Friday, April 27, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Part 3)

14/5/2012 Updated with own photos
The trees and shrubs in the valley below

The serene valley of the Blue Mountains 

Such a refreshing change from the city skyscape

Endless stretch of valleys, mountains and blue skies

All set for the hair-raising ride

View from the top

The original train for the coal miners

Ventilation furnace in the coal mine

Another view of the furnace

The coal miner's tools

Ceramic blue and orange flowers on the forest floor

Art in the Forest showcased fascinating art works

This is my favourite - the twin Bat Women in the Wilds 

A red 'fish trap' among the trees

A plaster head on a mossy rock

A piece of art that blends in with the setting

A gap in the tree trunk

A palm-like tree in the forest

Rainbow-coloured sticks on the ground

The Three Sisters forlornly gaze at the beauty of
the Blue Mountains 

Photo of the Manly Ferry approaching Many Wharf
'Seven miles from Sydney, a thousand miles from care',
a catchphrase coined by the early Port Jackson  and
Manly Steamship Co, captures the carefree spirit of this seaside town..

Sand, Sea 'n Surf

I was about to explore the museums in the city when two sweet ladies from the Free Walking Tour asked if I'd like to take the ferry to Manly with them.  
    I jumped at the invitation, dragged  my sore feet to Wharf No 3, paid AUD5.60 for Adult Single ticket, boarded the sleek single-tier ferry and slunk into an upholstered seat opposite them at a table for four.  
    We sipped our complimentary coffees and took in the late afternoon sunshine on the dark blue waves and frothy white foams. 
    It took about 30 minutes to reach Manly Wharf, where we were approached by friendly Asian faces trying to lure us into the food court and the open massage parlour with chairs and couches facing the convenience store. As soon as we stepped on the streets outside, we were greeted by two-storey wooden shops with nicely decorated windows which could have been lifted straight from Quincy Market at Boston Harbour. 
    We decided to take a right to the sandy strip on the cove, which looked out to sail boats on the water and picture perfect properties on the cliffs. About five minutes further down the road, we encountered a surf beach swarmed with sun bathers, swimmers, children taking surfing lessons and a lone para sailor.  We sat on the cement steps to enjoy the cool sea breeze.
   Walking along the other rows of shops and eateries, we stumbled upon a Malay/Indonesian restaurant, Malacca Straits Satay Restaurant, at the corner of Sydney Rd. We were invited in to study the menu but one of the ladies couldn't stomach spicy food. So we walked over to the wharf where the lady with the sensitive bowels had a sandwich while the other lady and I ordered noodles from Chat Thai. After we've consumed our dinner, we caught the view of the harbour against the setting sun on our ferry ride back to Circular Quay.

Blue Mountain High 

   I found that you didn't have to feel lonely even though you're travelling alone. Provided you're not shy to break the ice and start conversations with room mates or fellow travellers. Hence, I almost did a somersault when my blonde, blue-eyed, (seemed like) six footer German dorm mate, Marietje Chen, asked me if I'd like to take the train to the Blue Mountains with her the next morning.
    So, there we were - bright and early, with coffee cups and muffin bags - waiting for the 8:27am CityRail train destined for Katoomba at the nearby Central Station. It was a two hour ride on the double-decker ultra-modern train from Sydney and, on the way, we passed by small towns and suburbs with Anglo and Abo names such as Strathfield, Parramatta and Penrith.
Leura Mall with its pretty and quaint shops
    We breathed in the fresh mountain air as soon as we stepped on to the platform at Katoomba Station. The tickets for Scenic World double decker bus, Cableway, Skyway, Railway and Walkway package was just next to the station, where cheerful old ladies served us over the postbox red counter. The ambience reminded me of Cameron Highlands when it used to be cool and refreshing. A red double decker bus took us to the tourist attractions in the area.
The Skyway which boasts the world's first Electro-Sceniglass floor 

Right off the bus, we were ushered into the Skyway cabin where we were taken on a 720 metre journey, 270 metre above jaw dropping ravines and heart-stopping waterfalls. We were simply bowled over by the ancient rainforests in the surrounding mountains and valleys below. The Skyway gives us a 360 degree spectacular bird's eye view of the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, Mount Solitary and the never ending expanse of the Jamison Valley.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters, doomed to be eternal sentinels
According to the Aboriginal dream-time legend, there were three sisters - Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo - who lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, but tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were unhappy about their situation and decided to abduct the three sisters. Their action caused a fierce tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe turned them into stones to protect them from harm. When the battle ended, the shaman was killed before he could reverse the spell. As only he could undo the magic to return the ladies to their former selves, the sisters remained as magnificent rock formations which served as a reminder to subsequent generations of this historic battle.
The stroll along the cool, temperate rainforest was such a pleasant experience compared to hot and humid tropical ones.
I promise to post some 'Art in the Rainforest' pieces
once I've located my usb cable!

Hang on for the steepest Railway ride!

Katoomba Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains, Australia
Without the lush vegetation,
the railway's steepness is 
obvious in this c1900 pic.

Katoomba Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains, Australia
Woosh, and down the slope we go!!

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