Something I hadn’t fully grasped when we first moved here is how condensed the city is. As we found when we drove to Canberra, it’s pretty sleepy once you get out of Sydney proper. Many people are also surprised to learn that Sydney is pretty much surrounded by national parks. A visit to the Blue Mountains National Park has been on our priority list since day one, but thanks to a very rainy March, our plans have been pushed off for nearly a month now.
When the forecast finally called for sun on Sunday, I knew it was time to head west. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was a landslide blocking our train. While you can normally get to the Blue Mountains in about 2 hours with only one train transfer (and just over an hour by car), our journey ended up taking about 3.5 hours. We waited for a train that never came, but no announcement ever made that it was canceled, so we sat on the platform gabbing until I finally realized it had been much, much longer than the 8 minutes we were supposed to have waited. We ended up on another train, and from there had to hop on a coach bus provided to take us to yet another station which finally took us to Katoomba.
By the time we stepped off the train we were starving – every one else seemed to have thought ahead and brought their lunch, and sandwich and beef jerkey and crisp fumes filled the train car and just made the situation worse. We stopped for a sandwich in the sleepy town center, and ate it as we walked towards the trails – about a mile from the station.
I commented that being there reminded me very much of being in Germany, though Tyler later argued for small town New Hampshire. It was a collection of little independent shops (most closed as it was Sunday), which gave way to streets lined with tiny houses. It was all very quaint.
We skipped by the sign directing us to the Three Sisters and Echo Point, and bypassed the trail that seemed to head to Katoomba falls. We walked the extra distance to Scenic World, which is a strange conglomeration of amusement park and sightseeing? It seems the only really attraction is taking cable cars or railways over the valley floor and being able to access a boardwalk pathway. I was interested in seeing a sculpture exhibit in the gulley, but when we got there found out it doesn’t open for another week. We briefly considered paying the $50 a ticket to find out what Scenic World was all about, but finally came to our senses, realized that was insane, and turned back around.
We hopped onto the Katoomba falls trailhead we had previously passed, which was hidden behind a bus stop and shockingly packed with other visitors not visible from the road. This path was also primarily covered, which made me even more suspicious of why I would pay $50 to walk on a different boardwalk nearby.
There were many different lookouts, the especially crowded Katoomba Falls photo op, and we were eventually spit out at Echo Point just past the Three Sisters. Tyler and I racked our brains for the equivalent in the states, unable to remember if it was a formation in Yosemite we were thinking of or elsewhere (it is – the Three Brothers). Despite the trail being crowded at times, there were many points where it was just Tyler and I and the rainforest. The views were spectacular, and the bright blue sky and blazing sun made for a truly perfect hiking day.
Once we left Echo Point, Tyler and I looked over with the same expression and read each other’s minds – is it lazy of us to just head home now? We had only been “hiking” for about 2 hours. Thinking we were going to a different location, we came fairly unprepared with other planned routes to take. On top of all this, Tyler’s been fighting a wicked bought of insomnia, leaving him with slightly less energy than usual. We took one last picture and started back towards the train station, both expressing that though it seemed silly to have traveled so far, we had no regrets about how the day had gone. As I get older I become more accepting of the fact that not everything has to be difficult to be worthwhile.
Keeping with the theme of the day, we had to wait an obnoxiously long time for the train. I was so grateful that Tyler had, in an unusual moment of thinking ahead and preparedness, suggested we bring our rain coats “just in case”. The temperature had dropped significantly, I had assumed due to elevation, and I had worn my jacket the entire day. Now, waiting for the train, I was shivering and rubbing my arms to keep warm, despite standing in direct sunlight. I was even more surprised to find it still fairly chilly when we got back to Sydney. I guess summer is finally coming to an end.
The ride home seemed exponentially faster than the journey there, and before we knew it we were back at Redfern station. We had high hopes of stopping at Tyler’s new place of work for a Ramen dinner, but by the time we speed showered and walked back out the door they had already closed kitchen for the night. We ended up at a table at La Coppola, our favorite local pizza place, which served us well the last time we were hangry and looking for something to eat. We sat outside and shared a mind-blowing fig and burrata salad (figs are currently in season here), and each devoured our own pie.
Afterwards, we stopped in at a bar across the street for a beer. Every time we’ve walked by it in the past we’ve said “we really have to go there for a drink sometime!” Though we were exhausted from our day of traveling by train, bus, and foot, we thought what better time than now to finally make good on our word. After delicious pizza and a good sour beer, it’s hard for a grumpy night to stay that way.