Bush Bashing in the Blue Mountains
Anyone who’s ever spent long enough carrying everything they own in a bag will know that backpacking leads to perfectly sculpted, finely toned shoulder muscles and permanent wanderlust. But what do you do when you’re saving up for your next adventure and come down with a serious case of itchy feet? My answer to this is a trip to the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.
I should start by saying that if you haven’t been to the Blue Mountains and you live in Sydney, it’s well worth the $10 return train ticket, or for the more advanced hobos, an easy two-hour drive. For Sydneysiders, the Blue Mountains are proof that you don’t have to pack your passport to go looking for adventure, and that some of the best trips can often be into your own back yard. So whilst the train journey there is nothing to write home about, when you’re craving an adventure hit, the Blue Mountains might be just the right thing.
For the outdoor nuts, the Blue Mountains are a Mecca of gear shops and mountaineering/camping centres. The main street in Katoomba, creatively named Katoomba Street, is home to at least six of these stores all in very close proximity to one another. And if you had any money which, let’s face it, most of us don’t, you could easily spend a day on the main drag alone picking up bits and pieces that you probably wont ever use.
To satisfy my craving for a bit of adventure I decided to do a two-day walk into the Blue Gum forest. The walk starts from Govett’s Leap in Blackheath (on the train line). You drop into the forest, walk for about four hours, camp, and return either the way you came, or up to another lookout.
Side note: My plan was to meet a friend and camp in the forest for up to two nights, so in my pack I was carrying enough food for two people to last three days, a bottle of whiskey and a change of clothes. I would highly recommend not carrying any of these items (food for one night, sure. bottle of whiskey probably not necessary), because the descent from Govett’s Leap into the valley is as close to vertical as a human being could possibly walk, and you will instantaneously feel every gram of extra weight that you were sure you would need.
If you survive the treacherous drop into the Blue Gum forest, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular waterfalls and creeks that I have ever seen. On a good day the water is just deep enough to swim/wade in, and on the drier days you can climb the giant rocks and stand under the waterfall basking in sunshine and the dread of having to somehow find the energy to walk back out.
For those of you who decide to continue on and camp for the night, the path is pretty easy to find, but do be warned that this walk should not be attempted hungover, drunk, pregnant or all three. It’s a pretty tough march to the camp site, and having done it by myself in the middle of summer, I can tell you that you will question why you brought that bottle of whiskey. But perseverance here is not only encouraged but also incredibly necessary, because if you’re already worn out from the walk, you will be physically incapable of climbing back up the waterfall to the nearest youth hostel.
The campsite itself is really cool, but doesn’t have any running water, so you’ll either have to bring enough with you, or if you’re like me and end up losing your body weight in sweat, you can drink from the nearby stream. Theoretically you should boil the water that you pick up from the stream, but I was so thirsty by the time I got there that I skipped this step in favour of the “you only live once” approach. Please don’t take my word on this – use your own discretion. Top-tip: If you don’t boil the water, try to collect it from somewhere flowing quickly and moving over rocks and moss – never drink still water from a stream or you WILL die.*
Then as you fall asleep under the stars, make sure to take it all in: the smells and the sounds, waking up six or seven times in the middle of the night with prickly ears listening for serial killers stalking in the darkness as you imagine yourself as the plot line for Wolf Creek 3… it’s all part of the Australian bush magic.
In the end, whether you’re camping or staying in a backpackers, a trip to the Blue Mountains is cheap and a lot of fun when you’re in-between travels. Every town hosts a plethora of lookouts and picture-perfect snogging spots. And, if you’re not so crazy about bushwalking, you’ll find a surprising number of Scandinavians to entertain yourself with instead.
*You might not die if you drink still water, but you do risk getting a bit ill.