Most of us are talking about travelling within Australia given our OS travel restrictions and there is an abundance of glorious options that are inexpensive.
I recently arrived back in Queensland after a trip to Sydney to attend a writers group meeting and see family and friends. I had planned to fly to Melbourne to visit my daughter and grandsons, sadly with another Covid lockdown in Victoria, things changed and I ended up staying longer in Sydney thanks to my generous friend Narelle for extending her invitation.
Disappointed not seeing my family she suggested we visit our mutual friend Bill who lives in the colonial town of Blackheath in the spectacular Blue Mountains. One phone call is all it took for two crazy ladies to convince him we needed to stay over for a night. I was thrilled at this opportunity. Can you believe it, I have never been there and post-visit, wonder why I have waited this long.
The Blue Mountains
It is a vast area and the panoramic view must consist of at least 50 shades of blue as it stretches out around 11,400 kilometres full of valleys, lush forests, oil-bearing Eucalyptus trees and spectacular sandstone cliffs that fall from the many mountain tops. It is said to be millions of years old when the sea completely covered the region. It began with large clumps of residue dropped into the seawater to cover the floor, eventually compressing into hard sandstone and shale rocks.
Australian Aboriginals were the first to inhabit this land but historians have been unable to determine how far back in history this occurred. Evidence of the Daruk tribe can be seen through Aboriginal art carved into rock and remarkably preserved today is the ancient carving known as the flight of the Great Grey Kangaroo. This is located at the foot of Hawkesbury Lookout, Hawkesbury Heights near Winmallee and a place I would dearly love to visit.
For European explorers, Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth and Lieutenant Lawson one can hardly imagine the struggle crossing this demanding rugged terrain hacking their way through thick scrub. Yet with little food, servants, pack horses and dogs eighteen days later on 29 May 1813 they proved the Blue Mountains was no longer an impassible barrier.
Just west of Katoomba (originally a coal mining town) which is 10.8 km before Blackheath you can see the remains of a Eucalyptus tree marked by these three explorers, another must-see on my next visit.
How to get there
For those who are considering an interstate trip by air, I found airfares to be surprisingly cheap. More importantly, most domestic flyers have a no charge for change clause due to the unpredictable pandemic circumstances we travel in. I utilised this with my cancelled flight to Melbourne and have a credit for future use.
Travelling by air also means facemasks on entry to the airport and the plane. Disposable masks are provided by the airlines for free but I make my own to spec, they are far more comfortable to wear hours on end.
For a sole traveller to Sydney, it’s straightforward. On arrival, I caught the airport train to the city Town Hall then a bus to my friend’s place. I purchased my Opal Card for NSW public transport a few years ago online. You can then top it up either online or at the train station. For we retirees, it’s an absolute must unless you wish to pay for a taxi/Uber travelling around Sydney.
After a few cold days attending functions in Sydney, that included buying extra jumpers and a warm beanie, we began our journey to Blackheath.
It took us around 1 hour 40 from Rozelle to arrive by car. If driving directly from Sydney airport, it’s 123 kilometres and a similar travel time via the Great Western Highway. Overall I would allow two hours via car and by train three hours if you train it to Central Railway Station from the airport then change trains to the Blue Mountains Line from the Country Platforms. I find the rail system in NSW fantastic with simple access to and from the airport.
Blackheath: History wraps you like a big warm blanket in the Blue Mountains and warmth sure is needed in these cooler weeks as you guzzle the many tales. Blackheath was thought to be a summer corroboree meeting place for peoples of the Darug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri nations and the European settlers gave the settlement its name in reference to the colour and texture of the native shrubbery that surrounded them. In 1815 Governor Lachlan Macquarie recorded in his journal, this place having a black wild appearance I have this day named it Black-Heath.
Super shops and restaurants around town and you can’t miss the impressive and colourful artwork by local artist Jenny Kee OA. As a side note I discovered that Jenny and her daughter Grace are survivors of the Granville rail disaster!
We were lucky with our timing at Blackheath as a few days later it snowed and we didn’t have chains in the car.
Megalong Valley: Another scenic yet winding drive was from Blackheath through the Megalong Valley to the Megalong Tea Rooms for lunch.
It takes around 15-20 minutes as you drive through luscious bushlands with views. The warming food and glass of wine well received on arrival. Megalong Tea Rooms are synonymous with the area and have been operating since 1956. I chose thick pumpkin and dill soup for the chilly day but was envious of the couple next to me consuming freshly made scones with jam and cream. It would be wonderful to visit in the summer as they have lovely outdoor seating arrangements where you can inhale the cathartic mountain air.
Govetts Leap: The name intrigued me I had visions of how it originated. But it was not as imagined, it was named after William Govett a painter and surveyor who was the first settler from Europe to set foot in the area in 1891. The word leap translates as waterfall in an old Scottish dialect. Govetts Leap has an 8.7km loop of walks. We elected a few short walks which gave us more sensational views including a waterfall. They were easy and safe although there are harder tracks for experienced hikers. I hear the sunrises are spectacular from this lookout.
It would be easy to go on but as you can see my article is purely a sampler of what the Blue Mountains has to offer and for me, the journey has just begun.
On the birth of her two grandsons, Ruth Greening experienced an awakening in her life and entering Gen GP (Generation Grandparent) she was given the moniker Nanny Babe as her ‘grandmother’ title. She found things had changed since her child rearing days, and an adjustment to new parenting concepts was required. Hence the birth of the Nanny Babe blog from a baby boomers perspective.
Ruth holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Philosophy, completing this degree while working as a hairdresser and supporting her two children as a single mother. Ruth has worked in the corporate world for approximately thirty years and has recently retired to address her artistic passions.
She is experienced in senior management positions, marketing, modelling, commercials, film, community radio and writing.
Nanny Babe is active with her hobbies—fitness, writing, blogging, jewellery, crafts, singing, dancing, memoirs, mentoring and now faces diversity and self-discovery on her recent ‘retirement’ path. Connect with Nanny Babe on her blog – hit the link above!