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Bolt from the blue

Don’t blame your imagination if the Blue Mountains, only an hour from Sydney appear, well, blue. Legends feel real and mountains change colour in this picture-perfect location. Tanushree Podder tells us.

india Updated: May 01, 2008 03:42 IST
Tanushree Podder

If someone told me that there was a place where mountains look blue under a bright sky, the air is heavy with fragrance and the birds warble all day, I would have dismissed the statement as a figment of imagination. That would be before I took a trip to the Blue Mountains. The fact that it was just one and a half hours’ drive away from Sydney made it easier to check out the veracity of the claim.

Paradise found

As I breezed down the freeway, the air got crisper and cooler. Lush rainforests, massive canyons and the calling of strange birds lulled my senses. It was true what they had said — it was like paradise. But where were the Blue Mountains? And then, in the distance, I caught a glimpse of the mountains which were a misty, vaporous blue.

The road to Blue Mountains is dotted with quaint villages that seemed like pearls on a necklace. There was a sense of timelessness as the magical drive continued. Not until we had reached Leura, the lyrically-named village, did we realise that we’d covered a reasonable distance. The word means “Lava” in the aboriginal language. It is also known as “The Garden Village” due to the Garden Festival held here every October. The quaint, picture-perfect houses with their gardens abloom with flowers justified that tag.

Turned to stone

Katoomba, the largest town in the Blue Mountains fell on our way next. The village was known as the “Crushers” in the 1860s as it was the site of a quarry and rock-crushing plant, used to produce railway ballast. Named after the Aboriginal tribe which inhabited the area, Katoomba is home to the famous rock formation called the “Three Sisters”.

Eager to catch a view of the Three Sisters, we made our way to the Echo point. According to local legend, these mountains were once three beautiful young women who had fallen in love with three men belonging to the Nepean tribe from the foothills. Tribal lore prohibited the union, and a battle ensued.

A Katoomba witchdoctor turned the women to stone to prevent them from coming to harm. He intended to bring them to life once the battle was over. But he was killed in the battle and no one else could undo his spell. So the three sisters were doomed to remain as hills, forever.

Rainforest adventures

There, standing at the “Queen Elizabeth Lookout”, I fell in love with the Jamison Valley. The Three Sisters loomed magnificently ahead with the valley at their feet.

The sun made its transition to the horizon, going down in streaks of orange and gold behind the lofty mountains. The hushed silence that fell over the tourists was a testimony of nature’s glory.

It was time to go for an adrenaline rush. We took a spin on the Scenic Railway, reputedly the steepest cable-driven funicular railway in the world, with an incline of 52 degrees. Like a giant roller coaster without an end, it hurtled down a dark tunnel and holding tight to the railing we screamed our lungs clear.

Next, it was our turn to ride the Scenic Skyway. Travelling 200 metres above ancient ravines and dazzling waterfalls, it glided smoothly over the lush green valley. We felt humbled by the splendour all around us.

The sojourn ended too soon. It was time for me to swap the ozone-laden, eucalyptus-scented air for the polluted air of the city and I drove back to Sydney with a heavy heart.

Why so blue?

But before I left, I asked my guide — why are the mountains so blue?

“The reason the mountains are blue is that during the day when the sun is hot, the eucalyptus trees discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves. The mist refracts light, which makes the haze look blue from a distance,” he explained.

That shouldn’t have been difficult to guess but when one is surrounded by so much beauty, who wants to exercise the grey cells?

Tanushree is an author and a travel writer.