Sunday, July 27, 2014

Down Under, Day #8 - Blue Mountains Tour

I woke up bright and early on day 8, early enough to see this amazing sunrise over the Harbour Bridge from my bedroom.
We headed out to meet our bus for the Blue Mountains tour. Unlike on KI, we definitely did NOT have the VIP personalized tour this time. We got the last two seats on the bus, and were quickly on our way out of Sydney and into the mountains. Our first stop was to see an authentic Aboriginal rock engraving of a kangaroo. 
The Blue Mountains were so named because the oil from the eucalyptus trees which make up much of the forest causes the mountains to appear blue. Continuing up the mountains, we came to our first lookout - and we were not disappointed with the view! I wasn't expecting to be so high, but we were even above the clouds.
At our next stop, we walked down to a viewpoint for Wentworth Falls, a 614 foot waterfall in two levels - we could only see the upper falls, but they were impressive. 
After lunch in the picturesque village of Leura, we continued to our main stop of Scenic World in Katoomba. Scenic World has three main features that assist visitors in experiencing the natural wonders of the Blue Mountains, and we were able to experience all three. We took the steepest cable car in the Southern Hemisphere on a 545 meter descent into the Jamison Valley, where we walked along the boardwalk through the temperate rainforest. It was quite interesting to exchange the wind and cold at the top of the mountain for the humid warmth of the rainforest below.
To return to the top of the mountain, we rode the Scenic Railway, the world's steepest passenger railway, with a 52-degree incline. It didn't look like much when we first got on, but as soon as it started moving we found out we were in for a lot more than we expected. Passengers can adjust the incline of their seats, so we had set ours on the 64-degree "Cliffhanger" setting. Once we started moving, I was holding on with everything in me - my toes were gripping, my fingers, everything! If I had been able to let go with even one hand, I would have switched our setting to something less intense, but I was not about to let go. Yikes!
Back at the top, we set out for our final adventure, the Scenic Skyway 270 meters above the rainforest below. The skyway is open on the sides and has a glass bottom so you can see all the way to the valley. While we were in the valley the wind had picked up considerably, so it was quite chilly on the skyway. But we enjoyed the lookout briefly before catching the skyway back across. It was so windy we weren't sure they were going to be able to dock and pick us up! It was a little disconcerting, but all was well. 
Glass floor of the skyway with Katoomba Falls below
Look closely - you can see both the cableway and the lower train station.
Just a little windy!
Scenic World is perhaps most famous for its views of The Three Sisters - Aboriginal legend says that a witch doctor turned three sisters to stone to keep them from harm, but was killed himself before he could reverse the spell, so they remain in stone forever.  
Unfortunately, it was time to head out of the Blue Mountains back to Sydney. We enjoyed a rather peaceful, sleepy ride until we pulled in to Homebush, the sight of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. We couldn't see much, but stopped there briefly before catching a boat cruise back to Circular Quay in Sydney. Of course I made Stephanie go to the top of the boat, outside, for the best views of the city.  It was a really fun day. It's hard to believe such natural beauty is less than 2 hours from Sydney.

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