After another week of urban-living, Tom and I decided to escape Sydney for the weekend and visit the famed Blue Mountains. Although, it's hard to call it an “escape” when living in Sydney is such a lovely experience.
Either way, we left for the weekend to visit the mountains. Our adventure (or I should say, my adventure) started on Friday afternoon. While Tom was working, I had the unfortunate job of picking up our rental car.
All by myself, and left to my own devices, I had to drive for the first time outside of America. On all our past trips, Tom kindly assumed the driver role. So, trying not to let on to the all-too-trusting car rental agent that I had no experience driving on the wrong, I mean “left,” side of the road, I confidently took the keys and failed miserably by walking to the wrong side of the car.
I hit my windshield wipers a few times in an effort to turn on my blinker, and I may or may not have briefly driven on the literal wrong side of the road. But eventually, I adjusted to my surroundings and learned to look up and to the left (instead of up and to the right) for a glance in the rear view mirror.
Thanks to the human ability to adapt to one’s surroundings and probably more so to God’s good grace, I somehow successfully made it back into the city alive and on the verge of singing the country song, “Jesus take the wheel.” I gladly let Tom take the wheel and off we set for the Blue Mountains.
Now, back home in Southern California, if we decide to retreat to the mountains, it takes us many hours to get far enough out of the city to find cute, little, podunk mountain towns. But in Sydney, it takes less than two hours and a mere ascent of 3,337 feet in elevation to arrive to the little mountain town of Katoomba.
Although, beautiful and majestic in many ways, these mountains are not known for their impressive heights and soaring peaks. The Blue Mountains are actually very flat on top and the highest point is only slightly higher than Katoomba, at an unnamed spot at 3,901 feet.
But this shouldn’t be surprising because most all of Australia is relatively flat. The tallest point in Australia is Mount Kosciuszko that sits at only 7,310 feet. Compare this to California’s Mount Whitney whose imposing peak stands at nearly double the elevation (14,505 feet).
So as I was saying, we arrived quickly, and since darkness had already fallen, we couldn’t see the mountains on the drive in. We commented with an air of arrogance, “aww that’s cute. Australia calls these little hills ‘mountains.’”
But when we awoke the next morning, the stout, but imposing majesty of the Blue Mountains quickly humbled us. For what they lack in height, they make up for in girth and greenery. From various lookouts, the range appears wide, vast, and grand, covered lavishly with greenery. When we looked across the canyons and valleys, we could see, either in actuality or at the power of suggestion by its name, an eerie blueish haze. The densely covered mountains are flat on top and drop off suddenly exposing large flat sandstone cliffs across long stretches of the range, adding drama to the scene.
The drop offs are so sudden and sever that you can imagine how someone fighting their way through the brush could suddenly find themselves dangerously toeing a deadly edge. Whether true or folklore, it is obviously plausible that the famous bushranger, Govett, could have accidently run himself and his horses over one such drop at the point now named after him (Govett’s Leap).
Adding to the scene, rivers continually spill over these edges and form narrow cascades dropping extensive distances to feed the rainforest floor of the Blue Mountain canyons below.
Humbly impressed by the flat tops and severe drops of this mountain range, we decided it was worth taking a look inside them. We drove over 1 1/2 hours to the Jenolan Caves, crossing over rolling farmland (you hardly feel like you are in the mountains, when away from the cliffs and canyons). The second half of the drive hugged one of the more gradual mountain edges on a one-car lane that they actually closes down to incoming traffic from 11am-1:15pm every day to allow tour buses through. We were glad to have beaten the road closure and the crowds.
A large open cave, large enough for our car to pass through, served as an impresseive entrance to the park and its network of limestone caves. We toured the Orient Cave, widely considered one of the most beautiful caves in both Australia and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, my pictures don’t do it justice (where were you when we needed you Ryan!). You’ll just have to take my word for it that it was stunning, and made even more so by the elderly gentleman that escorted us through the cave with the enthusiasm of a grandmother showing off pictures of her grand babies.
The following day, we hiked through the Grand Canyon...of Australia, not America. :)
The hike took around an hour and a half and the trail was extremely well-marked and cared for. Much of it had stone bricks to keep your feet out of the dirt. The canyon was beautifully lush with rainforest at its bottom and narrow with large rocks and stonewalls on either side of the trail, nothing like our American Grand Canyon. And I’m pretty sure the maker of Play Station’s Crash Bandicoot visited this canyon, because I felt like I was running right alongside Crash the whole time I was there, bouncing from one stone step to another and racking up the points in the top corner of the screen.
We finished the weekend in true Australian style with a long black and a breakky of toasties at a cozy mountain-town café (if you have no idea what I just said then you haven’t been reading my Australia posts).
So with the sunshine warming our faces and the caffeine kicking in, we had a strange conversation with a retired, bearded Katoomba local. Conversation turned from common pleasantries like “where are you from?” to racism and other topics typically avoided in first-time conversations. And in a moment of looking down to stir my coffee, the man left as quickly as he had appeared. Strange fellow, but friendly enough, and at least he gave us a little extra local flavor before heading back down to the city for another week of work with the city slickers .
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!