One of the most beautiful places we visited in Australia was the Blue Mountains. This is a mountainous region in New South Wales near enough to Sydney that you can take a short train to get there. We drove into this area and really enjoyed the scenic route. They call them the Blue Mountains because of the blue haze that is seen when you look at the vistas.
What seemed to us to be the main area and much of the tourist accommodation is Katoomba. The area is fairly developed with many nice cafés and restaurants easy to get to. Katoomba also is the location of one of the main tourist draws Scenic World Blue Mountains. Scenic World enables visitors to see the mountains from the tops of ridges and the bottom of the valley without having to climb the very steep Giant Stairway. They offer 4 different scenic venues. One is a skyway that consists of a gondola that goes between two of the ridge peaks, suspending visitors 750 meters over the valley floor. One is a cableway, another gondola that goes from the peak to the valley floor. Another that takes you to the valley floor is the railway, touted as the steepest incline in the world. Both the railway and cableway take you to the fourth venue, a walkway that goes through the rainforest at the bottom of the valley. Making a day of this area was very enjoyable and made us want to do more hiking.
Following the desire to hike some more, the next day we did a hike through part of the Grand Canyon. Not the one in America of course, but one of the valleys in this region shares the name. It does live up to the name, but in its own way. This hike takes a few hours through a gorgeous canyon area. As you descend you get spectacular views of some of the wider vistas of the Blue Mountains. At the bottom you follow running water routed through wide overhead openings and narrow chute canyons. Sometimes the track is built into the overhangs of the rock formation and sometimes it is the streambed itself. The track is well cared for. It is not only well marked, but mostly set with stone steps placed or cut into the rock of the area. It was a beautiful experience.
We stayed in Blackheath, one of the small towns in this area that was near the Grand Canyon. The campground was in town which made trekking to get supplies very easy. I will say I even fell into an old habit of walking to the café to get a coffee in the morning. I might have fell victim to a pane au chocolate as well. On these treks we were reminded, or enlightened to something we had taken for granted when we were living in San Francisco. Good bread. Good sourdough bread. We didn’t really realize we missed it until we found the Bakehouse on Wentworth. It’s a small bakery that makes its own stuff. Walk in the door, half is filled with the bread they have for the day, the other half is pastries and coffee. The sourdough here was a notification bell going off in our mouths. In our travel, we have had good food, good bread and hadn’t thought about what the normal sourdough was to us. Having such a tasty bread again reminded us of what we really enjoyed about it before. At this bakehouse we learned two other things. First was the introduction to one of the most lovely cheery cheese danishes we’ve ever had. We wish we had a picture, but alas we have only longing. The second was the realization that coming from America we have been sorely missing out on the meat pie norm that seems to be in many other English speaking countries. For this post we’ll keep from ranting about pies, but I feel a dedicated post coming up.
While in this area, we also visited the Jenolan Caves. These caves are remote, about 75km from Katoomba, and the roads to get there are scenic. At one point, they only go one direction, so you need to take a different route out from the caves than the one you took in. There are a number of different caving experiences you can have here, ranging from a walk with few stairs to full spelunking through chutes and holes that you needed to abseil to get to. We did the Diamond Cave tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like caves and are in the area, check them out.