Australia – Blue Mountains

Govetts Leap

Govetts Leap – 14mm; ISO 200; 1/125 sec; f/8.0 (click image to view larger size)

Having recently returned from a three week holiday in Australia, my first visit there, I’ve been struggling to get through processing my images, trying to find the best shots from the entire trip. Hence the delay in writing a post about it. So I’ve decided to break it up into distinct areas that we visited. First off, I’ve decided to focus on the Blue Mountains.

This is an area about 60 miles inland to the west of Sydney, famous for the Three Sisters rock formation and stunning views. The journey from central Sydney in our Toyota Corolla hire car (they all seem to be Toyota Corollas, we had three different ones throughout our holiday) took about 90 minutes driving time.

It was raining heavily during the drive, the first rain we’d experienced in Australia, but reduced to a drizzle by the time we arrived. Our base for three days would be the 3 Explorers Motel, a choice made easy by it’s close proximity to the main viewpoint in Katoomba for the Three Sisters, which was only a five minute walk away.

We headed there as soon as we had checked in, the drizzle continuing and mist appearing ahead of us as we approached. Expecting stunning views of the Blue Mountains this was what we saw instead:

I bet those on day trip coach tours were disappointed! As we had plenty of time for conditions to change, I was really enjoying it. We took a walk along the cliff top path, heading west for about an hour then heading back the same way. Visibility varied from about 50 to 100 metres, which was fine looking along the cliff face, but you could see nothing when looking out over the valley below:

Mist beyond the cliffs

Mist beyond the cliffs

By the time we returned to the main viewpoint, where earlier there had been a complete blanket of mist, we were now treated to the stunning views we had expected of the Three Sisters and out over the Blue Mountains:

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

I’d read about a separate viewpoint, away from all the tourists, called Eagles Nest that looked due east towards the Three Sisters, so I headed there the next morning for sunrise. The mist had returned and I only saw a brief glimpse of the sun during the hour I was there. I returned the following morning, and this time there was no mist, just a slight haze, so I was able to capture a range of different images over the two mornings.

Staying for three days gave us plenty of time to go exploring, although I could easily have spent three weeks there (not sure the missus would have stayed with me though!). The road north from Katoomba passes through several towns with roads leading out to other viewpoints. I’d recommend Evan’s Lookout & Govett’s Leap, both near Blackheath and on fairly decent roads, with the latter being my favourite of the two if you’re short on time.

Adjacent to Katoomba is the town of Leura, with another two spectacular viewpoints – Gordon Falls & Sublime Point, both quite easy to drive to. At Gordon Falls I’d travelled light due to the heat, leaving everything in the car except camera and one lens. It was quite a walk, and as I took my first photo the battery died!

Sublime Point truly is sublime, I could not believe it. It’s out on a narrow strip of land above the valley, and as you reach the tip a truly staggering vista opens out covering about 270 degrees of panoramic scenery. I knew a photo would not do it justice, and with the sun bright in the sky the contrast would be too high if I attempted a stitched panorama.

So I just stood in awe, enjoying the view totally alone (wifey had stayed in the car). I did take a short video to show her, available on YouTube (it’s obvious I’m not a videographer!). This map gives an indication of the topology:

If you stay in Katoomba a few days, you’ll probably want to visit Scenic World, as we did. The motel owner gave us a tip to go there just before it opened to get ahead of the many tour buses that would shortly arrive from Sydney. The entrance fee gives you all day access to the railway (steepest incline in the world) and two cable cars. The rain-forest boardwalk down on the valley floor is an enjoyable outing.

After lunch, we took a walk down from the Three Sisters, which descends over 900 steps. There is an easy 1.5 mile trail along the Federal Pass through the rain-forest that heads back towards Scenic World, where we took the train back up to the top and our motel was only a 15 minute walk away.

The Blue Mountains cover a very large area and we only saw a very small part of it in the three days we stayed. You really need more than a day trip to do it justice and get away from the tour buses and crowds.

I could definitely have stayed even longer, but we might have needed a 4 wheel drive Jeep or Landrover to get to some of the more remote viewpoints. Only yesterday, I saw a stunning photo of Hanging Rock that appears to be about 3 miles out from Blackheath along a dirt track. I don’t think the Corolla would have made it!

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