“Blue was better for you. Blue has wings…Blue was your kindly spirit.” When Ted Hughes likened blue to serenity, it could well have been the teary mist-like blue emitted from the ancient Eucalyptus forests; so thick, so strong and so old that they scatter the ultraviolet particles around them; bending light to make the mountains blue.
An ancient place, steeped in the legends and history of the native Gundungurra and Darug People, the Blue Mountains is akin in spirit, if not form to the Cordilleras. Like Baguio, it is an obligatory getaway from lavish Sydney, dotted with caves, rain forests and waterfalls for hiking and exploring.
We arrived in the middle of winter, the region still fresh from an overnight snowfall and biting winds to explore the National Park. First stop is a descent into the forests and remnant coal mines of the Jamison Valley on the steepest railway in the world.
We walk through the forests, steeped in darkness under the canopy, ascending to the cliff face once more via cable car. We fly across the gorge above Katoomba Falls in a liquid crystal glass cable car, staring down at the valley, 200m below. From Echo Point, we spy the Three Sisters - rock formations claimed to be the stone incarnations of Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, three daughters of a witch doctor who cast a spell on them and was unable to turn them back into human form.
Known not just for the national park, but for its Christmas in July and Jazz Festival, the Blue Mountains cuts a slice of culture for us to indulge. At dusk, we head into Leura, the most charming of the villages in the Blue Mountain. Whilst Katoomba has the legendary Lilianfel’s and the Carrington, Leura has all the class and the style. The long stretch of Leura Mall hosts vintage clothing and furniture shops, gardens, handmade chocolate boutiques and a smattering of hipster cafés and bistros. Bon Ton, Leura Garage and Le Gobelet are the standouts. Bon Ton, for the pretty garden, the Garage for organic eats and Le Gobelet for René, the lugubrious and short-fused French chef who inexplicably embodies several French clichés and stereotypes.
Only a few hours by scenic train or an hour and a half by road from Sydney, the Blue Mountains is the most accessible way to see the ancient and natural side of Australia.
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