SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Like all good Sydneysiders, we decided we needed a little break from the city.
The Blue Mountains once marked the frontier beyond Sydney, and in a way, they still do. It’s a vast swath of forested highlands that starts about an hour west of town, and it’s another hour to the tourist villages of Leura and Katoomba.
We got there on the train from the Central Railway Station, using our Opal cards. Of course, it rained hard nearly the whole way, and it was still raining when we got off in Leura.
We stalled by having lunch at the Red Door Cafe. Beth was going to get something normal until she spied the specials board, and then she ordered a wild rice, mushroom and sage rösti with chili-chive fried eggs, pumpkin slabs and a salad of radish, almond, peach, green onion, parsley and Pecorino cheese shavings. Alas, it wasn’t more than the sum of its parts.
Torsten’s steak sandwich had fewer ingredients but was less than the sum of its parts. Our lunch did get us out of the rain, which had mostly stopped by the time we were done.
Leura is a tony little tourist town, and even Beth was drawn in by some of its shops. We killed more time window-shopping, then walked to the Broomelea B&B, an Edwardian cottage built in 1909 as a summer home. Our room had a big canopied bed, and Torsten looked at it longingly, but with the rain stopped, we had to hike.
Bryan, our host, handed us a map with a two-hour hike marked, and then he filled a Ziploc bag with salt to get rid of leeches. Land leeches? Was he pulling our leg? No, this area has leeches that behave like ticks, hiding amid moist leaves along trails and crawling onto unsuspecting legs. They especially like warm, muggy days after a good rain, just like today!
Our route started at the end of the street and plunged us into a valley that, after a week of rain, felt like the jungle. The poorly maintained trail had turned into a rushing creek, and Torsten’s sneakers got soaked right away. Beth was wearing her waterproof Salomon hiking boats, but the slap-slap of wet plants quickly soaked her pants.
We were kind of wondering why we were there until we had climbed to an overlook and could see what it is that draws tourists: a vast forested canyon below, a sandstone-topped mesa opposite and outcroppings and pillars on the sides.
We followed the clifftop trail to a park that had Flintstones-style bathrooms apparently chipped out of a giant sandstone boulder. From there, we walked down the Leura Cascades to a sandstone overhang and the top of Bridal Veil Falls.
Looking up, we saw an overlook high above and decided to go for it — we couldn’t get any wetter, sweatier or grimier than we already were.
It was a pretty good view, for sure. The best part was when we realized we didn’t have to retrace our steps, because we were only half a block from Cliff Road. A paved road, hurray!
We walked back to the B&B and took showers, and when Beth saw the room had one of those great towel-warming racks, she washed all of her clothes and hung them to dry.
By the time we sallied out for dinner, most of Leura’s cafes had closed. We ended up at the Alexandra Hotel, where we sat outside under an overhang. Torsten had cannelloni with pumpkin, feta and spinach, and Beth had part of a so-called French onion soup that didn’t have bread or Swiss cheese in it and wasn’t broiled. Her Lazy Yak ale was good, though.
We didn’t bother with dessert, because our B&B was well-stocked with Lindt balls, Cadbury mini-bars and brownies. After one of our grubbiest days ever, it was nice to enjoy a little luxury.