Blue Mountains - Into the valley

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thank you Anthony and Rachel of Hervey Bay. We met them a couple of weeks ago and they suggested that there was no need to get on a tour for the Blue Mountains or any need to invest in the many hop on, hop off buses in the area. It is cheaper and easier to do it on foot. I wouldn't necessarily agree on the easier bit, but the cheaper is correct.

The Blue Mountains are a region in Australia approximately 2 hours by train out of Sydney Central. The area is served by several tour companies including the standard 'Hop on Hop Off' that you see in Sydney and every other big city from here to Beijing. They are a rip off. Normally in a city they offer about 30 stops which include about 20 attractions, a couple of hotels and a few famous roads. The Blue Mountains one has about 20-30 stops of which you really will only want to visit maybe 3. And those 3 are only about a 20 minute walk from the station (if you are relatively fit). The remainder of the stops are accommodation, cafes, a tiny art gallery, caravan parks etc. Filling in on the grandest scale - and the company charges $36 for it.
There is also a 'Scenic World' which giving it some credit is probably very suited to people of a tired and old disposition, but if you have any amount of energy to you, you should be just getting out and seeing the area - you don't need a cable car ride, or a train ride or whatever else is included in the overpriced ticket.

The Blue Mountains is a beautiful region of mainly Sandstone plateau which over the many years has formed into deep gorges, at the base of which forests are abundant. From the plateau many waterfalls occur, showering the canopy below, and giving some spectacular views. The area is famous for rock formations including 'The Three Sisters', which we would be visiting.

So train, 2 hours, walk down main highstreet of Katoomba past the Aldi and many littles Cafes, walk past the YHA on the right handside, into a dip in the road and back up the other side and then 20 minutes after leaving the 2 storey train you are into Blue Mountains territory.
If you go our route which was a good one, at first you don't see anything. We took the route towards Scenic World but turned off at the Katoomba Cascades. It was here after a few steps we were greeted with the smell of burnt wood, yet another bit of luck on our part. Just a couple of weeks ago this area was all in flames after a forest fire had taken control.
Following a track the path suddenly opens out onto a lookout and what a sight you are given. Miles of uninterrupted views over the valley. Squawks greet you as you look out over the edge, white Cockatoos standing out clearly over the canopy of green below as they fly around and settle near the waterfall. Straight ahead civilisation sadly rears it's ugly head as a cable car slowly glides across the view - I wave to them finding it funny that they have less of a view than us. We're open to the elements.

The track follows the edge of the cliff face with lookouts nearly every 50m or so. We are relatively alone as most people seem keen to sit on a bus or a train all day. We descend the 'Furber Steps' a good half hour taking snapshots of the Three Sisters and then drop into the cool rainforest below. A sign warns that the journey across to Echo Point and the ascent up the Grand Staircase should take 2-3 hours but I've seen these warnings before and they tend to exaggerate. We continue to trek along the Federal Pass towards the 3 sisters and quickly eat up the ground. Barely an hour after leaving the Furber steps down we are ready to walk up the 900 steps of the Grand Staircase. On the way we pass a french couple I recognise. Kate didn't notice them as she seems to go everywhere with her head looking at her feet - she has to read this blog to have a clue where we've been. I have a think about it as we continue walking and then it hits me. I laugh and crack up a little as I turn to Kate and blurt "It was half boob!, they were sitting next to us on Greyhound about 4 days ago".
The girl had a badly fitting bra and I had to point it out to Kate when they got on board and sat next to us. Essentially the bra was too small for her ample cleavage so she was squeezing out of the restraint a bit and what highlighted this more was that because of the chill her nips were highlighting the derailment as they were above (by quite far) the bra line. It looked very odd, and hence made it easy to remember.

Ah, coincidence. Memories. Anyways...moving on. We hiked up the stairs and counted as we went. We passed an American woman making a right meal of the trip saying how she would have to stop there or something as she couldn't go on. She just wasn't trying. Her friend offered to pull her up but she just seemed to want the attention. We got up to the top and The 3 Sisters and someone asked me if it was a long way down; "About 770 steps on that last one there", they gasped and then walked the other direction away from the steps quite quickly- lazy people.

I didn't feel at all comfortable hanging around all the man made bridges and steps spanning drops down the cliffside so we took a few quick pictures and moved on.

At Echo Point we met a couple of pompous Brit ex-pats that had moved out to Aus and were insistent amongst themselves that you could see everything you needed to from the top and so you didn't need to venture from the lookout point. I butted into their conversation slightly and explained we had just walked along the bottom and it was a very nice trip, to which they asked if I/We felt virtuous doing it'. I think they thought they were a little funny, so I replied "Yes a little bit actually". One of the ladies (we thought the second was a camp man at first) gave Kate the up and down and commented on her choice of sandal footwear for walking amongst the dreaded bush "You should be more careful dear, it is snake season". There are snakes in Australia, there are spiders - but as far as I can tell, they are either invisible or they do not care to chase after humans. If you stay out of their way, they will stay out of yours.

The walk was great, and as all great walks should We quickly rushed back through town via Aldi for some cheap snacks and were on the 4.20 train back to Sydney. We slept on the train.

It was a quick tour of the Blue Mountains and maybe it would have been nice to stay longer. After you go wow...awwwww....coor...look at that...amazing, for a while though, you feel you are done. I would have loved to have seen the area at sunset, but we've got a few years left in us yet and it's not a difficult place to get to (once in Australia!).
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