Around Sydney. Beautiful Blue Mountains report.

Discussion in 'Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific' started by Junca, Feb 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. Junca
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    Junca Silver Member

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    Last August I took a short trip to Sydney with a friend. We had 3 nights in Sydney and 2 nights in Katoomba, by the Blue Mountains National Park. We got a “MyMulti3” weekly pass that allowed us all the transport we needed (actually more than we needed): CityRail, Buses, Ferries, and CityRail Intercity to get us to Katoomba. There was a small surcharge on a CityRail return to the airport. The MyMulti3 was under $60 USD, I believe, but I don’t recall the airport charge. We bought the pass at the airport before one gets on the train. Very easy.

    http://www.cityrail.info/tickets/which/mymulti

    So - this report is featuring the Blue Mountains. After a fun 3 days in Sydney, where we had wonderful luck with the weather, we hopped on the train to Katoomba, which we considered to be an easy place to stay to see the Blue Mountains and get in some good walking in the short time frame we had.

    It took about 2hrs. from Central Station in Sydney. It was a rainy day, but nice views could still be had on the way (although photos didn’t work out). Train was not crowded and it was a pleasant enough ride.

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    Arrival in Katoomba.

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    We were staying at two B&B’s, essentially because the first (preferred one) could not accommodate us for both nights. We made the arrangements while in Sydney. We weren’t sure until we arrived in Australia whether we would actually make the trip to the mountains. Very glad we did, of course.

    The B&B owner picked us up from the station and drove us the short distance to the home. After that, we walked everywhere. There are buses and a shuttle/trolley that drive around the small town of Katoomba and deliver folks to sites, but we were well within walking distance of the National Park trails. We got settled in our room then walked to a restaurant for lunch. It was called the Common Ground Cafe. Very small. We waited a bit for a table. Food was fine. Nothing exceptional, although it gets rave reviews. It is, though, very unique inside ... I’m sure that’s why it’s so popular. I don’t have any photos though.

    It was still a bit rainy as we left so we decided to just stroll around town a bit, pick up some beer, and head back to the B&B to relax in the late afternoon. That evening we walked again to “main street” area of town for dinner, but I can’t say I remember much about it! I remember all the meals/restaurants being fine, but nothing particularly memorable.
     
  2. Junca
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    Junca Silver Member

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    Outside our window at our B&B. Australian King-Parrot.
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    A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in a bird feeder !?! Fun! (Also saw them in flocks in the Park)
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    The second day was showing promise early with clouds rolling away to reveal marvelous blue skies. First things first, we needed to move to the second B&B in the morning after a hearty b-fast at the first. It didn’t look like it was too far down the same road, and we were pointed out the way by our host. Well, it was longer than we thought, lugging our bags. Not that we had a large amount of luggage, but I probably packed more than I should have ... being uncertain what type of weather we would run into. As we lumbered down the rough neighborhood sidewalks a kind woman pulled over her car and asked if we wanted a ride. I knew we couldn’t be that far and told her thank you, but we could walk. She kindly insisted that we get our be-hinds in her car. Very kind indeed as it was a little farther than we thought, and although we got there in no time in a car we would have had a quite a bit of walking to go (again, really not a problem without a bag, but luggage was cumbersome). Looking back I’m not quite sure why B&B #1 host didn’t offer to drive us. We had wanted to stay at his place; we were only moving because he had no room. It would have been only a couple of minutes of his time. Oh well.

    Not being a busy time of year, B&B #2 let us into our room in the morning. We told the host we were off to do the Giant Stairs and Federal Pass Track. She warned us that it was hard on the legs .... really hard on the legs... We were not to be deterred of course. I mean, going down stairs means gravity, at least, will be working on our side, right?!

    After an easy walk continuing down the road (now with only a day pack, camera equipment, and water), our first stop was at the National Park’s visitor center at Echo Point. Here we saw the Three Sisters from the obligatory look-out.

    Quite lovely.
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    [SIZE=3]Then we began “The” Stairway ... [/SIZE]
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  3. Junca
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    Junca Silver Member

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    [​IMG]

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    The stairs actually weren’t any problem (the next day is a different story), being very old and in places fairly destroyed, the Park had plenty of railings and is some cases metal steps in place. It was, however, very, very steep. The ... whole ... way ... down. How long? I wish I remembered better, but I believe about 30-40 minutes.

    The lower ridge trail (Federal Pass Track) is a fairly easy, a casual walk with very pleasant views. We really took our time. Stopping and enjoying the serenity. The trail was quiet and not busy at all.
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  4. Junca
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    Junca Silver Member

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    [​IMG]

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    Then the decision needed to be made on how to get back up to the rim. One could take the Furber Steps, which from my understanding were similarly old as the Giant Stairway AND similarly steep. Well, my vote was to be a slug and hitch a ride back up. An incline railway runs straight up the side of the mountain and in no time you are out. Here’s some tidbits I found on it:

    It's the steepest railway in the world (Guinness Book of Records), and originally part of the Katoomba mining tramways constructed between 1878 and 1900.
    • Maximum gradient: 52 degrees or 1 in 0.82 or 122%.
    • Length of incline: 415 metres (1360 ft).
    • Vertical descent: 178 metres (587 ft).
    • Speed: 4 metres per second.
    • Capacity (theoretical): 840 passengers per hour.
    • Roof: metal mesh, with transparent cover in wet weather.
    • Type: Variously known as an incline railway/railroad, funicular railway, cable railway or cable incline.
    Upon looking at it I almost changed my mind and was willing to test my heart to see if I could make it up the mountain via the steps. But, in checking the time and our laziness factor we decided to take the train .... STRAIGHT UP and out. I gave my camcorder to my friend and closed my eyes (not ... good... with... heights). It was a very short ride at least. What amazed me even more was that people took rides DOWN into Jamison Valley in it. That would have absolutely not worked for me. Yes ... there was a ticket fee that I do not recall. Up-to-date pricing is likely found via the website of Scenic World, who runs it.

    Train platform where we got on.
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    Getting off train at top.
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    Here comes the only bad part of the day ... when we got off the train it dumped us right into a massive, crowded souvenir store of Scenic World ... couldn’t wait to get outa there.
     
  5. Junca
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    Junca Silver Member

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    After that, we walked along a rim trail (Prince Henry Cliff Track) back to town.

    View of train platform from top.
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    We stopped again at the Park’s visitor center and picked up a few souvenirs/gifts, chatted with a staffer, then strolled back to our B&B. Got cleaned up and walked to dinner; nothing special to report on that end.

    Next morning we caught a train back to Sydney and then right on to the Airport. This time the train got much busier with lots of school kids and commuters. It was fun to people watch on a normal work/school day in Sydney.

    Unfortunately, the host at B&B#2 was spot on ... my legs were killing me the next day! Particularly the thighs ... felt like rubber bands; sore rubber bands. I hadn’t noticed the day before, but the evil stairs were now having their revenge on muscles I apparently hadn’t been using very much. My friend did not suffer the same fate as I.

    Luckily, after smooth airport check-in and another wonderful lounge stay at the Koru Club in SYD, we had a very comfy, uneventful flight home (with the exception of me almost tumbling as I walked in the aisle mid-flight as my legs did not want to work!).

    Life is good on the upper deck:
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    There was MUCH more to see in the Blue Mountains. Many more trails to hike. I would recommend for anyone.
     
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  6. Chad
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    Chad Silver Member

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    Excellent report.

    That last photo made me do a doubletake as well - for a second I thought cityrail had really lifted its standards!
     
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  7. ThatJohn
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    ThatJohn Silver Member

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    Fantastic! Love the report. Thanks for taking the time to post it here! :)
     
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  8. infoworks
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    infoworks Silver Member

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    A good experience, well presneted, thanks. Also, if you are visiting with a car, especially on weekends, the Zig Zag Railway at Bell is worthwhile. It's the orginal zig zag line, steam engine and cars that first was built to cross the mountains to the west (main line is a tunnel now).
     
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