While staying in Parramatta, I wanted to travel around a bit – particularly to the vineyards of Hunter valley and to Blue Mountains. The former plan did not see the sunlight (my laziness and solitude partly to blame for it), but I did take off on one Saturday to visit the Blue Mountain region.
Blue Mountains is a plateau region, with rugged rock structures and cliffs, coated with thick rain forests, mostly consisting of eucalyptus trees. The name derives from the fact that the continuous eruption of vapors from these Eucalyptus trees lends a bluish tinge to the entire region.
There are several stations that lie in the region, and we picked out Katoomba as our destination, since it was relatively closer, appeared to offer a nice view of the valley, and seemed to be popular. We took a train to reach Katoomba – the Blue Mountain line, which passes Parramatta station almost every 45-50 min. The train ride itself was about 1.5-2 hrs, and we reached Katoomba by around 11:30 – which is a little late for exploring the place extensively, but I did not want to sacrifice too much of my Saturday sleep merely to tick more tourist spots! Really, Australia, specially the Sydney region and New South Wales, sells like hot cakes amongst tourists. (And I am not sure why – may be people are just looking for a new continent. Asia is too dangerous, and Europe and America too exhausted – not very ‘chic’ anymore.)
At the station, there is of course that quintessential tourist office – where they do not offer you a map (not gratuit for sure), and try to sell to you a tourist ride on hop-on/hop-off buses with a guide. The convenience of tourism! We, forsook the convenience and set out on foot, despite several warnings from the ‘friendly’ lady. Since the only point of reference we had was the Echo Point (yeah, there is one everywhere where there is even a hint of a valley), we decided to start from there. It was about half hour’s walk from the station, though we took longer as we went exploring the town – it was the typical small tourist town, with roadside cafes, souvenir shops, second-hand book stores. What I really loved were the houses and sprawling trees lining the main road, which went downhill to give a clear, unhindered view of the Blue mountains and the valley. It was all such a perfect blue and such a perfect green, it almost seemed like a picture, even though not a particularly pretty one 🙂
The echo point was buzzing with tourists – for a moment I felt I was in Ooty or Matheran. But that place offered a good and direct views of the valley and the eroded cliffs – particularly Three Sisters, which is a rock formation of three peaks rising out. (It was actually seven sister at one point, and you can see the smaller sisters too, which now are quite wiped out.). Around the echo point, there is a cliff path, taking which you can go around the cliff and enjoy the valley view. We took up this path, and kept walking through it to reach different vantage places, through the trees. A few steps ahead, we reached the Katoomba falls, which is actually only slightly more than a creek. Near the falls, there is a small clearing with a bench, shaded with trees, and looking out to a small stream. We sat there for a few minutes and had a little fruit before setting out again.
We kept going further ahead – not really sure of the direction, and found a few more creeks on the way. One of them was slightly off-shoot from the path, interestingly named Witches Leap. It was very shaded and secluded and again, we stayed there for sometime to enjoy the sound of falling water and a calming composed silence.
Then we reached a flight of impossible stairs, going down into the valley. I forget what it was called, but it took us through narrow cliff-routes,went through a National Park with many interesting trees, and then somehow led us to the site of scenic railway, which is the World’s steepest railway. It is a funicular, and climbs at an angle of almost 30 deg from the vertical. We saw one of its trips on its way down, and I thought I would faint just watching the incline! The funicular was used to haul coal at one time, but has now become a grand tourist attraction (Yes, I am witness to that). There are some remnants of the coal factory, left as souvenirs of those times for the benefit of the tourists.
There is a path from the Miners area, which goes down to the thick of the rain forests. We however, took up another off-shooting climb, which was going to the landslide lookout. The path was very interesting, not really drawn out, and the signposts just stopped after a while. Suddenly out of the railway area, this route seemed like a quiet, dead, forgotten place, and the conspicuous sound of air and rustling leaves heightened the feeling of oblivion. This place had nothing to do with those tourists, who did not meddle with it in turn. It was almost like someone had drawn a ‘Do not enter’ sign at the start of the track.
We went ahead to reach another clearing – it was perhaps the landslide lookout, (there were no signs anymore) because there stood a tall cliff, shaved off of its other end, standing a little awkwardly. It was a deserted site and in a way it made me afraid for its enormity, its complete abandon. And its unguarded communion with the sky.
We walked back from there, to the scenic railway, and took another path to take us to the edge of the rain forests. After the land slide, this routine looked too touristy, and somewhat ‘maneuvered’, and I soon walked back up, to the skyway. (That’s how I did save that climb back up – the stairs had looked daunting enough on the way down, and I was not sure I had the energy to revisit them after so much walking). After the short ride on the skyway, which was scenic, we landed on Katoomba roads again, walked to the station and hopped on to a Parramatta train.