As you’ve already read before, I’m in Sydney, looking for a job, and it’s frustrating. So frustrating that I completely had enough of it last week and decided to do something else. No big roundtrip, but just a couple of days off, to change my mind. The perfect moment to do what Aimee and Saska had recommended on our reunion a little over a month ago (see here): visit the Jenolan Caves! I discovered that the local YHA had a special deal for it: a two nights stay (including free breakfast) and a visit of the caves for 132 AUD (+/- 90 euro). Seemed like a good deal.
So last Wednesday I left Sydney and took the train to Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains. I had already visited the Blue Mountains earlier (see here), but I only heard about the Jenolan Caves later, so that’s why I had to come back. A nice return to the region as Katoomba turns out to be a very nice little town. Only downside to it: there just isn’t a single flat street to be found here. Streets go either up, down or first the one and then the other. A good training though, that’s for sure!
Having arrived at the YHA, I decided to take off immediately. It was an awesome feeling to just leave my stuff there, grab a small backpack, fill it with some food, a bottle of water and a sweater (as it was only 16°C), put the map of Katoomba in my back pocket, take my camera and shut the door behind me. No laptop, no day full of sitting, no jobhunt, no big city. Just me, hiking in a part of the outside world I was about to discover.
I did a part of the ‘Prince Henry Cliff Walk‘, a walking track full of lookout points with a nice view on the Blue Mountains, going from the Katoomba Falls in Katoomba all the way to the Gordon Falls near Leura. I just did a small part of it; referring to the map below: the part from the corner of Merriwa Street and Cliff Drive to the Three Sisters. A nice and cosy little walk, through the forest, through nature. It’s also nice that all hikers greet eachother when passing by, with a simple “hey” or “g’day”. Most people in Belgium would just walk on without bothering, I reckon..
On the next day (Thursday) the Jenolan Caves visit was scheduled. Little downside: we would only get to visit one of the caves, there was no time for more. We were picked up at the entrance of the hostel at half past ten, after which it took the minibus one and a half hours to do the 75 kilometer drive from Katoomba to Jenolan. So we arrived at noon and then it turned out that I wouldn’t visit the ‘Lucas Cave’ but the ‘Orient Cave’. We also got a voucher that would let us (1) visit the ‘Nettle Cave’ for free on a self-guided tour and (2) get 50% off if we would come back to visit one or more of the Jenolan Caves within the next year. I can already tell you that I am definitely considering that second part of the offer!
Together with an Australian couple and a French girl, I went to visit the free ‘Nettle Cave’ first as our tour through the ‘Orient Cave’ wouldn’t start until 1.30pm. The ‘Nettle Cave’ was ok, but not impressive, definitely not the main reason to come to the Jenolans. The best part of this cave was in my opinion the view that you had on the outside world when standing inside the cave. As if it was a large gateway to.. the world.
After this visit I took a small walk alongside ‘The Blue Lake’ nearby, went to have lunch and then made sure to get to the meeting point for the ‘Orient Cave’ tour in time. Our guide was Graeme Bucholtz and he did his job very well. The ‘Orient Cave’ was absolutely worth it. This one was quite impressive. The different rooms in the caves were lit in different ways and that made it even more spectacular than it already was. Seeing the caves in complete darkness, with just the light of a lighter, with electric lighting or with LED lights.. A different view every time.
The stalactites, stalagmites, columns, shawls and other formations were amazing to see and got some pretty obvious nicknames if you thought about it. In the Persian room, there stood ‘Hercules’, by far the biggest fossil. In ‘Egypt’ there was a “mosque” that reminded me of Saint-Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Other formations included Cleopatra’s snake, Cleopatra herself, animallike formations in ‘the jungle’, a frozen Nile, the river Styx, Medusa, and so on. All very spectacular to see.
According to our guide other caves such as the ‘Ribbon Cave’, ‘River Cave’ and ‘Lucas Cave’ were just as spectacular, yet we didn’t have the time to visit them. At 3.30pm – about fifteen minutes after the end of the tour – we had to head back to Katoomba. Again 1,5 hours for just 75 kilometers..
Arriving back in Katoomba around five o’clock, I decided to go for another walk. No bushwalk this time, but a visit around the town. I walked towards the Kingsford-Smith Memorial Park (of which the monument at the entrance is the only thing worth mentioning) and then on to ‘The Edge Cinema’ on the other side of the Great Western Highway. Then I headed back and walked in the direction of the Katoomba Sports & Aquatics Centre which was situated right next to a former road racing circuit I wanted to see. The race track is still there but is no longer in use as it was shut down in ’92. The park is now again recognised as the aboriginal land ‘The Gully’, which it already used to be before the building of the circuit was announced in ’57 and people got removed from their houses quite harshly.
Friday was my last day in Katoomba and I again decided to go walking: time to do the rest of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, and even a bit more than that. This time I started at the Three Sisters and walked towards the Katoomba Falls. There, I took the Furber Steps down to the bottom of those falls where I then took the Federal Pass Walking Track all the way to the bottom of the ‘Three Sisters’. That’s where I went back up, via the ‘Giant Stairway’, a steep stairway of over 900 steps towards the lookout point right next to the top of Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo where I had ended my walk two days before. I decided to count the steps and got to somewhere in the sevenhundred-and-fifty’s when I lost count as some Frenchies started talking to me, asking for some information on what the easiest walkway was to Leura..
Once I had reached the top of the ‘Giant Stairway’, I had to conclude that it hadn’t been as hard as people had warned me it was (thought you definitely shouldn’t do it if you’re not in a good shape!) and that it seemed to be more dangerous to walk down than to walk up. Anyway, once I was back on top of the rim, I felt fit enough to go even further: I went on to Leura. I followed the Cliff Drive to the point where I had started my hike two days before and then I went back on the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, heading for the ‘Leura Cascades’ (right behind the beautiful ‘Bridal Veil Falls’!) and then the ‘Gordon Falls’. Once I had seen those, I decided to call it a day after having walked for a little over five hours and got back to my hostel.
I was happy to get some rest then as for the second night in a row, my six share dorm room was occupied by just one person (me). A room of my own, no noise from other people, no snoaring, loved it! I couldn’t sleep in though, as I had to check out the next day and get back to Sydney.
So I’m back here since the day before yesterday, stayed in a hostel in Kings Cross for two nights as other hostels were fully booked, met up with Elena and Leni again as they got back from New Zealand and then travelled on, respectively back to Italy and on to Melbourne. So today I am restarting my jobhunt.. Hoping it finally pays off..
For those interested, these are some more detailed maps of the hikes I did in and around Katoomba on these three days:
- 4 February: http://oi62.tinypic.com/oj4hnk.jpg
- 5 February: http://oi59.tinypic.com/30u4s5j.jpg
- 6 February: http://oi60.tinypic.com/23t1aqh.jpg
Little extra treat to finish this blog, here’s a pic of the gorgeous Leura Cascades..
On February 19, 2015 this article was also featured on the official website of the Blue Mountains! http://www.bluemts.com.au/news/cdric-explores-katoomba-giants/