I was initially confused about what bushwalking means, but it turns out that it’s what they call hiking here. So good news, I already know how to do it! Anyways, our first stop out of Sydney was the Blue Mountains, which is a national park less than an hour from the city. Keeping with my current trend of comparing Australia to Canada, the Blue Mountains is kind of like Australia’s Rocky Mountains, with the vibe in Katoomba and Blackheath reminding me a lot of the vibe in Banff and Jasper. That is, it’s a natural scenic area that’s easily accessible from the city, and as a result very well developed as a tourist destination. As such, it contains its fair share of trendy eateries, quality camping stores, adventure tour companies, and quaint lodgings. We camped at Lake Lyell, a park just outside the main tourist towns where you can camp right on the lovely bird-filled lake. As predicted, it was quite busy when we first arrived as it was the weekend, but by Sunday night we were basically the only ones camping on the entire lake.
The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters are viewable from Katoomba and probably the most popular Blue Mountains attraction, so we figured we’d check them off the list first since we were up early and could beat the crowds to the viewpoint. Chris did his usual “what’s the point of taking the same photo of a mountain as a million other people” speech, but we did take a short hike where we got to walk across Honeymoon Bridge and stand on the actual formations. By the time our (expensive) parking was up, the crowds were getting pretty big so we decided to forgo hiking in this area and go somewhere a little less crowded. As The Three Sisters are very close to Scenic World, one of the more family-friendly and touristy type attractions (I believe it’s a tram up to a viewing platform with interactive videos and such), we also thought that these trails would be too full of kids for our liking.
Leura is a smaller town just down the road from Katoomba. Being substantially less popular than the Three Sisters, we were able to go for a relaxing hike to the Leura Cascades, a series of small waterfalls. The shady loop only took about an hour and treated us to some great views of the cockatoo-filled valley.
Wentworth Falls was a pretty substantial hike, mainly because it takes you aaaaaaaall the way down into the valley to the bottom off the falls, which is about a million steps, Chris’s nemesis. We hiked by Weeping Rock first, a smaller waterfall which wasn’t flowing to full capacity, allowing me to (carefully) walk to the edge and sit on the drop off.
The journey down to the falls was quite a climb down some pretty steep steps, but there were lots of places to stop along the way and read the placards depicting the original construction of the trail. It looked like quite the ordeal (people being lowered over the cliff on bits of rope and then chipping out steps). We stopped at the bottom to dip our feet in the cool water and take a whole whack of pictures while procrastinating the walk back up.
The trail back followed along the cliffside and was quite picturesque, as well as entertaining due to the number of people huffing, puffing, and trying to motivate themselves back up to the top. The walk took a few hours in total and ended right at a cafe, where we immediately bought and downed some Gatorade.
Our second day in the Blue Mountains we had planned on going to see Govett’s Leap. It was raining when we woke up, but we though we’d go check it out anyways. Turns out however that when it rains the in the Blue Mountains, the only thing you can see from the lookout points is this:
The misty weather however did make the forest look pretty cool, so we went for a walk anyways. It was actually quite exciting because all the slugs (these crazy big yellow ones) and snails were out, and the spider webs were all sparkly.
Since the rain and fog showed no sign of letting up, we opted to spend the rest of the afternoon at the local movie theatre, enjoying some popcorn and time with big screen Tom Hiddleston.