♫ soundtrack: Run River North | Mr. Brightside
So I’ve been working in hospitality for a couple of years now, and although I don’t even know what a weekend means anymore, hahah, I also love to live as in the opposite way of everybody else – and taking a couple of days off during the week doesn’t sound too bad, does it? :)
This week I’ve decided (after confirming my roster on Monday, yay!) to spend two days in the mountains, more specifically the Blue Mountains, which is a national park here in New South Wales, two-hour train from Central Station in Sydney. I’ve never been there before and heard so many things about this place, so why not give it a go? To be honest, I think it is a really great choice for those travelling solo – heaps of nature, stunning views, a lot of walks and stairs and – but hold on, I’ll get to that!
First of all, the Blue Mountains National Park is located roughly 80km to the west of Sydney, but with easy access by train to Katoomba station, that would be the closest city. It’s inscribed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and originally land of Aboriginal peoples (particularly Gundungurra and Darug tribes). There’s a lot of trails to walk (from one hour to three days), heaps of lookouts, and most of it pretty accessible by public transport. Besides the bushwalking and cultural activities, there’s also some yoga retreats – there’s one of a 10-day meditation course that I would love to go, but for now they’re fully booked up to next year for new members. :(
Fact: yes, the Blue Mountains are indeed blue (and beautiful)! Why? Apparently the blue haze that we see is actually a combination of dust, water droplets and even air molecules that are illuminated by a blue scatter of sunlight, phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering, turning objects blue when seen from a certain distance.
Well, now about the trip itself: I started the trip towards the Scenic World, which is a complex of rides and walks in the forest down the mountains – for a first-timer, I would definitely recommend going there – it’s a bit pricey ($40 per adult, unlimited rides for the day), but as I had no idea of what I was going to find, it was good knowing that I could just take a cableway back to somewhere I could get a bus back to the station, hahah. So they have the Skyway, Cableway and Railway, all of them that go both ways (in this case, Cableway and Railway up and down, Skyway back and forth from Echo Point). The Scenic World itself, besides the stations for the rides, has an eatery, cafe and souvenir shop – and just beautiful views, of course.
What I decided to do was a bit trickier than what most people do, but totally worth it: I first took the Skyway, and a 30 minute walk to Echo Point, where is the best view of the Three Sisters (name based on an Aboriginal legend), walked the Prince Henry Cliffwalk and then down the Giant Staircase (yep, giant, roughly a thousand really steep steps!). Then the Federal Pass trail overlooking the Jamison Valley, all the way back to the Scenic Walkways – the walks at the tempered forest at the bottom of the rides. It was maybe a couple of hours walk, and then I took the Cableway upwards. I enjoyed the rides (Railway! hahah almost a roller coaster feeling!) for a bit and then decided to finish the day at Echo Point. The whole thing was amazing, but heads up for the weather – yea man, it was COLD af, I started my day at 5 degrees and the maximum the whole day was 10, seeeriously. The whole day was about a 19km walk. YEP.
Second day I had already booked a tour for the Jenolan Caves, approximately an hour and twenty from Katoomba (no public transport). I booked for the Lucas Cave, which said it was the largest and most famous one, but I think just the place around the caves was already so stunning that I was happy already: if you have the chance, walk your way up to the Charlotte Arch (photo on the left, the start point is in front of Jenolan House) and also worth a stroll along the Blue Lake – that is kinda of blue/green, due to the limestone).
If you visit and are curious like I am, I recommend downloading the Jenolan Caves app, they offer a series of short audios that tell a bit about the history surrounding the caves, the discoveries and cave keepers, geological information and cultural heritage. Just a helpful tip, there’s no wifi over there and my phone couldn’t get any kind of signal, so it’s best to download it before you go.
The Lucas Cave is just beautiful, with different formations and details – all perfectly explained by the guides that lead the tours! Roughly a hour and a half of visit, a significant number of stairs’ flights and a bit chilly inside but nothing much to worry about, to be honest. Good to highlight the Cathedral chamber, but I’ll leave it for you all to hear the story there :)
Now, the useful things (why not? hahaha):
- Blue Mountains line timetable, from Central Station in Sydney;
- To eat: Yellow Deli and Pomegranate Cafe – both in Katoomba St.
- To stay: Blue Mountains Backpackers Hostel, shared rooms from $24 – they have a lovely fireplace that is just.. well, pretty awesome when you’re freezing! haha