Katoomba

21-Feb-2013 10:34, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 24.0mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 200
Sunshine back in the valleySunshine back in the valley
Sunshine back in the valley21-Feb-2013 14:10, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 24.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
 
The Blue Mountains is a mountainous national park in New South Wales, about a 2 hour train ride from Sydney. The park is known for grand vistas, the three-sisters rock formation, the Katoomba waterfalls and numerous trails. The park is accessible either by road or rail. There is a train every hour, near the top of the hour, from Sydney’s Central station. It is a rather slow train and takes about two hours to get to Katoomba. After about an hour or so from Sydney, you start to see the landscape change from urbanity to a more mountainous terrain. Just be prepared, the ride itself or the vistas in the mountains might not wow you if you have seen the grander national parks in the US such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone or Denali to name a few, but nonetheless, it is well worth visiting. We were there in summer and it might be more spectacular in winter with all the snow that falls in the valley. The three sisters rock formation is a unique one and Rama was quick to point out their three sister siblings and hence the name struck more of a chord in me knowing the three well enough.

The town of Katoomba is a charming hill station, with a lot of vacation bungalow modelled after the English. Each of the better off ones have a different character to it and is well worth watching as you take one of the trolley tours available. There is one official (hop-on hop-off) and the other Blue-Mountains trolley tour (an old traditional sort of trolley). Going by the name it is hard to tell and you are enticed by one of the tour operators right outside the railway station. The other is right opposite. Best to check the frequency of the buses operated and go for the most frequent. We ended up taking the traditional trolley (can’t remember the name) and found it was an hour between every trip. Thus if you stop at a stop and are finished in about 30 minutes, you need to wait another 30 before you see the trolley again.

21-Feb-2013 12:30, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 200.0mm, 0.077 sec, ISO 800
21-Feb-2013 12:32, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 127.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 500
 
We reached there after noon and first headed to echo point where the three sisters formation is. There were a lot of tourists even for a weekday, mostly – almost 90% – of them South East Asian. It reminded me of Niagara Falls where half of the visitors are from the Indian sub continent. Anyway, the sights were well worth the time as you don’t get to see such a different landscape close to such an urban city as Sydney. After about half hour, we took the trolley back to the city and hunted for food. We ended up checking out the menus at six different restaurants before ordering at the Spice sisters (?). The food was good, but as anywhere in Australia or Sydney, the quantities are meagre even for poor eaters such as us – there is no comparison to the normal serving size that you get in America. And food is expensive, at least 30% more so. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the Aussies are so much fitter.

21-Feb-2013 10:30, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 70.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
21-Feb-2013 14:11, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 10.0, 46.0mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 200
 
Anyway, after lunch we took the trolley once again and just sat for most part in the bus. We got off a couple of points for photos and finally, really got off at the Scenic World for a ride on the ropeway over some sheer gorges. From the other end, we chose to walk the trail, a 20 minute easy hike and got a good glimpse of the Katoomba Falls. It had started to rain and made the pathway that much more slippery, but wasn’t too bad. I got some good pictures and when we got back on the trolley bus, we were quite tired – more so because we hadn’t still gotten used to the 16 hour time lag yet. Once back in the city, it was about 5 PM and the rain took a brief run before stopping for the sun. The train ride to Sydney was as smooth as the ride in. We had planned to step out for dinner but I was way too tired and got some surprisingly good Indian food at the hotel.

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