We had experienced a train journey on the longest straight stretch of railway in the world and now we were to experience, at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, the steepest railway in the world. At 52°, or 1 in 0.82, it represents a dizzying one and half minute ride through dense forest and a long dark tunnel. The track is 1,360 feet long and drops 587 feet vertically and was originally built as a mining tramway between 1878 and 1900.
Disembarking at the lower platform, we explored the bottom of the Jamison Gorge to see one of the original tunnels dug by those long dead coal miners and walked along elevated walkways listening to the songs of birds and the rush of waterfalls cascading down high cliffs.
Our original intention had been to return to the top by cable car but, unfortunately, it was being maintained that day so we made our way back to the railway to make our ascent.
The views from the top were spectacular as the deep gorge was wreathed in the blue haze produced by the solid jungle of gum trees spreading across the valleys and up the steep slopes of the gorge.
A meal had been ordered at the revolving restaurant at the top, which also gave us wonderful views as we ate and watched rain clouds forming across the valley and over three remarkable rocks on a narrow ridge of the mountain. These were the Three Sisters, named by the Aboriginal Katoomba tribe.
In one of their dream time stories, there were three sisters who lived in the valley and fell in love with three brothers of the Nepean tribe. Tribal law forbade them to marry so the three brothers captured the sisters causing a major battle. They were now in serious danger so the witchdoctor of the tribe turned them into stone as protection. Unfortunately, he was killed in the battle, and, as only he could reverse the spell the sisters remain in their rock formation as a permanent reminder for generations to come.
Another legend tells of a magic bone and another witchdoctor who turned himself into a Lyre bird to escape the Bunyip, a monster who lived in a cave, after turning the girls to stone. However, he lost the bone needed to return them to life. The Lyre bird can still be heard calling in the valley, searching for the lost bone.
Through now torrential rain, we re-boarded our coach for the return journey to Sydney via an animal sanctuary where, clad in plastic ponchos against the rain, my good lady cuddled a Koala and we fed various animals including very friendly goats, one of my favourites. Then onwards towards the city where we drove through the huge complex of the Olympic Park and some of the passengers disembarked to board a ferry to take them back.
Back at the hotel, in spite of the rain, we felt as if we had had yet another wonderful day in the land of ‘Aus’.
by Terry Took © 2013
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.