Blue Mountain Tour

Bill and Nancy leaving Metter

Bill and I are relaxing on our third day in Australia.  After the long flight and all-day tour yesterday, we decided to take it easy in Manly. where we are staying.  It is a short ferry ride away from Sydney and not affected by the APEC madness in Sidney.

Upon the advice of a tourist office, we left Sydney yesterday for an adventure in the Blue Mountains.  After an early breakfast at a local deli, the tour bus picked us up at our hotel, proceeded to pick up other passengers around Sydney, and whisked us out of town before 8:30 AM.  There are three stories about the Blue Mountains.  The first is the name.  The Blue Mountains are so-named because of the the oil that drips from the eucalyptus tree and reflect on droplets of water, creating a blue tinge to the mist.

On the way up, we stopped for tea beside a river that supplies much of the water supply for Sydney.  There were 20 folks on our tour.  One young couple was from Nashville, TN.  He was in Sydney on business.  I spotted a great sign beside the road…”Remember when your kids threatened to run away from home?  Retirement is payback time.”  Loved it!

Stopping for Tea

The second story is about the various water falls.  While none are as dramatic as many in the U.S., they are all spring-fed.  So they continue to flow, no matter how dry the weather becomes.  This brings me to our first stop, Wentworth Falls.  The weather was not very cooperative, but we did manage to hike down to a platform to view the falls.  Bill opted to stay at the top of the trail while I went down with some of the folks.  The walk was not nearly as strenuous as we were led to believe.

As we drove on to our next stop, it seemed as if all of Sydney was escaping APEC.  The roads were clogged with traffic.  Fortunately our bus driver was familiar with back roads.  So we wound our way through quaint villlages on our way to Scenic World, the third most visited spot in Australia, after Ularuh and the Great Barrier Reef.  This brings up the third story of the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters Legend.  It seems that there were three young Aboriginal maidens who caught the eyes of three young men from another rival tribe.  Not wanting this romance to happen, the father of the young maidens asked the witch doctor for help.  He cast a magic spell on the young maidens, turning them to stone until the young men gave up their search and went home.  Unfortunately, the witch doctor was killed before he was able to reverse the spell.  Thus, the young maidens are forever cast as stone pillars and can be seen at Scenic World.

Scenic World is in the Katoomba, a former coal and shale mining town.  Started in 1880, the mine was operative until the 1930’s. A railway was built to haul rocks to the top of the mountain.  Often hikers would get to the bottom of the gorge and convince the miners to give them a ride back to the top in the coal cars.  When the mine closed, the owners had the idea of turning the site into a tourist attraction.  Thus, Scenic World was born.  It is still privately owned by the same family who started it.  The Three Sisters are depicted in bronze at the visitors’ center.  The second picture you see are the sisters cast in stone.

Three Sisters and Witch Doctor

Three Sister in Mist

We took the cable car to the bottom of the canyon and walked through a beautiful rain forest.  There we were able to see remnants of the mining days as well as beautiful trees and ferns, some of which were over a hundred years old.

Rainforest at Scenic World

So, if we rode the cable car down to the rain forest, did we return the same way?  Nope, we took advantage of the “renovated” railway from mining days.  With a 52 percent grade, it was quite a 5-minute ride back up to the top (looking down from whence we came!!).

After an uneventful lunch in and delectable desert at a chocolate shop in Leura, we were off to our final stop before returning to Sydney.  The tour guide promised us an up close and personal view of the Easter Gray Kangaroo in a small state park.  While the park was a bit disappointing, we were able to get close to the kangaroos.  If you look closely at this picture, you will see the joey poking his head out of the pouch near the mother’s foot.

Mother and her joey

Finally, we were on our way back to Sydney.  After a quick ride through Olympic Park, site of the 2000 Olympic Games, we caught the ferry back to Circular Quay.  From there, Bill and I boarded the Manly ferry back to our hotel.  Exhausted when we got to Manly, we had a gourmet meal at Subway before fallling into bed for the evening.

Today, we have relaxed aroung Manly, a delightful beach town.  Unfortunately, the weather is a bit cool for having fun in the water.  The last picture is the Steyne Hotel, Bill’s favorite spot from his former trips.  We couldn’t stay here because it is no longer a hotel, but several pubs.  It has been a relaxing day.  Tomorrow afternon, we are off to Adelaide.  More later.

Steyne Hotel

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