A Weekend in the Blueys
Author: Justine Tyerman
Katoomba/Leura, the gateway to the Blue Mountains, is a cruisy 90-minute drive from Sydney. The most direct approach is to head west from Sydney along Parramatta Road to the Great Western Highway (M4).
We were forewarned of the large numbers who visit the ‘Blueys’ so we set off from Sydney in our JUCY campervan early in the day and did all the thrill-seeking things at Scenic World, Katoomba, first before the crowds arrived.
We plummeted 310 metres - screaming all the way - down the world's steepest scenic railway through a natural rock tunnel to an old coal mining site, hiked through a Jurassic forest on the valley floor exploring fascinating relics of the 1880s mining era, and glided smoothly back up the sheer cliff face to the top of the plateau in a huge 84-person cable car. We then took a ride in the glass-bottomed ‘Skyway’ 270 dizzying metres above the Jamison Valley and the Katoomba Falls.
That was all very cool stuff indeed, and a full-on adrenalin rush, but we’re nature-lovers . . . and the natural awe-factor of the scenery was somewhat overshadowed by all the clever man-made technology. There was no chance to commune silently with nature here.
The Three Sisters
So, as the crowds moved in, we moved on to Echo Point to explore the famous Three Sisters rock formation, scaling the perpendicular stone and steel steps of the Giant Stairway to a platform cut into the ‘tummy’ of the first sister.
Geology tells us the sisters were formed by the erosion of the soft sandstone over many millennia by the wind, rain and rivers which are gradually breaking down the cliffs surrounding the Jamison Valley.
However, I prefer the Aboriginal legend, albeit disputed as a tourist gimmick, which tells of three beautiful sisters - Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo - who lived in the valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe (the Nepean tribe), but the marriage was forbidden by tribal law.
The brothers were unhappy about this and decided to use force to capture the sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder in order to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the Three Sisters, 922m, 918m and 906m tall, are a truly awesome sight especially on a clear day when the blueness of the Blue Mountains is at its most vivid.
The view from the edge of the Katoomba escarpment, overlooking the spectacular Blue Mountains and Jamison Valley was staggering.
Had we had more time that day, we would have continued down the 800 steps to the base of the Katoomba Falls . . . and back up again.
The next day, we explored the breathtaking Wentworth Falls further down the valley. We only intended to do a short walk to view the waterfall which cascades 187 metres in three wispy tiers but we were drawn on and on as much by the dramatic scenery as our sheer amazement at the construction of the pathway.
It was hewn from sandstone cliffs by a fellow called Peter Mulheran and a group of men known as The Irish Brigade, between 1906 and 1908 at a cost of £430.
The story goes that, back then, the villages in the Blue Mountains were competing with each other to build the most spectacular walkway and workers were even lowered over cliffs in hanging baskets to complete death-defying construction work on seemingly inaccessible parts of the terrain.
As we edged our way along a narrow ledge cantilevered hundreds of metres above the valley floor, and then along a track wedged between overhanging and undercut rocks, we marvelled at the ingenuity and courage of those workers who toiled there in the intense heat of the summer and the icy chill of the winter.
Further on, the descent was so steep, an enclosed ladder had been constructed down a sheer rock face.
We were constantly lured onwards by the vast panorama of rugged escarpments, dark forests, tall waterfalls and deep gorges that stretch for hundreds of kilometres.
Having ventured far further than we intended, we reluctantly turned around and made our way back to the campervan. As we retraced our steps, rainbow fragments hovered in the fine spray of the waterfall, caught by the late afternoon sun.
Prince Henry Cliff Track
If you are short of time, the two-hour Prince Henry Cliff Track between Katoomba and Echo Point has it all – more than 20 lookouts offering magnificent views of Jamison Valley, stunning waterfalls, unique hanging swamps and those famous Three Sisters.
UNESCO World Heritage site
The Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage area is part of the Blue Mountains National Park which covers an area of 267,954-hectares, an uplifted sedimentary plateau, 1215 metres above sea level at its highest point. The park is a paradise for hikers, with one of the most complex track systems of any national park in Australia. Dating from as early as 1825, around 60 % of the tracks have national, state or regional significance.
The Blue Mountains Tourist Parks have two sites with cabins, caravan/campervan parks, and powered, unpowered, and grassy camping sites at Katoomba Falls and Blackheath Glen.
Immersed in bushland, they are the perfect base for exploring the area.
* Katoomba Falls Tourist Park is walking access to the Famous Three Sisters, Scenic World Skyway and Katoomba township.
* Blackheath Glen Tourist Park is popular with bushwalkers, rock climbers, families and people who love Blackheath village for its cafes and galleries. Just 10 minutes drive from Katoomba.
Treat yourself to a gourmet fine dining experience at the historic five-star Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort and Spa in the township of Katoomba, only 500 metres from the famous Three Sisters and the Blue Mountains Tourism Visitor Centre.
Or the funky, award-winning Leura Garage in a converted car workshop in Leura.
BOOK your Sydney campervan hire with JUCY now!