any time and get out on a walk straight away.
Again, the weather had been kind to us. The heavy rain had cleared prior to our arrival, to leave blue skies and hot sun, meant we should see some good watefalls (i.e. not like the dried out J C Slaughter Falls of Mt. Coo-tha, Brisbane!). We joined the Prince Henry Cliff walk which wound its way around the cliffs, with sheer drops to the canyon below, to Echo Point and the Three sisters. There were many lookouts along the way, offering stunning views that no camera can fully capture. Some of the sheer drops were so enormous they even took Jason's breath away. Nonetheless, Jason wanted to climb down the Giant
The Three Sisters
From Echo Point lookout (I think - so many lookouts!)
steps (all 900 of them) to the valley bottom, but as my vertigo was getting the better of me, I insisted that we just carry on round to Katoomba cascades and falls. From here we could view Scenic world, a company that have a cable car, skycable and the worlds steepest railway all crossing the canyon. Jason wanted to venture further, but I had had enough of the frightful viewing points and close encounters with the cliff edges, I was beside myself with fear and could walk no further (bit of a shame as one guy told me "you are missing out on some fantastic views"). Still, I did have Jason with me who was taking loads of pictures and showing me the views that I was missing out on.
That night we cooked dinner in the fabulous kitchen (and actually had a choice of sharp knives to choose from!). This may seem a boring point to make but when you are staying in a hostel with 100 other people and have one sharp knife to share between you, it can get pretty hairy in the kitchen!
Then we went to see Blood Diamond at the cinema, which
Little did Sally know, here she could have had the best shower she'd get for days (the hell hole that is Maze Backpackers was next).
was a really good film, just not a necessarily good choice for Valentines night!!! Think Jason was getting me back for almost blowing a days budget on a dress!!
The next day we caught a train to Wentworth Falls and walked to the falls and cascades. Although the falls were not as large as Katoomba, they were still spectacular. Luckily for me, the walk that Jason wanted to do was closed for renovation, so instead we did the undercliff and overcliff walk to Den Fenella. Now bearing in mind I was scared doing the previous days walk, this was far worse, with the path right on the cliffs edge at points (so I just held a brochure at the side of my face to hide the view of the sheer drops). At last, after several kilometres walking we reached the conservation hut, where we had a very nice lunch before catching the train back to Leura.
Leura was a pretty little town with lots of different little cafes and shops (although, under strict instruction, I didn't go
in any of the shops except to restock on our suntan lotion - factor 30 is the standard out here!). We went in the public gardens for a fantastic view from the ampi-theatre across the valley. We could see a scarey looking bridge that linked two cliffs (later I had to cross the bridge - well I ran across it - looking straight ahead and singing, to help distract myself from the enormous drop on either side of me). The path took us back to Katoomba via Gordon Falls viewpoint and Leura cascades.
We'd spent about 8 hours walking that day, covering more kilometres than we could count (why do you think we left our jobs as Accountants!). Somehow though, I just knew Jason still wanted to take on the ultimate challenge...The Giant Stairway. The Giant Stairway (by Jason)
So, the next morning, instead of returning straight back to Sydney, I had some unfinished business. Sure, my legs felt very well used after all the miles we'd covered in the past 1 and half days (not using the Explorer Bus once, but walking at least an extra
Look, no hands!
Jason warms up for the return to Sydney, where it's Mardi Gras time.
1.5km each time to even get to the walks, I might add!). But I was starting to feel as fit as I felt before the long hours of the job I'd left behind had taken its toll! I set off, ready for the mental challenge of going down the very steep 900 steps and starting to think about the physical challenge of climbing back out the canyon at Katoomba Falls. A quick look at the sign that told me I was at the start of the Giant Stairway filled me with some trepidation as I headed down. The group of 4 that went down just before me with a rope over their shoulder filled me with even more!
I soon realised as I descended there was no way Sally would have done this, even if I'd persuaded her to try. Some of the see-through metal steps had some vertigo challenging views! However, whilst physically challenging, it wasn't as scary as I'd hoped for!! Arriving at what I expected to be the bottom of the canyon with orange hands from the rusty railings, I was suprised to see there were still some death defying drops from the Federal Pass track
First views of the Blue Mountains
The blue haze isn't ozone/pollution, but is the oils of the Eucalyptus trees evapourating, giving the mountains their blue haze.
I had joined. However, the scenery was beautiful and after about 45mins I arrived at the foot of Katoomba Falls. Before starting the asent, I had a rest and a snack...from nowhere a bird joined me, keen to try some macadamia nuts. Lazy bugger, they grow in this country - he could have got his own. After the experience at Breakfast with the Birds in Port Douglas, there was no way I was feeding this bird. I'd come out without any money, so the lazy option of getting the cable car back up wasn't a possibility. So up the Gerbon Stairs I went. Pausing for breath, I made way for another Brit, out of breath on his journey down. I'd been climbing for about 25 mins. He said "You must be mad going up it, it's bad enough coming down. Reckon you're not even half way up yet. I'm getting the cable car back up. Good luck...!". Thanks for the morale boost! Anyway, I made it to the top where I met a Japanese tour guide. Had a bit of a chat and he took a photo of me with a the top with the Three Sisters on my shoulder!
Overall, the Blue Mountains (or really a canyon, "...if you want mountains, go to New Zealand!" as one Aussie said to us!) are superb! So many walks to do with stunning views. You do get a bit waterfalled out after a while (there are many. I had to really restrain myself with the photographs!). If you go to Sydney, be sure to set aside at least a day trip up here. You could easily spend a week up here and not see everything. There is still a lot left for us to discover up here and I have no doubt we'll be back some day. Donna, thanks for the advice on taking a jumper/fleece to wear in the evenings!! It was time to head back to Sydney (blog: Back to Sydney
) and then onto some well earned rest on Bondi (blog: Beautiful Bondi Beach
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