A day in the Blue Mountains

It seemed every conversation I had about travelling through Sydney and its surroundings, ended in a conversation about the Blue Mountains. About how beautiful it was, how quiet, how I just HAD to go there. So yesterday I decided I would do just that and spent the day exploring the wonders inside the World Heritage listed national park. I started with Echo Point lookout, an unbelievable opening out across the Jamison Valley that sprawled outwards for as far as the eye could see. Speaking to others before my trip, I’d heard all about their tales of spotting a group of rocks called the Three Sisters and the various dreamtime stories told by the local Gundungurra aborigines. So when I finally got the chance to see the three great, rocky figurines for myself it was almost a surreal experience. The three impressive, craggy rocks can be seen from Echo Point lookout and a steep set of stairs leads you upwards for a closer look. The top layers of the strata are from the Triassic era making them 250 million years old and the lower layers of mainly sedimentary sandstone from the Devonian era are more than 400 million years ago. The mountains and cliff faces are craggy and boulder-full due to the erosion from millions of years of weather and rivers, carving out gorges and wearing down the coals and shales underneath the sandstone. Erosion tends to cause vertical cracks of weakness called ‘joints’. These joints occur in sets and give the cliff lines their blocky straight edged appearance. With progressive erosion, great blocks of sandstone fall into the valleys, breaking off at the bottom of the cliffs. Often large pillar-like structures such as The Three Sisters are left standing. Eventually even these are worn away so that all that remains is a pile of rubble like ‘The Ruined Castle’ that also lies in the valley. Just beyond the Three Sisters there is a series of four stumps suggesting there may have once been seven sisters. On my walk around I thought about all the millions of years of life that had happened right here before me and would continue on, perhaps creating more rocky statues for future tourists to come and coo at. Walking along the cliff path towards Katoomba falls I had a constant view right out across the mountains and down into the green tree-filled valley below. A flock of white cockatoos screeched past me plunging down and breaking the otherwise gentle silence beforehand, bar the nearby gush from the waterfall. I could smell the Eucalyptus trees all around and the air felt really clean and fresh. I could see why the Blue Mountains got it’s name as out in the distance the mountain tops definitely have a blue-ish tinge. The mountains’ ‘blue’ effect, almost like a shimmering azure haze, is enhanced by the many oil droplets in the atmosphere released by the thousands of eucalyptus trees in the valley below. Our eyes, when viewing an atmosphere illuminated by sunlight, will receive blue scattered rays of sunlight and reflect them on the object itself consequently causing this blue haze surrounding the mountains. Later in the afternoon, after a picnic near the Katoomba falls, I discovered the Furber Steps - a set of long, steep, narrow, twisting and slippery steps and ridges you can walk down (taking around 45 minutes) to reach the bottom of the valley. From the bottom you have the option of buying a one-way ticket (approximately $16) back up to the plateau on either the scenic railway (at a 52 degree incline it looked incredibly scary), the scenic cableway (a much more genteel option) or if you were feeling fit and brave you could walk back the way you came and up the hundreds of steps. I opted for the cable car and enjoyed the panoramic views across the mountains. Just outside of the National Park, Katoomba is a lovely town nestled in the Blue Mountains full of individual cafes, shops and restaurants to enjoy. I would recommend trying the Gingerbread House set inside an old revamped church, it offers luxury ginger-based products, sweets and cakes along with hot chocolate, coffee and ice cream. After a ginger spiced hot drink to face the cooling weather outside, I drove off in search of a campsite nearby using my CamperMate app and arrived at the free Ingar campground on Kings Tableland, near Wentworth Falls. Facilities are limited at the campground but it offers a beautiful location and a short drive to the nearby attraction points. However if you would prefer alternative accommodation to your RV, Katoomba offers plenty of hotels, cabins, B&Bs and motels to choose from instead.