Sydney: The Blue Mountains
We woke up in the Sydney CBD at an ungodly 5 am in the morning with the goal of scoping out the Blue Mountains for further trekking possibilities. The sun was not yet up and I cannot believe I am saying this, but I was silently wishing for my windbreaker and long socks. The Air Conditioning on the train did not help, although in rosy retrospection it was a nothing short of welcoming on the ride home. The first challenge was boarding the correct train. With platforms upon platforms and escalators that go only one way in Wynyard station, this in itself was a feat worth noting. Changing trains at Central we began the 2.5 hour train ride into the Western suburbs. The Greater Blue Mountains actually spans quite a large surface area, giving travelers the choice of several stations to embark upon their adventure- from Wentworth to Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath and beyond. Armed with my insect repellent wipes courtesy of ALDI (sponsorship opportunity please?), we walked down the streets of the most popular tourist town of Katoomba to a breathtaking view of the lush green valleys and layered mountainous plateaus that made up the national park.
The cool breeze was an optimistic start for another day of hiking opportunities. Prince Henry’s Cliff Walk lead us to a Visitors Centre where a few guide maps, trail suggestions, and much needed visits to the bathroom later we were set to go on our way. Starting down the Golden Stairway and around the three (and a half –we found a mini one) towering spires known as the 3 Sisters, we descended into the heart of the valley. Usually you’d say “with a spring in my step”, but I prefer to be unconventional and use a limp in my step instead, I hobbled downwards into the gumtree foliage. Immersed in the noises of the jungle, the laughing shrieks and wails of the animals were so alien to me that I felt like I was on a different planet altogether. It was there and then that I fostered my very first deadly spider friend. He was small, bright orange, and I screamed. Our friendship was fleeting but definitely made a lasting impression.
As we all know, what goes up must come down (or vice versa) and after a leisurely stroll along Federation Pass, we began the ascent up the Furber steps. Katoomba Falls on our right was a beautiful showering cascade, and we stopped to have lunch on one of it’s ledges while dangling our feet over the perilous drop (sorry mom!). The irony is, the visitor center told us we’d be walking for 4-5 hours along the suggested trail but I seriously think Australia is somewhat confused about it’s trail headings. All inclusive of a lunch break, and a long awaited moon picture (if you don’t already know the reference, check out Sasha’s Instagram @highonadventures) this loop took us a total of 2.5hrs. After that we made our way back to the train station in order to hop
one stop over to Wentworth.
I thoroughly underestimated my foot’s ability to handle today’s physical exertion but I limped with determination down Darwin’s Trail. A beautiful picturesque scenery of running brooks and firecracker red flowers surrounded us and my imagination teleported me back into the 1600’s, as if I was the very first explorer discovering this beautiful walkway. How exhilarating it must felt for every step to be an uncharted one.
As the creek widened and grew in volume, the trail took us down to the Weeping Rock and right across the higher portion of Wentworth falls. Standing at the top, you would never suspect how majestic it really is. The water was spilling over the lip of the rockfall, creating an overhang under which you could easily walk. This beautiful waterfall was the backdrop for our early dinner and I amused myself by watching the curious passerby’s staring at our makeshift little SnowPeak stove. As far as I’m concerned we’ve perfected the backpacker meal- couscous and tuna makes the world go round. As an exercise physiology-nerd-mixed-with-backpacker, I know this has got to be the best budget friendly and nutritiously wholesome meal after a long day of exertion (however you do get sick of it fairly quickly and crave a nice juicy slab of meat eventually).
Trying not to get distracted by the various side tracks (literally) off the main trail, we slowly stumbled (and by “we” I obviously mean “me”) back to the train station. Notwithstanding the frequent painful moans along the way (yes, my foot was really hurting if you didn’t catch on yet), we finally settled into the cushioned, air-conditioned compartment for the ride back to Sydney. Even more mentally than physically exhausted, I felt overwhelmed by the vastness of the green valleys that remain explored in my mind. I could picture Solitary Mountain, so close yet so far, taunting me just out of reach. I know that on my next visit here I will watch the sunrise from its majestic plateau, marveling at how tiny the Visitors Center along with the Three Sisters look from a distance. The longing to come back was unbelievably strong, and the only hope was for good weather.
Food for Thought
I leave you with the notion that the only thing which differs a tourist from a traveler is precisely the desire to transition from the state of visiting to a state of being as quickly and vigorously as possible. We do this by jumping into the thick of the metaphorical jungle with both feet, immersing ourselves in the true vibration of a place to learn from it, heal from it, or just to appreciate all of its little pieces working together in some kind of unfathomable harmony. Opening this chasm will undoubtedly leave you feeling extremely vulnerable yet so receptive to your own personal expansion. In these instances we should always try to remember that to explore is to know intimately exactly where you are, and to completely forego all notion of where you are going.