Category: Australia.

An experience steeped in blue hues

DBN Murthy

Any visit to Sydney, Australia, is incomplete without going up the Blue Mountains.

The heritage village of Katoomba with a National Park and the World Heritage Rain Forest was the icing on the cake. At a height of 1017 meters, it used to be a coal mining area discovered in 1879. However, much before British colonisation, this hilly place was known to the indigenous people as Kedumba (shiny, water falling).

The train glided off Sydney Central and headed towards its suburbs. It was interesting to watch the small communities with their own shopping malls, cafes and restaurants, schools and play grounds along the route. Towards the end of the journey, we encountered small hills and isolated villages as the train sped towards Katoomba.

The two-hour train journey came to an end. I had already bought the train ticket cum Blue Mountain Explorer Link, a hop-on-hop-off bus that would take the visitors to places of interest in the heritage village. I had to wait for a while for my turn at the information centre where I had to exchange my ticket for a bus pass to be shown to the driver every time I boarded the bus.

I was directed to stand near a heritage hotel from where the hop-on-hop-off bus would halt. My first stop was Echo Point, which was enveloped in thick mist. A number of lookout points dot the rim of the valley like Narrow Neck and Cahills overlooking the Megalong Valley. Due to thick mist, visibility was very poor and I only hoped it would clear when the sun came out. It had its own charm and mystery as water drops gently fell off the trees and there was a pleasant smell in the air — that of eucalyptus which is endemic to the Blue Mountains. I came to know that these trees give out a chemical in the air that gives the hills a blue appearance. Later, I walked on a nicely laid out track for a bush walk in the forest.

To have a spectacular view of the valley and the mountains, Katoomba has a scenic railway system in place and a cable car that goes over the valley. Scenic railway is reputed to be the steepest railway in the world and the Scenisender aerial cable, the steepest aerial cable. But in view of lack of time, and moreover visibility being so poor, I didn’t fancy taking these rather expensive facilities. For me, savouring those precious moments walking in the scented forest to birdcalls was fulfilling.

The national park is well maintained and professionally marked. It’s easy to see the signboards and decide where to go. In fact, even the time to reach a certain spot, return, as well as the degree of difficulty is mentioned for a visitors’ guidance. I then walked down carefully to reach the Cascades and later on went to the bottom of the Katoomba Falls where the river drops a few times to reach the valley.

Later, I walked down to see the Three Sisters, a sacred mountain formation. I stood close to the formation and wondered what made indigenous people worship this mountain top. The formation looks different at different times of the day as well different seasons. At night, it’s floodlit which makes it look ethereal. I could see the distance hills and the valley clearly. There are a few trails meant to tax one’s strength but I had no plan to undertake any arduous trek as I had less time on hand. However, people can get down to the floor of the valley by climbing down 800 steps.

Then I sat quietly on a bench overlooking the valley and the distant hills. Katoomba is a harmonious mix of natural beauty, art, culture and religious and spiritual significance. A heritage walk exposes the visitor to the history of the village. It has a vibrant night life too with cafes and restaurants springing to life after sunset. It was time for me to get into the hop-on-hop-off bus that would take me to the Katoomba railway station to board the train to Sydney. My day was well-spent enjoying the Blue Mountains experience.

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Category: Australia
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