Blue Mountains: A hilly blissful nest near Sydney in Australia

Sandip Hor | @notintownlive | 09 Jul 2024, 12:56 pm

Blue Mountains: A hilly blissful nest near Sydney in Australia Blue Mountain

“The natural scenery around Katoomba resembles Lonavala and Khandala back home," said Manish and Suniti, a couple from Pune, India. I met them at Echo Point, a paved lookout that offers a spectacular view of three soaring sandstone turrets, widely known as ‘Three Sisters’. For time unknown, they are guarding below the vast Jamison Valley, canopied by thick rainforests.

 Located around 70 km west of Sydney, the capital city of the east-coast state of New South Wales, Katoomba is the hub of the Blue Mountains region, which to any Indian bestows the flavours of a colonial hill station in India like Dalhousie or Mussoorie.

Manish and Suniti regularly visit Sydney to spend time with their son, who, with his wife and two kids, has been living in Australia for the last two decades. Both of them love nature, particularly hilly enclaves like Lonavala and Khandala. So Katoomba is of great appeal to them.

“Whenever we are in Sydney, we make it a point to visit the Blue Mountains. It’s so close to Sydney and so different. Earlier we made day trips, but the last few times we come and stay here a couple of nights to relax in nature," Manish mentioned.

It’s just not for Manish and Suniti; Blue Mountain is a great escape destination for Sydneysiders and a 'must-visit’ one for anyone visiting the city for a vacation. In recent times, regular visits from the large Indian diaspora in Sydney have sensationally increased. Sometimes they are accompanied by their visiting relatives and friends from India who have also now started making trips on their own, as Blue Mountains is well connected by public transport from Sydney.

The Blue Mountains, with their ensemble of spectacular gorges, streaming waterfalls, enchanting mountain caves, lush rainforests, and rolling valleys, are a great outdoor place any time of the year. It glows in autumn, chills in winter, bursts with colour in spring, and provides a cooler escape in summer. The domain is densely populated by oil-bearing Eucalyptus trees releasing finely dispersed droplets of oil that combine with dust, vapour, and sunlight to give the atmosphere a bluish haze, thus the name.

An area said to be ten times older than the Grand Canyon, the Blue Mountains region was World Heritage listed in 2000 in recognition of its geographic and cultural importance.

Nestled within the wilderness of charming mountains lie several towns and villages. Katoomba, the region's nerve centre, is tucked at over 1000 m. Other notable settlements are Springwood in the lower part, Wentworth Falls and Leura around Katoomba, Medlow Bath, and Blackheath towards the top.

The ‘Three Sisters’ are landmarks in the Blue Mountains. If anyone has ever heard of the Blue Mountains before, this is what they will have in mind. The three unique rock formations stand at 922, 918, and 906 metres tall, respectively. According to indigenous legend, they represent three tribal sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah', and Gunnedoo', who fell in love with three brothers from another tribe.

The native law was then forbidding inter-tribal marriages. Obviously, the brothers were not happy, so they used force to capture the sisters, causing a major tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were in danger, a witchdoctor turned the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm, her intention being to reverse the spell after the battle.

Unfortunately, the witch doctor himself got killed during the combat. Being the only ones who could return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters unfortunately had to remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.

It’s said that after Sydney’s Opera House precinct, Echo Point is the state’s next most visited spot, drawing nearly five million visitors annually to see the ‘Three Sisters’. So the quarter during the day is overcrowded with busloads of day trippers. However, to cherish its beauty and the surrounding nature in peace, many have started spending a few nights in the region.

I stayed for a couple of nights at the Lilianfels Resort, the region's only 5-star outlet, which is located almost at the doorstep of Echo Point. So I was able to be at the location at dawn and dusk when the golden rays of the rising and falling sun made the turrets look spectacular. The Three Sisters are illuminated at night, and I could also enjoy that view as well.

Echo Point is also the gateway to many walks and hikes that take the physically fit to various other lookouts that offer splendid views of the surrounding environment. There is no need to be disappointed if walking up and down the mountainous path is not your preference. Like I did, jump on a former army vehicle for a guided journey offered by Beyond the Blacktop Adventure Tours, which takes guests along lesser-driven paths to many nooks that showcase the splendid scenery of the plunging valleys and towering escarpments. Or get on to the century-old Zig Zag Railway to capture scenery from the window of a running train hauled by steam engines.

However, Scenic World offers the most popular way to immerse yourself in nature. This privately owned facility operates a variety of adventure-driven journeys that include discovering the thrill of a 52-degree incline in open terrain, riding the steepest passenger railway in the world, and gliding on a cable car for the best views of the surrounding cliffs and the valley in between. However, the most thrilling experience on their menu is soaking up an uninterrupted 360-degree view from the roof of the cable car while sipping champagne at a height of 270 metres above sea level. It’s the world's first rooftop cable car experience, hyped like nothing else on earth.

Beyond nature, a major attraction of the Blue Mountains is the culinary indulgences offered by a myriad of cafes and restaurants. While many of them are budget-friendly, some are fine dining venues and ‘Hatted’ meaning equivalent to Michelin star ratings. Popular are Arrana at Springwood, Darley’s , The Lookout, and the Grand Dining Room at the century-old Carrington Hotel all dotted in Katoomba, and the Blaq in Blackheath. All of them serve artistically modern Australian cuisine with vegetarian options, all prepared with local fresh produces Not to be missed is the traditional ‘high tea’ at the Hydro Majestic Hotel, often referred to as the ‘Palace in the Wilderness’. artistically

Blue Mountains is widespread among visitors to Sydney, particularly from India, because of its efficient rail connection from Sydney’s Central Station to all the locations in the hilly region, from Springwood in the lower part and Katoomba in the middle to Blackheath in the top.

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