Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why So Blue?

The final stop on my East Coast Adventure was the Blue Mountains.  Conveniently located just 2 hours by train from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a World Heritage site.  After my overnight bus I arrived in Sydney and promptly hopped on a train to Katoomba, which is the main hub for visiting the Blue Moutains.  I stayed at the YHA in town which is an old historic building that they’ve restored.  It has a lovely lobby area with fireplaces and various couches and comfy chairs, plus a nice little balcony with a fountain.  Since I arrived too early in the day to check into my room, I headed back up the main street to visit the Cultural Centre.  They had an exhibition about the history of the area, the first explorers, and the environment – they have a vast variety of eucalyptus trees.  It was here where I first learned the reason why the mountains are blue.  In sunlight distant objects always look blue, but here the effect is increased by fine droplets of eucalypt oil from the trees, dispersed in the atmosphere.  The haze is said to result when sunlight illuminates floating particles of dust, water droplets, and air molecules that combine with the fine mist of oils.  The cultural center also houses the Blue Mountains City Art Gallery which was currently showcasing Peter Elfes’ photographs of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in South Australia.  You weren’t allowed to take photos, but the exhibit was stunning – his photos were breathtaking.  Part of my package was a 7 day ticket on the Explorer Bus, a hop on, hop off double-decker tourist bus.
 I decided since it was a nice day and I had 7 days to use the ticket I might as well validate it and see some things.  The famous icon of the Blue Mountains is a rock formation called the Three Sisters, so I visited that first.
 Although it was beautiful and sunny when I validated my ticket, by the time I got on the bus it was getting cloudy and when we arrived at Echo Point Lookout it was starting to spit rain.  It was still a great view to the Three Sisters and it didn’t pour on me, so it was fine.  I made a stop at Leura Village because I spotted a tiny little flea market.  One of the stalls was full of this beautiful jewelry made from pieces of old china plates.  The gentleman makes the earrings and necklaces all by hand, which was pretty cool.

I awoke to a cold, overcast day on my second morning.  The first bus pickup wasn’t until 9:45am, and I was up early, so I called and chatted with my parents one last time; it was Monday after all, and that’s our regularly scheduled time.  I ended up missing the first bus, which changed my plans a bit, but it was fine.  I spent my time visiting several different spots, including some waterfalls.  I made a stop back in Leura Village again, I decided to check out the little shops and to visit Bygone Beautys which houses the “Treasured Teapot Collection”.  There are over 3,000 teapots on display as well as many other antiques and gifts.  It looked like it could rain at any point all day long, but never did, so I was lucky.  I was back at the hostel by 5pm, so my roommate Maeve and I decided we’d have a movie night – complete with hot chocolate and M&M’s.  It was hard to decide on a movie, but she had never seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop before and you can’t go wrong with a comedy.  There was another guy who joined us as well, so I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t pick a chick-flick.  On Tuesday morning it was bright and sunny so I decided it was the perfect day to attempt the hike to Wentworth Falls.  The falls are quite a ways from Katoomba and the bus only goes to the stop out that direction about 4 times a day, so I had to be sure not to miss the first bus this time.  It ended up being a very warm day (it had been cold all day on Monday, but I guess that’s not so surprising when you’re in the mountains) but thankfully the majority of the trail was in the shade of trees.  There are so many trails in that area that it was difficult sometimes to figure out which one I should take to get where I wanted to go.  There were lots of lookouts and quite a few waterfalls you could detour to visit on the way, but I wasn’t really in a detouring mood, so only did a few.  Wentworth Falls isn’t all that impressive in terms of the amount of water, but in the sheer drop the water takes over the edge it is pretty crazy.
It was an enjoyable hike though and the views at all the lookouts were stunning because it was so sunny; you couldn’t see much the day before because it was so cloudy.  Back at the hostel I met a nice young man from Guatemala; he’d heard me telling another gentleman I was from Pennsylvania, so he came over to ask where in PA I was from.  He’d actually studied in Lehigh and had also been hiking around Wentworth Falls that day.  Since the main thing to do in Katoomba is go hiking, once the sun goes down there’s not much to do so I figured I’d have another movie night.  Sadly, Maeve had already left, but the gentleman from the night before was just starting “Flight of the Phoenix” so I watched that with him and then watched a chick-flick; he declined to join me for it… I enjoyed my side-trip up to the Blue Mountains, it’s definitely a lovely place for hiking and would be fine for a day-trip from Sydney as well.  Only a few days left Down Under….

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