The Blue Mountains of Australia
With my arms folded, putting my full weight on the balustrade, I sighed casting my eyes upon the spectacular view before me.
On this clear sunny day a blue haze rippled over the mountain range and deep gorge, stretching as far as the eye could see.
A faint whiff of eucalyptus was swept up by the gentle breeze.
I thought, surely I am standing in the same vicinity as did Henry Lawson one of Australia’s most famous poets who in 1887 was inspired to pen his observations of this mountain range.
In several verses of his poems he writes of the “Blue haze over the range”. One of his poems is entitled “The Blue Mountains”. Henry lived in the area for some of his childhood years and explored in the forests of eucalypt trees making him familiar with the area. In his poetry he does not reveal an explanation for the blue tinge, so I conclude that he did not establish an explanation.
The official explanation states that droplets of aromatic oil released by the Eucalyptus trees refract the sunlight, making the mountains appear blue from a distance.
The name “The Blue Mountains” was therefore derived from the blue tinge.
A visit to the Blue Mountains is a “must see” for tourists to Sydney, Australia. The tourist buses roll in to Katoomba the large town on the border of the mountain range.
The foothills start 50 kilometers west of Sydney making the tour comfortable for a days visit.
Official credit for crossing the Blue Mountains was eventually given to three men namely Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Wentworth.
Seeking more grazing land than available on the coastline Blaxland reasoned that crossing the mountains suitable land would be found. Accompanied by Lawson and Wentworth he set out in early May 1813 and by May 31st they had succeeded the crossing. This they did by following the ridge.
Upon their return to Sydney the Governor granted them 1,000 acres of land each as a reward for their accomplishment.
In 1814 a road linking Sydney to the mountains was completed. Following this the mining of Coal and Shale began in the mountain range.
World Heritage Area
This World Heritage area totals 10,000 sq kms and consists of seven National parks.
The dominant vegetation is Eucalyptus trees on the higher ridges. The forest is threatened by bush fires and severe storms and this is a continual threat to the Koala’s, Kangaroos and 400 different animals living in this habitat.
Consisting mainly of a sandstone plateau the area is dissected by gorges up to 760m deep (2,490 ft).The highest point of the range is 1,215m above sea level (3,986 ft)
My heart was in my mouth as I stood on the platform waiting to take a ride on the cable train which descends down the mountain. The miners in a by-gone era were the bravest of men as they rode in open cable cars which are on display.
The cable car descends 415 meters through sandstone cliffs via a rock tunnel with a maximum gradient of 52 degrees. The railway is said to be the steepest in the world and after my brave ride I would have to believe that fact.
The walk through the forest below is magical with huge Australian ferns at every turn and trees higher than you can imagine lining the footpath.
I opted to return to the top of the mountain on the Scenic Skyway, a glass- bottom aerial cable car. This is the steepest cable car in Australia so I was sure having my share of “steepest” rides on the day! The view of the Jamison Valley made it all worth while as the cable car ascended but I advise, this is not a ride for the faint hearted.
The Day's End
At the end of a long day of never ending scenery, I returned to the original viewing platform, now dusk, and leaning on the balustrade concluded, the world is a beautiful place! My husband who enjoyed the day with me agreed and commented “this has been a wedding anniversary to remember”.
2 Verses from Henry Lawson's poem “The Blue Mountains”
Like ramparts round the valley’s edge
The tinted cliffs are standing,
With many a broken wall and ledge,
And many a rocky landing
Now in the west the colours change,
The blue with crimson blending;
Behind the far Dividing Range
The sun is fast descending.