Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A day of walking. Left most of our luggage at the Vulcan and with our day packs walked to Central Station. We caught the 0822 which left exactly on time. The ride to Katoomba is nearly 2 hours long. We sat in the upper deck of a double deck train and napped on and off till we arrived.

In Katoomba we're back in small town Oz again. Lots of family run businesses in shophouses, most of which close at 1700. Passed a bakery on the way to our guesthouse and bought a cheese and olive roll and an apple and walnut scroll for brekkie 'cos the smell was irresistable.

Found our guesthouse just off the town centre. It's a beautiful rustic house, lovingly furnished with a mixture of antique furniture. With my day pack on I'm quite nervous walking around inside 'cos with a careless swivel I might just bring down a 19th century ornament or two.

The Kurrara Historical Guest House is run by a friendly middle-aged gentleman by the name of Anthony (his operating licence says, Antonio Minardi), evidently of Italian descent. The house has a few common areas. Where I am right now is the TV room that houses the only anomaly here -- a 42" flat-screen TV. I'm also seated next to a toasty charcoal burning fireplace which Anthony has kindly lighted for us to ward off the evening chill. Books galore, mostly about Australia, are scattered about just begging to be flipped through. Anthony is himself reading Zen and the Brain, such exotic, intellectual stuff.

Oh, right. Walking. We walked from the station to the guesthouse; from the guesthouse to Echo Point (Katoomba's main attraction) which offers the touristy view of the 3 Sisters, a natural limestone rock formation. We took the walking trails from Echo Point to Katoomba Falls, but today it was the getting there that was more than half the fun.

The path took us round the cliffs and into the valley for a spectacular view of the Australian Mountainside. Deep, deep valleys, awesome cliffs and sandstone and shale outcroppings. Trees and shrubs and flowering plants of the temperate variety at the top, and rainforest at the bottom. I kept thinking how much Geog students would learn if they could only see the landscape for themselves.

Katoomba Falls on the map and in pix looks awesome but today the Falls fell short of expectation. Instead of seeing a roar and a rush we saw 2 piddling streams of water falling down a cliffside.

Took the world's steepest railway back up to the top of Scenic World which operates 2 other cable cars besides the Railway. Unfortunately, the Skyway isn't ready yet (will be by Christmas). We did take the Flyway back down into another part of the valley and walked around some more before ascending by the Railway again. The Railway is such a thrill because the cars ascend almost vertically up the cliff. The seats are oddly canted so that on ground level our feet hang in the air, but moving up the cliff we're sitting upright again with a big drop below us.

We walked till about 1600 with only our breakfast rolls as our only meal. Refuelled at The Devino Cafe with a meat pie marinaded in red wine and herbs, and a penne with salmon and capers in a creamy white wine sauce, washed down with a home made choc milkshake each. Yep, every calorie we burned, we stuffed right back again with interest.

We'd been walking for more than 6 hours by then but it was still early so we shopped for souvenirs at K-mart and Coles supermarket.

Hmm... I hate to leave the fireplace. Think I'll sit a little longer.

Tomorrow, the village of Leura, the Zig Zag Railway and Lithgow.

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