Back in our stride. The Blue Mountains, Australia

June 1, 2010 at 12:59 pm 4 comments

We were in No 14 hostel for exactly five minutes before we decided that we needed to extend our stay by at least another day and in retrospect it was the best decision we had made in weeks. In our first five minutes in No 14 we had already kicked off our opressive runners, slithered out of our hoodies and propped ourselves up along a couch in front of a lit fire – nice change from the arctic conditions outside. Since it was off-peak we had also bagged ourselves a cosy three-person room to ourselves.

After hands down the best sleep we had since leaving home we woke up ravenous, layered up and headed into charming Katoomba for breakfast. Over a delicious feast of eggs benedict and pesto mushrooms in Fresh Cafe we evesdropped on yummy mummies who, after finishing the school run, had dropped by with toddlers in tow for a coffee and a gossip. The staff greeted all the customers by name, asking after Little Fred or Big Tom and remembering everyone’s usual order. One flat white, two skinny lattes, one chocolate chip cookie hold the chips and can I warm that bottle for the baby?

The misty mountains were beckoning though so eventually we had to leave our snug little table in this surprisingly bustling spot and face the bitter cold. It was worth every frozen finger and aching toenail though when we found our way to Echo Point and without a word of warning, the vista suddenly opened up to reveal a canvas of perfectly sculpted mountains. Three gracefully crumbling sisters cutting through a lush carpet of thick green trees in the foreground fading into a hazy blue horizon of endless cliffs.

We were still standing in open-mouthed awe when chaos descended as the first tour bus disgorged its contents, spilling tourists onto every available inch of the viewing deck. Blinded by flashing cameras and jostled by huge families clambouring to get a group shot in front of the view, the telescope, the bush and the white-washed wall, we fled for the Giant Staircase and the start of our walk.

According to the brisk woman at the information office the walk was four or five hours long. Two hours later we had ambled our way along the path past hanging marshes, trickling waterfalls and the themepark that is Scenic World and looped back to The Three Sisters. We had seen the same view from different angles, framed by different foliage and blocked by different camera-toting heads and as nice a view as it was, after the inital wow moment we were a little under-awed. The Katoomba walks were easy enough to attract an audience ranging from toddlers to the elderly and were pimped out with glass-floored cable cars and trains – not exactly the image that had been running through our heads when we decided on two days hiking in the Blue Mountains.

Luckily we had another day so after an early night we were ready to take on the less-touristed, more challenging Wentworth Falls. From the very first second it was a better walk and in the four hours we spent hiking we saw only three or four people (yet it was a Sunday and we were only two hours from Sydney!). The Federal Pass started on a series of stepping stones crossing the mighty Wentworth Falls before leading to several ridiculously long, ridiculously steep flights of steps cut out of the side of a cliff. Unlike the day before, every corner we turned and every level we descended brought a new view – a different mountain towering in the background, a new waterfall splashing overhead, a whole new perspective on just how vast the Blue Mountains National Park really was.

Working our way towards the valley floor we crossed Wentworth Falls a few times and edged our way along the narrowest path that ever clung to the side of a mountain. Hanging marshes bowed the rock overhead and dripped down our necks and mossy flagstones slipped underfoot as we ducked to avoid this tendril, pointed out that colourful parrot or marvelled at how massive those trees were.

After passing through a lush valley cut out by several thundering falls, we started the short but steep climb back up the mountain, hauling ourselves up every step by the handrail and cursing all those damned pies we had eaten over the last month. This had all been so easy back in China! As we huffed and puffed up the knee-high steps we swore to shed our pie weight and get back into shape. Just as we were about to collapse in an exhausted, dehydrated, starving heap at the top of the mountain we spotted a beautiful glass-fronted, wooden restaurant – the divine Conservation Hut.

Two steak pies and two hot chocolates with extra cream please!

There are more pictures from the Blue Mountains available in the gallery


Entry filed under: Travel. Tags: , , , , , , .

Grrrr. Manly, Sydney, Australia From Blue Mountains to blue rinses. The Shoalhaven Coast, Australia

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ceebag  |  June 5, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Amazing photos Gazbag! x

  • 2. Mike  |  June 10, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Great Work… pictures are awesome…for me australia is the best place for holidays i have seen in my life..

    City Breaks | Holidays Breaks

  • 3. Riona J McC  |  June 11, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Gary! This is ridiculous, I’ve been stalking your irritatingly fabulous blog for months, since I saw you came through Phnom Penh where I’ve been working for the last year, and thought, drat, missed my chance to encounter the famous duo and wrangle my way into a mention in a post… and now I discover (too late) that we were in Katoomba AT THE SAME TIME.

    I also drank hot chocolate, stayed at an awesome backpackers, saw the three sisters and did the Wentworth Falls hike. Why does it sound like you two had more fun??

    • 4. yearlongbreakup  |  June 12, 2010 at 4:58 am

      Hi Riona. That’s crazy! You’d be surprised how many people from home we have missed in different places just because we didn’t know we’d be in the same place at the same time.
      We’re in NZ at the moment, we’re here (south island) for the next few weeks and then we’re heading off to South America for the next 4 months. I’m really glad to hear that you are reading and enjoying the blog. Good to hear from you. Gary


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