One last workout at Crossfit Athletic, a quick breakfast and then it was time to head to the suburbs to pick up my wheels for the following three weeks. The rental company had been so ‘kind’ to upgrade me to a larger car. Sounds nice but I really would’ve preferred a smaller one. It’s difficult enough to get used to driving on the [wrong] left hand side without also feeling that you’re maneuvering an elephant on wheels! To be fair it might not be that big (it’s a Toyota Corolla Ascent) but compared to my own cute and beloved car back home it’s gigantic!
So my goal of the day was quite simple: get me and my car to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains without any of us getting hurt.
So while we’re at it let’s just talk a bit more about the driving. The first two days I did have to remind myself to breathe every now and then, and I’ll admit that I’ve turned on the whiskers a few times (classic!). I haven’t driven on the wrong side (or been close to do it) and I don’t get how people can go the wrong way in the roundabouts? But it’s definitely difficult to stay in your own lane when you’re seated in the opposite side of the car than usual, that has taken some serious getting used to! It’s getting better and better though and I don’t feel exhausted after driving the same way I did the first couple of days.
So let’s get back to those mountains, shall we? Right before Katoomba there is another (and smaller) town called Leura where I stopped to grab a quick lunch at a nice little café before venturing out on my first bushwalk.
I headed to Leura Cascades picnic area as that was the only place I found the combination of a parking area and a trailhead. Despite quite a lot of research back home I never found much information on the bush walks and how to access them in the Leura area and it left me really frustrated. Turned out it wasn’t much clearer once on the trails. The signing was poor but after having studied several maps I think I might have figured out where I was.
I walked along the Leura Cascades which end in the Bridal Veil Fall and the most stunning view over the Blue Mountains. Just WOW!
From there I continued on to Bridal Veil Lookout and then along part of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk which winds its way up and down (and actually continues on to Katoomba). I turned around when it meets the Cliff Drive and walked the same way back as the possible round walk was closed. It was really windy making it quite cold so when I got back to my car I decided to find my hotel.
So it turns out that early spring (and outside of the school holidays) is pretty much offseason in the Blue Mountains. So it was only me and one other guest at the hotel that I’d booked for two nights. And they obviously didn’t bother turning on the heat anywhere besides the two rooms that were booked so the hallways were freezingly cold which just made the hotel feel even more empty.
Due to the crazy wind it wasn’t really tempting to walk in to town and neither did I feel like driving in the dark just yet so I drove to the supermarket before the sun set hoping to find some kind of prepared dinner that I could bring back to the hotel and also stock up on sandwich supplies so I could make my own lunch the following days.
However there wasn’t really any great dinner options so I ended up having semi dry sandwiches in my bed while listening to the storm outside.
Breakfast was supposed to be included in my stay but since we were only so few guests the manager had told me the night before that he would just leave something for me in the hallway in the evening – had told him no thanks and decided to head back to the café from the day before! So after a delicious breakfast and a nice cup of coffee I was ready for another bushwalk.
I’d decided to do the Great Round Walk which begins with a Skyway tour across part of the rainforest and from there I walked along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk to the Three Sisters.
The wind hadn’t settled down so I had the track all to myself. At the Three Sisters there’s a Giant Stairway going into the valley. I’m not exactly sure why but in my head the Giant Stairway was this wide set of stairs. In reality the giant thing about it was the length: 900 steps!
It was this narrow stairway that was winding its way down the mountain side. Luckily I had it all to myself! The best part was that once a little down the stairs the wind was no longer a problem. It was suddenly possible to hear all the birds, I no longer had all my hair in my face and my fingers started to thaw.
Once at the bottom of the stairs I started making my way along the track that took me through the rainforest until I reached a part of Scenic World (they also operate the Skyway) and their boardwalks in the rainforest. To get back up from the valley you can either walk (no thanks!), take the steepest railway in the world (saw it and it looked really scary, so no thanks!) or take the Cableway (yes please!).
So about 2.5 hours after boarding the Skyway I was back at the start of the Great Round Walk. I’d only walked 6 km but at the same time no less than 97 flights of stairs! The bush walk was lovely and I’m so happy I did it even though I was just about to give up in the beginning because of the wind.
I was getting really frustrated with the wind and the cold and I couldn’t bear spending one more night feeling locked in to my hotel room so I decided to skip the second night in Katoomba and drove towards the coast. The benefit was also breaking the next day’s drive into two! More on where I ended up for the night next time..