03/15/2009 88 °F
Finally we were able to go to the Blue Mountains. Dawn and I had been holding out until Greg arrived since he had expressed interest in going. The Blue Mountains are the mountain range that surround Sydney. The original colonists called them the Blue Mountains because they look blue when viewed from a distance (like a hazy gray color). Up close, they are your typical mountains. However, just like most of Australia, it seems like it has been totally untouched by human hands and the natural beauty is astounding.
We stopped on the way up the Blue Mountains because our guide knew a perfect place to see kangaroos. The novelty of seeing a roo had slightly worn off, but it gave the three of us a chance to take a hike through the woods. We ended up not seeing any kangaroos (to the disappointment of the rest of the group) and headed up into the mountaintops.
Our guide had actually grown up in the Blue Mountains (he was 64), so he had plenty to tell us about the area. It was also cool because he knew the best lookouts and trails to take. The first lookout we made it to was unbelievable. It had views of the valley surrounding the 3 Sisters (more on them later) with more mountains visible in the background. It was a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet, with no guard rail! Let the pictures speak for themselves:
We drove around the valley to some hiking trails. We hiked down to another lookout. This lookout was one of the viewing points of the 3 Sisters. A large waterfall is also visible running down one of the mountains. The Aboriginal story of the 3 Sisters is as follows: A chief had 3 daughters, each unmarried. He was very protective of them. Three men from a foothills tribe fell in love with the women and tried to sneak them away. The chief found out and used his magic stick to turn the three sisters into stones so they couldn't go any further. He then turned the magic stick on himself and changed into a lyre bird to fly down and confront the men. However, he dropped the stick while flying. Without the magic stick, he couldn't change himself or his daughters back. To this day, you can still see the lyre bird scratching in the underbrush trying to find his stick.
We then took a lift down to the valley itself. It was nuts. The lift just dropped off the mountain and plummeted to the valley floor (check out the picture). Once getting off, we were in the dense forest. We even saw a lyre bird scratching in the dirt! The guide hadn't seen one in months and was surprised to see one (in the middle of him explaining how rare they were, Dawn spotted one 20 yards away). We walked through the valley to the old coal mine. I stopped to fill my water bottle up at a mountain spring run-off, the guide wouldn't stop talking about how refreshing the water was (meanwhile my brother kept trying to tell me about all the bacteria in the water).
Near the coal mine there was a lift that the coal workers used to use to get up and down the mountain. It is the steepest passenger rail in the world, averaging a 45 degree incline. The seats are reclined so that you can have a more comfortable ride up. It was awesome, and also a little frightening (especially when you go through the cave). It felt as if you were going straight up the mountain.
We had one last stop before leaving the Blue Mountains behind us. The Blue Mountains are so mystical because it took a long while for anyone to figure out how to cross them. The steep cliffs made simply going over the mountains impossible. Eventually an explorer figured out that the only way over the mountains was to follow the ridge line (the original path is the current paved road, no better way has yet to be found). Of couse the Aborigines had figured this out long before the colonists. To help navigate the cliff lines, they had carved markers in the rocks. These carvings pointed the Aborigines along the correct path. We stopped to see one of these carvings, a kangaroo pointing back down the ridge line.