Friday, November 19, 2004

The Blue Mountains

The view from Echo Point lookout in the Blue Mountains

Yesterday I took a trip out to have a look at the Blue Mountains. There are all kinds of escorted day trips by coach, but I looked at the guidebooks and decided to do my own thing, and get a return train ticket to the main town in the mountains, Katoomba. Because Australian trains travel at about 10mph, it took a couple of hours to get there. The main tourist reason for stopping at Katoomba is the viewing platform at Echo Point, and the Three Sisters. Three large rock pinnacles, they perch on the edge of a huge tree-covered gorge. The view was incredible, despite the ever-present haze that hangs over the trees below. Sadly my colour-blindness prevented me from seeing just how blue they were (the trees looked a normal green to me), but it was an impressive view.

The next part of the day was to walk along the cliff-top path, and into the trees below. This was great, as the path was largely empty and wound through the forest along the ridge, and then down a very long flight of steps cut into the rock, to the valley floor. At the end of the path was a forest boardwalk, and a cable car or train back up to the cliff edge. The forest was very different down here - instead of the gum trees and flowering bushes of the cliff tops, down on the floor of the valley were huge tree ferns and Jurassic-type spiky bushes. It was much cooler, damper, and full of birdsong - in fact I realised later it was the first rainforest I'd ever visited, even if it was a temperate one, not a bona-fide tropical. I finished the walk (which was an hour of climbing down steps and pathways) with the rail trip back to the top - no way I was walking. The Katoomba Gorge railway was originally a mine cart, but has since been converted for tourists. At 52degrees, it's the steepest in the world, and whizzed up the cliff in 60 seconds. Much better than walking...