Friday, August 21, 2009

My Blue Mountains Mini-break Part 1

A few weeks ago before departing for her big adventure in the states ("overseas" as they call it here... overseas being short for "anywhere other than Australia") my friend invited me to spend the weekend with her and her Nana in a beautiful area west of Sydney where the famous Blue Mountains are located. We stayed in her Nana's lovely home in the city of Bathurst for two nights. The crisp fresh winter air was just what my lungs had ordered! I was thrilled to be able to escape the city for the first time since last March and I thoroughly enjoyed every last moment of the trip.

Upon leaving the Sydney traffic in our dust, we set out on the open road for Katoomba, eagerly anticipating a visit to the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation at a place called Echo Point. The Aboriginal dream-time legend of the Three Sisters is rather interesting. According to the legend there were three sisters who had fallen in love with three brothers from a different tribe but under tribal law they were forbidden to marry. Upset, the brothers conspired to capture the sisters from their tribe. This gave rise to a major tribal battle and placed the girls in grave danger. A witchdoctor from the sisters' tribe sought to protect the sisters by turning them into stone, with a view to reversing the spell upon the conclusion of the battle. Unfortunately the doctor was killed in the battle and as the only one capable of undoing the spell, the girls were fated to remain in their magnificent rock formation forever!

Not only did we see the Three Sisters, but we also hiked in and around the beautiful subtropical rain forest in the area. Among other things, it is particularly famous for being the location of discovery of the thought-to-be-extinct Wollemi Pine tree. As one of the oldest and rarest species its 200 million year old plant family dates back to the beginning of the Jurassic period aka the age of the dinosaurs! The tree's discovery by a bushwalker in 1994 was of international significance and has been called the botanical find of the century. Its unique and unusual history is the reason for the fuss and for the fact that, unless you are one of a select group of scientists, do not expect to get to see one of these 1000 yr old trees in the wild: their location is as closely guarded a secret as the Coca Cola recipe!!
King Billy: the largest Wollemi Pine
This one here, the largest in the wild and known as "Bill," has roots that are thought to date back to the Roman Empire. Now that is one old tree!
We also learned about coal mining in the area and even took a ride on a coal-train- turned- tourist -train down the side of a cliff. We elected for the front row seat with looks great in the movies but is actually pretty scary!

Luckily we managed to regain our composure for a happy snap at the end....
There's lots more to say so stay tuned for my next post where I will share the details of the rest of the trip!

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