On New Year’s Day, we’d planned to go to the Blue Mountains, not because it’s a great way to start the year, (being at one with nature and doing some good exercise) but because there’s a $2.50 max limit on the public transport system on Sundays, no matter how far you travel within New South Wales. That meant our 4-hour (return) journey, plus the extra bus ride and all the rest of it was only $2.50. Even if I wasn’t conscious of how much everything is costing right now, that is a seriously good deal! In the beginning, it was just going to be Helen and me, but a friend of mine has been travelling through Australia in the last few weeks and I knew he was going to be in Sydney this weekend gone. Theo made our group up to three and it was a really lovely day.
The Blue Mountains are about 2 hours north-west of Sydney and are actually blue. Well, when you see them from a distance, there is a distinctly blue haze around and above the mountains. When you look directly at the trees though, of course they’re green. In fact, they look like broccoli. It’s unreal how much these trees look like broccoli from an aerial view. And we did get an aerial view! There is a brilliant attraction called ScenicWorld, and they have three different methods of travelling through the forests. There is a railway, a cable car, and a sky train thing that has a glass bottom! You can use these methods as much as you want on any one day for a standard ticket price, and in between there are all sorts of different walks of various lengths and intensities.
The railway has the title of the steepest passenger railway in the world. Whilst we were queuing up for this, there were photos of the railway in years gone by. Now, I’m not scared of heights at all, but let me tell you, if the carriage was as creaky and temperamental-looking as it was in this picture, I don’t think I’d have wanted to ride it either. Of course, Helen was feeling a little anxious, but it was actually Theo who surprised me with his fear of heights. You could actually adjust your seat so that you are either “laid back”, original, or “cliffhanger” as you go hurtling down the mountain. And it did go pretty fast. The seat that we had was already adjusted to the “laid back” gradient, and we didn’t touch the controls. It was over quite quickly, and we hopped out and got going on our way.
The cable car was pretty standard. Being a small person, I should have been in the very top of the box with the guide who was explaining where everything was, but it’s all good. She pointed out the bits that we should make a point of seeing, but to be honest, they were sign-posted everywhere and there were so many guides who were more than happy to point you in the right directions. The main thing to see are the Three Sisters, which are made up of an eroded cliff face. Across the canyon from the Three Sisters was another similar looking formation, but only in the singular. Of course, they kept with the family theme and this rock is affectionately known as the Lonely Orphan. It reminded me of one of the islet formations in Halong Bay from a year ago called the Lonely Man. In any case, it appears that there are four “stumps” in between the three existing formations, so the experts reckon there used to be seven sisters in years gone by, but nature has eroded them away.
Another item of interest was Katoomba Falls, which is a natural waterfall (as the name suggests) that you can see through the clouds. There were quite a few impressive waterfalls throughout the Blue Mountains National Park that we walked past. On a warmer day, it may have been possible to walk closer, and maybe even behind them, but we didn’t even entertain that idea at the time!
We took loads of pictures and spent a long time trying to capture the perfect shot in a few locations. There was a brilliant spot that I wanted to sit on that literally was the edge of the land. For fear of dropping Thierry, I didn’t let him out for this one, but I think this is such a brilliant picture that I couldn’t not post it here. It’s also worth noting that whilst I was getting ready for this picture, Theo literally had his head in his hands and refused to look!
Once we were done wandering around the park, we headed back up to Echo Point, which is the closest point that you can get to the Three Sisters; it was the last place we wanted to see, but we knew the weather was going to turn. Unfortunately by the time we made it there in the afternoon, we couldn’t see anything at all due to the fact we were walking through a cloud. Yes, you read that correctly. The Blue Mountains are so high that we were above cloud level.
It was absolutely fine though, because on our trekking around the rest of the mountains, we had multiple views of the Three Sisters and we got photos from all different angles, so I was happy that I’d seen them. At least we weren’t posing in front of a barrier where (ordinarily) there would have been a beautiful and unobscured view of the Three Sisters, but in actual fact, the cloud was completely opaque. All around Echo Point, we were met with the same sight – generally speaking, Chinese tourists, all lipstick and fake smiles, leaning up against the railing. All three of us sort of looked at each other and vocalised the same thought at pretty much the same time… “What exactly are they taking pictures of?!”. I guess if you’d spent that much time on your hair and makeup, you’re gonna want to have some photos taken otherwise it’s a bit of a waste, hey?
Conscious that it was Sunday, we checked the train timetable and headed back to the station just as it started bucketing it down! Riding on the severely air-conditioned train back to the city, we found it a little too cold, but all three of us managed to pass out for a good hour or so, the toils of New Year’s Eve, an early morning for New Year’s Day and an entire day of trekking through mountains finally taking it out of us.