Staring out at a magnificent canvas of rolling blue hills, the cool mountain air sharp against my face, I felt truly at peace. Both work-wise and personally, the last few weeks had been a bit tough so it was nice to just get away and have a breather. Here in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales, I managed to find a temporary yet much needed respite from reality.
How one finds herself in the Blue Mountains
Having just returned to work after 10 days in Thailand, I was sent to Sydney 2 weeks later to help with uni student recruitment for our upcoming summer vacation program. Flying over on a Tuesday and working right through until Friday, I requested a flight back to Perth on the Sunday instead of coming straight home (pro travel tip: extending a work trip where possible is a great way to get more travel under your belt). Having been to Sydney a few times and being quite familiar with the city, I saw this as a golden opportunity to do something different and so I booked myself on to a day tour to the Blue Mountains through Sight Seeing Tours Australia.
I almost ended up not doing the tour at all. During this time I was dating a Canadian guy. Nothing serious – it had only been just over a month of dating – but I had somehow convinced myself that things were going well, despite all signs pointing in the opposite direction. And so I spent a fair amount of time humming about, contemplating whether to come back home on a Friday or Sunday. Friday or Sunday? The question repeated itself over and over in my tortured head. Come home Friday in case he wanted to spend time with me? Or have an awesome adventure and come home Sunday?
But with not a single word from him in a while and the growing suspicion that I was being ghosted, I made a simple decision: I wasn’t going to revolve my life around him or any guy or ghost for that matter.
So Sunday it was.
A wonder of nature worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Greater Blue Mountains area consists of 1.03 million hectares of plunging cliffs, rugged tableland and inaccessible valleys – the place of dreams for the lover of the outdoors. The foothills commence 65km inland from Sydney and rise all the way up to an 1100m high sandstone plateau. The muted blue colour of the mountains is due to a fine mist of oil produced by the eucalypts that cover the region. And to think such an incredible wonder of nature is only 2 hours drive from the hustle and bustle of the biggest city in Australia. Needless to say, I got very snap happy with my camera.
An incredible view from Evans Lookout
Closer to the edge…
If these photos don’t win you over and convince you to visit the Blue Mountains next time you’re in Sydney, I don’t know what will.
Lunch in Leura and dreaming of returning
After a morning of constant gasping over the views, we stopped for lunch in Leura, one of the most picturesque towns in the region. Unfortunately arriving at peak lunch hour and having only 45 minutes until we had to hit the road again, this left very little time to actually explore the town – probably one of the few downsides of going on a guided tour – you’re on a pretty tight schedule so if slow travel is more your thing then I would suggest hiring a car and visiting the area on your own.
The picture perfect town of Leura (image from Weekendnotes)
Leura is home to many grand old houses and beautiful gardens such as the Everglades Gardens. The main street of the town has plenty of antique stores, art galleries and book stores. I would love to return to this town and spend some time exploring.
Everglades Gardens in Leura: Imagine having this view while drinking a cup of tea! (image from the National Trust Everglades Garden website)
Scenic World and The Three Sisters
In the afternoon we stopped at Scenic World. For $39 (not included in the day tour cost), you get a pass that allows unlimited rides on the Railway, Skyway, Cableway and Walkway (It only just occurred to me that all the ride names end in “way”). I admit what with the cheesy name and all the rides, I was rather cynical about this place, but as soon as I stepped on to the Skyway, all cynicism was put to rest as I looked out at the breathtaking landscape, which looked even more incredible from the sky.
Arriving at Scenic World
This was followed by a cable car descent into the ancient rainforest at the floor of the Jamison Valley. Walking the 2.4 km track through the rainforest had a somewhat eerie feeling to it, as if we were in a scene from Jurassic Park. Unfortunately there weren’t any dinosaurs but it was still really interesting learning about the coal mining history of the area as well as all the flora and fauna unique to this region.
The final ride was on the Railway. With a 52 degree incline, it is the steepest passenger railway in the world. I highly recommend you take the train up from the rainforest rather than go down. It’s quite a crazy feeling sitting backwards while you ascend back up away from the valley floor.
Symmetry in nature – exploring the rainforest on the floor of the Jamison Valley at Scenic World
From Scenic World, we also got our first glimpse at the famous Three Sisters – a trio of sandstone rock formations that jut out into the sky. According to Aboriginal legend, a father turned his three daughters to stone with a magic bone to protect them from the wrath of the Bunyip. To protect himself from the angry creature, he turned into a lyre bird but ended up losing the bone. To this day he still searches for this bone so he can turn his daughters back into human form.
The Three Sisters
Cruising Down the Parramatta River
For that final touch of magic, the day ended with a cruise down the Parramatta River, back to the hustle and bustle of Sydney. If you’ve seen landmarks such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, you’ll absolutely love the different perspective you get viewing these incredible pieces of architecture from the water.
Beautiful sunset over the Parramatta River
On breaking the ice and almost getting set-up with an Aussie
As breath taking as the Blue Mountains were, it was the people I met who really made the trip memorable. Indeed whenever I travel, it’s always the encounters I’ve had with people that stick out the most for me.
Stopping for a refreshment break in the morning, I munched away happily on my cookies and juice. Standing quietly near me was a woman with blonde hair, donned in a bright pink jacket. Mustering as much courage as I could find, I asked her some awfully generic question but it was enough to break the ice. I had made a friend! Her name was Henna. A teacher from Finland, she was over in Australia for her summer holiday. We ended up spending the rest of the day together. As a result of finding the courage to talk to and befriend someone, the idea of travelling to Scandinavia has now become a lot more affordable (hello, free accommodation!).
There was also Jason, our energetic, entertaining, larger than life quintessential Aussie tour guide. What with all his enthusiasm for being out in nature, he could have been Steve Irwin’s cousin. There were visitors in my group from all parts of the world: Singapore, China, the UK. Yet it seemed like Christmas Day when he learnt I was from New Zealand. I’m not sure why but New Zealand accents seem amusing to non-Kiwis. He must have spent a good few minutes mocking me when I said the word “cliff” which I apparently pronounced as “cluff”.
“Have you met a nice Aussie bloke?” Jason asked me at one point. Henna giggled. I tried not to snort. “Nope,” I said bluntly. “Do you know any?”
“Well my cousin owns a house in Kwinana.” Conveniently enough, Kwinana is about 30 minutes from where I live.
It was just as well that nothing more was raised about the topic.
At Scenic World: view of the majestic cliffs from the rainforest below
In retrospect – on never waiting around on someone to make your life more exciting
Looking back, I cannot believe that I even fathomed coming home early and missing out on such a wonderful adventure for a guy I actually never saw again. That’s right – I was indeed ghosted. Or at least he tried. Being the genius I am when it comes to dating, I prodded him with a message, knowing he would find some bit of decency within him to admit that he was no longer interested. Therefore everyday I am so thankful that I don’t have to regret coming home early and moping around the house wishing I had stayed in NSW longer.
So with the beauty of the Blue Mountains aside, if there is one thing you take away from this story, it should be this:
Don’t ever revolve your life around another person. Focus on building your own life and creating your own adventures. If the other person really cares for you, they will have your back and be your number one supporter in all that you choose to do with your life. If you’re scared that your love interest is going to get upset because you want to hang out with your friends on a Friday night or you’re scared he or she is going to leave you while you travel around Europe for 3 months then believe me, they’re definitely not the one for you.
Besides, what’s more attractive? A person that clings and waits around for someone else to take them out and make them happy? Or a strong, independent person who doesn’t give a toss, forges their own path through life and creates their own adventures and excitement? I know which person I’d choose any day.
Back in the city, I tucked into a hearty meal of pasta and tiramisu, washing it all down with a glass of white wine. I was content and incredibly proud of myself for the choice I had made to add more adventure to my life. Here’s to living and not waiting around for someone else to help you live!
Booking a day tour to the Blue Mountains
If you’re in Sydney and want something a little different from its famous beaches and tourist attractions, I suggest visiting the Blue Mountains, only 2 hours drive from the city.
In all honesty, a day is nowhere near enough time to explore this region. I would suggest at least a few days. There’s plenty of waterfalls, hiking trails and pretty towns to keep you occupied. You could probably just spend an entire day in Leura alone!
However if you’re pressed for time, I suggest booking a tour to maximise your time and ensure you visit the best places in the region.
I booked myself on the Blue Mountains Day Tour for only $89 (children aged 2 to 12 only pay $60). This includes pick-up from most hotels/hostels in Sydney, all national park entrance fees, light refreshments for morning tea and a beautiful cruise along the Parramatta River back to Sydney. The tour will also take you to Scenic World but you need to pay your own way in.