The Blue Mountains

national parks, Sydney Weekend trips

A couple weeks ago, we took a trip out of town to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. I knew of the Blue Mountains from the extensive homework I did before coming to Australia (i.e.: from watching Globe Trekker Sydney), so I was armed with the trivial knowledge that the Blue Mountains are blue from the evaporating eucalyptus oil in the air.

We’d planned to use this spot as the stopping point between home and some Shakespeare in the park we’d read about, but after having one painful outdoor Shakespeare experience already that week, we easily talked each other out of a second and decided, instead, to just stay in Katoomba.

I found Katoomba to be remarkable in its striking similarity to every other sweet, quiet, touristy mountain hamlet I’ve ever been to anywhere in the world. By saying that, I in no way mean to cast aspersions upon Katoomba. It was simply a surprise to find Down Under that cozy familiarity of artsy shops and coffee houses lining a few hilly streets that are sparsely populated by broomstick-skirted-Ugg-booted-long-haired women and their scraggly-bearded-plaid-shirt-adorned-kindly-looking male partners.katoomba1


Upon the recommendation of another American tourist, we booked a room at the so-sweet English style Lurline House. We were treated to tea and cake at check in and the room “had me” at four poster bed. The breakfast was large and delicious and the staff was friendly.katoomba2

Since we no longer had Shakespearean evening plans, we wandered around town looking for an adventure. We arrived on the final night of a folk festival and I was just a bit disappointed to see that I’d missed out on seeing Nanci Griffith. The ticket prices were steep at about $90, given that we’d only be there for a few hours, so we passed on crashing that party. We settled on dinner at a Swiss restaurant, where we had a raclette for two for $54. Thank you Swiss people, for inventing a dish comprised nearly exclusively of melted cheese on potatoes. We brought our own wine, so the dinner turned out to be pretty reasonable, and the ambiance was easygoing and charming.

After dinner, we wandered up the street to an intriguing looking restaurant/coffee shop called Common Ground. It was packed with recent folk festival-goers, and the harried owner suggested that it would be a long wait, but we found a corner to curl up on and drink tea and hot chocolate. We picked up some flyers near the cash register and discovered that the place is run and staffed by a small Messianic group called The Twelve Tribes.

By that point, we’d fairly well exhausted the evening adventure possibilities in Katoomba, so we settled in at Lurline, after a lively chat with some middle-aged, folk-loving Sydneysiders/fellow guests who chatted with us about the differences between Australia and the U.S., in terms of economy, social structures, and so forth.

The next day, after breakfast, we set off down the street for Echo Point, where the mission was to see the much talked about Three Sisters rock formation and do some hiking. The lookout point was crowded with tourists, including a group of young American students, who we knew immediately by their rowdiness, were not Australian. Sometimes it is good to have a reminder that one is always representing one’s country when one travels abroad. There was also a fully decked out Aboriginal man playing the didgeridoo for tips, and who took smoke breaks where he talked to tourists about traffic and playing the trumpet.

The Three Sisters are an unmistakable sight:katoomba3

From Echo Point, we proceeded on an hour-long hike through the Blue Mountains National Park. We did not see any animals, save for birds, but did encounter some striking mountain views and some interesting flora and fauna.


From across the gorge, we took the option of returning to Echo Point via sky cable car, which crosses the terrain at heaven only knows how many feet in air. A glass bottom affords some amazing views of Katoomba Falls and the vast rain forest, below.

Back at Echo Point, we took one more short hike down a steep staircase that leads onto one of the Three Sisters (which sister it is, I cannot say, but I’m sure she’s the prettiest).

View from a Sister:katoomba5

This staircase, called the Grand Staircase, affords the opportunity to descend 1,000 steps, but then one must also come back, and that is for the much more fit than myself. Returning from our Sister Stopping Point just 75 or so steps down was enough of a cardiovascular workout for me.

On the way out of town, we stopped and paid another visit to our Messianic friends at Common Ground, where they were still busy. We split vegetarian nachos and a sandwich. It was one of the best lunches I can recall. It’s no wonder they remain so crowded.

The proprietor at our B&B mentioned that the most popular season for the Blue Mountains is July because Sydneysiders like to get out of town for some Alpine style winter wonderland. What a funny concept.

Summer is coming up soon. And by Summer, of course, I mean Winter.

One thought on “The Blue Mountains

  1. niftypearl

    Wow Cristin! Thank you for sharing this!

    Are you saying that being pretty is an imperative for happiness? ALL the sisters are beautiful! Your photos are really incredible, you must have a fancy camera, and if you don’t I will love you all the more!

    YOU and NEB are beautiful, and we love you ~ safest of adventures!

    Tina and Andy

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