Sunday, January 12, 2014

Australia: Sydney: Trip to The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

The beauty of the state of New South Wales in Australia is the easy access to numerous beaches, theme parks, wild life, rain forest reserves, national parks, mountains, the iconic landmarks like Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House that define Australia. You can easily reach most of these places of natural history as they are within a radius of 45 minutes to a little over two hour drive from the state capital Sydney.

One of the most visited tourist attractions, located a little under two hours from Sydney are the Blue Mountains range. The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia. It borders on Sydney's metropolitan area, its foothills starting about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of the state capital.

On a bright and sunny Saturday morning this summer, Meenakshi & I decided to visit the Blue Mountains and explore parts of it. As there are a lot of activities to do in and around the Blue Mountains, which demands a stay of two to three days, we decided to do a day trip to explore only specific parts of Blue Mountains this time and leave the rest for future trips. It was one of those trips that was planned at the last moment on Saturday morning at 10.00 am. In a short notice, it was sportive of Meenakshi’s colleague Prasad and his spouse Usha to join us on the trip.

The Three Sisters with the Blue Mountains
We were car bound on the M4 Motorway towards Katoomba at 11.45pm from Strathfield. The traffic eased past Paramatta and I went easy on the gas pedal, keeping pace with the speed limits which were already increasing at the rate of 10kmph ever 20 miles. Finally on 110 kmph, with an eye on the Satellite Navitagor or GPS, we drove smoothly to the beginning of the Blue Mountains in 40 kms from Sydney, listening to a mix of old Hindi, Tamil & English numbers playing on the car stereo. Meenakshi’s donkeys hours selecting favorite songs on the internet and tuning them onto her iPhone 5c were really handy in making the drive enjoyable. After the initial 40 kms, we entered the Blue Mountains area and drove through numerous towns and villages for the next 50kms, with varying speeds between 60 kmph and 80 kmph.  We reached our destination at Echo Point – which is the gateway to the “Three Sisters” – one of the iconic landmarks of the Blue Mountains by 1.40 pm.  The parking lot was flooded with holiday makers, tourists and luckily got a 2 hour parking for the car.

Armed with our backpacks, sandwiches, light snacks, fruits, water bottles and fizzy drinks we bid adieu to Kishore Kumar songs and car air conditioner to take the blistering afternoon sun head on and walked towards Echo Point. After a visit to the restrooms and collecting the free booklets from Tourist Information Centre, we decided to follow directions towards the Three Sisters Walk and the Giant Stairway.

Giant Stairway and Three Sisters Walk
The Giant Stairway is an exciting experience to have just minutes after you reach Echo Point. Enter the arch to go towards the Giant Stairway and start walking towards the well defined path where all tourists and fellow travelers head to. Once you reach the start of the stairways, you will feel the steep incline that the stairway so beautifully tries to tame for us lame humans. As you decide to climb down these stairs of around 1000 steps, one step at a time, you will be treated to some amazing views of the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters from the side (you can’t see all Three Sisters from this view). 
Giant Stairway
Once you climb down the initial 100 odd steps, you reach a spot from where you take a small walking bridge to sit at the heart of one of the “Three Sisters”. 

It is banned to climb the “Three Sisters” partly due to Aboriginal significance and partly due to the wear and tear, erosion and over-use after effects that accelerate the erosion process. If you walk down further along the Giant Stairway, it will lead to the Federal Pass. Since we had started our trip late, we decided to give this a miss this time and head back from the Giant Stairway.

We decided to walk back and explore other areas further. Before our next expedition, we had a picnic amongst the shade and opened up sandwiches and fizzy drinks for a much needed lunch in the midst of greenery and the sound of birds and fly’s trying their best to irritate us.

After this, we decided to go to the place which was the most crowded and just opposite the main tourist information centre at Echo Point Road. Once we reached there, we knew why all tourists crowded that narrow viewing deck, as this is the spot for the best view of “The Three Sisters” and the surround mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains.

The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters are a rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. They are close to the town of Katoomba and are one of the Blue Mountains' best known sites, towering above the Jamison Valley. Their names are Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m). The Sisters were formed by land erosion. The soft sandstone of the Blue Mountains is easily eroded over time by wind, rain and rivers, causing the cliffs surrounding the Jamison Valley to be slowly broken up.

The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters (Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo') lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe (the Nepean tribe), but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.
This is one of New South Wales iconic landmarks other than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. There are two viewing platforms to view the Three Sisters from the point opposite the echo point. Good pictures of the Three Sisters can be taken from both the upper and lower platforms.

The Three Sisters
Katoomba Falls:
From the lower platform, there is a trail that leads to the Katoomba Falls, which is about an hour (without picture stops). There are numerous lookout points along this trail, which give a very good view of the continuous mountain ranges of the Blue Mountains.  

Blue hue of the Blue Mountains

The charred remains of some of the huge eucalyptus and other trees from the recent New South Wales bushfire gives a glaring reminder of Mother Nature’s fury unleaded on the greenery in late 2012.

The afternoon sun was hot enough for us to finish all the bottles of water that we had carried with us. It was instantaneously converted to sweat. Sun tan cream and caps to protect from the sunrays were out amongst other fellow tourists and visitors as well. Thank God that we had collected the free information booklet from the Visitor Centre, which became a good makeshift cap for me for the rest of the trip!

Shade from the canopy of trees
Once you reach near the start of Katoomba falls, you can hear the water and explore different streams, which finally lead to the waterfalls. 

Different streams around Katoomba Falls

Katoomba Falls with the Three Sisters
There is also a Katoomba cascade, which gets you closer to the water without the risk of scaling down treacherous depths to reach the waterfall. A splash of cold water from the cold water is enough to recharge you for the afternoon! 
Katoomba Cascades
In addition to this, since we were already armed with homemade Indian tea/ chai (with ginger and other spices), it rejuvenated our soul further more. We had the tea in one of the best spots I have had tea in such trips – inside a cave. Trust me, the quietness, calmness and shade of the cave was a contrast to the hot sun and background sun around!

Hot tea in cave

Once we had our tea, we took a few snaps of the deep valley against the cable cars that were a part of the Scenic World trip. 

We then walked back to where we began from. The return leg of the trip was much quicker as there were fewer picture stops. The clock was turning around 5.30 pm and the sun decided to be less intense, which also helped us to take larger strides without stop as we walked back. Thankfully, there were no steep gradients, due to which even the ladies walked almost in one breath with very few pit stops.

A shy butterfly from Blue Mountains
It was a day well spent within the laps of one of the most beautiful mountains I have visited in the recent past. The Blue Mountains offer much more interesting spots to picnic and explore including Jenolan Caves, numerous walking trails. It would probably take at least four to five more trip to atleast scratch the surface of this beautiful mountain!


best itineraries said...

This is just gorgeous !*love* it all as the messages, the pictures and the quality of the writing. Thanks !

Your movie guru, Richard said...

love the photo of the 3 sisters! i saw it long ago. here is my funny Australian story of how everything is deadly there, hope you enjoy