The Blue Mountains are not technically mountains and are certainly not blue. But they are one of Australia’s most glorious natural areas, with soaring rocky peaks and lush bushland teeming with wildlife.
About an hour’s drive from Sydney, they offer an escape from the bustling city and a taste of Australia that many tourists never see. In 2019, the region suffered calamitous bushfires but recovered remarkably well.
I spent a day with veteran tour guide Paul Hartmann and his Yorkshire-born wife Jenny, who set up Blue Mountains Eco Tours in 2013.
We drove a rugged Land Rover Discovery to Grose Valley, more than 3,000 feet above sea level.
“No regular buses are allowed on these fire trails for fear they will damage the fragile ecology,” Paul said as we made our way through hilly lands filled with native shrubs and plants such as banksia, mountain devils, acacia and eucalyptus.
Mind the gap: During her visit to the Blue Mountains, Jo Knowsley experienced the Scenic World cable car attraction (pictured)
She reveals that visitors can climb to the top of the cable car, which hangs almost 300 meters above the valley floor. “It’s crazy,” he says.
The landscape is overwhelming in its grandeur and wildness. After a one-mile hike along a spectacular ridge and lunch overlooking the canyon, we continued on.
But it’s not until late afternoon in the Megalong Valley that we experience the highlight of our day: kangaroos and wallabies, dozens of them, feeding peacefully on the grass in the fading light as we drink wine next to a crackling fire.
The next day, the challenge is greater when I head to the tourist attraction Scenic World, which in 2022 began giving visitors the opportunity to climb to the top of a cable car that hangs almost 300 meters above the valley floor.
We were met by Gundungurra Aboriginal man, David King, who holds a ‘smoking ceremony’ to welcome us to this part of the country, as the Aboriginal people call their land.
I was then harnessed and fitted with a helmet, while a series of metal accessories hung free, which were then attached to the roof of the cable car.
“The landscape is overwhelming in its grandeur and wildness,” Jo writes. Above, Hanging Rock, one of the viewpoints of the mountains.
It takes about an hour to get from Sydney to the range. Above, early morning skies over Pulpit Rock Overlook
Jo remembers seeing kangaroos and kangaroos while passing through the Megalong Valley
It’s a crazy adventure, but it was surprisingly calm, perhaps due to the banter of security man Rob, who is also a part-time firefighter.
Getting from the car to the roof is a heart-stopping moment. But the views of the canyons are amazing. There was no noise except the distant squawking of a flock of cockatoos.
Back in Sydney, there was growing enthusiasm for the Vivid Sydney festival, which dramatically highlights the city’s natural and architectural beauty with thousands of lights and projections illuminating gardens and monuments.
This year it will be celebrated from May 24 to June 15.
My trip had begun with an unusual perk: a business class flight with Etihad. We ate (when we decided), slept comfortably, and enjoyed the least jet lag I’ve ever had on a trip to the Antipodes.
I lived in Australia for ten years in the 1980s, four of them in Sydney. But for me, it’s the city’s proximity to the majestic Blue Mountains, where I married in 1992, that makes it so special.
Bushfires now threaten Australia every year, but the glory of the Blue Mountains has not only survived but thrived.