Blue Mountains

The contrast could not be bigger when I leave Germany on a crisp day in April and arrive in Down Under on a pleasantly warm late-summer night. While in Northern Europe spring still has not arrived yet, on the other side of the globe summer simply does not want to end. When leaving the traffic and the heat of Sydney behind it does not take long to enter a completely different world, driving up into the Blue Mountains, a mountain range just 90 minutes west of the city. Up here, the air is clean and fresh with slightly cooler temperatures (around 20-25 degrees), the sun is shining, the sky is blue and being fully surrounded by nature creates an immediate tranquility and a lovely peaceful atmosphere. After settling into my rustic, country-style cottage, set in a beautiful garden, I take off to explore the area. And what I encounter here is truly stunning…

The cliff drive winds its way along the edge of a giant cliff providing breathtaking, panoramic views into the wooded valley as well as of wonderful rock formations and waterfalls.

And this is just the beginning. Countless of smaller and longer walks lead to viewpoints with even more impressive views. Considering the amount of options, it is a challenging decision where to start so I just follow the advice of my host and go on a smaller hike around the Leura Cascades first. The trail leads through lush forest that seems to be full of wildlife, however, that can primarily be told by all the sounds rather than by actually seeing the animals. Thus, I am accompanied by constant rustling (probably caused by lizards) and exotic sounds of birds, next to very nice views of several waterfalls and the valley along the way. Once I reach the end of the trail I just arrive on time to witness how the setting sun turns the Three Sisters, the most famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, into a beautiful gold-orange light.

On the following day I feel energized enough to tackle a longer hike. I start at Scenic World and walk along the cliff to get to the point where I watched the sunset the day before. I continue until I reach the Three Sisters where I take the 800+ stairs of the Giant Stairway to get to the bottom of the cliff to make my way back to Scenic World. Scenic World provides two interesting options to get up the cliff again: one option is the steepest train on the planet and the other one is a cable car. I try both options going up and down several times and finally experience Scenic World’s third attraction as well: another cable car with a glass floor crossing the valley 270 meters above the forest.

While I am amazed by the rides I am shocked by the amount of tourists at the same time. During all the hikes and even around the viewpoints I hardly came across any other people but here at Scenic World it is super busy and people are waiting in line to get on the rides. It makes me realize that I am not a big fan of these tourist attractions and that it bothers me more and more every time I run into one. At the same time though, I notice that it is almost always possible, and in fact fairly easy, to stay off the beaten track and to avoid the crowds by just talking to the locals and following their advice.

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