Today we left Sydney for the Blue Mountains, one of the national parks surrounding the city. We’re not ready yet to hire a car, so we went by train. This turned out to be a very pleasant experience.
Australia is known as a car country, but Sydney has an extensive rail network that seems to be functioning quite well. It runs partially underground, but looks more like a train service than a metro service. Then again, what’s in a name. It’s cars on rails that bring you from A to B.
In our case, A was Kings Cross Station, less than five minutes walking from our hotel. From here we took the train to Central. At Central Station, we were helpfully directed to the top floor, where our train to the Blue Mountains was already waiting for us.
The first hour of the train ride consists of a boring ride through Sydney’s suburbs. This is everything you would expect based on Australian television: endless rows of single storey houses, each with a bit of garden, a fence, and a car in front. Each house slightly different from the others, but largely the same.
After leaving the Emu Plains (which does not seem to contain any emus), the train enters the Blue Mountains and the view becomes a lot more exciting. The next hour flew by, and two hours after we departed from Sydney we alighted in Katoomba.
By the way, in Sydney you pay for public transport using the Opal Card, named after Australia’s national gemstone. It works exactly the same as the Dutch “OV Chip Card”, but it has a better name. Imagine how much better Dutch public transport would be if our “OV Chip Card” was instead called the “Tulip Card”, “Klompen kaart” or “Cannabis Card”.
Katoomba originally started out as a coal mining village and the main street from the station (called Katoomba Street) still looks a bit frontier-y. Undoubtedly to please the tourists, because the mines were closed long ago and the city is now basically the tourism capital of the Blue Mountains.
We walked down Katoomba Street to our next stay, the Belgravia Mountain Guest House. We quickly realised that it was not as close to the station as was told. We did reach the guest house eventually, but on our way back we will take the bus.
The best feature of the Belgravia Mountain Guest House is that it is very close to Echo Point, the starting point for many hiking trails through the Blue Mountains. So after dropping our luggage, we decided to go on our first walk. As promised it was only a few minutes walk to Echo Point, where we learned that hiking trails are called Bush walks, and that there is a very friendly 90 minute walk to the Katoomba Falls.
More on this in another post.