Just got back from the Blue Mountains, which are a must see if you come to Sydney. It’s a short two-hour train ride to cover the 110 km and 1,017 meter altitude change to Katoomba – and then a five-minute drive to the edge of the Jamison Valley in Blue Mountain National Park.
The Three Sisters (the three outcrops near the left side of the panorama view above) dominate the view from the Echo Point Visitor Center where one set of the 1,000+ steps to the valley floor begin. You can see the bridge that connects from the stairs to the first of the Three Sisters as the stairs pass behind the outcrops.
The view can be quite different depending on the time of day and weather conditions.
After 1,000+ steps your wobbly legs carry you along Federal Pass trail, with many old-growth red and white eucalyptus trees and an abundance of ferns. You do have to watch out for spiders, so it’s good to have a trusty stick to keep from walking though spider webs.
After a 3 to 10 km walk – depending on which way you go — you can climb another 1,000+ steps to the top or take the inclined railway to the top. I’d like to say we walked out, but the ride up was great fun.
They claim it’s the steepest railway in the world at a47 degrees incline. It was originally built to carry coal from the more than 100 km of tunnels that run throughout the hillsides. The area was originally coastal waters that turned into a swampy bog as the sea level lowered. The sand and organic material ultimately tuned into coal and sandstone. The land was then uplifted to form mountains, followed by rivers cutting through the area to form the deep valleys.
The bird life is quite varied with many Yellow-Crested Cockatoos squawking incessantly, plus red and blue Crimson Rosellas and gray and pink Galahs (also called the Rose-Breasted Cockatoo). Galahs are known for their less-than-bright actions, prompting Australians to call anyone who does something foolish a “Galah.”
And then there are the currawongs, close relative of the magpie, who wait patiently to eat whatever you leave on your plate when you stop for coffee and a treat after a long day of hiking.
Oprah Hysterics: As you all know – and if you don’t you are one of the very few in the US and Australia – Oprah is in Australia to tape shows today. Her visit dominates the local news and they claim security is greater than when President George W. Bush visited. We encountered her entourage while walking across the car deck level of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We wondered way we were continually being “buzzed” by a helicopter and finally looked up to see Oprah, an abundance of media, plus 300 of her closest friends – the audience on her show who won a trip to Oz – climbing down from the top of the Bridge. Oprah is the one of the two people waving. She’s the person on the left
Later on we got see the beginnings of the skywriting that spelled out “Oprah”
A large red, multi-story “O” lights up the side of the bridge at night during her visit. We have friends with season opera tickets – not Oprah tickets — at the Sydney Opera House for tonight and they were told to leave 2 to 2 ½ hours earlier than usual to make the performance. As you can imagine there is a mixed reaction to her visit, but most are positive about the visibility it provides Australia and the potential increase in tourism dollars.
PS — Full disclosure: Some of the Blue Mountain photos are from our last trip to the area in 2008