Post 8 of a series detailing our Australian adventure. Access the full series here.
Our breakfast this morning was sausage sandwiches made up of bread and butter bought from a convenience store the previous night, leftover sausages from last night’s meat feast, and ketchup from the fridge. I ate mine with orange juice and tea on the balcony, overlooking the city as it woke up – blissful!
Once Steve was awake and we were both slathered in factor 50, we set off to Central train station. The plan was to get a train to Katoomba, from which point we would explore the Blue Mountains, but the train was off from Penrith so we had to change to a bus at that point – along with crowds of other people! So there were long queues for the buses and we ended up climbing on and off two different buses before we got on the third correct one, but it was sunny so it wasn’t too bad.
Arrival in Katoomba
Once off the bus at Katoomba Station, we collected our hop-on hop-off bus tickets (including information booklet and maps) and wristbands for the Scenic World attraction from the Explorer Bus office and ran to get our first bus. The bus driver, as were the others we encountered later on, was brilliant. Asking where we were from, cracking jokes, telling us about the places we were passing and advising us on where to get off – it was really nice, and useful too.
On our driver’s advice, we got off at stop 8 for the Katoomba Falls. It was a detour from Scenic World, but totally worth it. Within several minutes of walking we found ourselves at a spectacular lookout looking over a verdant canyon, and were soon walking through lush vegetation past a bubbling rocky stream. After 10 minutes we came out at a towering rock face, streaming with fountains and rivulets of sparkling water falling into the pool below.
We stopped for some photos on the bridge across the pool, and from there got a bit lost. We’d been told that this path would take us to the next bus stop at Scenic World, but following it upwards took us to an anonymous car park with signs pointing to longer walks. We ended up simply walking along the road to Scenic World, when we should have done one of two other things: either return to the waterfall’s base and take the path to the left of it, or take the path to the right from the car park which would have taken us to the clifftop connected to Scenic World by the Skyway (basically a large, glass-bottomed cable car). Unfortunately we only found this out once we’d rode the Skyway across from Scenic World, after pointlessly entering through via the ticket desk despite already having tickets (in the form of wristbands). My advice is if you have a Lyrebird Pass (including Scenic World entry) for the Explorer bus, take the latter path and save yourself time and a return trip on the Skyway!
So we got to Scenic World, rode the Skyway across the canyon and back (enjoying stunning views of the falls we’d seen from the bottom earlier, along with the famous Three Sisters rocks and the large flat Mount Solitary) and by then felt very hungry. We had lunch in the (sky?) cafe: fish and chips (again!) for Steve and a chicken caesar salad for me. There’s a lot of caesar salad in Australia but it’s quite different to what we have in England. The bacon tends to be hard and chewy (this makes it very flavoursome) and strangest of all, they put boiled eggs in it!
Into the canyon
We next boarded the funicular railway – purportedly the steepest in the world. The angle of the seats could be tilted so that you felt the steepness more or less, so we of course chose the ‘extreme’ version. We were then photographed (we bought the result) before sliding down the slope. At the bottom (holding further glorious views) we read that the area once held a coal mine, and that the track was used for transporting coal. We enjoyed seeing and reading the information signs on the various mining relics and statues dotted around.
We proceeded to walk down through the forest, getting further and further from the leafy canopy, enjoying the ethereal quiet of being surrounded on every side by nature. The trees cast stunning shapes across the sky, while throwing dancing patterns of light and shadow across the ground. We eventually reached the floor of the canyon, where we boarded the cable car back up to the top. This was yet another stunning ride!
The Three Sisters
Back at the central giftshop of Scenic World, we bought our photo from the railway and got back on the Explorer Bus to get to the Echo Point / Three Sisters lookout. This provided stunning close-up views of the Three Sisters rock formation and across the forest canopy, undulating like a giant blanket under the atmosphere’s blue haze.
There was a gift shop at the lookout where we refilled our water bottles, before beginning to walk to the next lookout, Honeymoon Lookout. Our Explorer Bus guidebook recommended the walk, and it looked short and straightforward. Unfortunately, this was our second time getting a bit lost! We ended up walking through miles and miles of indistinct forest, without any idea of how close we were getting to the lookout. I’m pretty sure we took a wrong turning somewhere!
Lost in the forest
When we did eventually reach the Honeymoon Lookout bus stop, we saw that we’d just missed a bus and it would be half an hour until the next came. So, we continued to walk towards what we felt must be the next bus stop. Cue much more bewildered clambering up and down rocks and around trees, and a much longer walk than we’d imagined – so much longer that when we did reach the next bus stop, it was to catch the last bus of the day so we had to stay on until we reached Katoomba again – if we’d got off beforehand to see the other lookout points, we would have been stranded with no transportation back! Thankfully, our time walking wasn’t wasted. We caught plenty more beautiful views across the mountain range and spotted some exotic birds and flowers.
Back in Katoomba, we set off in search of food. The main street had a good number of places to eat but the Savoy cafe on Katoomba St won us over with its offerings of Kangaroo Saltimbocca and Grilled Barramundi. The restaurant’s decor was casual and styled on an American diner: scruffy around the edges and with some amusing LP sleeves on the walls. The food was pretty good, except I found out the hard way that kangaroo cooked any more than medium-rare becomes tough and chewy.
Satiated but exhausted, the combined bus and train journey back to Sydney felt much longer than the journey out. The benefit of walking around all day, your feet stuffed into sweaty walking boots, is that taking off those boots once you get home feels amazing, and getting into bed even better!
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2015. All rights reserved.