Even before I knew for sure I was coming to Australia this year, my friend Nerea told me I should go to the Blue Mountains, since she was making a short trip herself on late January for her birthday. And, since I’ve been staying with her and her boyfriend Benjamin here in Sydney, she just wouldn’t shut up about it until I booked my trip to Katoomba. Thank heavens I listened to her, even if it was in part just so she’d stop talking about it.
I guess I thought it would just be another natural reserve, nothing special. Or maybe I thought it would be extremely expensive and was something I could not afford. But Nerea kept telling me I could not leave Sydney without visiting the Blue Mountains. Finally, I started doing some research. There were full day trips by bus, tours, and several other options to get there. I thought about going only for a day, booking a tour and that’s it. But Ne insisted I should at least spend one night there. So I booked it, at the cheapest hostel I found on Booking.com, the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel. After doing some more research, I changed my mind, called the hostel and added one more night to my stay. Still, it was not enough… Damn it, Ne! Why are you always right?
I took the train from Central Station in Sydney on a Friday afternoon and arrived at Katoomba a little bit less than 2 hours after. I checked-in (after 2pm) and went out for a walk towards the Leura Falls. Every step of the way was beautiful and green. I stopped at every lookout point and stared at the vastness of the mountains, blue and immense, staring back at me. Small waterfalls, water running through the veins of these mountains, giving them life. On my way back, I had to hurry up my step a little, since it was getting late. But oh God, the sunset at the Three Sisters Lookout was truly beautiful!
On Saturday morning, I woke up early and had a quick breakfast at the hostel. I had bought everything the day before so I had it all set and ready. My adventure began at 8:30 that morning, packing food for the day and the equipment needed at the Blue Mountains Adventure Company‘s office, very close to the hostel by the way. There are many other companies for this kind of tours, but the staff at the backpackers recommended them directly, and I loved it! My tour was called canyoning and abseiling at the Juggler Canyon, and it’s ideal for an autumn/winter adventure, since the water is shallow and can be avoided in general. I did end up with wet feet though, due to my clumsiness. This day full of adrenaline started with some small abseils to practice and feel secure before heading out to the canyon.
I love abseiling, the feeling when you’re sliding down off a wall, feeling in control of your own movement, the view, the perspective it gives you, while being suspended in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by nature. But the first jump, that first step down, when you have to change positions from being standing up to sit in an “L” shape with your feet flat on the rock in front of you, oh jeez, that rush of adrenaline and fear is what I like the best.
Canyoning is also great fun. Although in my mind it always includes water, crossing rivers or even swimming for a bit, this time I experienced a somewhat dry canyon. The water level is low and there are some stone steps to help you cross the river, so you really don’t have to get well at all. Even during the abseils close to small waterfalls, you can avoid the water, if you are careful enough not to fall directly into it at the bottom.
I love the adventure of walking through the canyon, majestic walls of rock on each side, sliding down when it’s slippery, trying to hold on to every tree or decent branch, hoping it won’t break. And after walking and abseiling for a few hours, the challenge to climb your way up. It’s exciting and at the same time peaceful, to be surrounded by nature and breathe in the clean air of the mountains.
I was back at my hostel around 5pm, tired and happy. I spent the rest of the evening reading in the common room, surrounded by laughter, people chatting and even some of them playing the guitar and singing, it was pretty cool.
On Sunday morning, I had to check-out early and asked the staff if I could leave my luggage there for a few hours before heading back to Sydney. It was super foggy and raining lightly, but I didn’t mind walking all the way to the Katoomba Falls. I got to the starting point at the top of the reservoir and discovered lots of people gathered there, cheering a group of probably 100 runners on a marathon. So I started my bush walk all cheery and happy, passing by all these tired but perseverant competitors.
The walk was long and beautiful, green and humid, with small creeks running all around, a very much alive rainforest. I had packed juice, some snacks and plenty of water, so I stopped several times to rest and stay hydrated. After walking what must have been something like 6km, I faced a greater challenge: go back up, via the Giant Stairway, which has more than 950 very steep steps! I went back to the hostel to pick up my things and take the train back to Sydney exhausted, but extremely happy and satisfied with this weekend adventure.
How to get there
There are buses from Sydney and some include a whole day tour at the Blue Mountains, with lunch and sightseeing included. The train is the best option if you don’t have a car, it’s super affordable ($7 AUD approx), fast and gets you directly to Katoomba. But if you can plan a road trip with friends (I would suggest at least 3 people to share expenses), going by car is by far the best option, that way you can take off-road paths and experience places you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.
Where to stay
There are several options in the towns surrounding the Blue Mountains, but I would definitely recommend to stay in Katoomba. Obviously my first choice is the Blue Mountains Backpacker Hostel, with plenty different options of accommodation, shared dorms from 4 up to 12 beds, as well as family and private rooms. It has a huge kitchen, plenty of space in the fridge and very cool common area, clean and neat, close to the train station and the staff is super friendly and helpful. The Blue Mountains – Katoomba YHA is a great and affordable option as well. Very well located, it’s big and sleeps up to 200 guests, it has excellent reviews and is family friendly too.
For something a little bit more sophisticated and luxurious, try any of these three hotels:
What to do
There is plenty to do at the Blue Mountains, different adventure tours and more than enough bush walks and trails to wander. But, if you get tired of these or simply want to try something different, you should definitely visit the Jenolan caves, and take a Glow Worm night tour offered by Love Cabins, which has beautiful and very romantic accommodation as well. Consider that both of these require you to drive to the place, for 60-90 min. That’s why I wasn’t able to do any of these, but at east now I’ve got more reasons to come back, hopefully sometime soon.
“To travel is to live” – Hans Christian Andersen