Sydney is surrounded, even enclosed, by a vast area of mountainous wilderness. This wilderness is divided into several national parks, the best known of which is the Blue Mountains.
I've flown over the Blue Mountains many times, usually coming in to or leaving from Sydney. I've always been impressed with this expanse of rugged mountains, bush, steep cliffs, and deep canyons, that’s so close to a big city, and I’ve always harboured the idea of visiting and bushwalking in some of this amazing environment.
We are travelling from Sydney to our next house sit which starts in Canberra in a few weeks, so we took the opportunity to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains on the way, staying at Katoomba. Katoomba, and the contiguous villages of Leura and Wentworth Falls, are perched on the edge of massive sandstone cliffs that overlook the vast Jamison Valley and Solitary Mountain.
Because Katoomba is easy to get to from Sydney, and because there are so many marvellous views and walks in the area, it's one of those ‘must do’ attraction for international travellers, just like Cradle Mountain, Wineglass Bay, and Maria Island. There are people from all over the world here.
The Three Sisters
The number one scene to see here is a formation of sandstone columns called The Three Sisters.
There are a number of places to see this formation – the most popular being Echo Point Lookout which is a highly developed viewing platform that can hold a few hundred people at a time, and commonly does.
Blue Mountains scenery
There are plenty of other lookouts along the cliff edge that primarily look out to the Jamison Valley and Solitary Mountain, framed by various sandstone cliffs.
There are also several spectacular waterfalls around Katoomba; this is the falls at Lyrebird Dell:
This is Katoomba Falls, which drops spectacularly down the escarpment:
Bridal Veil Falls are a bit different to most waterfalls – instead of running down a cleft set into the surrounds, they run down the outside of a rocky protrusion.
When the falls have a good flow of water (which they didn’t while I was there) they spread right across the rocky protrusion, justifying their name.
This is Witches Leap Falls:
You may have noticed the naturally-occurring face (the witch!) in the bottom ledge of Witches Leap Falls – here’s a closer view of it:
There’s lots of interesting formations in the sandstone rocks, as you can see in many of the photos here. Here’s an interesting rock platform at Tarpeian Rock Lookout:
There are plenty of bushwalking opportunities around Katoomba, ranging from the absurdly easy to the extremely difficult. If you're here for a short stay perhaps the best walk to do is the entire length of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, which ranges in difficulty from a smooth wide concrete path with fake flagstones, to rough and raw tracks through the eroding sandstone. In the few days that we had here we mostly stayed on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk; but, with more time, there are a lot of other walks that originate at Katoomba.
We had three nights in Katoomba so we got to tryout a range of the food available. As this is a major tourist destination, there are lots of places to eat in the main street of the town – here are our favourites:
- For a bakery: Hominy Bakery
- For a café: Pomegranate Café
- For dinner: Sanwiye Korean Restaurant (make sure you book early – we never got to eat in and had to make do with take-aways.)
- For a café/restaurant that does early evening meals there’s Yellow Deli, which, apart from great food (I had chilli bean stew), has the most amazing interior – it’s like a set from Hobbiton in the Lord of the Rings movies!
The cable car issue
Katoomba has a cable car ride across the nearby cliffs, and this has relevance to Tasmania, as well as other places around Australia. Installing cable car rides on our beautiful mountains seems to have become the 21st Century version of the theme park. I visit Tasmania very regularly, and if you're from Tasmania, you’ll know about a proposal to build a cable car ride to the top of magnificent kunanyi/Mount Wellington - the mountain that forms the backdrop to Tasmania's capital city, Hobart.
Understandably, there's tremendous resistance to allowing this eyesore to be imposed on the people of Hobart and all the visitors to this beautiful city. However the Tasmanian state government is quietly, even secretly, going ahead with the development process, riding over the top of the city council and residents as they do.
Spending a few days in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains reinforces to me why a cable car on Kunanyi/Mount Wellington is a bad idea – the views out to the seemingly endless wilderness of the Jamison Valley from the clifftop walking track along the sandstone cliffs around Katoomba are cut by the cables of the cable car ride.
When you're looking out to Solitary Mountain from the cliff edge the visual effect of the wilderness is ruined when what looks like an aerial council bus slides into the middle of your view, with the on-board audio commentary obliterating the natural soundscape.
The cable car infrastructure smeared along the tops of the cliffs also degrades the experience of being in an amazing wild place.
This is definitely something that I don't want to see happen to Kunanyi/Mount Wellington. Kunanyi/Mount Wellington is a place that attracts us with its natural beauty, and to do this to it would just be so wrong.
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