BLUE MOUNTAINSNow, I’m not what you’d call a nature-lover, and definitely not a backpacking type but I do like my outdoors and luckily my OH does,too, so whenever we can, we try to venture out of town and spend some time enjoying the nature. As much as I love city breaks, I find that it’s important to explore the countryside in order to get a better feel of a place.

When planning our trip to Australia we really wanted to see something beyond the two cities we were going to visit. Due to the very limited time it had to be somewhere close by and so a quick glimpse at the map of New South Wales and a browse through Google images revealed a spectacular piece of land located just 2 hours train ride away from Sydney.

Blue Mountains National Park is a rugged region famous for waterfalls, bushwalking trails, quiet villages with cozy guesthouses and of course, breathtaking views.

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Attempting to read but really, how can you focus on anything else than this gorgeous view?! Look at my sunburned skin!

The easiest way to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney is by a frequent train to Katoomba. The journey is made by a comfortable, double-decker, modern train, which travels past some pleasant looking suburbs and villages.

Katoomba may be small but has plenty of places to eat and shop for antiques (is this very popular in Australia?). Upon our arrival we were welcomed by the sounds of a cheerful a cappella group, later followed by the pleasant sounds of ukulele of all things! There we were, in rural Australia, waiting for our bus to Echo Point-a major viewing platform, humming to uke version of Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’. A bit surreal, wouldn’t you agree? Or perhaps playing ukulele is quite common in Australia?

Prior to arriving in the country I’d booked the tickets for an attraction called Scenic World. The day ticket includes unlimited rides on a cableway,skyway (another type of cable car), a walkway, and a ride on the world’s steepest train. It wasn’t cheap but so worth it! Even with the hordes of Chinese tourists making the queues much longer than normally (according to the staff), the trip was worth making if only for the unbelievable views over the Jameson Valley.

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A short but thrilling ride on a very steep train indeed

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In addition to taking advantage of all the rides, we also went bushwalking along the longest of available trails. The day was hot and so we grew tired quite quickly but the views of the cliffs and formations, such as Orphan Rock or The Three Sisters more than compensated for the aching muscles. As long as you’ve packed snacks, strong sunblock and water with you, you’ll have a great day out.

Of course, you can skip Scenic World altogether, admittedly it may be too commercial for some, and simply enjoy the many relaxing and, mostly, shaded hiking trails. There were plenty to choose from depending on the time one had and one’s fitness level. And if you are lucky enough to have more time to spend in that area, do venture out to the nearby villages, like Blackheath; I heard they were really charming and made a brilliant base for exploring other, less-touristy, parts of the Blue Mountains National Park. The only disappointment of the day was the Katoomba Falls, which were not falls at all as the water level must have been very low and all we saw was a trickle…Oh,well you can’t have everything.

Tired, slightly sunburned but very happy, we headed back to Katoomba train station and soon we were well on our way back to Sydney. I cannot recommend Blue Mountains highly enough. You can learn about the mining past of the region, have a picnic by the stream, or simply stop and admire this beautiful landscape.

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