I call Katoomba the great canyon of Australia. Maybe not as big a place as the American Grand Canyon, it is still a huge canyon. Situated a few hours West of Sydney it is a park that is worth seeing. While the Grand Canyon is mostly rocks, Katoomba is a huge canyon covered with undisturbed jungle. The subtropical highland climate is unique and covers all of the area inside the canyon. Summer temperatures range from 20 to 30 C. Snow can be found in winter but that is rare. Yet the plant life is subtropical. I have heard of some plants that grow within this region but never seen them. A turpentine tree for example. They have huge specimens growing within the park that have trunks, very straight, up to 55 meters (180 feet ) high. An amazing sight. I love trees, especially old trees that took hundreds of years to grow this tall. The biggest turpentine tree (Syncadia glomulifera) still stands in a reserve near Barrington Tops National Park, NSW and has a height of 58 Meters with a trunk circumference of 7.90 Meters (26 feet). The wood of those trees is almost totally resistent to termites and marine invertebrates. It was used as pilings for docks in years back, before the use of steel re-enforced concrete. Some places still use turpentine wood today for heavy flooring or telephone poles. A shame really, it takes them years to grow this tall. Cutting them down with a chain saw takes an hour. Modern life is ruthless!
Carol spotted a lyrebird and took some pictures. Not an easy feat to take a picture of this kind of bird in the wild. Normally those birds are very shy and easily spooked. Lyrebirds can and will imitate any sound they hear. They can bark like a dog, meow like a cat, say a word like a human; or sound like a frog. Anything they can hear they can imitate. The males, during courtship, are show-offs, wiggling their delicately colored tail feathers to attract the ladies. Those birds are not that rare but it is rare to see one since the birds really are shy and unapproachable. Good for Carol to spot one.
Katoomba is a good place for serious hikers. Some trails are for experts only. We met many young, strong, fit people in walking gear spending some quality time on the Jamison Valley jungle tracks. We old folks stuck to the planked tourist board walk, which was tough enough for us. The famous Giant Staircase, 900 hundred steep steps that takes about 2 hours to climb, we left for younger bodies.
Katoomba is a great get away from the urban life of Sydney. The two days and nights we stayed there were rewarding. I very much liked it. Sure it is touristy, we even took the cable car and also the steepest funicular railway in the world (52 degree incline). I even tried to drive along the rim of the cliff but abandoned that part since Carol is a bit freaky of heights. The very narrow road with no shoulder, literally hugs the edge of the cliff. Too close for comfort for Carol.
The town Katoomba is not that large. Total inhabitants about 8000 people. I could see that it must have been a great town in its heyday, some buildings were mansions, now converted into businesses like restaurants or guesthouses. We bunked at the local youth hostel, a clean, large place. A former hotel now converted for the use of the frugal. However the flair of the Grand Hotel still permeates from the layout and the decor. Still, even the youth hostel cost $80 per night with the member discount. That is sleep only, no frills, we made our own bed.
Well, this was the last town we visited in Australia. The rest was driving back to Sydney and repacking for the flight back to Toronto. We stored a large portion of our luggage at a hotel near the airport before we took off to tour Australia. Most of the articles we used on the cruise were in storage at the hotel. We travelled light while in the land of Oz. A good size backpack is all I used for the 3 weeks plus. Carol had a similar arrangment, she used a small roll around pack and a small knapsack. Traveling in Australia is easy but the distances are large. It would have been a chore if we had driven a car for the whole 3 weeks. I am glad we flew from place to place and used public transportation. But I am also glad we did rent this car for the last 9 days of our trip. Both gave me a broader picture of what Oz is about.
Oh, by the way, the male lyrebirds showing off for the females? It works! They do get the females, in fact if they did not show off, no female would look at them... Think about that !!!!!