8 o’clock start for the trip to another world heritage listed area, the Blue Mountains. This time from an insider’s perspective from lookouts, rainforest bush tracks and valleys rather than some of the more popular tourist sites.
An accident on the Sydney harbour bridge meant that we didn’t cross the harbour bridge on the way out as planned but used the original Anzac (Glebe) Bridge – a 2 hour drive to the first stop in the Blue Mountains.
Drove along the Parramatta Road, the first road to be built out of Sydney linking it to Parramatta. John Russo, a convict, who had been a farmer in England, persuaded the government to give him the last of the wheat supplies, some men, animals and land; he successfully harvested a crop in the second year. Russo is known as the father of agricultural here as the colony was on the brink of giving up and going back to England because of the poor land around Sydney. Russo ‘s farm is still there but is now a museum.
Passed the Olympic Stadia where most events were held in 2000 except water sports and the infamous beach volleyball on Bondi Beach !
Blue Mountain is 280,000 acres and is made up of several national parks -75% of the trees are evergreen eucalyptus which makes it a huge risk from bush fires. The mountains are not really a mountain range at all as, at their highest, they are 1200m. The road we are on is one of the aboriginal tracks.
In the early 1800s the first official white men crossed the mountains and discovered fertile plains. The governor rewarded them with land and got 30 convicts to build a road, rewarded with freedom and 30 acres of land. Gold was later discovered round here and there are also coal mines around Sydney. (The first white men to cross the mountains were convicts but not recognised because they had escaped! ).
Wentworth Falls stop but not much water today, beautiful views though and definitely a blue haze. Peaceful and calming with very little bird song which is unusual.
Leura Village a picturesque mountain village with a 1900s heritage shop frontage. Had a delicious Chai and shared a macadamia, ginger and fig cookie also delicious. Lots of charming little shops and went into the first patchwork and quilting shop we have seen on the trip. Lots if aboriginal fat quarters and kits, really wanted to get some but no room!
On to Echo Point and the Three Sisters, the most photographed aboriginal site in New South Wales. There are 2 legends about how these rocks were formed.
A magic man had three daughters whom he left at the top of a cliff while he went down into the valley to look for herbs etc. One daughter threw a stone at a centipede; the stone crashed all the way down the valley splitting the rock and leaving the sisters on a narrow ledge.
The crash awoke a magical mythical creature (bunyun?) who went after the three girls. So the father used his magic stick to turn the girls into stone to protect them. The creature then went after the father who turned himself into a lyre bird to escape but in doing so he dropped his magic stick. And this is what the lyre bird is still looking for to this day when he digs his beak into the earth. Until he finds the stick he and the girls cannot be changed back into humans.
The three girls wanted to marry three warriors from the same tribe but their father wouldn’t allow it, so he turned them to stone until they came to their senses. The warriors declared war and the magic man was killed, so the three sisters remain as stone.
Next stop the bush walk to Govern ‘s Leap -1.8km downhill luckily, as it is 30 degrees and feels hot. The coach dropped us at the top of the walk and picked us up at the bottom.
Lunch / High tea in the elegant dining room at the Hydro Majestic Hotel followed by a tour of the historic iconic hotel. Bottle of sparkling pinot noir / chardonnay between four of us with the sandwiches, savouries, scones and cake while looking at the stunning views. Then on to the tour of the hotel.
The spa was opened in 1903 by Mark Foy, the son of a draper who started his department store in Melbourne the same year as Mr Selfridge opened his in London.
Spas were very trendy in Europe but did not yet exist in Australia. Foy based his design on a spa in Matlock and had the vision, the money and the drive to see it through. Initially it was run on a very strict regime with mandatory treatments, no alcohol, strict meal times, lights off at 10, …which wasn’t very successful. He then relaxed the rules and it became a resort hotel which it still is and became so popular he had to expand in 1907.
Foy was unable to find water at first so he had it shipped from Germany but by the time it arrived it was rancid and couldn’t be used for bathing. So he got people to drink small glasses of it on the basis that if it was disgusting it was good for you. Since then wells and bores have been dug and water has been found! They had their own generators and even hot electricity 4 days before Sydney.
The long ladies drawing room known as Cat’s Alley, slopes with a difference of 1m in the floor level. The builders hit ironstone and rather than wait for diggers / dynamite, Mark Foy had it built on a slope.
Finished off in the shop and managed not to buy anything! Back on the coach for the 2hr drive back to Sydney, stopping to take photos of the bridge & the opera house before driving over the bridge back to our hotel.
Last trip in Australia – tomorrow we have the morning free before the flight to Dubai. Can’t really believe that we visited some of the places that are almost storybook names – Botany Bay, Bondi Beach, Wollomalloo, Uluru, rainforest, thrown spears and boomerangs with Aboriginals, seen kangaroos, emu, crocodiles, kookaburra, wallabies and eaten some of them; as well as seen a whole load of new things.
Excellent trip all round and sorry to leave Australia.