We met the tour bus at a hotel three minutes’ walk from Chez Brett. Blue Mountains National Park is one of the seven national parks that make up the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The sandstone outcrops, deep ravines and valleys, and the hazy blue eucalyptus (aka “gum,” which is easier to spell) provide stunning views. The first stop on the tour was Calmsley Hill, a working farm and also home to native wildlife that we got to see up close and personal.
Pressing on, we stopped at Wentworth Falls overlook and saw the Three Sisters rock formation. According to the legend, the chieftain/father turned his three daughters into stone to protect them from a rival tribe. But he was killed in a battle with the tribe, and nobody else could undo the spell.
We arrived at Evans Lookout, picked up our picnic lunches, and hiked a short distance to eat and enjoy some stunning vistas of the valley below. We also met some rock climbers with whom Janelle had a nice conversation. We viewed Govett’s Leap, a 180-meter waterfall as well as Australia’s Grand Canyon, Grose Valley.
Our last official stop was the Blue Mountain Botanical Gardens. They had been saved from the bushfires as a last stand. The firefighters, i.e., “firies,” made a concerted effort to save the gardens, including the extremely old and rare Wollemei Pine, but the devastation around the Gardens was extensive and total (see the images above, including the melted light globe) and extended for miles. Fortunately, the forests have started to rebound already, and several groups dropped food and produce to the animals in the meantime to prevent mass starvation. At the Gardens, we saw a wedding occur, and the venue was beautiful.
Our unofficial last stop was in the apple country around Bilpin, which also suffered major damage. Of course, we had to support the local economy by buying some delicious small apple pies. They sustained us on the return to Sydney.