After a hectic weekend boozing in Sydney, we wanted some mountain air to clear our heads. It seemed like everyone we met had told us to go to the Blue Mountains, so how could we refuse?
It was a big shock for us to rock up to the lookouts and find hundreds of people taking selfies and enjoying the views… we’ve gotten used to having hiking trails and viewpoints pretty much to ourselves in Australia. It’s only a couple of hours drive west of the city, so we shouldn’t have been surprised by the crowds we encountered – it’s an easy day or weekend away from city life, so it’s a destination loved by locals and tourists. Hence the crowds.
Questionably fun fact – the Blue Mountains get their name because they are covered in a blanket of gum trees, and the gum trees’ leaves secrete a mist of eucalyptus oil in the sunlight. The oily mist refracts the light, making the distinctive blue haze. So basically they’re called the Blue Mountains because they look blue. Fun fact.
The super keen tourist information people in Katoomba told us to head to a place with the unimaginative name of Scenic World. Apparently that was the place to be, so they sold us a couple of tickets and away we went.
Once we got there, we were so glad we’d bought our wristbands at the tourist info centre because the queues to get in were huuuuge – one guy told us he’d queued for an hour. Luckily the bands took us straight to the front, so within 15 minutes we were on the Scenic World cable car with 360 degree views of the mountains stretching out around us.
At the other end of the cable car there was some confusion as we seemed to have exited Scenic World (didn’t we just pay to go there?) but no matter, we walked to a few of the Blue Mountains’ most popular lookouts – Echo Point and the Three Sisters. The crowds were massive, with tour buses everywhere, it was crazy! The views were worth it though – the Prince Henry Cliff Walk from Echo Point back to the Scenic World cable car was beautiful, we walked right along the rockface with amazing views of the rainforests stretching out for miles into the distance… although thankfully there was a metal railing most of the way so we avoiding falling to our deaths.
Anyway, once back at the cable car station, we saw the option to continue the cliff walk rather than take the cable car back, so we wandered off around the cliffs in the other direction and soon saw signs taking us down the cliff and back through to the beginning of Scenic World. We spent well over an hour slowly going down into the valley along winding cliffside trails, past amazing waterfalls and through a quiet rainforest along a path called the Furber Steps, hardly passing another person. A much nicer option than cramming back in the cable car with a hundred other people.
It turns out that you don’t actually have to pay for Scenic Wolrd at all… what you’re paying for are the two cable cars and the vertical railway. If you don’t fancy paying the $40 fee and are happy to climb a bazillion steps, you can see all of Scenic World for free. I’m really happy we paid though because the way we did it – taking the cable car to Echo Point, then walking back – meant that we were going downhill all the way into the Scenic World valley, where we explored the rainforest and old coal mine along the boardwalks before getting the vertical railway back up the cliff.
I wouldn’t have fancied walking back up. We passed an English couple going the opposite way to us and they looked done in, I didn’t have the heart to tell them they were probably only a third of the way up the cliff with loads of stairs to go.
After a lovely day soaking in the sights of Scenic World, we decided that we wanted to see the sunset from somewhere with an incredible view (so pretty much everywhere) but without the crowds (so pretty much nowhere).
Luckily the Katoomba tourist info guy came in handy for this one again, and showed us a place on our map which wasn’t marked as a tourist site at all, just a random road. He said it was called Lincoln’s Rock, and a favourite spot for locals and usually backpackers who had done a little research of their own in the blogs. Tour buses couldn’t get to it, so it was usually pretty quiet. We’re also from Lincolnshire, so obviously we had to go.
When we got there we saw a group of young locals chilling out with a picnic and a few beers, and a few other couples came and went. That was about it, it was quiet and wonderful. It was also very windy and cold, so we wrapped up warm and settled in to watch the sun go down. While we were waiting we had some entertainment – a couple were up at the rock for some formal style photos and were completely under dressed for the howling wind. They looked so very cold, but I bet the photos were stunning once they’d edited out the goosebumps.
The sun disappeared over the horizon to the chilled out tune of ‘Hey there Delilah’ which was bizarrely floating up from somewhere below us. The colours in the sky were absolutely beautiful. We were so cold we huddled up really close, which made a stranger offer to take a pic of us, as we apparently looked cute. Nope, just cold, but thanks for the pic though!
We were going to stay up in the mountains for another night but after a walk around the following morning we felt like the views were all pretty similar – once we’d seen the mountains from a couple of lookouts and hiked through the rainforest we were ready to get back on the road.
I think the crowds of people put us off a bit… I know that’s bad as we’re just as much a part of the hoards of tourists as everyone else, but the Australia we’ve come to love is the out of the way places and hidden spots which we get all to ourselves.