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I did a lot of my growing up in an ever-expanding Sydney. For me, the Blue Mountains (first crossed in 1813 by Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson - geez, you never forget some of the stuff from primary school, hey?) seemed so far away back then. Now that I live in Canberra I am still afflicted by the same misconception.
The Blue Mountains are, in fact, just around the corner – an easy day ride. If you go via the highway (bleeeeagh!) you'll be there in no time. If you're on a motorbike, and if the weather's not too terrible, and if the roads haven't been cut by snow or something (which probably doesn't happen very often) I would suggest going via Oberon. It's all sealed these days!
I'd promised my friend Sheila that I would go and visit her in her new house, and then my fuel pump started playing up, and things looked iffy. And then, of course, Greg Dahlitz of Dahlitz Motorcycles, Queanbeyan, got my bike sorted for me and I could head up to the mountains after all. YAY!
It was a remarkably easy ride, although I believe some of the roads – particularly the Jenolan Caves Rd – can be a bit hairy when large numbers of boy racers get out on them. I didn't see any, so I can't say. All the riders I passed seemed to be like me - having a great day enjoying the road.
There's a fairly horrible section of road just after you cross the Abercrombie River, though. No lines marked, what looks like a chicken-wire barrier shielding you from a Big Drop, decreasing radius corners galore, and at one point, you're not even sure where the road is, because the roadside reflector posts seem to be running along the middle of the road! Weird! It's a go-slow area and a bit of a heart-rate raiser for people like me who are afraid of heights. Your mileage may vary, but I was bloody nervous!
What I can say, though, with great certainty, is this: dress for all seasons! Going up 'over the top', the temperature drops quite a bit, although there's a very long 55kmh corner near Hartley, and that seems to be the turning point. On the Taralga side of it, it's cold. On the other side, the temperature rises very quickly and noticeably.
So... I got to Sheila's lovely House of Peace in mid afternoon. I love catching up with old friends – I'd forgotten how much we used to laugh when we were at uni, but it didn't take long to remember!
The Blue Mountains region is a very popular tourist area, so Sheila is extremely lucky to have it all practically in her back yard! We went walking, and omigod, my near-dead hamstring went ballistic. There are stairs – yes, truly – stairs carved along various parts of the Blue Mountains – and tour groups from all over the world pay money to torture themselves on these stairs. I wonder how many people have heart attacks on those interminable bloody stairs! My healthy little heart was thundering, my quads were screaming and the sweat was pouring off me after a while on one of the 'easy' walks – but gee it was fun!
Those stairs are pretty, but just remember, what you climb down, you have to climb up again on the way back - eeeek!
If you have any breath left, allow it to be taken away by the views!After the hard work on the stair-climb we went for a bit of a trek through Katoomba itself – I love that place! The Blue Mountains community is made up of quite a diverse set – quite apart from the original, long-term residents, there are lots of highly educated tree-change types, but there's also a big alternative community – serious hippies. Makes for an interesting mix. It's a bit like the weather there – real four-seasons-in-one-day stuff. In the middle of Katoomba itself you have a lovely mix of old architecture and new businesses – old-fashioned residential hotels and so on - and trendy lifestyle shops. It's lovely!
I went berserk in a hippie shop called Incantation – got some t-shirts and incense – but must go back there when I have a bit more money – and there are lots of lovely antique shops to explore as well.
We spent the evening at home, and Sheila's magnificent five-bean soup gave me a turbo-boost for the ride home the next day – eeeek! When we were at uni we used to laugh our heads off about farts – it's so good to know that some things never change! (Grown-ups R Us!)
Global weather is changing, but it was good to see that the leaves in the high country are turning, as they should. It won't be long till the Blue Mountains may be too chilly an option for a day ride, so I'm glad I went when I did. Catching up with friends (hi Sheila, hi Stu!) is a lovely reason for a ride, though, no matter what the weather, and when I go back I'll make sure I catch up with other friends who live out that way!
What a beautiful outlook, especially at this time of year as the leaves are turning.