In to the Blue Mountains

Heidi checked the Internet for “what to see in Sydney” and the answer was always:
– Blue Mountains,
– Harbour Bridge,
– Opera House.

The Blue Mountains were only a hundred kilometers from Pittwater where we were at anchor and we knew Catherine who lived “in the mountains”. It turned out that Catherine was on holiday in California and ten marinas had no space for the boat so things were not looking too positive. But, as so often, it all turened out OK in the end. Catherine flew home and one marina had one buoy for one week.

We left Artemis attached to her buoy and set off along the windy road through the hills of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Of course the first kilometers were all uphill. Once we left the forest we entered Suburbia and stayed there for the rest of the day. Sydney sprawls out across all the surrounding plains and hills which gave us a great chance to see “how the locals live, shop and amuse themselves”. After seventy kilometers we stopped in Windsor for the night and enjoyed a well earned pizza and wander along the high street where we found a tree full of the loudest parrots you ever heard.

On Day two we could see the mountains in the distance and after only twenty kilometers we reached the serious climb from the river up to the Hawkesbury Lookout. After that is was all uphill to Faulconbridge and Catherine’s lovely home. We were given a bed, fed, met the dogs, enjoyed Catherine’s company and had the use of the hot tub. What more could we ask for.

Directly from the house door, we rode out along a fire trail to the Grose River Lookout. This is a bit surreal as you leave the town behind you and ride through the surrounding forest until suddenly the track stops on top of a huge cliff. Imagine the Grand Canyon with trees. It is definitely not something we were expecting “on the edge of town”.

Our next trip started some way from Faulconbridge so we cycled across to the Railway station to catch a train. Unfortunately that night there had been a serious derailment so the track was closed. Once again Catherine saved us by lending us her car. From Blackheath we cycled out to the Baltzer Lookout. Same sort of effect as the previous day except that we were above a thousand meters so the cliffs are higher and there is a huge section of cliff called the Hanging Rock which is nearly detached from the mountain and looks ready to fall off.

On the fifth day we left the bikes on the porch and enjoyed a guided tour of the Mountains led by Catherine. More stunning views, a tasty lunch in a quirky little restaurant, the hundred meter high Wentworth Falls, more views and then afternoon coffee and cake in a hotel left over from the last century. It was almost as exhausting as the seventy kilometers on Day one.

We left the mountains by cycling up the motorway! It was an Australian motorways so it had a footpath and a bike lane which we made use of. After a few kilometers we turned off in to the bush and enjoyed the stunning Woodford Oaks Fire Trail. This is a track that runs generally downwards along one of the ridges in the bush. It has great biking, great views and lots of nature. A real “Wow”.

We added in a ten kilometer diversion to visit the red hands cave. This is an amazing site where hands have been painted on the back wall of the cave by aborigines. Some of the hands were painted 1600 years ago at the same time as the Romans were still occupying Britain. That takes some time to get in to your brain.

Finally, at the foot of the mountains, after a final seven kilometers of rocky single trail, we took the train to Sydney. Now we know why the Blue Mountains are at the top of the “things to do” list. Stunning is the only word.

The tracks are here:
Day 1 to Windsor
Day 2 to Faulconbridge
Grose River Lookout
Baltzer Lookout
Woodford Oaks Fire Trail and Red Hands Trail

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