The Blue Mountains
Ch 7 – The Blue Mountains
Til we meet again, Sydney! Hello, Blue Mountains!
A not very long drive from Sydney brings us to another world: mountains, deep ravines, cold winds, small towns and villages. We're staying in Medlow Bath, at The Chalet, a B & B run by Norm and Jo. It's surrounded by gardens and manicured lawns, and has its own tennis court. Tropical birds visit. .Our room has a 1920s feel with lots of light, plenty of storage, and the bathroom boasts a claw foot tub.
Once we settled in, we were off a on our first bush walk of the area. Overlooks to The Grand Canyon of the Blue Mountains give spectacular views! We scrambled around the rocks and paths praising each new view as better than the last! There are several trails. It is a beautiful place. The trails are fairly strenuous, and it was chilly and very breezy, so be prepared.
Next, lunch at the Ivanhoe in Blackheath was pleasant. Sitting in front of the fireplace, MaryJo munched a hamburger and Greg, a curry beef pie. Both were tasty. The hamburger comes with an Australian accompaniment, beet slices, which give a distinctive flavor. Total bill was $16 A or about $13 USA. A stroll around town to explore was enjoyable.
Impatient to see the Three Sisters, we drove to Katumba's Echo Point. There they stand, looking majestic and magnificent. A short distance, but extremely steep walk took us to one sister, where we stepped into a shallow cave and we able to look down, down, down to the floor below. Again, it was very windy and cold, but the views are worth being somewhat uncomfortable. It was exhilarating! The walkways are uneven, so be very careful! There are other trails, as well as a Visitor Center at Echo Point. The walks are all free. Parking can be expensive – $3.50 A for the first hour. Exploring can take hours! It's a unique experience, and highly recommended! http://www.katoomba-nsw.com/
Finally, Leura's shopping district beckoned. Leura is a village not far from Katumba. There were several quaint boutiques selling such items as Christmas decorations, candles, candies, and books. Even if not buying, window shopping is fun. There are restaurants and cafes, too.
Dinner was at The Gardner's Inn in Blackheath. Greg ordered Steak and Vegetable Pie in Red Wine Sauce. MaryJo's dinner was Grilled Barramundi with a tossed salad. Total bill for dinner was $48 A or about $39 USA. We thought they were both flavorful and tender. http://www.gardnersinn.com.au/
Our first day in the Blue Mountains, was exciting and satisfying! We're looking forward to tomorrow!
We woke to a full and delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, tomato, fruit, yogurt, and coffee prepared by Norm and Jo, and a discussion with Norm about the best activities for today. Because it so very windy, and chilly, we decided on Scenic World's Skyway, Cableway, and Valley Railway. The railway took us down to the bottom of the rainforest, plunging us into a long tunnel. We chose a short hike, along the old coal line, learning about the days of coal mining in the mountains by looking into a mine, coal office, etc, and then took the Cableway back up to the top. A fresh water spring is drinkable. Along the way, we saw some amazing views! Lastly, the Skyway took us back across the gorge! We were above the tree, with an unbelievable vies of Katumba Falls through the glass floor. Guides pointed out various sites, including the ruins of a Roman Castle! This could easily be an all day event, because there are many hiking trails. The one to the castle ruins takes two hours. A revolving restaurant and a small cafÃ© offer food and views. The four pronged trip – down, up, across and back with unlimited hiking – cost $28 A per person, or about $ 23 USA. It's a bargain! http://www.scenicworld.com.au/
At Jenolan Caves, there are 11 different caves to explore – making this another all day, or multi day event. The roadway entrance takes the visitor through a huge cave and into the car park, or parking lot. It's one of the most impressive entrances. Jenolan Caves has been attracting tourists since the 19th century. The hotel was built in the 1880s, added to in the 1920, and updated since. We took the self guided Nettle Cave trip, which stops at 16 sites. A guided tour comes with the self guided – you chose the other cave. We ran out of time, unfortunately! The Devil's Coach House was the main room of Nettle Cave, and quite impressive in its height and formations. The name comes from one of two stories. Either a man camping in the cave woke to see the devil driving his coach through and bellowing, or another visitor heard what was probably an owl screeching and thought it was the devil himself! There is a lot of climbing involved, and we were exhilarated! $27 A per person, or about $ 22 USA is the fee for both tours. http://www.jenolancaves.org.au/
The Christmas tree was up in the hotel lobby to celebrate Yulefest, a Christmas in July tradition in the Blue Mountains! A cafÃ© serves food and drinks, and there is a gift shop. We each had a focaccia, at $8.50 A each or about $7 USA. The road there is steep, narrow, and winding, so use caution!
On the return trip, we stopped at a few overlooks to enjoy the view, a war monument and small cemetery, and a restored 1830's village called Hartley. This is one of our better off the trail finds. A Catholic church and presbytery (rectory), the old inn, the courthouse, and a couple of other buildings are left of what was once a thriving community. A ranger in the inn, now the park office, showed us the old paintings on the walls and told us about the history. Founded in the 1830s by Governor Macquarie, the village enjoyed resurgence in the 1920s through the 1940s due to visitors to Jenolan Caves. There is a small exhibit set up there to tell the story of Hartley, with a tiny gift shop. Admission is free, making it a bargain. http://www.lithgow-nsw.com/HartleyHistoricVillage.html
Norm had recommended Chork Dee, a Thai restaurant in Katumba for dinner. An excellent choice! We enjoyed an appetizer (entrÃ©e) of curry puffs and a main of spicy seafood medley of squid, prawns, and scallops, and ginger prawn dish with steamed rice for $47 A or about $38 USA. Service was friendly, and the dÃ©cor was tasteful. It is a BYO if you want wine or beer.
Our day here in the mountains, at The Chalet, has been fun and full. We finished by relaxing in front of the cozy fireplace.
A cold and blustery morning here in Medlow Bath! Norm informed us that the temperature was 0 C, or 32 F! Following a hearty breakfast at The Chalet, we took the Trolley Tour around the area. We learned that the name of the town came from an Aboriginal term meaning “bright falling water.â€ This area was the site of the more affluent Sydney residents seeking relief from the hot, humid Sydney summers since the late 1880's. Some of the old hotels are still in operation. Coal mining was the main economic activity, and the original name was The Crushers. Katumba has a much nicer sound, we think. The tour has 29 points of interest, and takes about one hour. It's a hop on, hop off ride, so riders are free to explore. The cost is $20 A per person, or about $ 16 USA but we had a coupon that was 2 for 1. $20 for both of us is a bargain! We followed the Leura Cascades Trail, and were delighted to find one falls after the other! The sound of the falling water was soothing. There are some impressive views, and a small cave. http://www.yktravelphoto.com/places/leura-cascades-blue-mountains-national-park/1360/en/
Lunch time! At the Swiss Cottage, we enjoyed a big bowl of piping hot French Onion Soup topped with Swiss cheese. Just the food for a cold winter afternoon! Each bowl was $12 A or about $9.50 USA. http://www.swisscottage.com.au/
We also hiked the Eagle Hawk Trail to the cliff edge, and had some stunning sights! A few more short bush walks, because of the wintery weather, and we were ready for afternoon tea.
Bygone Beauties offers a 2 for 1 Devonshire Tea, so total cost was $11.50 A or about $9 USA. Another bargain! The tea was hot, and so were the scones! The cream was rich and the jam sweet. Bygone Beauties boasts the largest teapot collection in Australia – over 3,000 – so there was much to look at! There were many items for sale, including vintage clothing, china, and crystal. http://www.bygonebeautys.com.au/
A stop at The Chocolate Shop of the Blue Mountains gave us the opportunity to use another coupon. 15% off a purchase of $10 or more allowed us to buy plenty of chocolate for later. Tasting is allowed.
Back to The Chalet to rest and warm up, and then out later for dinner at Shanthi Indian Restaurant. We recommend it! The food was very good, the service was personal, and the prices were reasonable. Both MaryJo's Ceylon Chicken Curry with bread and Greg's Chicken Vindaloo with rice were $14. 90 A or about $12.00 USA. It is a BYO and a licensed establishment. The choice is the customer's. Shantij is in Blackheath, and has an intimate feel.
A glass of port in front of the fireplace at the end of the evening was a very pleasant way to wind up the day. We'd come back to Norm and Jo's Chalet!
This is area is great for bargains. Most of the motels, hotels and B & BS have the coupon book. For a wallet friendly getaway, start by using the coupon and going on the Trolley Tour. Get off and on as much as you like; discounts to some sites are offered. A combination tickets gives special rates for Scenic World. The Swiss Cottage is a good place for lunch, or use the coupon for Bygone Beauties. Hiking in the park is free, and the trails are great, making it a good afternoon activity. Jenolan Caves are a nice drive the second day, Buy something for lunch there, or take a picnic. On the way back, stop at Hartley and look around. Finally, try Shanthi for fine Indian Cuisine. For a third day, use the combination ticket for the bur tour/Scenic World and visit Scenic World and hike.
Our return flight on Qantas was a good one. Again, while it is cramped, the dinner, breakfast, snacks, goodie bags, hot towels and unlimited drinks are welcome!
HINT: Many foods, such as fruits or jerky are not allowed to be brought into the US. Don't forget to pack liquids, jellies, sauces, etc. in your check on bag, or you'll lose them. The airline may have regulations about the weight of your carry on bag, so pack carefully to avoid shifting at the last minute. We found 7 kilos is the limit on our airline.
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