Trains, cable cars and automobiles

Trip Start Nov 06, 2009
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Sunday, June 20, 2010

After a hearty full cooked brekkie at the Clarendon we took a walk down to the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company (yum) and the Katoomba Fine Art Gallery which had some really cool exhibits, including a life-size, rainbow-colored rhinoceros made of recycled signs (made by a guy called Ian Swift.

Then paid a visit to Scenic World - a sort of Disneyland of stunning views.

You can admire the views in 4 different ways, which we did:

- from the Scenic Railway: the steepest funicular railway in the world. It has an incline of 52 degrees over a 415m descent and it feels like you're going prettty much vertically down the mountainside when you're on it - you take your seat and when it starts moving you end up almost standing up, in a seated position, if that makes sense...(!?). The trackgoes through a pitch dark cliff side tunnel as the India Jones theme tune plays at full volume, and finishes up in a Jurassic rainforest. Pretty awesome.

- from the Scenic Walkway: a raised boardwalk through the rainforest, with loads of facts about the local flora and fauna and history of the area, e.g. the railway was originally built in the 1880s for a coal and oil shale mining operation. It was converted for use as a tourist attraction just before WW2, but now reconstructed displays demonstrate how it used to look, and several rusty old shale buckets are still dotted about the forest.

- from the Scenic Cable way: which stretches 545 metres over the Jamison Valley and is apparently the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere .

- from the Scenic Skyway: a bit like the cableway only waaay better, with an 'electro-sceniglass' floor so you can see right through the bottom of the cabin over the rainforest 270 metres. The journey is 720 metres along a cableway across a gorge above the super-impressive Katoomba Falls. From so high up the trees looked like billions of little broccolli florets, and the views over the falls, the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock and Mount Solitary were simply stunning.

From all the rides we could also see evidence of what looked very much like a roller coaster track through the valley. And when we enquired, it turned out that's exactIy what it was; Scenic World started building the 'Orphan Rocker' (so-named after the Orphan Rock formation it goes past) in 1984, but it never operated as it was rather controversial and the council wouldn't give it permission. Damn shame I reckon, it looks amazing.

After all that excitement we'd worked up a bit of an appetite, so when we discovered that the Scenic World Skyway restaurant did an all-you-can-eat buffet for a very reasonable price we decided to indulge; unlimited fresh seafood including massive juicy prawns, crab, oysters (well, I'm not so into fishy mucus but Chris liked them), amazing salads and the tastiest ever chocolate mousse cake, strawberry shortcake and Tiramisu. Mmmm!

And as it that wasn't enough already, we had the luxury of eating it all whilst admiring incredible views over the valley AND sitting on a revolving floor!

Once we'd had our fill we hit the road again and drove to Clarence Station, near the town of Lithgow, in order to ride the Zig Zag Railway.

The railway was originally built in the 1860s and operated until 1910. In 1975 it was restored as a heritage railway as is now run by a voluntary not for profit co-op of very passionate enthusiasts.

The trip, on an original steam locomotive, took a very enjoyable hour and a half. It went through the pitch dark Clarence tunnel (which during WW2 was used to store mustard gas and other  chemical weapons for the Royal Australian Air Force) to Top Points station, along an old sandstone viaduct, back through Top Points again and on to Bottom Points (Chris found this very funny, how juvenile...) where the signalman took us on to the signal box and showed us how the original mechanical signals worked, before returning to Clarence.

Much more fun than our usual London to Brighton commute!
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