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The Blue Mountains

Rusty and I packed up the tent and sleeping bags again last weekend and headed out to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We love the beach, but we like the mountains more. We were looking forward to a weekend in the fresh air!

We left from Central Train Station in Sydney on Friday afternoon.

Contrary to what it may look like, I do not drag Rusty on these things with me! We are both camping enthusiasts. I did have an ulterior motive, though–race reconnaissance! My next big race is in the Blue Mountains in May, and I wanted to see some of the trails before I race on them. There will be many more recon trips in the future!

The train ride was a couple hours. Not too bad. The highlight? We saw kangaroooooooooos! When we were past the suburbs but not quite to Katoomba, we saw some grazing in a field. Our first kangaroos! I wish I had been able to take pictures, but I’m sure we’ll see more.

It was dark when we got to Katoomba, but our caravan park was luckily close to the train station. It was a pleasant walk through the cute little downtown to the edge of Blue Mountains National Park, and then we promptly ate dinner and passed out in the tent.

Our site was at the end of a road in the caravan park, snuggled between two cricket rings. We woke up to a little commotion! Usually it’s the birds that wake us up (cockatoos are LOUD, if you have not experienced their screaming yourself,) but this time it was a cricket practice.

We ate breakfast quickly and headed out for the day. We stopped by the front desk on our way out of the caravan park to pay the balance on our campsite, first. We chatted with the proprietor a bit, and I asked him if he had any maps of the trails in the area. He said he didn’t have any detailed trail maps there in the caravan park office, but they had them at the Blue Mountains National Park information office. We had two options to get there: A 15-minute walking option, and a 3-hour hiking option. He drew us a map for the 3-hour option, and we headed on our way.

Despite now having a map for a 3-hour hiking loop in the area, we had other plans. Rusty wanted to head out to a place called Ruined Castle, which was about 7 km from the caravan park. We decided we’d think about the loop up to the information center if we had time when we got back.

The entrance to the park was across the street from our caravan park. How convenient! We started our hike at a lookout, from which we could see the park’s two main attractions: The Three Sisters and Katoomba Falls.

The Three Sisters, seen in the top picture, are a famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains. Katoomba Falls is a massively tall waterfall; the top of it is pictured above.

After we gazed at the scenery for a bit, we descended the Furber Steps, which took us down the cliff face via approximately 1000 stairs. We took a couple of the turnoffs to look at the rainforest on the way down. GORGEOUS.

I took a couple more pictures of the Three Sisters on the way down.

More stairs.

We stopped to look at the ferns for awhile.

We found a carnivorous one! A sundew.

The temperate rainforest here was gorgeous. It was hard to believe it’s spring–the ground was coated with a thick layer of yellow leaves, and it was damp and cool. Very nice hiking weather!

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we were deep in the valley. We found ourselves at the junction of the Furber Steps and Federal Pass, at the entrance to Scenic World, which is also the lower station of the Scenic Railway.

The Scenic Railway connects the top of the cliff with the base of Scenic World, which has paths through the lower valley. There’s also a cable car that takes passengers from the bottom of the valley to the top of the cliff.

Rusty and I bypassed Scenic World and took Federal Pass towards the Golden Staircase and Ruined Castle.

Stunning views of the valley.

The path got tricky when we got to a place called the Landslide. Instead of a tree-lined path through the rainforest, we were on the side of a rocky cliff. It was hard to keep track of the path, and there was a lot of scrambling over rocks. Luckily we were in no hurry, so we stopped, took a breather, and enjoyed the scenery when it got tough.

Once we got through the Landslide, the path went back into the rainforest, and we were again enveloped in thick foliage.

Loved it. The path was nice, wide, cool, and green past the turnoff to the Golden Staircase and nearly until we got to the main ridge before we arrived at the Ruined Castle.

Climbing up the ridge was tough work! No switchbacks here. When it was time to go up the ridge, it was time to go up the ridge. We practically climbed up a cliff face.

Do I look as tired as I felt?

Once we were at the top of the ridge, there were two large rocks leading up to the Ruined Castle. This is the second.

Finally, we were there! Ruined Castle is a rock formation that looks like the remains of a castle. It has three peaks, like the Three Sisters. It was hard to get a picture of the whole thing, but I did my best!

When we got there, we climbed onto one of the rocks to have lunch. I was starving!

We had packed bread, hummus, peanut butter, and trail mix. Yum!

This kid was bold. He walked right up to us! Rusty threw him a peanut, and then he pranced around us with the peanut in his beak for awhile. Silly bird.

After lunch, we climbed on top of the castle. The views were amazing. Indescribable, really. The Ruined Castle is at the end of a ridge, so there were cliffs going down to valleys on three sides of us.

When we started heading back, it was early in the afternoon, and the sun was shining on the path in spots. Do you know what that means? Reptiles! We saw a few lizards. Can you see them in the pictures? They blend in well.

We saw a snake, too, but it slithered away before I could get my camera out.

We saw so many birds! The best were the lyrebirds we saw. They were scratching in the brush in the forest near the paths. I couldn’t get a clear picture of the birds, but Rusty found one of their tail feathers on the way back.

The way back always feels shorter, doesn’t it? Even though we had quite a ways to go, it was a nice hike back down Ruined Castle Track and Federal Pass, back to the base of the Furber Steps.

We passed through the Landslide again and stopped for pictures. I love the colors on the rocks.

When we returned to the base of the Furber Steps, it was only 3:30, so we decided to push along and also do the hike recommended to us by the caravan park proprietor, which also started at the base of the Furber Steps.

The Furber Steps run down the cliff on the western side of Katoomba Falls and dead end into Federal Pass. To get to Ruined Castle, we went west on Federal Pass, but when we got back to the base of the Furber Steps, instead of going up, we continued on Federal Pass going east. We actually passed under the Three Sisters, continued east past them on Dardenelles Pass, and then turned to go up the cliff face via the Giant Staircase.

Yes, the Giant Staircase is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a giant staircase. 900+ steep steps up to top. After we had been out hiking for 6 hours or so, this was no small feat! We stopped to catch our breath many times, and I thought my legs were going to give out when we got to the top.

At the top of the Giant Staircase is Echo Point, which has beautiful views of the valley.

Turns out we hiked pretty far! That’s Ruined Castle out in the distance (circled below.) The top of the Furber Steps is way out to the right in the photo, and the Three Sisters are to the left (the Giant Staircase took us right up to them, and then Echo Point is a bit west of them.)

Crazy, eh? We were still far from our caravan park, so we took the Price William Cliff Walk west.

It was clouding over and threatening rain at this point, but we took our time and scoped out all of the awesome parrots on top of the cliff.

Can you see this one in the bushes?

It started raining right as we got back to camp, and it started pouring after we had pulled off our shoes and laid down for a minute. The rain made it quite difficult to get up to shower and cook dinner! Somehow we managed. Somehow.

Speaking of our campsite, I have to say that this caravan park was very different than the one in Bateau Bay! Actually, it’s not so much that the caravan park is different but that the occupants are different. Many more tents in Katoomba, and many more hippies. Not that that’s a problem, though–we dig hippies. We arguably are hippies ourselves.

The van at the top of the picture has the three members of Run DMC painted on the side of it. Normal.

Sunday morning, we ate breakfast, packed up the tent, and headed back to Sydney.

Bye-bye, tent. Until next time!

The walk up to town was literally UP to town; Katoomba is at the top of a series of hills, and the caravan park is very much at the bottom (the caravan park is at the top of the cliff, though–the valley is LOW).

I took rest breaks to take more pictures of birds. Another parrot and a cockatoo.

The town of Katoomba is impossibly cute. The walk up to town took us through a little residential area, and the little downtown is freakin’ adorable.

I tried to talk Rusty into moving there, but no luck. A four-hour round-trip commute is no bueno for either of us.

Back to Sydney!

More adventures soon!


About theacademicsabroad

Rusty and Ali are a couple of nerds who moved to Australia to go on adventures. Oh, and work. :)


One thought on “The Blue Mountains

  1. Oh my gosh, Alison and Rusty, I cannot wait until I teach our Australia unit later this year…my fellow teachers and students will be so impressed with your travels and photos! I love you both, Mom

    Posted by Mom | November 15, 2012, 2:20 am

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