Blue Blue Days
Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
26Trip End Mar 10, 2010
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Where I stayed
You’ve heard of the expression ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’, well we went out of the baking oven into the fridge (more correctly cooler). We flew from Perth, where the temperatures were in the high 30Cs, peaking at 42C (107F), to Sydney (a 4 ¼ hour flight and a 3 hour time difference), where the temperature was 17C (62F) and drizzle. Our destination was the Blue Mountains, which on a good day might take 1 ½ hours.
We arrived in Sydney at rush hour and immediately hit the M5 tunnel, where 3 highways are squeezed into 2 lanes. Those of you in Chicago will be familiar with the Hillside Strangler - this is worse. Having negotiated that, it began to rain heavily as we rose up out of the plain headed west. The Sydney suburbs stretch into the foothills of the Blue Mountains so we were in rush hour traffic for over an hour and half. The driving rain continued.
Our first night was in a B&B in Woodford. Beautifully located among trees, with a large garden, none of which were we able to appreciate when we arrived as it was still pouring down. We were made warmly (literally, they had the heating on) welcome by Robyn and Rex. Our accommodation was of the highest quality and spaciousness with every amenity provided, including electric blankets on the beds, which we used with alacrity. We had ordered dinner as we knew we would be arriving late. We had a most delicious meal of roast lamb & roast potatoes cooked by Rex our B & B host, accompanied by our own wine (purchased en route at the suggestion of our hosts).
After a big breakfast and photo op with birds in the back garden, we set off for Jemby-Rinjah Eco Lodge in the heart of the Blue Mountains. Jemby-Rinjah is Aboriginal for bright red parrot, and there were to be lots of those! On our way we stopped to view the Wentworth Falls, and the Three Sisters at Katoomba. This was done in heavy cloud with intimations of rain.
As the name implies this was an ecologically friendly lodge with wood cabins scattered through the rainforest. The contrast with the B&B was striking. It was cool and drizzling as we entered our two bedroomed, self catering cabin. The wood stove needed lighting, but we soon had a snug atmosphere. We ate a delicious, if slow, meal in the lodge.
One of the features of the lodge is bird feeding at 8:30 am every day. So we were there the next morning ahead of time. Much excitement ensued! There were Rosellas and King Parrots in profusion, happy to sit on your head or hand in return for food.
After the bird encounter we set off to walk along the Cliff Top Walk from Evans Lookout. We did well for old folks but an hour and a half of scrambling up and down steep slopes was enough for us. These tracks are definitely for walkers as the views are mostly restricted by the forest so there is little to see save the occasional bird or termite nest.
After lunch we drove to Mount Victoria where, while not finding Victoria Falls (really), we did go to Sunset Rocks, a signposted but completely unfenced vertical drop from rocks to the valley some 300 m (1000 feet) below. It was exhilarating to stand on the rocks and view the, for once, sun dappled Megalong Valley below.
Waking the next morning to rain, for the first time on our trip, we eventually drove the route down to the Hawkesbury Valley where more sunlight was to be found. We had coffee in Windsor, founded in 1810 by Governor Mcquarie, but little evidence of this was visible from the main road. We returned via Katoomba in the hopes of having sunlight to view the 3 Sisters but had no luck.
The Blue Mountains are an anomaly. Heavily and well promoted by the tourist marketing folks, they are a stunning natural phenomenon. A geological fault has caused a precipitous drop, almost like a canyon, which runs east west through hills/mountains rising to 1184 metres (3850 feet). The effect is to provide numerous precipitous drop-offs where stunning vistas over the hills and valleys below can be viewed. As most of the area has now been protected by inclusion in National Parks the natural habitat of gum trees and bush prevail. The ‘blue’ in Blue Mountain derives from the fine mist of oil emitted by the gum trees. The anomaly derives from the strip of development that stretches from Sydney through the mountains. Although promoted as a tourist destination, most of the towns and villages look thoroughly pedestrian, even tatty, with little provision for tourists in the way of attractive coffee shops, look outs, etc., so prevalent on other parts of our trip. The facilities within the National Parks, however, are usually excellent, with well marked trails and quality rest stops.
As we had a flight to Cairns leaving at 9:30 am from Sydney we were up at 5 am to ensure we caught the flight. Alas we awoke to fog! Stumbling in the pitch black along forest paths to our car was a harbinger of things to come. Crawling along the twisty turny, upsy downsy Great Western Road in the dark and fog turning to drizzle was, to say the least, exciting. Even at that time of the morning there were commuters passing us rushing pell-mell down to Sydney. Fortunately, as we descended, the weather began to clear until, in Sydney, the sunrise brightened the day. We made it just in time!