Philippe Bourget - 2012-11-15
The Blue Mountains west of Sydney are an appealing alternative to the Australian metropolis. The paradise of open-air sports, this mountain range - an ancient Aboriginal land - is replete with panoramas, spectacular sites … and kangaroos.
Had enough of the Pacific Ocean and Sydney’s effervescence? The Blue Mountains are a nearby haven of calm and serenity. A one-and-a-half hour drive from the Harbour City, this typically Australian area is ideal for rambling and open-air sports such as climbing, mountain biking, canyoning, rafting, caving and pot-holing.
What are the Blue Mountains like? Like a hilly sandstone massif, a plateau stretching 260 km north to south and covering nearly 250,000 hectares. The altitude struggles to reach 1,000 metres, but the range’s pink cliffs overlook an ocean of deep, secret valleys carpeted with eucalyptus trees. The landscape is curiously reminiscent of the American West. The green of the forests is so intense that one can’t help but wonder why they’ve been named the ‘Blue Mountains’. The explanation is to be found in the essential oils of eucalyptus: they evaporate in the heat and tend to create a bluish cloud over the morning hills.
A new world, pristine and intact
A national park listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Blue Mountains have been outfitted according to the tried and true Anglo-Saxon method: perfectly marked paths, safe viewing decks, well-documented visitor centres, shops and sizeable car parks. Everything is perfectly mapped out and organised at the major sites, at risk of depriving the visitor of a bit of spontaneity.
As far as panoramic views and vertiginous paths go, the Blue Mountains have everything one could possibly require. Around Katoomba, the range’s tourist capital, and Leura, a smaller village, there are no roads or houses. It feels like a new world, pristine and intact. Nature reigns at Echo Point, another formidable lookout area facing the plateau and eucalyptus-covered slopes. Here, three famous peaks rise above the sea of green: the Three Sisters, one of the Blue Mountains’ most popular, postcard-perfect visions.
In the land of Aborigines and kangaroos
Ramblers have plenty to do and see as they explore the area. From short hikes to long rambles, there’s something for everyone here. Near Wentworth Falls, a path going down the cliff road passes by a spectacular waterfall – Queens Cascade – set amidst tropical flora.
The fauna brings together Australia’s most emblematic creatures; kangaroos, koalas and wallabies call the range their home. The roos, not terribly timid, calmly go about their business, and are easily observed at the Euroka Clearing which also serves as a forest camp ground.
The Blue Mountains are a traditional territory for the Aboriginal People. A visit of the fascinating Muru Mittigar Cultural Centre near Penrith throws light on the history of this native people who once ruled the land, a people intent on keeping their traditions alive.