Friday, June 14

Back to the Blue Mountains

Mum and Pam’s penultimate day in Sydney was spent in the Blue Mountains.  The day dawned with surreal, ghostly fog flowing across the city skyline.  Morning news stories said the mountains were also covered by a heavy blanket of fog.  However, with a two-hour drive ahead of us we felt confident it would burn away before we arrived. 

To give us the best possible chance of clear skies I made a detour to Homebush, for a leisurely circuit around Sydney Olympic Park.  I only venture this way when there’s a major sporting venue on.  On these occasions, many of the area’s roads are closed and access is highly restricted.  We were delighted to find every road open, giving us intimate access to the Olympic stadium and nearby arenas.
We arrived in the mountains shortly after 11:30am.  Our first stop for the day was Wentworth Falls.  I think it’s the ideal location for introducing first-time visitors to the Mountains.  This proved to be spectacularly true for us.   We discovered a lingering finger of fog snaking its way up the Jamison Valley as we made our way to the day’s first scenic lookout. 

I even convinced my guests to take a ten-minute walk down dozens of jagged hand-crafted steps to Pulpit Rock.  This is a small lookout that sits on the edge of sandstone cliff.  It offers photogenic views of Wentworth Falls and surrounding valley.  We had the entire scene to ourselves for almost 15 minutes.
Our second stop was my favourite mountain vista. North of Blackheath township the Grose River cuts through the mountains on its way to the Hawkesbury River.  The resulting gorge, known as the Grose Valley, is simply stunning.  It’s best viewed from Govetts Leap, about 15 minutes west of Katoomba.  It’s a quiet lookout as tourist buses rarely venture this far.

I had planned to take Mum and Pam for lunch at the Hydro Majestic Hotel in nearby Medlow Bath.  This Edwardian venue was the mountain’s most popular entertainment venue when it opened in 1904.  Well heeled patrons would sip their brew while soaking in breath-taking cliff top views down the Megalong Valley.  
However, we found it closed.  Its entrance was fenced in and the grounds were clearly derelict. I later read that it’s about to undergo a $30 million renovation.  Many of its iconic rooms, including the casino, ballroom and wintergarden will be painstakingly restored to their former glory.

All was not lost. I took Mum and Pam back to Katoomba for lunch at another historical venue, the Paragon Café.  It opened in 1916 and claims to be Australia’s oldest café.  It’s reputation was built on back of delicious hand-made chocolates, attracting the rich and famous for decades to its popular art deco furnished function rooms.

Our final stop for the day was Echo Point.  This is home of the Three Sisters, easily the Blue Mountain’s most photographed location.  It’s also the one location that’s guaranteed to be filled with tour buses, tourists and tour guides.  However, the local council has worked hard to keep commercialization to a minimum, leaving the location open and accessible.  Cars are forced to park well away from the area keeping it surprisingly pedestrian friendly.


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