I've been a little hostel-bound of late. So when Claire suggested a trip to The Blue Mountains I thought "why not....?". What with Claire having a proper job and everything, it was left up to me to organise it.
So, here's a life lesson: Never try to organise anything for backpackers. Their motto appears to be: why make a decision now when you can wait until tomorrow when it's too late.
I didn't do it out of the goodness of my heart, I did it because if I hadn't, it wouldn't have got off the ground, but when a third person says "I don't know whether I'm coming Friday or Saturday. Or at all", it's tempting to say, Partridge-style "Oh forget it. You people!"
Nevertheless, I perservered. By Friday morning I had booked a space for 9 people - 7 in a dorm and 2 in a tent in the back garden. By Friday evening we were on a 1970s train rattling idly through the night. By Friday night we were stood, icy-breathed, on Katoomba station. God, it was cold. Agonisingly cold. Chest-constrictingly cold.
Thanks to Chris's TomTom we found our way to the hostel quick enough. I had been warned by the owner when I had booked it over the phone that he didn't want a large rowdy crowd. I assured him that we were coming to the mountains to escape rowdy crowds.
However, nothing prepared me for quite how funereal this place was. Upon entering the common room we were greeted by a librarial hush punctuated only by the occasional turning of paperbacked pages. I know he said this place was quiet, but I think I'd find more excitement in the queue at The Antiques Roadshow. Naturally, our over-excited babbling had soon filled the air and the gathered throng were soon staring at us reproachfully over the tops of their copies of Harry Potter 7.
Despite the air of reverence, the hostel was great: small, cosy, warm, quiet, very quiet with a few plush sofas, an open fire and soft Latino jazz wafting through the air. We hit the Thai restaurant and hit the sack.
One Small Step For A Small Man
Brian, Claire, Chris and I had arrived on the Friday and by Saturday Emma, Jamie and Andy had arrived too, minus two people who had dropped out. One of whom claimed he was on a promise, although we later found out she'd promised him nothing.
We wasted no time and set out for the main observation deck overlooking the Blue Mountains and Three Sisters. After a day down amongst the canopy, we finally reached the Giant Steps. 956 metal stairs awaited us set into the rock at a formidable angle. The top wasn't going to get any closer so, inevitably, with our heads down we began the upwards tramp.
Actually, I was expecting it to be far worse. Within a few moments the smokers had fallen to the back, wheezing like punctured accordions, whereas I had powered on ahead, my Peak District altitude training kicking in. The climb took 35 minutes and with legs burning I reached the top of the Three Sisters breathless but satisfied.
The next day we rose early and made our way over to Wentworth Falls. We were picked up by possibly the most inept bus driver, who appeared to have little or no mathematical ability when working out change (even when he was given exact money) and, alarmingly, spent the entire journey driving with his head spun round 180 degrees like an owl, chatting to Brian who had foolishly sat at the front.
We watched him through splayed fingers hoping his occasional glances at the road would be long enough to spot various obstacles - mini roundabouts, trees, traffic lights, cyclists and corners.
Brian later confessed to not understanding a word he'd said.
The Wentworth Falls walk was harder. The path took us down the side of the waterfall, weaving left and right, down through, and up and over the canopy.
The drops were enormous, the inclines were steep, the legs were burning, but the photographic evidence below says more than I ever could.
See the rest at:
Chris checks the map....unfortunately he's pointing to Africa. This photo was taken in 1932
Jamie refuses to help to erect the tent.......