For overseas visitors there is always the risk of trying to do or see too much and then you miss other things. This is the first of a series of day trips from our major cities. Some will be recommended as overnight to really get the most out of your trip. The concept is to help you decide what to do and see nearby to the city. For visitors from large cities, Australian cities will feel empty and you will question why people would need to escape these empty urban environments. The wide open spaces nearby are awe inspiring and should not be missed.
Why the Blue Mountains are so highly regarded and people visit them in droves? It’s a valid question. Why here and not other places? There are so many reasons but first we start with created the picture of deep canyons and dramatic sandstone cliffs. There are several viewing areas on the edge of various canyons and you get the most spectacular views with the most amazing contracts between the deep oranges of the sandstone and the blue tones of the eucalyptus. The valleys create drama and special awareness. The effect is breathtaking.
Why are they called the Blue Mountains? From Sydney they look blue. Yes, they can be seen from Sydney on most days. Eucalypts release fine mist of eucalypt oil in the hot sun. This fine mist creates the blue effect in the light. Eucalyptus oil has medicinal qualities so it’s a perfect place to visit.
The most famous of all the sights is the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters were formed by erosion but I much prefer the Aboriginal story. There is a legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters, Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, who lived in the Jamison Valley as members of a tribe. They fell in love with three men from the neighbouring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major battle arose, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder who was trying to protect them. The elder was killed in the fighting and no one else knew how to turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend. There is claim that the story is a load of hogs waddle and invented to promote the area. It’s far more exciting to tell the kids than the rocks were formed by erosion.
Another version of the same story exists and I have included both because dependent upon what appeals to your child, applying the right story for each kid makes for a major shift in their interaction and engagement. One is all wars and fighting and the other slightly more romantic. Long ago in the Blue Mountains there lived three little Aboriginal sisters. They were Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, whose Witch Doctor father was called Tyawan.
Only one creature was feared by all the Bunyip who lived in a deep hole. When Tyawan had to pass the hole, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff behind a rocky wall. One day, waving goodbye to his daughters, he descended the cliff steps. On top of the cliff a big centipede suddenly appeared and frightened Meehni, who threw a stone at it. The stone rolled over the cliff and crashed into the valley.
Birds, animals and fairies stopped till as the rocks behind the three sisters split open, leaving them on a thin ledge.
The angry Bunyip emerged to see the terrified sisters. In the valley, Tyawan saw the Bunyip close to his daughters, so he pointed his magic bone at the girls and turned them to stone. The Bunyip then chased Tyawan, who found himself trapped, so he changed himself into a Lyre Bird. Everyone was safe, but Tyawan had dropped his magic bone. After the Bunyip had gone, Tyawan searched and searched for his bone and he is still searching.
The Three Sisters stand silently watching him from their ledge, hoping he will find the bone to turn them back to Aboriginal girls.
As you look at the Three Sisters, you can hear Tyawan the Lyre Bird calling his daughters as his search for the lost bone continues. Click here for the source of this story.
I highly recommend the walk down. There are over 800 steps. It’s a 1.5 hour walk but not to worry. You can use the Scenic Railway to get back to the top once you’ve got to the base of the Katoomba falls. Go on a Bunyip hunt. They tell me the best place to find them is behind waterfalls.
Aboriginal Dreamtime stories : Click here for more Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories that you can use throughout your trip to provide inspiration and entertainment. I strongly recommend you spend some time finding the stories that will appeal to your children. How the birds got their colour or the rainbow serpent. There is no better way to a child’s imagination that a story and these were created thousand’s of years ago. What better souvenir can you leave with your children?
What you need to know: Aboriginal Dreaming stories are more than just stories and are rather an important transfer of knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations. These stories are transferred not only in storytelling format but also through song, dance, and painting. Aborigines have maintained a link with the Dreaming from ancient times to today, creating a rich cultural heritage. Click here for more information.
Aborigines have the longest continuous cultural history of any group of people on Earth. Estimates date this history between 50,000 and 65,000 years. Before European settlement of Australia, there were around 600 different Aboriginal nations, based on language groups.
How far back can you trace your heritage? I have met Aboriginal people who can trace their ancestry back 13-15 generations by name. Not using a chart. They can do this by stories. The stories that passed from one generation to the next are the foundation of their family tree. Very proud Aboriginal families place great importance on ensuring their younger generations understand their cultural beliefs and knowledge.
Waradah Aboriginal Centre is located in nearby Katoomba. It is more than a souvenir shop. It is a cultural centre and gives you the opportunity to truly learn about the Aboriginal people who have occupied this country for so very long.
I would then head off to Leura for some lunch before taking a stroll around the village and enjoying the charming shopping area and quaint cafes.
Where to eat:
Sublime Lounge is in the Fairmont Resort and a perfect place to spend the afternoon in front of the fire after a morning walking. At the same address is The Terrace overlooking the valley.
Address; 1 Sublime Point Road, Leura, 2780
Telephone: (02) 4785 0000
Bygone Beauty’s Treasured Teapot Museum & Tearooms is a hoot. You feel like you have stepped back in time. All the cake and the china is for sale and it is not only delicious but a lovely experience.
Address: Corner of Grose & Megalong Streets, Leura Phone: 02 4784 3117
Café Bon Ton (more restaurant style than café) is lovely in the courtyard for an al fresco meal. Having said that it is more than likely you will be inside next to the log fire as it is often cold in the mountains.
Address: 192 The Mall Corner Megalong Street, Leura, 2780
Telephone: (02) 4782 4377
Other highlights of the area are the amazing galleries scattered throughout the trip back to Sydney. Whatever art or craft you are in to you will find it here. Artwork makes for a great souvenir to take home. The Aboriginal painting at the Waradah Aboriginal Centre are some of the best I have seen. If you are looking for a timeless reminder of your trip, I would make sure you make time to explore several galleries to find something that speaks to you.
Be sure to stop by Leura Toy Shop. I know it is completely impractical to buy toys that need to be added to luggage and carted around but the shop is such a joy. Let’s face it, when the kids are happy so are you? They have loads of activity based things like brain teasers which are in fact perfect for time wasting at airports and in planes.
167 Leura Mall, Leura, 2780
Telephone: (02) 4784 2094