First of all, why are the Blue Mountains blue?
They are blue because they have a high density of Eucalyptus trees so the atmosphere is filled with finely dispersed droplets of oil and when combined with water and dust particles, scatter short-wavelength rays of light which are predominantly blue in colour. Now that you know, moving on to the hiking part of the Blue Mountains; there are three different hikes that we did on our travels through the Blue Mountains, the Three Sister, Wentworth Falls and Mt. Victoria’s Silver Cascades. The main and most visited one being the Three Sisters in Katoomba Australia (you take the Blue Mountains train line from Sydney to Katoomba station and can then take bus 686 to the Three Sisters Lookout). This is a very quaint town based largely on the tourist population with lots of vintage shops and cute cafes as well as a camera shop and a MacPac shop (a place for buying backpacking backpacks). We stopped in at Little Paris Cafe (81 Katoomba St, www.littlepariscafe.com), largely due to the fact that the other Cafe’s were closed on Mondays the food was a Parisian style with a twist, but despite its name, the decor was nothing like Paris, it has a modern earthy vibe with pops of colour and local art for sale. They had beautiful cakes and baguettes as well as crepes and omelets. The have vegan and gluten free options and some very interesting coffee options.
Once our bellies were full, we decided to walk to the Three Sister Viewpoint (about a 30 minute walk), but you can also take bus 686. We knew we had arrived when we saw all the tour buses pulling up and piles of passengers getting out, but most of the tourist were just going to see the lookout, they weren’t doing full hikes like we were planning to do. The viewpoint is easily accessible by wheelchair and was busy with people, but it was still a stunning first glance at the beautiful mountains. There is a short hike down to the Three Sisters Rocks which is only about 30 minutes (that’s leaving some time for some admiration) and it has trails that are mostly packed down, though it does have some steep steps.
The paths are quite easy to get to and from the Three Sisters and to the Scenic Cableway (like a sky train), but tickets are around $40/adult, so we opted for the walk, though it would be a much quicker way to the bottom, the walk was stunning as we passed by the Katoomba Cascades and Waterfall. We saw two Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos and one smaller red and brown one which I have yet to be able to identify. Canary Cockatoos are quite common to see in this area and they are pretty easy to identify by their yellow mohawk looking feathers on their head, white bodies, loud screeching (and tendance to sit outside bedroom windows at 5am, haha). To see the birds and the Mountain video, click here.
After switching locations from a place in the Sydney City Center (aka CBD), we moved to a place in Woodford and we were not disappointed. It was very close to our first destination of Wentworth Falls (Wentworth Falls station on the Blue Mountain Line). We again opted for walking to the falls instead of taking a bus closer, and it was totally worth it as we hiked through Darwins Walk, we saw little inlets and small beaches and alcoves along the way, small birds and even happened to walk past a stick bug, nearly stepping on it! The walk to the falls was relatively easy, however the hike down the mountain side, is quite taxing, with larger stones and climbing down approx. 34 stories. I liked how along the way they had posted the history of Wentworth Falls with one of the first recorded pictures of Wentworth Falls in 1910, followed by a huge flood in 1912 which took out the previously built bridges and walkways. The stone steps are made out of other historic buildings which could not be restored, which made UNESCO take notice, they awarded Wentworth Falls with an Amazing Restoration Concept. While on our way back home to the bus, which was not going to come for another hour and a half, we were picked up by an Aussie couple who regularly visit the Mountains for hiking, we had a great talk about the hikes as they dropped us at the Wentworth Falls station, we grabbed some groceries and waited in the cooling air for the train. (Note: if staying later than 5pm, take a jacket, we got a litle chilled!)
Video recap of the stunning Three Sisters Katoomba and beautiful Wentworth Falls:
Our host Owen made us feel the real mountainous aussie experience, he was very rooted to nature with a very friendly open heart. One evening, he happened to be outside carving away at something, and I went to see what was all the commotion.
This time though, it was to Mt. Victoria’s Silver Cascades, one of the furthest stations and attractions in the Blue Mountains. It is also one of the most difficult to get to as there is no public transit to the spot, however, going there really makes you feel like a local as it is very secluded and very few people go there as you generally need a car. If you are walking, like we did… take lots of water as it is about an hour and a half walk in the open Aussie air with the sun beating down on you. We took about 4L with us. Once to the site, it is another hours hike down to the watering hole, and this was the hardest of the three hikes that we did (however, I know that the Three Sisters can have some very long climbs with steep steps, ranging from 3-5 hours). What I found so difficult about the Mt. Victoria Silver Cascades walk was that the paths were not as kept as the other hikes we did making it quite difficult at times. There was tons of loose rocks, grasses and plants overgrown on the path (making it hard to watch our step, check out tips from the locals HERE), steep edges with no handrails, steep steps and we even had a fallen tree blocking our path which we had to climb around. You will see lots of wildlife though, such as birds, small lizards and possibly snakes, we even saw some pretty interesting spiders. I recommend heading to the cascade early as the sun shines off the plunge basin keeping it and you warm, as well the sun reflects off the water cascading over the rocks, creating that silvery illusion giving it its name Silver Cascade.
There was Andrew and I and two other couples, one stretched out on a sun basked rock, the other perched on a couple rocks ready to step in the plunge basin and us, trying to figure out where we belong in this watering hole hierarchy. We were the newbies, which was clear as they had brought with them, books and music and a picnic, so we settled for a half sun half shaded area off to the side as to not disturb the peace. We stripped to our swimwear and hopped in the calm waters of the basin. You are quick to learn that the water in the shade seems to have been for a while and is quite cold, stick to the stuff in the sun! It was a very nice refreshing dip after a two and a half hour hike. We sat and had a little lunch as we dried off. It is possible to climb the cascades, but be warned, it can be extremely slippery and easy to hurt yourself during the climb. After we finished basking in the sun and going for another quick dip, we decided in order to catch the next train we would need to head back up the steep climb which may take us a bit longer since it was going up instead of down. We met at the top one of the couples we had seen at the cascades as we put on sunscreen to make our trek back, they offered us a ride as they were living the town over. We graciously accepted and enjoyed our ride, swapping stories and suggestions with a guy from New York who was taking advantage of the website called workaway.info which is site that matches up volunteers to available hosts who allow you to stay in their accommodations so long as you are volunteering with them.