If you head east from Sydney, Australia, you’ll soon find yourself in the Pacific Ocean. If you travel west, on the other hand, it won’t be long before you’ll be in another vast blue expanse. This area is known as the Blue Mountains, and it is spectacular. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is several thousand square miles of sandstone peaks and chasms, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls, and a network of trails that connect them.
The Blue Mountains, however, are not actually blue. Oh, they look that way from a distance, but that’s supposedly because evaporating oils in the eucalyptus trees disperse the light in such a way that the blue end of the spectrum predominates. I’m not sure how much science there is behind that explanation, but that’s what the locals claim. Whatever the reason, I concur that there is a bluish haze around them, and that the Blue Mountains are worth seeing. Here are excerpts from my journal entry for April 30, 1995…
At 9:30 a.m. the four of us (Bryan Fryklund, Jen Reeder, Sally and I) met at Central Station in Sydney for a train trip out to the Blue Mountains, which are about 100 km west of the city center. We got a sense of how big Sydney is as we rolled through suburb after suburb…
At Katoomba we bought tickets for something called The Blue Mountains Explorer, a double-decker bus which toured through the area and had specified drop-off points. At the first place we got off the bus, we had lunch at a “kiosk” (snack stand). Not to say the atmosphere was casual, but our waitress wasn’t wearing shoes.
We hiked down to the Katoomba Cascades. By the time we got back up to the top, we had missed the bus, so we walked the trail toward Echo Point. Much of the Prince Henry trail was along the clifftops, which presented many magnificent vistas along the way. We’d round a bend, and there would be an even better view of The Three Sisters than we’d had a few minutes before. Bryan usually rushed to the railing at the viewpoints, but I tended to approach with my customary caution, so as not to lose consciousness.
We reached Echo Point about 2:15, along with a lot of other people who had gotten there on tour buses. Since our next Explorer bus wasn’t due until about 3:00, we had plenty of time to catch our breath, take pictures, and watch the progress of some rock climbers who were scaling the middle column of the Three Sisters.
When the bus came, we knew we only had time for one more stop, so we decided on the Leura Cascade, a beautiful mountain stream which found its way over boulders and through ferns and eventually threw itself off a cliff. From one of the vantage points, we looked down — way down — and saw the remains of a Volkswagen Beetle lying on its side on the canyon floor. It should not have attempted to be a waterfall.