I’ve been around the world
A couple of times or maybe more
I’ve seen the sights, I’ve had delights
On every foreign shore
But when my mates all ask me
The place that I adore
I tell them right away
Give me a home among the gumtrees
With lots of plum trees
A sheep or two, a k-kangaroo
A clothesline out the back
Verandah out the front
And an old rocking chair
…Give Me a Home Among the Gumtrees, 1974
The Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia
Can you believe it’s almost three years since I started this travel blog and, in that whole time, I have never written about any travel within my own country of Australia? Perhaps it’s always the way… you know, you think you can do it when you’re older and that now is the time to see the world while you’re active and adventurous.
It’s a silly attitude for two reasons. Firstly, you may remember my story about the world’s oldest backpacker. John has proved that you can travel the world for decades after your retirement and that the idea you need to stay grounded in your own country is just self-imposed shackles. And, secondly, I come from one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world and limiting my travel to overseas is depriving me (and you, the reader) of some fantastic experiences.
Now… don’t jump ahead here and try to guess what’s happening. I am not putting my passport in the drawer quite yet and I have some big international plans for 2014. But I am in Australia at the moment for a bit of a summer break and am using the opportunity to give you a little taste of my homeland. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing some pretty special experiences from a trip to Queensland. Right now, however, I want to tell you about the Blue Mountains.
Just an hour’s drive from where I grew up in Sydney is one of Australia’s 19 World Heritage Sites. I would drive through them every couple of weeks when I was going to university at a country town on the other side of them. They weren’t special to me; they weren’t scenic; they certainly had no heritage value. They were just an obstacle that slowed the speed limit as I was trying to get home. Oh, how I used to curse those Blue Mountains and the narrow winding road that run through them.
These days it’s different. Firstly, the road is not so narrow… but that’s by the by. What has really changed is my perception. I now see the Blue Mountains as a potential tourist attraction and as a beautiful natural wonder in my own backyard. As I’ve travelled across the globe, I have sought out World Heritage Sites. This is just as beautiful as many of the other natural ones I have seen in farflung destinations.
What are the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains, funnily enough, are not technically mountains. It is actually an enormous sandstone plateau that has been shaped by nature over millions of years. It has a diverse collection of ecosystems and you can see that for yourself as you explore the area. There are 91 types of eucalyptus, for instance, and 12 of them only grow right here.
The best walk for visitors is from Echo Point at Katoomba, along the cliffs to Leura, down into the valley and back in the direction of where you started. Along the way you pass through the eucalyptus forests, fern gullies, waterfalls, and natural caves. The temperature drops as you climb down the stairs and the plants and wildlife change accordingly. The three hour hike takes you past a collection of flora and fauna that could take three days to find in many other places.
All of this is just an hour’s drive from the centre of Sydney. I used to hear visitors say they were going to spend a day going to the Blue Mountains and I used to wonder why. Why would you spend a whole day of your limited time in Sydney leaving and not seeing the sights of the city? Well, now I understand. It’s time to get a greater appreciation of home.