Friday, 26 April 2013

The Blue Mountains (part 3 / 3)

“Right, here is the plan!  We start off at Echo Point, then walk the Prince Henry Cliff walk, down the appropriately named Giant Stairways, visiting one of the 3 Sisters on the way, continue down until reaching Dardannelle’s Pass, walk through the eerily quiet Leura Forest then pass the amazing Leura Cascades then up the cliff face along the punishing Federal Pass, then finally walk along the appropriately named Megalong Street back to Katoomba in time for the late evening train back to Sydney.”

Trust me, this walk was a lot bigger than it looks on this map.


We started off at Echo Point, a large concrete platform area with amazing panoramic views of the Blue Mountains.  Along the edge of the platform were metal plaques that had engraved a map of the panoramic view with highlighted areas of interest including “Mount Solitary” a lone standing hill that dominated the centre of the panoramic view and “ruined castle” a rock formation that on closer inspection does actually look like the ruins of an old castle.

Sri and Marten

The generation game II

To the very left of the panoramic view are a set of 3 protruding rock faces that form the Blue Mountains most iconic landmark; “The 3 Sisters”.  The name I guess comes from the fact that the rocky outcrops look somewhat similar to each other.  It seems the theme of looking like you are from the same family is present in the rocks here as well as the local people.

On second thought, they don't really look alike...

After taking in as much of the amazing views as we could Marten, Sri and I headed along the start of the Prince Henry cliff walk towards the 3 Sisters.  It was a short and somewhat uneventful walk until we reached the appropriately named Giant Stairways.

This was just the start of a series of very steep stairways that led down the cliff face.  Early on in the decent we reached a bridge that led to the first of the 3 Sisters.  This area was surprisingly busy with 20 – 30 odd people crowding around this small bridge, “I wonder how many people this small bridge is designed to carry” I thought to myself as I watched Sri and Marten cross first.

Sri and Marten on the bridge.

The descent

After our quick visit to the 3 Sisters we continued over the cliff and down the Giant Stairways.  These steep stairways were absolutely relentless.  There were a few benches placed along the way on small rocky outcrops along the cliff face but these temporary reliefs were placed few and far between.
Eventually after a knee punishing 15 – 20 minutes of steps we reached the base of the cliff and the edge of the forest.

It was like this for a solid 15 - 20 minutes.
It had been quite busy with people going down the Giant Stairs, especially around the bridge.  However as we descended down the steps we started to see fewer people, and now on the forest floor it was quiet, very quiet.

At the end of the Giant stairways we had a choice of heading right to the scene railway or left towards the Leura Cascades.  Since none of us had any money and we didn’t know anything about the scenic railway we headed left towards the cascades.

The final stairway!
The echoless forest

Initially I was worried about spiders in the forest.  Before heading off to Australia everyone told me to “beware of the spiders, BEWARE OF THE SPIDERS!”  It seems to be the first thing most non Australian people associate with Australia and it left me initially feeling worried about walking through the forest, especially when Marten wanted to leave the path to explore deeper into the forest.  I just had visions of me walking round a corner and getting a face full of a black widow’s web.

But we didn’t encounter any spiders in the forest; to be honest I don’t think they are very common in the southern areas of Australia like New South Wales.  I believe they are more common in the hotter northern areas like Queensland and the Northern Territory.

If I was to come to harm via spider it would have happened when I was staying in Cairns, but the only danger to my health I faced in Cairns was self-inflicted alcohol poisoning.

Sri and Marten (note Marten's ridiculous walking stick).
The only thing we encountered in the forest after an hour of walking was a small picnic area.  Here there were some benches and a small tin roofed building with moss growing all over it.  The picnic site looked abandoned and almost post apocalyptic.  Together with the quietness of the forest the picnic site was almost a bit eerie. 

Just beyond the campsite however the sound of silence was replaced with the distant sound of rushing water.  I guess we had finally reached the Leura Cascades.  I was expecting just one very impressive waterfall but in reality there were lots of smaller waterfalls before we reached the cascades.

Leura Forest was very quiet.
The ascent

Between these small waterfalls we also started to leave the forest floor as the path began to lead us up the cliff face.  Like the Giant Stairways our pathway was made up of a seemingly never ending series of very steep stairways.  However these were a lot more spaced out than the Giant Stairways and there were nice waterfalls to stop and look at between the series of stairways.

An amazing waterfall that filled the air around it with a refreshing mist.

I believe these are the actual Leura Cascades.
This leg of the walk was my favourite part.  It had the best views with the waterfalls and the views of the valley below.  There were also a lot less people around here compared to Echo Point and the Giant Stairways which were too crowded for my liking.

Half way through our ascent the sun began to approach the horizon which gave all the protruding rock faces across the valley a fantastic golden glow.

Awesome views.

Around here we found some graffiti that dates back from 1910! 

Good place for a rest

Returning to civilization

After we finished our ascent we ended up on the somewhat appropriately named Megalong Street that led us back to Katoomba and from here we headed to the train station and waited for the train back to Sydney. 
The sun had just set over the railway lines, it was the perfect end to a great day.  If you are ever in the Sydney area you must go to the Blue Mountains.  I think every major city should have their own Blue Mountains nearby because they are the perfect city escape.

Some locals of Katoomba.

"A perfect end to a great day"