Stunning Scenery in the Blue Mountains


The Three Sisters at sunset, Blue Mountains

“Is there anywhere you’re really desperate to visit in Australia?”

Dave was busy planning out the route for our month in Australia and I had done no research. Racking my brain for a few minutes, I desperately tried to remember friends’ Australia photo albums on Facebook I had once enviously pored over.

“Ooh! Yes! That, erm… the, um… you know? Those rocks sticking up! Out of some trees? Rocks poking out of a forest on a mountain? Yes, that’s it! I want to go there!” I paused. “Can we go there? … I mean, well, do you know where I’m talking about?”

After managing to eliminate the Twelve Apostles and Ayers Rock, it was time for me to turn to Google Images and find the magic combination of “Australia”, “rocks”, “trees”, “mountains” and “famous” to bring up the place I was looking for. Amazingly it was the first image that appeared.

“Found it!”, I cried out, jabbing excitedly at my laptop screen.

“It’s called the Three Sisters. In the Blue Mountains. Oooh! And look at this map! It’s between Brisbane and Sydney. We can go!”

The Blue Mountains ended up being our second stop after a night spent exploring beaches in Port Macquarie. As we packed our bags and loaded them into the car, Dave shot me a knowing look.

“Lauren, it’s time for you to learn just how big Australia is.”

I mean, of course I knew it was large. I’d looked at a map before we arrived and calculated the distances and times between each spot; I knew that it was roughly the same size as the US. And yet, when we climbed into the car and had the GPS estimate that it would take ten hours to get to the Blue Mountains, I was horrified. It looked so close on the map! 

The journey was mostly uneventful. A kangaroo bounced in front of our car as we were driving along a motorway, causing me to squeal and clap my hands with childlike excitement. I was confused when I spotted my first coin-operated barbecue in a park. I was even more confused by the 42,710 road signs warning you of imminent death if you’re feeling even slightly tired while driving.

Australia certainly has a lot of rules…

We arrived in Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains, as the sun was beginning to set. Not wanting to waste what looked like a beautiful sunset, we wandered down to nearby Echo Point.

It ended up being one of my favourite sunsets and Dave and I spent over an hour taking photos of the incredible views.

The Blue Mountains at sunset

 Sunset in the Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters at sunset, Blue Mountains

 Getting to see the Three Sisters for the first time!

The Blue Mountains at sunset

The Blue Mountains at sunset

We were both exhausted from the drive over to Katoomba and after spending close to an hour walking up and down the main street searching, and mostly failing, to find a pub, we knew we had to stop moving so quickly. Our plans to head to Sydney the following morning were quickly shelved in favour of one more day in the Blue Mountains.

Though the temptation that following morning was to stay in bed sleeping, I knew I’d regret not seeing more of the Blue Mountains after insisting Dave and I visit. Plus, with New Zealand coming up, I knew I’d be needing some major hiking skills for all of the walking we had planned. I needed a lot of practice.

After leafing through a few vouchers in our guesthouse, we decided to spend our morning walking the National Pass Trail, a six kilometre hike carved into the cliff face that is said to be one of Australia’s best walks.

It was time for me to prove to Dave that I am capable of walking more than 500 metres at once; that I would be absolutely fine in New Zealand and that, yes, I could do all of the above in flip flops (the only shoes I owned at this point!).

Blue Mountains view

It started off easily enough. The path was well paved, mostly downhill and full of spectacular views to distract me from my aching calves. Despite my flip flops sliding around under my feet, I was feeling confident about the walk ahead of us. Though I don’t think I’ve ever walked as far as six kilometres before in my life, I was desperate to impress Dave and prove I wasn’t as unfit as he believed.

Ten minutes into the walk and the track was no longer downhill. I was beginning to sweat, my legs were aching, my back was sore and I was struggling to breathe silently. Allowing Dave to go ahead of me, I spent the first portion of our walk trying to appear like I was finding it easy and pausing every two minutes for a “photo stop”.

And then we came across this.

Blue Mountains National Pass trail

 No railings? No safety net? Just a vertical drop down to my death?

I watched in disbelief as Dave courageously made his way across the narrow Ledge of Doom, not even taking a second to assess the dangers that lay before him. I let out an audible sigh of relief as he reached the end of the walkway, causing him to turn around and stare bemusedly at me, wondering why I was stood frozen at the start, unable to take a step forward.

With gentle coaxing from Dave and a lot of whimpering from me, I was somehow able to make it across without incident.

Blue Mountains scenery

We reached the half-way point in under an hour and as we paused to catch our breath, we reflected on my progress so far.

I’d coped surprisingly well. Though I’d been out of breath for the entire walk, I’d learnt to breathe through my nose so that Dave couldn’t tell. My $1 flip flops from Cambodia had held out against the uneven surfaces and hadn’t caused me to trip or fall. I wasn’t even as tired as I’d expected to be.

Most shockingly of all, I was really, really enjoying this walk.

Blue Mountains scenery and waterfalls

…But then there was the final ascent. 

I knew the last part of our walk was going to consist of at least twenty minutes of struggling up steep, uneven steps and I knew that it was going to be tough.

Knowing how far I’d come on this walk and how much I’d impressed Dave with my fitness, I knew I couldn’t lose his respect on the final stretch. I was going to have to put all of my anguish and pain to the back of my mind and walk like I’d never walked before.

With a renewed energy I raced towards the steps, grabbed the cool rail with one hand and began to climb rapidly. Using my hand to pull myself upwards I attacked the steps with a vigour that surprised everyone, including me. My lungs were burning, sweat was rolling down my back, I had a stitch in my side and my legs were shuddering… yet still I continued upwards.

Against the odds and against everyone’s expectations, I made it without a single pause. I had defeated the Blue Mountains and I had shown Dave that I was capable of walking.

I had never been so proud.

I was on my way to becoming A Hiker. 

Blue mountains scenery views

I didn’t know what to expect from the Blue Mountains, with my only knowledge being from a Google Image search, but by the end of my hike I would say it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

Lauren at the blue mountains in Australia

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24 Comments

  1. Dale
    March 13, 2013

    I’m not much of a hiker either but I do get that sudden burst of pride that I can take it all in my stride like there’s no stitch, no shortness of breath & definitely no sweat pouring into my eyes. The feeling of making it to the top is incredible, the feeling of sitting down & filling your mouth with cold water – even better :)

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      Agreed! I think I may now be a hiking convert — the feeling of pride afterwards was amazing!

  2. Stephanie
    March 13, 2013

    Hiking in flip flops?! Are you crazy! Haha!
    I’m going to hike up Adams peak in Sri Lanka tomorrow night, soon I will have cobra calves like you!

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      Hahaha! I’d lived in flip flops for the past year so assumed I’d be fine. I probably should have bought some hiking boots….

      Good luck with the hike! Cobra calves are sexy :)

  3. The CounterIntuitive
    March 13, 2013

    good choice seeing the blue mountains. it really is underrated imo.

    you heard the story about the first convicts in Australia? not knowing where they were, they thought China was on the other side of the blue mountains…

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      Thanks! And nope, I hadn’t heard that before — too funny!

  4. Lilian
    March 13, 2013

    I was horrified too when I realised just how big Australia is, but after a while it became second nature to spend a whole day travelling from one place to the next.
    The Blue Mountains is one of the places in Australia I really wish I had visited, it looks so, so beautiful.

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      Aren’t the distances crazy. If I drove for the amount of time I did in Australia I’d end up in the ocean!

      The Blue Mountains was probably the highlight of my entire time in Australia so hopefully you’ll make it there one day! :)

  5. Pernilla
    March 14, 2013

    Wow it looks amazing! Impressive doing it in flipflops as well. Although I would recommend buying something slightly more comfortable to wear for all the New Zealand hiking I’m sure you will be doing. I did the famous Tongariro Crossing in Converse. Something I do not recommend…took me three days for my feet to recover after that…

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      Yep, I bought a pair of excellent hiking shoes a few days after my time in Blue Mountains and love them!

      I can’t imagine doing the Tongariro in Converses would have been particularly easy! :)

  6. Bryan Snider
    March 14, 2013

    Wow stunning photos for such a stunning place! I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never heard of this place at all! However, I’m glad I saw your tweet, because now I can add this to my list of a biz-zillion things I want to do before I die.

    • Lauren
      March 14, 2013

      It’s ok, Bryan… I didn’t know its name before I arrived :-) Glad you’ve added it to your list, it definitely deserves a place there!

  7. Toni
    March 14, 2013

    Knew there was a reason the Blue Mountains were on my Aussie bucket list :D
    I’m not a hiker and already know I’m going to bitch and moan all the way up but looking at your photos, it’s definitely going to be worth it and I can’t wait :D

    • Lauren
      March 16, 2013

      Yay! I’m so glad you’re going to be heading here — it’s been my favourite place in Australia! :-) And, really, if I made it in flip flops then you *definitely* can handle it!

  8. Risa
    March 16, 2013

    I literally just got to Sydney this morning and was planning a trip to the Blue Mountains when I realized I hadn’t checked your blog in a while. Thankfully I did! Great tips and photos as always! My travel companions are also super excited since they share your enthusiasm for hour long sunset photo shoots haha

    • Lauren
      March 16, 2013

      Awesome, I’m so glad it could help! You’ll love it there, it’s SO beautiful!

  9. Veronica
    March 16, 2013

    Those are such gorgeous photos! It really is such a dramatic landscape. I did the same hike as you last year and loved it! I took that tram back up, the steepest one in the world I think it is. So sure I was going to slip out!
    Really great blog :)

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2013

      Thanks, Veronica!

      I didn’t get a chance to take the tram but it looked pretty daunting… I would have probably spent the entire journey hyperventilating!

  10. Amanda
    March 17, 2013

    Haha, I’m enjoying reading about your progress towards becoming “A Hiker.” Looks like a gorgeous hike for sure!

    Though, I hate to tell you this… but I feel like Dave might be onto your nose-breathing secret after reading this post… ;)

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2013

      Wait until you hear about the stuff I get up to in New Zealand! I go a bit crazy and almost break myself :)

  11. Ryan
    March 18, 2013

    *Cue Mouth Drop* These photos are stunning! This is intense. Everytime I come on here now it’s featuring some sort of awesome bike trip (or a gnarly fall) or an amazing hike. I love it!

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2013

      Awww, thanks Ryan, glad you like the photos!

  12. Jenna
    March 20, 2013

    Haha, I’ve done a few hikes in flip flops too! Sometimes not the best choice, but I just love them so much it makes it hard to put on real shoes :) Good choice on picking the Blue Mountains! They look stunning!

    • Lauren
      March 22, 2013

      I know! After about a year in Southeast Asia, I threw out all of my other shoes and lived in flip flops… I love them so much!