I had no idea where I was going the moment I stepped off the train. Still dazed from the two hour ride and swept up in the rush of tourists all chatting away in various different languages, Kirsten and I entered the town of Katoomba at a momentary loss at what to do. But thankfully, the area is a tourist hub and signs were provided with directions to the information center.
I was surprised by the amount of tourists, honestly. When I was looking for things to do in and around Sydney, the Blue Mountains popped up several times. Natural formations and Australian bush, all within a short ride from Sydney? Who wouldn’t want to make sure to see that?
Obviously I wasn’t the only one to think that. So we ignored the on-and-off buses and made our own way through the town to the information center at Echo point.
When we arrived, a line of tourists trickled from the bus to the outlook platform. Everyone was gaping and pointing and snapping pictures and posing for selfies. It was easy to see why. Beyond the concrete lay miles and miles of forests tinged in a blue haze. Rocky ridges peeked out of the green/blue in grand formations. The Three Sisters is one such formation that sits just beyond the reach of the platform. The three craggily mounds (said to be three aboriginal maidens turned to stone for their protection by a witchdoctor) are one of the highlights of this world heritage site.
We ate lunch, admired the view, and watched the tourists gather before heading out down a trail to see some real nature. Going based on a picture of the map (you had to pay for a physical map of the trails), we got turned around a bit in the beginning, but once we finally got on track, it didn’t take long to escape the tittering voices of the other tourists.
The branches of the Eucalyptus trees surrounded us as we walked upon the well-tread path. Above us birds cried and swooped, adding notes to the beat of our footsteps. Every so often we encountered a fenced outlook that allowed us to gaze down at the valley below in all its natural glory.
The farther we went along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, the fewer and fewer people we came across until suddenly there was nary a sole upon the track besides us. We walked in silence, only occasionally remarking upon the beauty, but mostly listening to the twittering of the birds and the rustling of the leaves.
After about a kilometer or so of going up and down along the dirt path and man-made steps, things became wetter and the distant rush of water was added to our natural soundtrack. We were getting close to our destination: the Leura Cascades.
More people started to show up too. There were hikers but also a few in jeans and T-shirts, shorts and converse. We were close to an access point on Cliff Road and these day trippers had only popped out of the car to see the sights.
We continued on and quickly encountered an outlook that literally took my breath away. Below us were the cascades, leaping down the rocks deep into the valley below. In the distance were the iconic blue-tinted, forest-coated low peaks. And in front of us, the sun streamed in through the clouds, illuminating the red rock face as dozens of sulphur-crested cockatoos swooped across the ridge. We only barely managed to pull ourselves away.
The rhythm of the water only got louder as we pushed forward down dozens and dozens of steps, until we finally reached a part where the stream actually rushed past out feet. My breath was taken away again. We stayed long enough to linger over the waters and attempt to capture the beauty and power of nature on our cameras, before heading back up those steps.
While on a bench looking out into the trees, the murmur of the Leura Cascades and the chatter of the cockatoos sounding off in the distance, Kirsten let out a sigh.
“I’m quite happy,” she said in almost a whisper.
“Me too,” I replied, taking a content and exhausted breath.