Sydney: Blue Mountains

Having spent a good few days in the city we felt it was time to head into the bush and explore the famous Blue Mountains.
When I last visited Sydney with the family, some 6 years prior, we spent a half day around the area, taking in the general tourist lookouts; However this time I was prepared to delve deeper into the wilderness and explore more of the area.

We took the train from Sydney Central to Katoomba and although we slept for the first hour, the second was pretty spectacular as we veered up the mountain and weaved between the rocks and forest.
Most people get off at Katoomba and the station welcomes visitors with tours and guidebooks to the Blue Mountains. We grabbed a map and opted to walk through the small town to the Visitor Centre, some 25 minutes away from the station, grabbing a foot long subway on the way in preparation for our hike.

The Visitor Centre is located next to the famous postcard image of the Blue Mountains: The Three Sisters.
Here bus-loads of visitors fill the car parks and swarm around the lookout to snap up the famous view. After we too had our pictures taken we headed over to the Visitor Centre to get some final advice and information from the Rangers before starting our descent into the valley below.

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Leura Cascades

We decided that we would first head along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk towards Leura Cascades, before descending to the valley floor and looping back around to the Golden Staircase.
We hugged the cliff-edge for much of the Prince Henry walk, ducking in between covered forest, fern fields and bare rock. With considerably fewer people along the walk than at the 3 sisters lookout, we were able to observe the various lookouts at our own time- a much more enjoyable experience.

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We reached the Car park to the Cascades and sat out in the picnic areas to have lunch.
After making quick work of our subs, we followed the river down a series of pools to the cascades themselves.

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The Cascades drew a small crowd of young French people, but even more impressive was Leura Falls a short walk further down the river. We reached a stunning overlook at the top of the falls and then made our way down the waterfall edge to the base of the falls.
Here, we joined 2 or 3 others in putting our bags down and enjoying the falls and cooling off from the midday sun.

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Leura Forest/ Federals Pass

We hung around the falls for over a half hour, before drying off on the rocks and heading further down-stream to the valley floor.
We joined Leura Forest trail, which took us amongst the thickest regions of the valley floor. Again huge fern canopies rose way over head giving habitation to hundreds of chirping birds.
We didn’t bump into anyone along the secluded trail and this was perhaps the reason we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a Lyre bird. For those unfamiliar with this bird species, imagine that Sound Effects guy from Police Academy and morph those traits into a bird; It mimics everything it hears in the forest around it- from other birds, insects to people and the sounds of cameras taking pictures; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjE0Kdfos4Y 

It was enough seeing one, but we were treated to an even more special occasion 10 minutes further along the trail as a feather-spread male was echoing his entire vocabulary of mimics as part of its courtship to a female. We sat in total silence for about 5 minutes as the bird reeled off the cries of kookaburras and sounds of the forest, before it gave up on its attempt to woo the lady. This alone made the lengthy trek down into the valley worthwhile!!

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Furber Stairs

We trooped on through the jungle, reaching the Grand Staircase- a common place to end the Federal trail trek; However due to a recent landslide this trail was closed off so we had to walk a further 4km around the base of the Three Sisters Peak towards Kotoomba Falls.
It took us just shy of an hour to reach the base of the falls- now only a trickle- and then another hour as we clambered up the rockface up an energy sapping set of stairs and back towards the top of the cliff.
Again, we were treated to some fantastic views showing us an overview of our trek and the changing colours of the rockface as the sun began to dip.

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We returned to the summit of the rock, greeted once again by flocks of people and cars as people scrambled to get a shot of the sunset across the Sister Peaks.
We too admired the sunset before walking back to Katoomba station and getting the 2 hour train back to Sydney central, with a sense of accomplishment that we had now really seen the Blue Mountains and explored some of its reaches…Blue Mountains, tick!

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