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Published: February 20th 2014
Tuesday 11th February, 2014. Prince Henry Cliff Walk, Katoomba, Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
After breakfast we headed for Central to catch the train to Katoomba. We purchased a 7 day MyTrain ticket which allows you unlimited travel on the buses, ferries and trains in the Sydney area. This covers an area about the size of the South East of England so we can go a long way on it - and we intended to get our $68 worth too! The train left on time and took 2 hours to get there. We had both been here before in 2008 but this time we were staying at the YHA instead of a backpackers. We found the YH no problem. Walking down the main street we both suddenly felt that we were on holiday. Katoomba really is a tourist town and you could tell immediately. The YH was the best we had been in yet (in both NZ and Oz).
The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region that borders on Sydney's metropolitan area, its foothills starting about 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of the city. Officially the Blue Mountains is bounded by the Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers in the east, the
Coxs River and Lake Burragorang to the west and south, and the Wolgan and Colo Rivers to the north.
The Blue Mountains are a dissected plateau carved in sandstone bedrock. They are now a series of ridge lines separated by gorges up to 760 metres (2,490 feet) deep. The highest point in the Blue Mountains, as it is now defined, is an unnamed point with an elevation of 1,189 m (3,901 feet) seven kilometres north-east of Lithgow. However, the highest point in the broader region once considered to be the Blue Mountains is Mount Bindo, elevation 1,362 m (4,469 feet). A large part of the Blue Mountains is incorporated into the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Site, consisting of seven national park areas and a conservation reserve.
When Europeans arrived in Australia, the Blue Mountains had already been inhabited for several millennia by the Gundungurra people, now represented by the Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation based in Katoomba, and, in the lower Blue Mountains, by the Darug people, now represented by the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation. The Gundungurra creation story of the Blue Mountains tells that Dreamtime creatures Mirigan and Garangatch, half fish and half reptile, fought
an epic battle which scarred the landscape into the Jamison Valley. M loves all these stories.
The first documented use of the name Blue Mountains appears in Captain John Hunter’s account of Phillip’s 1789 expedition up the Hawkesbury River. European settlers initially considered that fertile lands lay beyond the mountains, as was China - according to the belief of many convicts, but it didn't matter much what you thought, since the mountains were impassable. This idea was, to some extent, convenient for local authorities. An "insurmountable" barrier would deter convicts from trying to escape in that direction. A former convict, John Wilson, may have been the first European to cross the Blue Mountains. Wilson arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 and was freed in 1792. He settled in the bush, living with the Aborigines and even functioning as an intermediary between them and the settlers. In 1797 he returned to Sydney, claiming to have explored up to a hundred miles in all directions around Sydney, including across the mountains. His descriptions and observations were generally accurate, and it is possible that he had crossed the mountains via the southern aspect at the Cox's River corridor, guided by the
Aborigines. Wilson was killed by Aborigines after abducting one of their women for his personal use (cheek), but he had accomplished much as an explorer.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area was unanimously listed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO on 29 November 2000, becoming the fourth area in New South Wales to be listed. The area totals roughly 10,000 square kilometres (3,900 square miles), including the Blue Mountains and surrounds. We made our way from the YH and entered the Blue Mountains NP and found the Prince Henry Track. This walk is named for Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and was opened with that name in 1934. Construction of the track linked other shorter tracks, some of which that had been built since the 1880's. It gave access to around 20 other tracks and numerous lookouts. The track now follows the Cliff top from Scenicworld to Leura Cascades and on to Gordon Falls.
First we planned to go to the Leura Falls. We had been here before in 2008. We followed the track back towards Leura and then down towards the cascades and the falls. Leura Cascades was the location of Leura Baths, one of many swimming
baths constructed in the Blue Mountains by damming a creek. They are no longer there. There was a picnic area at the top of the walk to the cascades and already a group of 4 people having a nosh (must have been breakfast). The walk is set amidst tall eucalypts. We followed the walk to the rapids on Leura Falls Creek to the top of Leura Falls. Last time we were here we walked to the bottom, to the Bridal Vale Falls and then on down through the Leura Forest and via the Federal Pass back to Katoomba. This time we branched off and re-joined the Prince Henry Cliff walk to Echo Point.
It was a lovely walk. M had her eye out for leeches as last time she was dined upon by one of the little beasties. It had recently rained so there was a risk - but the guy in the YH and assured her that he could get rid of them with some salt (just like slugs in the UK!! - YUK). We walked along the path and stopped at several lookouts where we had amazing views over the Blue Mountains. We had our photo taken
together by a nice lady who we met at Honeymoon Point. We reached the 3 Sisters Lookout Point which was a 200 metre deviation from the cliff walk. When we arrived we could only see the 'Sister' closest to the cliff. The 3 sisters are a rock formation of three sandstone stacks. The one we could see was obscuring the other two from the lookout point. From this lookout you could also descend the 900 steps of the Giant's stairway to the bottom of the valley. We had gone to the bottom via a different route last time so gave this a miss (it was 'strong' walkers only anyway) so re-joined the cliff walk and continued to Echo Point. From here we had a fantastic view of the 3 sisters standing proudly in a row. The Sisters were formed by land erosion. The soft sandstone of the Blue Mountains is easily eroded over time by wind, rain and rivers, causing the cliffs surrounding the Jamison Valley to be slowly broken up leaving these magnificent formations.
We went to wait for the bus back to the YH (we had our all in pass remember!). We were surprised to find another
of the Taronga Zoo's Rhinos here. When we arrived in Katoomba we stocked up with some wine and two ready meals from Coles. Beef Madras and Rice for M and Chicken Tikka for D. We dumped it in the fridge and went for a walk around the town. We found the backpackers that we stayed at last time we were here and strolled around the town admiring the Art Deco architecture before returning to the YH for our ready meals (which were actually very good indeed).
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