Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 11th Sep, 2006

Up in the blue mountains

For my birthday, Kate arranged for the two of us to have a holiday away in a secret, undisclosed destination. This turned out to be a cottage in Blackheath, about ten minutes west from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. We drove up on Thursday morning in showery, blustery weather - Sydney had received rain and howling winds the previous day, and the weather was setting in for the duration. This did not, however, prevent us from receiving the usual allocation of idiot tailgaters that all drivers in the greater Sydney region are allocated by the State Government.

After enjoying the pies from a local bakery, we went out for a walk to Govett's Leap Lookout, along the newly renovated, wheelchair friendly Lady Fairfax path. Kate's enthusiasm got the better of us and we walked further along the ridgeline to (one of the many) Bridal Veil Falls, which gives you a good view of water spilling merrily down a creek and into a void. What I really wanted was a remote-controlled plane or helicopter with a video camera sending pictures back to us; then I could just fly my eye along the creek and out into space. It was pretty spectacular. The Blue Mountains does a good line in giving you a lookout that you can see straight down the cliff face...

We had a fairly simple dinner and watched The Sting, which I always enjoy. I picked up a new thing from it; near the start where Hooker has greeted his girl coming off the stage and a vaudeville comedian goes on. You don't get to hear all of it, but sure enough, he tells exactly the same joke that K tells to J in Men In Black, as he wakes up in the restaurant after a night out that he doesn't remember. Little details like that amuse me. It's also a little off-colour...

On Friday, the weather cleared and we walked through the Grand Canyon just north of Medlow Bath. You go down one steep defile into a temperate rainforest, and follow the creek along. It descends into a gorge that, with the appropriate equipment, you can descend into and follow; but the trail leads onward beside this narrow cutting until it widens out and you can cross it again. Then the climbing starts, because you've got to pretty much regain all the height you've just lost. Our calves are still sore, three days later, but it was well worth the effort.

In the afternoon we went on the Scenic Skyway, the cable-car that goes directly across Katoomba Gorge. This was amusing, but I don't think it was great value for money at $16 each (return). You get to stand on glass panels which go from translucent to transparent (thanks to liquid crystal technology) - if it weren't for the scuff-marks and the obvious bracing, you might think you were standing on something very solid but transparent in the middle of a cage moving slowly across the gorge. You can guess from this that I wasn't really impressed with it.

Kate had booked for us to go to Solitary Cafe, a prestigious cafe that's won many awards. We had the tasting menu, or degustation menu if you prefer the old style wording; at $84 each (without wine) this was a pretty expensive gift. It was delicious, and I did like sampling many small meals rather than committing to one and limiting your flavours, but unless they come down rather significantly in price I don't think I'll be indulging my curiosity too much. Still, it was a very pleasant night, and I really enjoyed passing the time with Kate, talking about our plans and our ideas.

On Sunday we packed up, headed north-west off the plateau and went to Jenolan Caves. I'd been there once when I was six, I think, so all I could remember was a bit of the entrance, where the cars and buses pass through to get to the parking areas. We went on the Lucas Cave tour, and at $16 each this was definitely good value for money. The tour guide was excellent, and that praise coming from Kate (a tourism management lecturer with years of experience in the industry) is hard-earned indeed. He involved us, he talked about the formation and discovery of the caves as well as the geology and conservation of them, and he guided us along expertly without fuss while answering myriad questions. I particularly took note of one description he gave of the conjecture that some initials found in the cave that are two years earlier than the 'official' discovery were possibly of a woman. He noted something along the lines of, "We may not have been able to find out who she was because the deeds of women weren't as well recorded as they should have been" - an excellent way of being diplomatic and pro-women without being misandrist or denigrating the times in which the cave was originally discovered. Well done, that man.

For a final bit of adventure, we took the short(ish) way home, via some dirt roads avoiding Oberon to Goulburn. The car's pretty dirty now, but I think it shaved at least a good hour or two off our journey if we'd retraced our steps to get there. So thank you very much, Kate, for a wonderful weekend.

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