Travel | 2 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
A pleasant city escape into the Blue Mountains
When in Sydney, the Blue Mountains are worth the trip. They are absolutely stunning! It was one of the highlights of our trip. We only had one day to make this trip, but it was enough, for a quick visit.
The Three Sisters, Katoomba (NSW, Australia)
The Blue Mountains is a pleasant city escape and it’s perfect one-day trip. The two towns which you will probably visit are Katoomba and Leura, although we only visited Katoomba. In Katoomba there is a famous cafe called the Paragon – which is art decor in style and sells lovely hand made chocolate. It is a nice place to go for some nostalgia and nostalgic cafe style food.
By Car from Sydney (Direct):
We traveled by car and the most direct route to Katoomba is via the M4 motorway, which becomes the Great Western Highway just beyond Penrith. From central Sydney simply follow Parramatta Road until the turnoff to the M4 motorway. All up it’s an easy 90 minute drive (110km) under normal traffic conditions.
Looking west at Orchard Hills, near Penrith. The Blue Mountains can be made out in the distance.
If you have a little more time to explore the scenic drive along Bells Line of Road (which starts beyond Richmond & Windsor) is fantastic. With a much more relaxed “Sunday Drive” feel to it Bells Line of Road tempts you with many interesting places to visit along the way.
Looking west in the ascent up the Blue Mountains. The M4 ends about half a kilometre from here and reverts to the Great Western Highway (National Route 32), which through the mountains is a mixture of limited access plus at grade intersections, but is mostly a dual carriageway (the sections that are not are currently under construction to Katoomba).
The fruit stalls of Bilpin, the Historic Village at Kurrajong and the Mt Tomah Botanical Gardens are just some of the options available. As you travel further west you will be treated to magnificent views over the rugged expanse of the Grose Valley and National Parks to the North & South.
We made a short stop at the Glenbrook Information Centre, which was located on our left as we arrived into Glenbrook and was well sign-posted. This was a great opportunity to pick up local maps and get other information about Blue Mountains. They also have a good coffee…
The mountains themselves and the 3 Sisters formation are a wonderful UNesco World Heritage listed and you can go for a short bush walk through the valley. There is lots of walking and climbing; make sure to wear comfortable shoes. There is also a Scenic Railway and a Cable car ride.
Paragon Cafe at Katoomba – for a nostalgic ice-cream soda. They also sell chocolates.
If you have a few hours to spare, walk down the many steps at the Three Sisters, across the bottom of the valley under the Three Sisters, then come up the cliff line on the Scenic Railway and walk back to your car across the top of the cliff line (passing numerous lookouts). This is probably the best short walk in the Mountains. There is a tourist information centre at Echo Point (the Three Sisters) if you need directions.
The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters is the Blue Mountains’ most spectacular landmark. Located at Echo Point Katoomba, around 2.5 kilometres from the Great Western Highway, this iconic visitor attraction is experienced by millions of people each year.
The Three Sisters is essentially an unusual rock formation representing three sisters who according to Aboriginal legend were turned to stone. The character of the Three Sisters changes throughout the day and throughout the seasons as the sunlight brings out the magnificent colours. The Three Sisters is also floodlit until around 11pm each evening looking simply spectacular set against the black background of the night sky.
Each of the Three Sisters stand at 922, 918 & 906 metres tall, respectively. That’s over 3000 feet above sea level!
The Three Sisters – view from the Echo Point lookout
Vera and Zdenko at the Echo Point lookout
The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and Gunnedoo’ lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.
As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witch doctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witch doctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.
Description of place
The property includes very extensive areas of a wide range of eucalypt communities and large tracts of wilderness. The high wilderness quality of much of the Greater Blue Mountains constitutes a vital and highly significant contribution to its World Heritage value and has ensured the integrity of its ecosystems and the retention and protection of its heritage values.
Echo Point lookout
The Greater Blue Mountains is an area of breathtaking views, rugged tablelands, sheer cliffs, deep, inaccessible valleys and swamps teeming with life. The unique plants and animals that live in this outstanding natural place relate an extraordinary story of Australia’s antiquity, its diversity of life and its superlative beauty. This is the story of the evolution of Australia’s unique eucalypt vegetation and its associated communities, plants and animals.
The property is comprised of eight protected areas in two blocks separated by a transportation and urban development corridor. These protected areas are the Blue Mountains, Wollemi, Yengo, Nattai, Kanangra-Boyd, Gardens of Stone and Thirlmere Lakes National Parks, and the Jenolan Karst Conservation Reserve.
The area is a deeply incised sandstone plateau rising from less than 100 meters above sea level to about 1300 meters at the highest point. There are basalt outcrops on the higher ridges. This plateau is thought to have enabled the survival of a rich diversity of plant and animal life by providing a refuge from climatic changes during recent geological history. It is particularly noted for its wide and balanced representation of eucalypt communities ranging from wet and dry sclerophyll to mallee heath lands, as well as localized swamps, wetlands, and grassland. One hundred and one species of eucalypts (over 14 per cent of the global total) occur in the Greater Blue Mountains. Twelve of these are believed to occur only in the Sydney sandstone region.
View of the scenic Skyway
While in Katoomba, we took the Cableway to visit the Jamison Valley and stroll through ancient rainforest at the bottom. The Cableway is Australia’s steepest passenger carrying cable car. On the way up and down we enjoyed breathtaking views of Mount Solitary and the Ruined Castle in the Jamison Valley as well as the world-famous Three Sisters, Orphan Rock and spectacular Katoomba Falls.
Scenic World Station
The Scenic Cableway takes you on a 545 metre ride into – or out of – the World Heritage-listed rainforest of the Jamison Valley. Once at the bottom, you can take the Scenic Walkway to the base of the Scenic Railway. In all, there are just under three kilometres of elevated boardwalk.
With an incline of 52 degrees, this ‘Mountain Devil’ travels down the world’s steepest railway. This exciting and historic ride is suitable for people of all ages. Taking up to 84 passengers every 10 minutes into the valley, the railway was built originally to haul coal and shale out of the valley from the mines at the base of the escarpment. The mines closed and the facility becomes a tourist attraction in 1945.
We bought a return ticket and travel down on the Scenic Railway and walked 300 meters through beautiful temperate rainforest along southern hemisphere’s longest elevated timber boardwalk. Interpretive signs describe the many tree species you can see as you wander along. We enjoyed the sounds of native birds including the Superb Lyrebird.
Katoomba old Coal Mine
The way coal was transported in the 18th century
Turpentine tree (Syncarpia glomulifera)
This tree is typical of large Turpentines in this area. A fire has burnt the hollow area inside the tree. This area was approached by a large bushfire in 1948. The sparks from the fire set alight to many of the Turpentines on this side of the rainforest.
Vera’s observing the Eucalypt tree
This magnificent Eucalypt (picture above) is famous for it’s white trunk. This tree was 54 m (180 feet) tall in December 2001. It grows about 5 m per year. The tiny circles on the trunk are caused by the larvae of a moth which lays it’s eggs under the bark.
A path through a Jurassic rainforest
Vera with our friends and guides on a path through a Jurassic rainforest
A path through a Jurassic rainforest is about 2.8 km of boardwalk, through the ancient rainforest. While walking we took time to look around and find some fascinating facts about the local flora and history of the valley. Along the way we also found the Marrangaroo Spring, where you can have a refreshing drink of pure Blue Mountains water.
Scenic Walkway from above
Why are the Blue Mountains blue?
While holidaying in Sydney in 1900, Lady Audrey Tennyson, wife of the South Australian Governor, travelled over the Blue Mountains to visit Jenolan Caves. In a long letter written to her mother on her return to Adelaide, she recounted her experiences. Describing the return journey to Katoomba, where she and her husband spent the night at the “very comfortable tho’ so cold” Carrington Hotel, she remarked on a phenomenon that has impressed and puzzled many visitors to the Mountains:
Blue Mountains and the blue haze
“The afternoon & evening were most beautiful & most wonderful lights & shadows. What struck us more than anything was the wonderfully brilliant blue of the distant hills. I have never seen anything to compare to it at all, the most gorgeous real sapphire blue, really transparent blue – it is impossible to give any idea of it. We wondered whether it was the effect of the gums, and our driver told us it used to be thought so but is an exploded idea, and he agreed with me it must be something in the atmosphere. I shall never forget it.”
The blue haze that characterizes the Mountains had been noted very early. During the first year of the colony’s existence Governor Phillip had given the western mountains the names Carmarthen and Lansdowne. In popular conversation, however, these titles were soon abandoned, official declaration being insufficient to prevent the Mountains from being, as Judge-Advocate Collins observed, “commonly known in the colony by the name of the Blue Mountains.”
What causes this blueness, the depth and intensity of which is often quite remarkable? In 1955 the Town Clerk of the City of Blue Mountains asked this question and being unable to give an assured answer, sought an explanation from Department of Physics at the University of Sydney. The Head of the Department at the time, Professor Harry Messel, replied in the following terms:
“It is quite certain that the haze which appears to surround any distant object is due to an optical phenomenon called ‘Rayleigh scattering’. This effect which was first investigated theoretically by Lord Rayleigh causes the rays of light which impinge on small particles to scattered in various directions… Since the atmosphere is always laden with small dust particles, water droplets and the like and since even the air molecules themselves contributed to some extent to the scattering… if an observer looks at a distant object with the intervening atmosphere illuminated by sunlight eyes will receive the, blue scattered rays of sunlight to reflect he object itself. Therefore any distant object will always appear to display some shade of blue.”
From ‘Pictorial Memories Blue Mountains’, Crows Nest: Atrand, 1994 by John Low.
Zdenko taking pictures of Blue Mountains
Ever seen a Phantom Falls before? It’s the phenomenon of mist spilling into a valley in the exact way a waterfall does… just much slower, more unexpected and spectacular. Autumn is Phantom Falls season in the Blue Mountains, you’re most likely to see one in the morning.
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