In my top ten list of things to do whilst in the Blue Mountains comes the Emporia in Leura.
What a variety. There's a specialty Christmas Shop, art gallery, Bygone Beauties and so many quality boutique shops it's hard to believe there are so many in just two blocks.
It's indicative of how many tourists the place attracts that they are so voluminous.
Bygone Beauties is a classic, we went there for afternoon tea, and I quote from my notes; "There we sat, midst a plethora of statuary, thimbles, crystal, Royal Doulton, fine china, tin toys from the Twenties, coalport cups, canisters, antique clocks, serviette holders, egg cups and, have I mentioned tea pots? Hundreds of them. Literally. I won't bore you with other items such as prints, clothing, candleabra, wine glasses, salt and pepper shakers, ashtrays, royal memorabilia etc. No, that would be too much!"
WOW. A word which finds itself uttered time and time again by all members of the group as it progresses through Yileen Canyon. And the biggest 'wow' factor doesn't even arrive until the canyon is done and all that awaits you is a stunning abseil down a waterfall.
The day started early, leaving Sydney at 6.00 a.m. for the 90-minute drive into Katoomba. Then it was a case of getting fitted up for wetsuits, packing your daysack with dry clothes, gloves and a windbreaker and fixing up your packed lunch with a selection of meat, cheese and salad made available to you. The group set out at 9.00 a.m. for the 45-minute drive out to the canyons.
Our guide, Paddy, was fun, friendly and supremely knowledgeable, comfortably talking us through the fauna, flora and geology of the Blue Mountains. The beautifully fragrant tea tree plant, the razor-sharp sword sage and the intelligent little trigger plants – Paddy knew it all and relayed his knowledge brilliantly.
The route included a 30-minute walk toward the canyon and then a wetsuit-clad wonder down into the canyon. Then there are two abseils, a lengthy walk through ankle-high water and a few patches which require a short (2-metre or so) paddle. It is challenging, it is exciting and it is absolutely beautiful.
Exiting the two-hour canyon route opens the group up onto a view straight over thousands of acres of foliage. This is the top of the daunting sixty-metre waterfall abseil. To say that anything preceding this becomes worthwhile when you embark on this descent is an understatement of offensive proportions – the abseil is absolutely breathtaking. Lean back, relax and enjoy the real wilderness of the Blueies. When the overhang comes, turn around and just look out over the valley. It is astonishing.
What follows is a tiring 90-minute walk out of the canyon over a rough-and-ready 'path'. This includes sliding down rocks, climbing over fallen tree trunks and accepting the fact that bare legs will be scratched, tickled and cut by the undergrowth – though there is nothing in there that gives any cause for concern.
I booked with Blue Mountains Adventure Company as opposed to local competitors because Dylan and Kieron were exceptionally helpful throughout, offering up knowledge, advice and leeway in order for me to delay booking the trip until just 36 hours beforehand. The staff here are second-to-none and Dylan and Kieron's hospitality and helpfulness was followed through perfectly by Paddy and Eric.
Do it. If this is an activity in which you are interested or a company with whom you are considering heading into the Blueies, know that both warrant a fervent recommendation. Trekking Yileen Canyon with the Blue Mountains Adventure Company was one of the best expedition days one could hope for.
Just a few minutes into the Scenic Walk we came upon the Coal Mine Exhibition. There is an audio visual display located in the coal mine entrance that shows the history of mining in the mountains. Life size bronze sculptures of a mine worker and his pit pony and a display of the tools used by the miners. It's amazing to think people toiled away in the mountains so long ago. Coal mining is tough enough today; I can only imagine how hard it was for the miners back then.
There's a lot of bird life in the Blue Mountains. In different parts you'll find different species. For instance, you're likely to see yellow tailed black cockatoos along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk but not over at Govetts Leap.
The yellow tufted honeyeater can be spied on the western slopes but you're more likely to see New Holland honeyeaters around Katoomba. Currawongs (big black and white birds) also abound here and DON'T FEED THEM please. It makes them aggressive.
There's cheeky wrens at Newnes that clamour around a warm campfire, rock warblers up near the Glow Worm Cave, wattle birds everywhere, as are eastern yellow robins.
The flashier robins like the scarlet and flame are also there for the viewing along with a score of other little birds like the red-eyed finch, blue wren, thorn birds et cetera.
The red rumped parrot puts in an appearance on the western side but you won't see it on the eastern and the most wondrous bird of all, for me, the lyrebird can more often than not be heard but not seen, such is its magnificent mimicry and excellent camouflage.
While spending some time at Govetts Leap, in one tree I sat and watched and photographed all manner of birds.
There were rufous fantails, tree creepers, crimson rosellas, a kookaburra, scrub wrens, flame robins, spotted pardalotes and others I've forgotten. Such an array of colours, such a spectacle. When you're at the lookout, if you want to see birds, allocate an hour, ideally not long after dawn and you'll be surprised at just how many there are.
This is the most scenic of all the walks in the Blue Mountains and goes from Katoomba to Leura, covering the top of the cliff line and many of the major lookouts. With photogenic vistas and waterfalls all along the way, the views of the Jamison Valley are unsurpassed. Time should be set aside to dawdle along the cliffs and soak up the serenity of the cliffs.
The walk starts at the Gordon Falls lookout near Leura or the Scenic World and is a great way to soak in the mountain air and get some exercise. The concrete path at Leura commences near a large information sign (and map) but becomes rockier as it descends Leura Cascades towards Bridal Veil lookout.
The walk continues alongside the Prince Henry Drive, until it reaches a stunning lookout, Tarpeian Rock. This elevated vantage point has clear views of Mt Solitary.
If it's been raining, do not miss the short diversion to the Bridal Veil Falls lookout (there are two Bridal Veil Falls in the Blue Mountains); see other tips for more info.
From Tarpeian, the track becomes a little more challenging, climbing uphill and presenting some steps towards Olympian Rock and across a high concrete bridge to the interesting Elysian Rock.
From here, the walk follows the cliff line all the way to the adjacent Millamurra and Tallawarra Lookouts, both worthy of a pause and both presenting sweeping views over the valley while you catch your breath. You next climb and reach the stunning rock towers at Echo Point, known as the Three Sisters. This next climb is long but steady and the 180 to 270 degree view of the Jamison Valley on show from this lookout is seriously incredible, you can see for kilometres.
Then you carry on to Scenic World and there are another 6 lookouts en route as you scout around the back of Katoomba Falls on your way to the Scenic Railway.
The total walk is just under 9 kilometres but, remember, there are many diversions en route. I'd allow a minimum of 4 hours.
You might notice these trees if you do a bit of bushwalking. There are actually quite a few varieties but if you're bushwalking and tell someone "That's a scribbly gum" then you'll be correct.
Eucalyptus haemastoma, the best known type occurring near Sydney
Eucalyptus sclerophylla, similar to Eucalyptus haemastoma, with smaller gumnuts
Eucalyptus racemosa, often a larger and a broader trunked scribbly gum
Eucalyptus signata, occurring in the north coast of New South Wales and in Queensland
Eucalyptus rossii, occurring west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales
There are also others affected by the worm of the scribbly moth but the above are the ones that come under the banner.
They are not unique to the Blue Mountains but can be found all over Australia.
This is an excellent section of cliff top track with many lookouts giving different aspects of the Blue Mountains, including the back side of the famous Three Sisters.
You pass beside Leura Cascades and Bridal Veil Falls before heading around to Gordon Falls. There may also be other falls if you are there immediately after rain as I was last time. You can see this one in pic 4.
It's 1.8 kms of varied terrain and the footing is rocky so if you're unstable on your feet I wouldn't advise it.
These falls are viewed by probably only about 10% or less of the tourist hordes which is a shame, not so much for the falls themselves but the Prince Henry Cliff walk in that area is varied and very interesting.
The stretch I'm referring to is the 1.8 km section from Leura to Gordon Falls. Black cockatoos tend to frequent the area and there are several lookouts on the way.
More next tip.
From my email at the time - "While I tackled Sudoku in the paper it started to rain, seriously rain; another weather event rain. I stalled an hour before heading out into, by then, light drizzle and made haste to Govetts Leap. There I eavesdropped a conversation by a German couple and a local. The local indicated the far side of the canyon and said she’d never seen the waterfalls that were currently plunging over the edge; so fierce had been the rain.
So I figured it was timely to get the camera out to record this rare spectacle. While doing so three German backpackers were about to head out with all the enthusiasm of youth. I cautioned them against it because another thunderhead was about to roll over but they gave a thumbs up and headed off anyway.
About half an hour later the next one hit and somewhere along the way I nodded off in the motorhome. Later, when it was clear again, I retrieved my camera and went to see what was on offer. The local had just returned from having been down to the lower lookout; she’d been drenched in the journey but I took her advice and headed on down.
As usual, the 5 minute walk ended up lasting for an hour and a half as I pushed on along further paths that, at times, were small rivers themselves and in one spot turned at right angles and plunged into the chasm. I was so glad I had my waterproof shoes on as I struggled over the slippery rocks but when I reached the top of Horseshoe Falls even they weren’t enough and I had to remove them to cross the stream flushed with fresh from the storm.
I vaguely remembered times past when my son Ronnie and I had stepped over a trickle here on our way to Pulpit Rock after doing Grand Canyon. Everywhere water was in puddles, hanging off leaves, dripping from rocks or plummeting over the cliff face.
I finished up at the main viewpoint for Horseshoe Falls, marvelled at the spectacle and then trudged back."
To hike through these huge National Paks or just "out and about" bushwalking..The Nature in these Parks is everywhere to be seen and enjoyed. For me when out in these National Parks I especially love the abundant birdlife to watch...There are many species large and small of Parrots, Cockatoos, Honeyeaters, hawks, eagles...just so many.. but the beautiful parrots are my favourite. To be seen also are small marsupials wallabies , wombats, echidnas, koala bears, and reptiles .Make sure to have your camera with you with a fully charged battery of course.
Bushwalking in these National Parks is a very popular and a healthy pastime..also..Anyone wishing to do some bushwalking in the Blue Mountains National Park area should be aware of the dangers of getting lost and being exposed to the elements....and take the neccesary steps for their and others safety..Here in the mountains the weather can change quickly and bushwalkers should be carrying the neccesary protective clothing and equipment..
Bushwalking guides to the vast selection of walks in this National Park can be obtained at the following Information Centres located in the Blue Mountains area..
GLENBROOK, ECHO POINT KATOOMBA, LITHGOW, OBERON and ALSO AT THE NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.
These centres will advise you of the tracks and maps with the grades of difficulty ..the duration..aproximate distance of walk..and what you will see on the walk..also help in planning your bushwalking activities..for long walks you may need to obtain maps and some are for only really EXPERIENCED bushwalkers....DON'T PUT YOURSELF IN HARMS WAY
ALWAYS.. Carry plenty of fresh drinking water..wear comfortable hiking boots..have a hat to protect yourself from sunburn..carry blockout sunscreen..mobile phone...and KEEP to the tracks..carry a bag to bring your rubbish OUT with you..do not bury it. (animals will dig it up).I always have a camera and a small pair of binoculars.I also carry essential items that I feel are important..The birdlife and wildlife is marvellous in these mountains as is the amazing scenery and wildflowers..
Make sure that you visit the toilet before going into the Park ...THERE ARE NO TOILETS
NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (02)4787-8877 (INFORMATION ON PARK CLOSURES)
Always take notice of BUSHFIRE alerts if intending hiking and longer stays
Mt Victoria is a good stop for good views. I took the train to Mt Victoria Station, and visited Pulpit Rock. It has an amazing big rook at the edge of a cliff. I tried to walk a trail to Mt Piddington along the cliff, and I almost got lost. I strongly advise you not to do so. Its walk ways are maintenance-free. Or please get local advise before you go there.
I took a train to Medlow Bath. There were nothing much here. I walked across the street, there were a hotel, The Hydro Majestic Hotel, which was under renovation. It will resume business in 2012. I saw good views from the hotel tennis court. I walked further south and went into a private property, it had a good view of Blue Mountains from its carpark area.
When I reached Eastern Station by the Skyway, I walked in a track all the way to Leura Fall. It took me around 4 hours to reach Leura Train Station. I enjoyed each lookout, all of them have fantastic views.
It is medium difficulty to walk.
1) Cliff View Lookout
2) Lady Darley Lookout
3) Queen Elizabeth Lookout
4) Eco Points
5) The Three Sisters
6) Honeymoon Lookout
7) Kiah Lookout
8) Leura Falls
Check out the location map from the website.
Scenic World is a place you can ride on Railway, Cableway, and Skyway. In addition, you can enjoy their Walkway in a forest.
Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
There is a cafe, restaurant, kiosk, souvenir shop, ticket counter, cinema, and viewing terrace.
There are several ride packages you can choose, please refer to its website.
I took the railway down to scenic world forest, then walked around the forest. After that, I took the Cableway back to the main building. From the main building, I took the Skyway to Eastern Station. I started my walking trail from Easter Station all the way to Leura falls.