Inside Jenolan Caves. There were some far more impressive formations, but the coloured lights in this one come out really well in the photo.
After my overseas jaunts I'd started to feel almost well-travelled, but suddenly I'd inherited a kind of guilt at having seen hardly any of my own country. So when the opportunity came up it was off to the East Siyeed of Australia to do a bit of exploring.
We crashed in Sydney on the first night, hired out a car and scooted up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. After seeing all the photos of gorgeous greenery and imposing cliff faces (not to mention all the talk of bushfires) we were a bit surprised to be greeted with an impenetrable wall of white misty cloud - and yeah a little disappointed too (wait, not about the bushfires – you know what I mean right? I’ll be quiet now).
We stayed very close to one of the most popular lookouts in the whole region, Echo Point (where the Three Sisters are), but we never really got to see it. We'd keep thinking that the cloud looked like it was lifting and race down to the point, but to no avail. We only saw the Three Sisters once ... at night time ... and we didn't have a camera. Still I was actually quite fascinated with just how thick and unyielding the fog was, and I was instantly reminded of a Stephen King film. I’d experienced that kind of mist in the hills of Perth but it never lasted long … this stuff was ever-present.
Mucking around at one of the many antique shops in NSW.
We stayed at the local YHA, which was hit and miss. On one hand it had plenty of character, helpful staff and a good selection of board games – but it was just too … well … Nanna-like. And this is coming from a holidaying couple that were worried about the place being too noisy! It was boring even for us! When staying in a hostel I like the freedom and novelty of getting up to make a sandwich at 3 am or having a drink in the bar.
This place had no bar, the reception and kitchen closed at 10pm, and if you were in the common room quietly playing cards at 11:30pm you had the lights turned off on you! What’s with that?!?
Ooh! Pretty! In Wentworth Falls near Katoomba.
But that’s about all the negative stuff out of the way. The urban centre itself is surprisingly hip and happening for a little mountain town, and the mist seemed to get better whenever we took a drive away from Katoomba.
The first trip was too Jenolan Caves, which was very cool. The entrance is a massive cave arch that you drive through and find a hotel/parking lot on the other side. The rest of the caves (or at least the ones we saw) are full of interesting formations; some for what they resemble, some for how incredibly long they would have taken to form, and some for sheer beauty.
While in the area we also checked out the Toy and Railway Museum (full of hundreds of old toys like Popeye, Tintin, Dr. Seuss etc.), Govett’s Leap (featuring a waterfall in a valley that’s so windy the water only fell a few metres before being completely blown away), and the Zig Zag Railway (the first railway in the area, and quite a neat piece of history). We also visited the Opal Museum, which was more like a small shop, but was run by an eccentric local lady who we ended up talking to for an hour about everything but opals.
Wentworth Falls. That's a lot of more water than you might see here usually. Suppose there were a few advantages to being there during a rainy period.
But the most rewarding day trip destination was Wentworth Falls. Its here that we got to see the amazing scenery (almost cloud free), and it really was quite breathtaking.
It’s like what I’d imagine the Grand Canyon would look like if it had a lot more rainfall and trees. There are heaps of awesome lookouts within quick walking distance of each other, and the falls themselves are damn impressive (it’s three drops with a total height of 187 metres after all).
More nice scenery and a pretty girl.
The Katoomba area is well known for adventure activities so we couldn’t move on without doing something that involved trusting ropes and shackles to stop us falling to our deaths. We spent a half day abseiling off the cliff faces, with a 30 metre overhang as the finale. We’d accidentally waited for the worst weather of our whole trip, and from the top you could hardly see the bottom where you were going end up, let alone the enormous valley landscape surrounding us. That aspect was a tad disappointing, but just seeing the cliff face and mini-waterfalls in my immediate vicinity while descending made it a very memorable experience.
Making my way down a 30m cliff. Yes I was scared witless at this point.
Not that our stay was all hiking and roughing-it. Valentine’s dinner was a classy (and tasty) affair at the historical Carrington Hotel and we treated ourselves to a great massage there too. Plus we couldn’t resist taking a break at the local cinema.
On the last day we had a look around Scenic World, which boasts a couple of cable car rides into/across the valley and the steepest incline railway in the world. The railway was quite cool (helped by the Indiana Jones music playing over the speakers), and the walkway at the bottom was also worth a look (although the ankle deep river we had tiptoe through was a mostly unpleasant surprise). The cable car was a bit pointless because after a few metres we couldn’t see anything but unrelenting white, but it was almost worth it to see the cables disappear in the distance as if they were hanging magically in mid-air.
The amazing floating cable car.
Before skipping town we checked out “The Edge”; an IMAX style film they show about the mountains, which I quite enjoyed … and then it was time for another long driving session. Despite the weather not treating us too well, we were quite reluctant to leave the mountains. It is really is a superb spot.