So charming to see you’re keeping up to date on the London social scene, and you must take me to some of these delightful locations when I return!
After a couple of weeks in the city, it was time to set off to enjoy some country air in an area just a couple of hours away from Sydney called the Blue Mountains. Interestingly as you know, I previously worked at a “mountain” called Blue Mountain in Canada, and there was no doubt that this would be extremely different!
I chose to stay in a town called Katoomba, which is one of the larger towns in the area, and within walking distance from some of the major viewing hotspots and bushwalks in the area. I stayed at the YHA Blue Mountains, which was my first (I’m sure of many) hostel experience in Australia. A huge hostel, it certainly sees a varied mix of people, with plenty of families as well as the usual backpacking crowd. The dorm and bathroom were both very clean, and the large social area with comfy sofas around a log fire lit in the evenings is perfect for relaxing after a long day of walking. The kitchen facilities were also very good, although always very busy! There wasn’t much available in the way of activities, which is always quite useful as a solo traveller to meet people, but the staff were generally pleasant and helpful regarding any queries. As the location was also very good, there were no regrets in the choice of accommodation!
The town itself is fairly small, and certainly aimed at the strong tourist base which visit year around, with lots of delightful coffee shops, restaurants and shops to browse. Mostly located on one main street – handily named Katoomba Street – it’s also very easy to navigate, the hostel is also located on this street.
Despite the weather being pretty much all around cold and miserable (honestly, I did NOT believe Australia got that cold!) I set off on my first day to do some bushwalking! The Three Sisters viewing point (Echo Point) was only a 20 minute walk from the hostel, so this was where I started my day. Quite an impressive sight, and very mystical through the clouds which kept coming and going, and even completely hiding them from view at times. Naturally though – this area is packed with tourists. As I wasn’t sure which trails would be suitable in the poor weather, I visited the Tourist Info Centre was a very helpful man planned out my route for me.
After a short walk right up to the first of the Three Sisters, and a point known as the honeymoon bridge (which was a lovely little walk, just be prepared for some VERY steep steps to get down to the bridge!) I set off walking along the Cliffside to the Katoomba Falls, on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. The views in this area are just simply stunning, and it’s hard to believe this national park is such a short distance from Sydney. The walk was generally very quiet, as it seemed the majority of visitors were on coach tours, and just stopping off at view points, so it was most enjoyable not to face similar crowds to those at Echo Point.
My walk continued, taking me down the Furber steps, and I chose to take a short detour to get right up close to the falls. This area was completely deserted, and extremely peaceful!
At the bottom of the steps, you reach the base of one of the attractions in the area – Scenic World. There are several boardwalks to stroll around, and take in more of the jungle surroundings whilst viewing a few displays about how the area was previously used for mining. There is no charge to stroll around here when you have walked there.
Feeling quite weary, I decided to take the Scenic Railway to the top of the mountain rather than brave the steps. Excitingly – this is the worlds steepest railway! With only a $16 fee to ride to the top (as opposed to $35 to purchase a Scenic World day ticket), I’m not sure I was quite comfortable being vertically taken up the mountain backwards, but it was an experience nonetheless!
Whilst in the area, I also took a trip to the neighbouring town of Leura, which was only a 4 minute train ride away. This is a very pretty town, but much smaller than Katoomba. From here I visited the very pretty Leura Cascades, (make sure to wear sturdy footwear if you visit on a day as wet as mine!) and walked back to Katoomba from here.
If you aren’t such a fan of spending so much time outdoors in the cold, the Cultural Centre in Katoomba is also worth a perusal, and although small, has an interesting exhibition explaining more about how the Blue Mountains came to be, where I learnt that the hazy blue appearance of the area is actually from the Eucalyptus trees. Once a museum geek, always a museum geek…
Before I left to head back to Sydney, the sun was finally shining, so I took one last trip to Echo Point to see the mountains under some Blue Skies. After taking a short walk there the previous evening to see everything lit up, it was nice to have seen the area in such different settings!
Although this area can be visited on a day trip from Sydney, it was a very relaxing weekend away, and I was able to take my time and see a lot more over a couple of days than trying to cram everything into one.
Feeling refreshed and ready to hit the road again to find some of this, what I call, “agricultural work”, the time has now come to say goodbye to Sydney for a while (or eventually came, after an oh so pleasant kidney infection), and I write to you now in the middle of a 9 hour train journey to Coffs Harbour (already significantly better than the train experience in Vietnam). Where hopefully the lure of the beach won’t be too strong for me to finally start to do some work…!
With kindest regards,