Sunday, March 16, 2014

Beginning at Journeys End

Blue Mountains Day 1

About 50 miles West of Sydney lies the Blue Mountains National Park. A glorious stretch of land containing the oldest known caves on Earth and some of the most beautiful geographic features I've ever seen.  I was lucky enough to have this past weekend to roam free, and roam I did. 

I have a knack of making things much harder for myself than they need to be. I don't do it purposely I just cant be bothered with conveniences if I can just get it done myself faster or more interestingly. That mentality got me all of the photos you'll see today.

I had heard about the Blue Mountains about 2 weeks ago while looking up interesting places around Sydney to take some photos. I at the time had no idea how close it really was and settled for writing it on my list of places to go without too much investigation, it was meant to be. That very same night my host mom came home from work and asked if i'd be interested in staying a night at the Fairmont Resort in the Blue Mountains, she had gotten a voucher at work and needed to use it. I of course said yes and set about planning my weekend. Knowing nothing of the area I booked a pass on a tour bus that made drop offs at the most touristy spots. Since I was traveling solo, the kids are a bit more interested in the hotel video games, I also booked a two cave tour of the Jenolan Caves for Sunday. Time passed quickly as usual and before I knew it I was packing up my camera and some clothes ready to head out.

We arrived at the resort around 1230 just in time to notice that my bus although claiming 30 min stop intervals only came to my hotel twice in the morning, both piror to 12, next pick up was 3:20. Luckally we couldnt check in until 2 anyways so I settled for the much nicer option of being dropped off at echo point, aka The 3 Sisters.

Australia's Kardashians, these however are far more beautiful and classy

 I snapped some photos with the hordes of tourists dressed in full hiking gear, the journey to and from the bus is truly arduous you see; and chatted with a very nice man who waited till the very end of the conversation to hand me a book about Jesus. Wandering and pondering my next move I noticed colorful shapes in the distance, what was it I saw? A bridge?! Going onto the first rock of the three sisters? Well sign me up,  I could have ran. I had 30 mins before I intended on grabbing the bus to the cascades. The walk was short about 10 minutes to a very steep staircase that after much careful maneuvering around other people I got down. Across the bridge was a small section of rock to stand on, I stood, I looked and pictures I took. Then I went off ready to return to echo point and catch the bus. Before I made it to the stairwell I noticed a whole nother set of ominous steep steps, I wondered what I could see down so far into the jungle below. I could always catch the bus later no big deal. I descended the 900 step staircase hoping whatever was down there would be worth the trip back up.

Rail slide of death
 At the bottom a bit to my dismay was what should have been expected, a bench and jungle. I looked back up the stairs, no way, not yet. There was a trail leading off to the right and anything was better than climbing up those stairs right now. I walked a relatively short distance before hitting a marker. Options: either I could hike 2 hours to the skyway lift back to the top of the cliffs or go 45 mins into the Leura Forest and see what happens. I chose the forest and made the left back in the same direction I came from just a trail lower.

Jurassic Park was filmed in Hawaii but you could fool me and say it was filmed right here in the mountains of Australia. The trees and plants looked prehistoric, everything about it made me imagine dinosaurs were lucking in the distance, velociraptors stalking me ready to strike. The illusion was intensified as the sky darkened about 30 mins in and ominous clouds started taking over the blue sky. I picked up the pace ready to get the fuck out of there. I walked and walked, nothing, no signs and few people. Just when I was getting frustrated I found one, two options lay before me again. A path up the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, the path I was sure I had been on already and a path to Leura Cascade.... 

Leura Cascade was where I had wanted go anyway, was I really gonna go back the way I came just to catch a bus to what was right a head of me? No way Jose.

Thank god I did. Despite the frustration of having no idea how far I had to go, the impending weather and the start of a whole nother series of of steps ascending the cliff, I stumbled upon this my spirits were raised.

A man seeing my perhaps overly enthusiastic photo taking pointed towards a path off the trail and said i'd love the small falls down there because of the rock formations, off I went followed by two Indian tourists looking for some photo ops as well.

It was beautiful, until it started raining. Luckily I had figured out 2 days prior my camera bag had a waterproof cover. I took as many photos as I could until my camera started getting more than drizzled on. My company had long since vanished so I cut my photos short and ran back up to the path. Stairs, stairs and more stairs. Rain was heavy now, I passed so many photo ops and decided that it could rain but it wasn't gonna rain on my parade so set up my tripod took off my sweater and held it over the camera. Put away walk 100ft repeat. Up stairs and down stairs. It went on endlessly but the scenery became more and more beautiful, waterfalls becoming more amazing every time I saw them and rain steadily decreasing.

Fear of heights you say? Might wanna skip this one

Unbelievable things started to happen the sky became slightly lighter little by little and the difficulty of the hike no longer mattered because when sights like this are so close together, that trail was a cake walk.

 Almost to my sadness the path ended, falls exhausted. I ended up in a boring little park beyond the lazies reach of the waterfalls. I looked at my iPod to find it was 5:45, I had been walking since before 2. Sunset would be coming soon and I had a plan that I must be at the 3 Sisters for sunset. No more buses and no idea where exactly I was I started to walk towards the general direction I knew it had to be. 

It took about 45 minutes walking along the cliff roads but I made it back in time. Back to where I had started the beginning and the end of the journey.

In a former post I had said that I felt through photography I have become so much more appreciative and observant, I realized how true this was on Saturday night. I heard no less than 3 groups of kids my age look over the spectacular landscape and in a matter of 3-5 minutes tops say, "Okay been there, done that, lets go". I spent an hour there and saw beauty flourish with the decent of the sun, this was not an experience you could truly appreciate with such a brief visit. If it wasn't so cold I would have probably stayed longer for my star photos however I had been rained on all day.

The best plans aren't made they're discovered. I wouldn't have had this day if I had followed my plan, I would've been packed into a tourist bus missing out on everything worth seeing. I don't know how far I walked that day but I was aching a joyful and accomplished pain. I will be back on a moonless night for my star photos and a hike in the opposite direction.

Part 2 Jenolan caves will be up tomorrow most likley

For more photos of the Mountains, Caves and Waterfalls check out
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