Our base for the next stage of our journey was the glorious mountain resort of Lilianfels, near Echo Point in the Blue Mountain town of Katoomba.
The Blue Mountains are so called, not because the smurfs live here or because they are blue in colour or because they are unhappy. They are called Blue because on hot and sunny days, a blue haze can be seen above the mountains. This is caused by sunlight refracting on the oils evaporating from the leaves of millions of eucalyptus trees. Not a lot of people know that.
Katoomba is the home town of one of our friends from the train. He says it is his favourite place on Earth, and it is easy to see why. This really is a beautiful place.
We woke later than usual, having slept well, on a bed that was stationary. Our plans for an early hiking start were delayed in consequence, but this turned out to be fortuitous ………because we were fogged in. We weren’t missing too much then on the view front.
We did set off in the fog though. We had bought new shiny boots and those boots were made for walking. We were going to hike. Fog or no fog.
One of the problems of fog and unfamiliarity with an area, is that there is always the risk of getting lost.
It was an easy mistake to make. Left and right can easily be confused in a whiteout. To the right was an easy 300 metre walk to Scenic World and its cable cars and funicular railway. To the left was an Australian special forces assault course.
We went left.
The walk started out ok. Then we found the steps. I say steps, but most of them were more like slippery ledges hewn out of the mountainside by some mountain troll. Anyway, there were 900 of them. And it was a long way down. It was a good job it was foggy, because we both suffer from vertigo. Even so, there were times (actually most of the time), when we were terrified.
I would have liked to have taken my time down the mountainside, or even better, go back, but we had been joined on the descent by Rambo Dad and his family. We all know Rambo Dad. He is unflappable, strong and intolerant of all forms of weakness, especially from his children or whingeing Brits. He was dismissive of my terror and sneered at my queries about emergency helicopter evacuation. There was no room for him to pass us on the steps, and so we pressed on.
Forty Five minutes later, as our legs turned to jelly, we reached the valley and the rainforest below. Rambo Dad and his poor family galloped off along the trail, and we followed, albeit much slower.
Our walk lasted a total of two hours. We decided not to climb back up the mountain at the steps at the other end of the trail, and instead took a cable car back up.
The steps had been quite hazardous, but there were not many people with us on the descent or the rainforest walk below and we had not suffered injury or major discomfort.
As we neared the base of the funicular railway and the cable car, we came across scores of tourists who had succesfully read the directions signs and knew left from right and took the easy way down. Unfortunately, most of them were carrying umbrellas. Who takes umbrellas on a mountain walk for goodness’ sake! What is wrong with anoraks? Umbrellas are weapons in the hands of the reckless and should be banned. It was virtually impossible to get past these hordes without losing an eye.
Jelly legs aside, we were glad of the walk and as we neared the end, the clouds lifted and opened up the most beautiful landscape you could ever hope to see.