Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sydney's Famed Blue Mountains

First thing I did when I woke at 6.30am on April 5 was to check the morning skies. It wasn't pretty. The night before has been wet and the morning air was misty and skies grey. Since we have decided to go to the Blue Mountains we trust our instinct again that the weather will improve.

The Blue Mountains reach a height of 1100m, and have been given their name due to the blue haze that hovered above the mountains produced by the oil from the plentiful Eucalyptus trees. They are situated west of Sydney.

At 7.30am we were gathered at the entrance of Rydges Hotel near to the Meriton. It drizzled a little when we boarded the shuttle taking us to the Star City Terminal. We decided to use Great Sights again as they offer a 20% discount after we used their service for our Great Ocean Road tour in Melbourne. When we arrived Featherdale Wildlife Park at 11am the rain has stopped. At the entrance Ling has the chance of patting a second Australian creature, a baby wallaby. Wallabies are miniature kangaroos.

If you want to see and feed original Australian creatures, this is one of the places to be. Here are some pictures I captured in the one hour plus we spent inside the park.

Featherdale was educational and inspirational to both kids and adults. I wish we could spend more time there but we have to leave for the Blue Mountains, to Katoomba, to see the Three Sisters. Katoomba is regarded as the main tourist centre and viewing area for the Three Sisters, located roughly 3km west of Leura. According to THIS the Sisters were formed by erosion. The soft sandstone of the Blue Mountains is easily eroded over time by wind, rain and rivers and the cliffs surrounding the Jamison Valley are being slowly broken up. Formations like the Three Sisters are created when water sweeps into small cracks in the rock, gradually enlarging them over time to form large indentations. Eventually, the Sisters will be eroded away completely.

We were first driven to the Echo Point lookout to get a panoramic view of the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley before we were driven back to the Scenic World Top Station. Briefly, there are 3 rides and a boardwalk. We took all except the skyway from the skyway eastern station to the Scenic World Top Station which allows guests to have a breathtaking view of the Katoomba Falls below. We did not regret omitting this ride as it was short. Plus the weather was still misty then and we won't get to see the majesty below. However in the summer I believe the sights are worthy to behold. An aborigine was plying his boomerangs at AUD20 each at the Echo Point. He was wearing just a loin cloth and seem able to withstand the chilly weather. He had with him a didjeridu (didgeridoo or didge), a wind pipe made out of a hollowed tree branch. Listen to how it sound HERE. You definitely need a pair of strong lungs to play it!

At the Scenic World Top Station we descend to level 1 to take the Scenic Railway ride down to the boardwalk. It wasn't as scary as we thought since the ride was straight down, unlike the roller coasters. By the time we arrived at the base it started to drizzle. A kind fellow traveler from China graciously lent us his umbrella to shield baby Andrew from raindrops. We literally half walk half ran to the end of the 380 meter boardwalk to the Scenic Cableway Bottom Station where we took the ride up to the Top Station where we had our lunch at the cafe. We then made our way down the mountains to Homebush Bay where the 2000 Sydney Olympic Park was built.

All of us disembarked and took the Captain Cook Cruise boat back to Sydney along the Parramatta River. We arrived Darling Harbor for a stop to discharge some passengers before the boat made its last stop at the Circular Quay when we disembarked, took the now familiar CityRail back to Liverpool Street where we looked for food. The Darling Harbor Terminal was much quieter than Circular Quay's at night since most of the ferry services emanate and end at the Quay. Due to lack of time we will not have the time to explore Darling Harbor in the daytime.

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