With a few days to spare in Sydney, we decided to head for the Blue Mountains, so called because the great forest of Eucalyptus trees there give off an oil, causing a blue haze. It is easy to access the Blue Mountain area from Sydney, we just boarded a train in Central Station for the two-hour journey to Katoomba, where we were to stay.
We had two full days in Katoomba, which gave us time to experience most of the activities on offer. We found all the people there so friendly. They were waving to us all the time, although they looked a little puzzled when we waved back. David, ever the cynic, thought the waving might have something to do with the flies, but I am convinced that they were just friendly gestures!
On the first day we bought tickets for the Blue Mountain Trolley Tours (a hop-on hop-off all day ticket.) This trolley bus continuously loops around 29 of the best tourist spots in Katoomba. Our first stop was the Scenic World Skyway. This crosses the edge of the Jamison Valley, with the most spectacular views of the Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters Rocks, and the Jamison Valley itself, lying 270m (886 ft) below. On reaching the other side, we descended into the valley by way of the Scenic Railway. This is the world’s steepest incline railway and was originally built to haul coal and shale out of the valley from the mines at the base of the escarpment. When the mine closed, the facility became a tourist attraction.
Once down in the valley, we walked along 2.5 kms (1.5 miles) of elevated boardwalk in the temperate rain forest. As we strolled along, we could hear birds calling and sometimes the rustling of leaves on the forest floor, made by some animal or other. Although we never actually saw anything, it was quite eerie as we were all alone, not a soul in sight. The forest itself was very beautiful with massive gum trees soaring above us, with strange Jurassic ferns sticking up between them. We were eventually lifted out of the valley by the Scenic Cable Car, and caught the bus back to Katoomba, where we had a very satisfying evening meal in the one of the town’s restaurants.
Our next venture, Echo Point, was within walking distance of our hotel. This has spectacular views over the Jamison valley to the Blue Mountains beyond. It was from here that we saw the famous “Three Sisters”, a strangely eroded group of rocks. We ventured down one of the walks that hug the steep sides of the valley until we reached the so-called giant steps. There are more than 800 of these steps, descending approximately 300 meters (984 feet). They enable passage to the valley floor. I declined to go down the steps, fearing I would have to climb back up them again; although David walked down more than 150 of them, and waved up at me before climbing back up again.
We couldn’t leave without taking a tour of the Blue Mountains themselves. They are a spectacular sight, reaching up to 1100m (3,609 ft), and they really do look blue. We saw strange rock formations, beautiful valleys and cool, ferny glades. It was such a wonderful sight that we wished we had more time, as there was still so much to see. As we boarded the train back to Sydney, we made a promise to return to Australia’s beautiful Blue Mountains.