They really are as blue as they say.
As part of my solo Australian journey I spent a few days couchsurfing in Sydney with a friendly Brazilian guy, but I also unexpectedly got to visit the Blue mountains. The Blue mountains are not only a fictional mountain range in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but also actually exist near Sydney and are truly fantastical. They are named after the blue mist that seems to slowly rise up above the trees and makes the entire landscape appear bathed in a magical glow.
The blue glow is in fact a by-product of so many Eucalyptus trees in one spot, as they produce oil, which fills the atmosphere. The dispersed oil droplets mix with dust particles and water vapour, causing the short-wave light rays to scatter in all directions. Since short-wavelength light is usually blue, the mist appears to shimmer in multiple blues (yes, science is magic! more here). The Blue mountains should absolutely be on your list if you are ever nearby, as they were one of the most impressive natural sights I got to experience in Australia, and that’s saying a lot, since the whole country is basically a freak experiment by nature.
Impressions of the Blue mountains
Since the Blue mountains are located quite far out of Sydney and a bit harder to get to with public transport, I did not really count on visiting them, but, luckily, kindness once again reared its lovely head and a phenomenal lady took me and a Taiwanese traveller for a free daytrip with her car (you can read that story here).
The Blue mountains cover a huge area, so you could spend days or even weeks exploring the region, but unfortunately we only had one day and had to make the most of it. We drove up to Mt. Victoria and stopped at a couple of nice lookouts on the way. Since our tourist guide for the day was a Blue mountains veteran, she knew all the best spots and we got to explore the mountains in solitude (unfortunately I have no idea where we stopped, unless it had a name, so you’ll just have to get a little lost by yourself to find the good spots – I promise it’s worth it!). To avoid the tourist crowds, we skipped the lookouts at the Three sisters (we did see them from afar and it was quite enough) and Katoomba, but went to Mt. Wilson, Mt. Tomah Botanic gardens and the far side of the mountains somewhere near Mt. Wilson instead, which was particularly interesting. As we turned a certain corner of the road, the Eucalyptus forest noticeably changed to a cold variety of the rainforest and it was quite a sight, because the change in vegetation really was instantaneous. Again, I would love to tell you where we went if I knew, but it’s enough to say the Blue mountains hide lots of wonders.
We stopped for lunch and chocolate cake at what I think was Petalura eatery somewhere in the region, then headed to the Botanic gardens at Mt. Tomah. Even though you’re surrounded by nature everywhere you go in the Blue mountains, the gardens are still worth a visit, because it’s nice to see all the fantastical plants in one place and learn a bit about them. Seeing them out in the wild can be a bit overwhelming, like looking at a picture with too many details and it’s easier to appreciate the variety when it’s neatly planted in sections – at least for my crazy analytical mind.
Some more bushwalking, the cold rainforest and the Botanic garden
It was quite late by the time we were done with the gardens, so we headed back to Sydney and went our separate ways.