Insane! And I nearly didn’t go!
The blue mountains is a national park scaling 954 miles squared in size. I have since discovered that the ‘Greater Blue Mountains area’ is, similarly to fremantle prison, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area comprises a total of 8 national parks and covering an astounding 3,900 square miles. It’s crazy to think all of this incredible landscaping exists just 90 minutes outside of Sydney!
I got the train to Katoomba, the town in the middle of the mountains. Katoomba is a lovely town, a rustic and dated feel but still has your usual supermarkets. It’s a small town, well out the way of the city bustle, but still a good amount of people in the hostel. I actually expected it to be pretty dead, I didn’t realise it was such a tourist hotspot. After spending 5 nights in the YHA there, I now understand why. Good vibes all round.
I was tempted to book a tour for the mountains as I am travelling alone and it’s never a good idea to hike by yourself (I learnt this the hard way, after falling and cutting my leg open), but I hiked every day I was there with people in my hostel. It goes unspoken of that approximately 130 people go missing in the blue mountains every year, with at least 30 fatalities a year. So if you are travelling alone, don’t waste your money, just find a buddy!
I arrived in the mountains on Monday 1st May and went out early Tuesday morning with a girl called Sam, 25 from Landaaaan. Man, I did not know what I was letting myself in for when I agreed to hike with her! She is ex army, now personal trainer. I was huffing and puffing, sweating, pretty much running after her for most of the day! Absolutely lovely girl though, I loved her spirit and motivation – luckily it was enough for both of us!
There’s several different walking routes in Katoomba around the well known landmark that is the ‘3 sisters’ – a rock formation that, according to aboriginal history, shows 3 sisters that were turned to stone. We somehow managed to pretty much cover all the routes in one day – Leura falls (a separate loop track), the harder valley walk along to the 3 sisters, down the giant stairway (and they mean giant), through to Katoomba falls and up the furber steps… of which there was about 2,000. I think Sam let me stop maybe twice to catch my breath!
The second day I did another walk with her – the Wentworth falls. We smashed out the 3-4 hour track in 2 hours 15, followed by the hour long nature trail before (still practically running) 20 minutes to the train station. As stunning as the three sisters area was, it had nothing on the wentworth falls. It was absolutely incredible, I loved every minute of the track and still can’t believe places like that exist.
Come Thursday I went out with Natalie (England, 25) and Liz (Melbourne, mid 40s). Liz was a corporate lawyer for 20 years in Melbourne but oh my, you would not know it. She was absolutely crazy, in a good way. She likes to eat her desert before her main and drink whisky from the bottle. It was really interesting chatting to her. She said her job was too heavy and since leaving she has worked on a cattle farm and in a fast food shop, amongst other things. She also spoke of how she is proud that she has learnt to spend money sensibly, as before she had no concept of money with the amount she was earning (I have no doubt she has enough to never work again).
The three of us walked to the purpose built tourist attraction ‘scenic world’ at the bottom of the Katoomba falls, featuring the worlds steepest railway… we opted to take the dreaded 2000 furber steps back up. Other than that, a more chilled day.
Last day of hiking on Friday – I went with Celine (35, Germany) and Meg (29, Melbourne). We did the Blackheath Grand Canyon track which is another of the most popular… and we did it at a normal human walking pace, compared to that of Sam! Another spectacular walk, with a rainbow forming through the bottom of a waterfall.
Got to give a special shout out to Rob, who was living at the YHA there. Lovely old chap about 50, originally from Cornwall and has family in Essex. Such a small world! Enjoyed chatting to him, great banter. Was sad to say goodbye!
I absolutely loved my time in the blue mountains. You definitely need at least 3 full days to get a taste of the varying landscapes and forest to discover. I look back now and it doesn’t even seem real!