I can’t believe how quickly the first month of living and travelling in Australia has gone. Seems like yesterday I was back in London, packing my rucksack, and heading for Gatwick airport.
Time literally flys.
This weekend we treated ourselves to a trip to the iconic Blue Mountains!
We left Campsie on Saturday morning around 10.30am and caught the train to Central to pick up the long distance train to Katoomba, Blue Mountains. The journey seemed quite quick, arriving in just under two hours. It was great to see the scenery change from city sky scrapers, gently rolling into the vast lush rainforests of the Blue Mountains.
The train steadily inclined all the way there causing our ears to pop slightly!
Katoomba is the chief town of the Blue Mountains, sitting 1000 meters above sea level. The air is fresher and cooler although when the sun is out, it’s lovely and warm.
Upon arriving, we headed for our hostel to check in and offload our luggage. It took a bit of walking up and down the street before we noticed the sign for the Katoomba accommodation.
The hostel was huge, slightly outdated but very comfortable. The room was lovely. A bunk bed and single bed with lovely polished wood floors and a small sink area in the corner. The window offered a sneaky peak of what delights we had to look forward to. So it was a quick dash to unpack, lightening our backpacks, only packing the essentials for our first walk over to Echo Point. This was a short 25 min walk from the hostel down a single road.
The houses along the way were quaint detached character properties with luscious green gardens framing the homes beautifully. I couldn’t help but take a couple of pics of these little dream gems.
We passed a house which had been converted into an art gallery and shop and from what we could gauge from the outside looking in, was filled with a mix of colourful and eclectic art. There was an enormous sculpture of a full size polar bear looking like it was wondering aimlessly in the garden. I then noticed the gallery was aptly named “The lost bear” -it was certainly lost that’s for sure, finding itself in the mountains of Australia!! -Great marketing strategy I thought -you wouldn’t forget this place in hurry! We admired the gallery and continued our journey.
It seemed that all of a sudden a beautiful backdrop appeared and hung at the end of the road. This was Echo Point approaching.
As far as the eye could see in panoramic view, there was a sea of densely packed tiny trees in a sort of bluey-green colour with a gentle haze floating in the air.
As we approached the end of the road, the enormity of the view was absolutely breathtaking. I’ve never seen such natural beauty in all my life. The mountain range rolled up and down across the landscape, and a huge valley of thick trees ate the ground up with no view of the ground itself. The trees looked so small from where I stood, but these were big trees creating a seamless blanket which hugged all of the valley and surrounding mountains. The air was still but fresh, with the constant hum of tiny insects in every tree, collectively creating a ceremonious chorus which echoed sonorously across the valley. Simply stunning.
After taking lots of photos and video we made our way over to ‘The Three Sisters’. This is a formation of large jagged rocks that towers precariously on a cliff edge overlooking the Jamison valley. They have the name of three sisters from Aboriginal Dreamtime folklore. The legend is that there were three sisters who lived in the Jamison valley and belonged to the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with men from the neighbouring Nepean tribe but marriage was forbidden due to tribe law. The men from the neighbouring tribe were unhappy with the law and took it upon themselves to use force to capture the sisters. A major tribal battle commenced and the three sisters were turned to stone in order to protect them. Unfortunately the elder was killed in battle which meant the three sisters could no longer be turned back and remained in stone forever. The girls names and now rock names are ‘Meehni’ (922 m), ‘Wimlah’ (918 m), and ‘Gunnedoo’ (906 m). They just look like rocks to me! But still, very interesting story.
We made our way down the steep and hazardous stairway towards the three sisters.
There were a few people in front of us and I could hear a commotion going on a few steps further down. Keen to see what all the fuss was about, I bypassed a few people to get a better look. A fellow sightseer had a stick in one hand and the end of a snake in the other! He handled the creature with such precision, like he’d done this before, guiding the snake away from the stairway and onto a branch of a tree opposite. We all stared in amazement of the brave man handling the creature, all keen to see how the snake would react. The snake seemed to be unfazed by the handling and happily glided to a branch where he began to coil himself up. Fascinated, everyone was taking photos of the chilled out snake. We then made our way down the steep staircase.
We were able to cross a small bridge to gain access to the first sister rock, in which a small bench sat beneath the towering rock edge above. We found a nice spot opposite which was quiet and serene. We sat for a while, soaking in the mind-blowing views.
I heard someone down in the valley bellowing their voice out in some sort of attempt to create a bouncing echo. We all heard the meagre attempt, then looked at each other, as if to say: ‘that’s a damn good idea, let’s have a go!’ We were at an advantage- being higher in the valley.
Aduke went first, closing her hands around her mouth- taking a deep breath and.. “Ohhhohhh” ….pahhhhhh! We all p*ssed outselves laughing! It didn’t echo, so a few practice attempts were required! We all had a few goes to perfect it, then I recorded it. An eery Echo bounced on each mountain and back to us. Totally amazing. Unfortunately some bloody Chinese cow was yapping loudly as I was recording the echo. So annoying. I could have slapped her for having such a big gob. This statement sounds a bit hypocritical, but this was a scientific experiment!!! Oh well, we could still hear our echo.
By now, it was getting in for 5 ish, so too late to attempt the giant stairway down into the depths of the valley. Apparently it’s a few hours hike down and across to the railway/skyride at Scenic World which would have been closed by the time we got there, meaning we would have the daunting hike back up the mountain, and in the dark! So, we just sat there admiring the view. It was so peaceful. We all sat there quiet as we looked out, finding our own inner peace at once. Quite a moment in time.
As the light began to dim slightly, we gathered ourselves and made our way back up the stairs. The hike up was a little wearing but our bellies were crying out for some grub which spurred us on.
We passed the point where we had seen the diamond python snake. He was still there- curled up in a little ball- looking so cute. I don’t see why people fear snakes – they don’t look offensive – I think they are quite endearing (apart from when they bare fangs) -took a few more pics, then trudged back up to Echo Point.
There was a restaurant nestled behind the top end of Echo Point with a courtyard behind. An artwork installation of two intricately painted rhinos stood vehemently towards us. The feeling of regressing to a child overwhelmed the attempt at suppressing the urge to climb on the rhinos. We raced over, and clambered on. Wow the mountain had nothing on this – it was hard work! Once we mad it to the top we celebrated with a mock ride and photos of rhino summit triumph!
A family with a little girl noticed our commotion which stopped them in their tracks, the look on the little girls face – sheer desperation to experience what these fully grown adults were.
Haha.. I soon got down to let her have a go. We then made our way back up the road of dreamy homes, past ‘The Lost Bear’ and towards our digs.
We noticed a man walking his dog approaching us. The dog was an unusual mix- I couldn’t tell what he was. A mix of Husky/Collie/Alsatian? -who knew what this pup had in him but he was a gorgeous chocolate brown with lovely markings all over and we couldn’t resist greeting him and his owner as they reached us.
Nugget is his name! And he was full of energy and excitement to say hello. We got chatting to his owner, Geoff, explaining that we were travellers new to the area and keen to find hidden treasures and somewhere nice to eat! Geoff recommended a few restaurants in town and then told us he was the owner of a business down the road, one with a great big polar bear in the front garden! The Lost Bear!!! I had wanted to have a browse in the gallery myself, so we parted on a promise to pop in the next day for a mooch around.
We made our way into town and found a lovely Korean restaurant. It was small, rustic with elements of Korean influence tastefully decorated inside and out. It was also packed out- a good sign in my book! Locals and travellers alike had flocked to this place for a reason and I wanted a taste of it too. There was no room, so we loitered outside for a short time, soon noticing that a local woman who sat alone at a 3 seater table out the front, looked like she had finished up. Confirmation of this was made when she turned to us, informing that she was about to leave, and that the food was amazing. Sold. We sat down instantly and checked out the menu- reasonable too! No wonder business is booming.
I had a fried seafood and noodle dish, which had a nice spicy kick to it! Total munch. Ate the whole thing with chopsticks- of course.
We chilled for a bit, then got talking to a local who had no shoes on (I had noticed a few locals walking style around with no shoes- definitely a hippy town) He was a young, fresh looking man named Henry. I told him he looked unusual – well, he did! He had a beard growing which he had curled up Poirot style, with a sort of 90’s style bleach blond curtains hairstyle. A very unique look! He sat and chatted with us for a while, talking about DMT- some strange hippy practice. We had a very spiritual conversation which complimented our airy surroundings up in the fresh mountains. Henry suggested some great spots around for stargazing.
We later made our way back to the hostel, only to find the security door wouldn’t let us in with the code we’d been given. I used the phone attached to the wall to call the receptionist who had checked us in and with no avail could we open this door- so knocking became the last hope. A young Chinese woman opened the door with a bowl in her hand with attitude slapped all over her face, eyes bulging out like she wanted to destroy us for daring to interrupt her late night food indulgence. “Whaa yu waan?” Haha. Er?! We live here bitch, let us in. She stated that she hadn’t seen us before and wasn’t prepared to let us in. This went on for a while and despite best efforts to explain the situation, she wasn’t listening. Patience soon drained and anger set in. She needed a bitch slap. She practically shut the door on our faces but our feet wedged the door open. What is wrong with this human being? Totally stupid in every sense of the word. Luckily, another woman came to the door and let us in after we confirmed we knew the password. An argument soon broke out between us and this woman after I realised she didn’t even work there. I told her that she had an attitude problem and that I wasn’t prepared to conversation with her anymore. One should never argue with a stupid person, for fear that others may not be able to tell the difference.
She barked at us as we turned and walked away, shouting: “I gunna report yu” ..we all stopped in our tracks and immediately turned around. In unison, Aduke and I shouted back; arms striking back at her: “WE’RE GOING TO REPORT YOU!” …Kassie, rounded it off nicely with a: “YEAH!!” -we all thought this was absolutely hilarious and walked down the stairs laughing in sheer disbelief of this woman’s audacity.
We made our way to the room, soon turning in for the night after enjoying a few glasses of red wine on the balcony terrace, and spotting a daredevil possum tightrope walk across telephone wires suspended above the road! The little mite moved so swiftly then disappeared into the night.
The next morning we arose early and packed up to check out of the hostel. We blagged an hour longer to have showers and prep for our hike into the valley.
Popped the keys into the key drop/off point and headed back to Echo Point.
As promised, we stopped off at The Lost Bear gallery along the way to see Geoff and Nugget and to check out the place. Before we had even got to the door, Geoff was there to open it and greet us. With beaming faces, we passed the bear sculpture, and entered the creative space which had fuelled my curiosity since the day before.
We dropped our bags and all seemed to disperse away from each other to go and explore the many rooms, corridors and walls filled with different types of work.
I felt so inspired. In some ways, a lot more than I had done in The Contemporary Art Museum. We spent a while thoroughly soaking in the creative vibes. Geoff gave us a lot of his time to tell us about the artwork, artists and gallery. A great way to start the day!
We were all hungry and in need of breakfast, so decided to head over to a cafe restaurant a short walk away. Geoff had kindly agreed to hold some our bags and belongings until the end of the day so we didn’t have to carry them down into the valley and back.
The cafe was modern with a traditional twist. Serving fresh food- made to order at reasonable prices. I ordered a Turkish toastie for breakfast and a sandwich to go for lunch later. After refuelling, we started the hike over towards the three sisters.
It didn’t take too long to reach the point in which we had reached the day before. We braced ourselves, and began the descent of the giant staircase which meandered deep down into the depths of the Jamison rainforest valley.
It wasn’t before long we were all starting to feel the thigh burn of muscles working overtime as we descended rapidly. The stairway was so dangerous in places, with steps literally carved into stone which had eroded over time leaving a mere jagged edge acting as a step. The metal stairs ways were steep too with shallow steps – this was not for the faint hearted! There were actually warning signs and advice that this would only be suitable for strong walkers (this I consider myself). We were regularly being passed, by hikers who were bailing out and making their way back up, spooked by the daunting sheer stairwell and enclosing tree canopy – sweating and puffing, red in the face with a stark warning all over not to make the same mistake as they had – and I had absolutely no intention of making their mistake at all – I fully intended to make my way right to the bottom, then travel across the valley floor, all the way over to the the station to catch the train back up the mountain! hahah.
At one point, a fat cherry red boy climbing up, warned us that it was was raining down at the bottom, as he was puffing his little lungs out, grabbing hold of the railing and dragging his chubby body up the stairs… I looked at him acknowledging him and then replying that it didn’t matter… More to the point, it didn’t look like it was raining – ‘what do you know child boy’ I thought…
The descent continued and the green canopy slowly closed in on us. The senses were heightened to another level. The place was a visual feast of shades of green and brown. The bright white light filtered through the trees- creating beams and highlighting pools on the ground. The sounds of a constant hum from hidden bugs, and distant rushing water from a nearby waterfall. The feeling of pure thick sweet fresh air, the feeling of the oxygen entering the body every time I inhaled; a sort of nectar for the lungs. The smell of earthy notes rising from the dampened ground.. It was a real treat for the mind, body and soul.
The path lay in front of us, a winding mystical path framed by boulders and tropical greenery. I led the way to begin with, climbing over stepping-stones, following a dirt track, lifting leaves away from my forward path. I reached out to touch the plants as I walked on, feeling the light moisture from passed rain sprinkle on my hands, looking up and around, keeping alert and keen not to miss anything, having a real thirst to absorb in everything. This place was absolutely magical.
A distant rumble grabbed our attention… what. was. that? We momentarily paused, then the march ploughed on… the rumble returned, only now louder and inevitably nearer. Excitement spiked as moments later an enormous crack crashed above us and reverberated around before dulling. Oh yes, seems fat boy was right! We had literally walked into a rainforest! -rain being the operative word. And rain it did. The water came down in large droplets. Firstly, just gently, then turning into a hard and fierce rain. It grew harder, the thunder above us carried on cracking and booming.
We carried our walk on, eyes on the ground, watching our steps carefully as the water pelted down, then suddenly seemed to bounce off the ground. It looked amazing and felt refreshing on the skin. Cooling down heated bodies, hot and salted by the long arduous trek down the mountain side. The rain grew heavier still as we walked.
The rain that bounced off the ground began to retain its form until the ground was sprinkled with small pieces of ice. Crunching over the frozen balls as they continued to fall, I took my Go pro out to start filming this phenomena. My skin and clothes now drenched with water, I felt my saturated trousers so heavy and practically falling down with weight. The balls of ice were now relentless and growing in size. Like cherry tomatoes made of ice hammering down which bloody hurt when they pelted down on bare flesh. We had to seek shelter. Further down the path, I noticed part of the mountainside rock jut out slightly. Running over, turning and backing up as much as we could, we watched as the hailstones battered the ground. In a short time, the hail slowed and reverted back to raindrops. We jumped out from our shelter and rejoined the path which was now littered with small round balls of ice. Amazing! Never expected to see this in Australia.
By now the rain had started to dull down and the roll of thunder was all but nearly gone. We all looked at each other and rearranged our clothing, wringing the water out. The rain had now stopped, with just the droplets of water falling from the leaves on trees all around catching the sun light as they fell.
I noticed what looked like steam coming off Aduke’s skin, the heat of her body evaporating the rain in the now crisp cool air. The sun now began to make an appearance, highlighting the steam coming from all of us! The place looked so luscious.. freshly watered and now bathing in streams of sunlight as creatures returned to fill the air with an atmospheric sound -like something from a film.
The hike across the valley floor continued until a familiar sound grew louder. The sound of rushing water grew, and I instantly knew this was a result of the recent heavy rainfall. No surprised when we followed the winding path which lead us to a gushing water torrent flowing rapidly down the mountainside. It was immense. This was enough water to sweep someone off of their feet and down the white water rapids below. Admittedly, I found this thrilling and a challenge! The girls went first as I filmed them – First Kas took her time to find suitable stepping stones to aid her crossing over the fast streaming water. Success! she made it to the other side. Aduke was up next, as Kas had done before, Aduke took her time to retrace Kassie’s footsteps over the mini river. Me next!!!! I filmed myself as I hopped over quickly, then feeling satisfied with my victory of torrent crossing, I turned the Go pro back to capture the amount of flowing water. Fascinating stuff.
The hike then continued… we seemed to be the only people down here – no-one had passed us either way- we had the valley to ourselves. We sang songs as we pushed on. This was a long walk!
Before long, the sound of gushing water returned. Not again! This was louder and sounded like a larger quantity of water… luckily we notice a river running adjacent to our path and gathered that this was the result of the nearing loud watery sound.
The path was winding close to the mountainside and slowly started to reveal streams, rock pools, mini water falls and eventually a bridge over a massive rock pool where the roaring sound of water pouring down the mountainside grew louder as we drew nearer. It was almost deafening, the amount of water that was cascading down, and it seemed to come from all around. I looked up, high above the canopy, to the top of the mountain edge to see the source of this monstrous water rapid. Water was flying off the cliff edge, gallons and gallons a second. It was enormous, but so far up. The water would have taken a while to fall and work its way down to were I was, hidden under the trees on the valley floor.
We stayed awhile, taking photos and film of this enchanting place. Drenched still, and pressed for time as ‘Scenic World’ was due to close at 5 -and this was our ticket up the mountain via the railway or skyline, but most certainly not by foot. We hot footed it along the path, reassured by the reoccurring signs informing us that we were approaching the railway.
The path started to wind upwards and there was a sheer drop down the valley. Breaks in the trees revealed glimpses of the distant landscape bathing in sunlight. The path straightened and widened until it came to a stop. There were metal railings which guided down to a huge open area, like a huge viewing platform hanging out over the valley below. The metal stairway guided round and back on itself like it was designed for queuing for a ride or something. There was hardly anyone there. I raced over to the edge to get a view out and over. Wow, it was something else. I could see the three sisters in the distance and the milage that we had covered over the last few hours.
The girls soon caught me up and we all stood there in amazement.
A strange rumble fast approached from the mountain side. I turned to see a train fast making its way to the platform. Ah, so this is where the train stops. Bingo. The train came to a halt and people poured out onto the metal platform, soon dispersing into the woodland. We took this opportunity to race through the remaining crowd, and fix a place aboard the train. Result. No hiking up for us! the barriers closed down and we were completely enclosed in our carriage. Within minutes, the train started to move backwards up the hill.
The Indiana Jones theme tune came on and we all started singing along as the train sped up high until it was practically vertical, our seats pushed forward and we were literally on the edge, Kasa’s backpack went flying down to the bottom of carriage, nearly knocking out some bloke- so funny…
The train passed through a tunnel in the rock face as the music continued – this was brilliant! Those mugs earlier killing themselves as they panted and dragged their steaming hot bodies up the mountain were totally missing out! Always persevere I say! This was our reward for carrying on- come rain or shine or bloody golfball size hail!
We had reached Scenic world. A place where lazy bastards come to hitch a ride up and down the mountain. Haha. Na, this was a failed theme park that has a scenic railway ride that travels families down to the trails in the valley, and a Sky-ride cable car which does the same, as well as another cable car which travels over Katoomba falls (the crazy big waterfall we has seen earlier from the valley floor)
Once we had reached the summit, we paid for a wrist band to go on the other sky rides. We were pressed for time, as the place was going to shut soon, so we hot footed it over to the cable car that would take us back down to the valley floor. The views were beautiful, and the ride gentle, as it glided though the trees then exposed itself to the air and sheer drop below…. it was so peaceful and smooth. We watched the views fade, the ground grow closer, until the trees enclosed in on us. We exited the sky-ride then walked back round to rejoin the queue to go straight back -we were going to get our moneys worth of wristband passes at Scenic World. Back up the line we went, the views reappearing and showing off. I noticed an aged track laying on the ground as we came into the top station. This was meant to be a roller coaster, but was scrapped due to complaints. It would have been brilliant but would have been very noisy and disrupted the delicate balance of the beautiful environment as well as been detrimental to wildlife.
Once we exited the skyline it was a race to get to the third ride – The Katoomba falls cablecar. We raced through crowds, still damp from the earlier down pour, until we reached the station for boarding. A short wait, then we were on. I found a great spot at the edge of the car and waited, anticipating the ride to start – this was a high one.
The sky-ride conductor informed us that it would be a 7 second free fall to the bottom…good grief! It was high.. but breathtaking as we got a birds eye view of the Katoomba water fall. The water poured over the cliff edge, hitting rock platforms below, then falling again until it reached the bottom, like water pouring down stairs. The trees framed the waterfall beautifully as we took loads of photos.
The ride was quick and came into dock at the other side. Again, we rejoined the queue and came back -this time standing in the middle of the car over the glass bottom to take in the views from directly above. The car glided over the rock edge then flew over the sheer mind-boggling drop below. I don’t have a fear of heights at all, but even this was a bit unsettling- I totally embraced it though. Taking photos of the drop and selfies all the way back.
Once we had pulled back into Scenic World, it was one last dash to have a quick ride back on the railway (my favourite) as this was the last ride of the day..we jumped on, the doors came down and the Indian Jones theme tune started up – again, we all sang along as loud as we could…haha..so funny.. such kids. The train sped up and dropped down through the carved tunnel in the rock-face… This was so much fun. hahaha!!!! Everyone on the train was ooooooh-ing and ahhhhh-ing. The valley exposed itself again as we shot down the mountainside, soon pulling into the metal platform station that we had arrived at earlier. We stayed put (because we weren’t missing this train and walking back up) Moments later the barriers came back down and we were off again. Yay! “wooooooohoooooo” all the way back up again…
By the time we reached the top, it was closing time. We exited the building and found a spot outside to have our delayed lunch…
– called a cab and made our way back to The Lost Bear.
Knowing we had clean dry clothing back at the gallery was so reassuring. The journey back to Sydney would have been so uncomfortable in damn clothing.
We walked through the gallery doors to be greeted by Nugget who wanted to play, and being such a lover of all animals- I couldn’t resist! We raced out to the back yard after a quick little cuddle and photo in the gallery, to gather bamboo sticks to throw and fetch.
After a while, I couldn’t stand to be in my damp clothing any longer and went back inside to change with the girls. Dry clothing! Bliss!!!!
Geoff had been a real help – not sure what we’d have done without him- many thanks to him and his son Kenji. We had a few photos taken inside and outside of the gallery before leaving.
We made our way back to Katoomba station where we caught a train home. The light had disappeared with clouds setting in, the heavens opened. We were fine though… toastie in dry clothing, comfy in our carriage which carried us all the way home.
What a weekend.