. But after a quick trip to the Tourist Info Centre we found out that our map was perfect and was actually more detailed than the ones they were selling! So we decided to do a 4 hour walk down into the valley, through the bush, around the Three Sisters and up the other side of the valley. The first part of the walk was down a set of steps called The Giant Staircase... and they call it giant for a reason! The steps led from the top of the valley to the base and took us about 45 minutes just to walk down to the bottom! In places they were so steep we had to hold on to the handrail for dear life and by the end our legs were completely shot to pieces, but we were feeling very proud of ourselves as this part of the walk was designated for 'strong hikers only' so we were convinced that our fitness levels must be getting better. Once we got to the bottom of the valley we walked through the trees for another hour. It was so beautiful down in the forest; there were hundreds of tropical birds squarking, big pits of mud that we had to roll up our trousers to get through, twisting branches and vines hanging into our path. At some points we had to walk beneath small overhanging low cliffs of red and orange rock which was brilliant because it was like being in the outback and was the first time we truely felt like we were in the wilderness of Australia. Above our heads there were flocks of huge white and yellow cockatoos swirling around the treetops and made us feel like we were exploring a tropical jungle.
After walking for an hour we came to a section of the forest which had been turned into a tourist attraction called Scenic World- a very imaginative name I'm sure you'll agree! The main features of Scenic World were a cable-car across the forest and an old mine train that had been converted into a cute little train to get tourists from the top to the bottom of the valley and back again. This train also had the accolade of being the world's steepest train ride- to be honest it looked more like the brow of a rollercoaster than a train to me! The rest of Scenic World was made up of boardwalks through the trees and some attractions relating to the nearby coal mine; it was quite funny to see everyone in their Sunday-best coming off the cable-car when me and Tom were red faced and sweaty after our hike through the forest. Once we'd had a bit of a wander we started the climb back up and out of the valley, and god knows it was more difficult to go up than it was to come down! It took us ages to climb back out especially because I ran out of energy half was up and really struggled to make it to the top as I was so exhausted. But we made it, fair enough it took us forever but we got back up to the top in one piece! Once back at the top we got some fantastic views of the valley below us and the blue mist rising from the eucalyptus trees. That evening we were very sad to have to pack our bags and get ready to leave Katoomba and head back to Sydney the following day. Although the Blue Mountains was a small detour from our original plan of heading up the east coast we are so glad that we have done it because our walk today was brilliant and looking out over the blue hazy valley with the sound of cockatoos ringing in our ears is something we will always remember.
After another lovely lie-in in our attic room we headed off to the Blue Mountains to have a proper look around. The town we are staying, Katoomba, is the main gateway to the surrounding National Park which is called the Blue Mountains. The reason they are called the Blue Mountains is because the valley in which they are set is full of eucalyptus trees and the vapour which comes off the leaves gives the whole area a blue misty sheen. When we had finished at the cinema last night the guys we were with drove us to the lookout point to see one of the main features of the Blue Mountains, some pointy pyramid shaped rocks called the Three Sisters. Considering that it had been raining all day yesterday we got quite a misty view of them last night; there were also some red lights on them so they looked like something out of Jurassic Park! However when we got there today the sun was shining and the mist was just starting to lift so we could get a great view of the mountains and valleys. Back at the hostel we had been given an old hand drawn map of the area with some local walks, however the map looked like a kid had drawn it so we weren't feeling too confident