Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Blue Mountains

Taking advantage of the long Christmas holiday weekend, K and I took a trip to the Blue Mountains on Saturday & Sunday. The Blue Mountains are much-vaunted as the beautiful, spectacular, magnificent, [insert your own superlative here] place where Sydneysiders go to get away from it all, get off the beaten track and escape from the humid heat of the Sydney summer. So we had high hopes and expectations for some excellent walking and breathtaking scenery.

We drove along the Great Western Highway from Sydney on Saturday morning and after a small delay thanks to roadworks (these things are the same the world over!) we arrived in Wentworth Falls late morning. We’d packed a picnic lunch so we fortified ourselves with sandwiches and fruit and then set off on our chosen walk, the National Pass, taking in Wentworth Falls themselves. We’d read that this walk was popular and although graded ‘medium-hard’ because of the level of ascent and descent (about 250m), the track was very easy to walk along – steps and wooden platforms in a lot of places and not a bit of scrambling needed. Some of the views were pretty nice but all in all, it was just a bit too sanitised and busy with other people for me – I like to feel a bit more isolated when I’m walking!

However, our Sunday walk was much more like I was hoping for. The track was much more overgrown and wild and we only saw a few other people along the 7.5km circuit we’d chosen. This one was the Popes Glen Creek, Govett’s Leap and Braeside Track which looped around the side of Horseshoe Falls and Govett’s Lookout. The scenery was much more spectacular and gave a really good sense of the scale and immenseness of the mountains. They’re not mountains as we’d recognise them in the UK – they’re much flatter and more table-like rather than pointy and jaggy. I think this is because they’ve come about as a result of erosion of sandstone, rather than volcanic or plate-crashing activity (but my geology fails me at points so I can’t be sure!) They have a bit of a canyon-type appearance and the reason they’re called the Blue Mountains is because they are carpeted by a thick bush of eucalyptus or gum trees, which diffuse droplets of gum oil into the air, causing light to be refracted in a particular way which gives the mountains a blueish haze. So there you go! Picture above hopefully gives some idea.

All in all, I think we’ll definitely go back – although we’ll pick our routes carefully to avoid the tourist traps and we’ll also take on some more challenging routes. We’ll also avoid the overnight stay as this was quite disappointing. We’d booked into a guesthouse in Katoomba, which is supposed to be a quaint mountain town with a traditional feel about it. But it just reminded me of any other small town with nothing to do and nowhere to go. And the guesthouse, while ok, wasn’t really anything to write home about. So from now on it’ll be early morning drives to longer mountain walks!!

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