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Page 39





More of Port Macquarie then on to the Blue Mountains.

Still in Port Macquarie

While in Port Macquarie we went on an evening dinner cruise. We don't carry any decent evening wear with us so we felt very underdressed when we saw that most of our fellow passengers were smartly attired. But, hey, this is Australia and nobody gave a damn. We were sitting on the after-deck sipping wine before the boat left when a gentleman with a very strong Italian accent started telling a joke in a loud voice. It was really painful because he told it so slowly and was constantly being interrupted by members of his party. However the joke was a good one. It went like this:

Two council workmen were busy on the median strip of the town's main street. One worked furiously to dig a hole. When he'd finished he moved several metres along the strip and started to dig another hole with equal energy, and so it went on. Meanwhile, the second man followed behind him, vigorously filling in each hole. A passerby watched this performance with curiosity until he couldn't contain himself any longer and went across to ask the men what they were doing. Just what you see, replied one workman, I dig the holes and my mate fills them in. There's usually three of us but the man who puts the trees in the holes isn't working today.

The boat left on time with all the usual crew activity, ropes being untied and thrown to the jetty, etc. As we got under way I went forward to see if there was anywhere on the bow from where I could take photographs but there was only the bridge with the captain at the wheel. What a surprise! I won't tell you, I'll show you . . .

Captain Jodie

Meet our skipper, Jodie. Her personality was as lovely as her appearance.

We had originally booked for a morning cruise but were given the opportunity to switch to the evening dinner cruise for the same price. The meal was very nice and from what we could see, everybody had great time. We certainly did.

Out and Return from Boat

Leaving Port Macquarie, square rigger Alma Doepel in the centre of the picture . . . and returning after dark.

Walking home from the boat I photographed a bronze bust of a politician on the foreshore near to the Alma Doepel. On a later occasion we again passed the bust after dark and we had to laugh - the right photo below will show you why. As to the name of this guy, I'm afraid I don't know. Just a 'pollie' and there's always too many of them.

Sculpture with Sunglasses

One very dignified politician - I wonder what he'd think of his new image!

Katoomba and the Blue Mountains

On the way from Port Macquarie to Katoomba we passed a large roadside billboard advertising some product or other. The message was that their product was perfectly simple to use, and to emphasise how simple, most of the billboard was taken up with a huge picture of George W. Bush with that vacant expression on his face. I wish I'd photographed it for you but we were steaming along in traffic at the time, with the caravan behind us.

Katoomba is in the Blue Mountains and over 3,000' above sea level, thus it can be quite chilly overnight and in the morning. There is so much to see and do in the Blue Mountains where the landscape is really dramatic. Normally we look up at towering cliffs but in these mountains the towns are on the high level and we looked down from numerous lookout points into deep, wide chasms carpeted with trees. There are many lookout platforms but Echo Point was atypical, having a Tourist Information Centre, large carparks and other infrastructure. It was the first lookout we visited and there we saw the famous Three Sisters.

The Three Sisters

Our first outing was to see the nearby Three Sisters, named from an Aboriginal legend.

Echo Point Lookout was our viewing platform. Notice the background? You can see how the fine mist from the leaves of a million Eucalyptus trees colours the atmosphere blue, hence the Blue Mountains.

The legend of the Three Sisters tells how three Aboriginal sisters fell in love with three Aboriginal brothers from a different tribe but the marriage was forbidden by tribal law. If I may paraphrase a little, the brothers, being young, impetuous and horny, decided they were going to have those babes, tribal law or not. To thwart them, the boss-man from the chicks' tribe turned the sisters into rocks. The two tribes had a bit of a dust-up and the boss-man was rubbed out, thus he couldn't release the sisters from his spell. To date, nobody else has been able to either.

Sculptures of the 3 Sister

Sculptures of the Three Sisters can be seen at the Scenic World centre. Third from the left is
the Kuradjuri, or 'clever man', who turned them to stone. The prosecution rests, your honour.

The Echo Point Lookout was quite crowded - I suspect it usually is at this time of the year - and we found ourselves well outnumbered by overseas visitors. The only voice we understood came with a broad north of England accent. We were in a similar situation on arrival at the Katoomba Falls Caravan Park; ours was one of only two caravans, the rest of the park being occupied by campervans, motorhomes and tents. German seemed the predominant language.

While at Echo Point we collected some brochures and received some really excellent tourist advice from the Information Centre. On our way home (to wade through the brochures) we sought out the local shopping centre for some provisions. In the shoppers' carpark we were just in time to witness a team demonstration of how easily equipment can be removed from the roof of a rented KEA motorhome using two steel bars suspended from a gantry. For their demonstration they chose to remove the television antenna.

What could be easier or quicker? If the air conditioner was to be removed, the assistant with the ladder (second picture) would hold the right bar clear, and the left bar would do the job. There was, however, no mention of how the equipment was to be re-installed!

Motorhome (1)

Max Height 2.4 M. What does that mean? The television antenna is just behind
the step in the motorhome's roof - see inset enlargement.

Motorhome (2)

While one assistant held the left bar clear with a ladder, the driver moved forward. The team
catcher in the yellow vest ran forward to catch the antenna (white disk) as it fell.

Red Bus

Looks like this bus uses the same carpark. And yes, it does say London Transport on the side.

Up And Down The Cliffs

Within a few hundred metres of our caravan was Scenic World, poised on the edge of a sheer drop. Scenic World operated three cable-driven passenger-carrying conveyances. We descended the cliff on the Scenic Railway which consisted of several connected 'coaches' which ran on the same tracks that were used by coal trucks when a coal mine still operated on the canyon floor. The train left the station down a steep slope and suddenly dipped over the edge of the cliff on a 52° gradient. Put another way, down a slope of 1.27 in 1. Its progress was controlled by a cable connected to a counter-weight which was simultaneously rising from the canyon floor. On one occasion a nervous passenger had asked the train controller what would happen if the cable broke. "Don't worry, Madam" the controller replied, "If that cable breaks, the train will stop within three seconds." The passenger was re-assured and boarded the train. The controller smiled; three seconds was the estimated time for the train to hit the bottom.

Scenic Ride

A Scenic Train arrives at the lower station . . . or was it departing? Spot Pam. Clue: Cowboy hat.

The ride wasn't scary, in fact it was far too short. The train descended through a steep tunnel, levelled out a little as it left the tunnel, then dipped steeply again to the lower station. Signs implored us to keep our body parts inside the train as limbs are hard to replace. From the lower station there was a board-walk through dense rain forest to the lower terminus of the Scenic Cableway which was to lift us back up the cliff. The board-walk took us past the cave-like coal mine entrance. Just inside the entrance a large screen ran the story of the mine. Alongside the board-walk were placed old items of mining paraphernalia with explanatory plaques.

The second cable device was the Scenic Cableway, a large, glass-sided gondola suspended from some hefty cables. There were no seats, just hand rails to hold during the short climb to the top. Unfortunately photographs from the gondola were spoiled by reflections off the windows.

Scnic Cableway

The Scenic Cableway car descends to collect us and lift us back to Scenic World.
The cable to the right of the gondola bears the counterweight for the Scenic Railway.

The third ride from Scenic World was the Skyway which crossed a ravine. It was a larger gondola than that on the Cableway but we elected not to ride this one as the views available from that car could be seen equally well from several lookout platforms, though we understand it has a glass floor. We were able to photograph the Skyway from several of of those platforms.

Scenic Skyway

This shot gives an accurate impression of how high the Skyway passed over the terrain.

Apart from the man-made attractions in the area there was a myriad of walks leading to waterfalls, cascades and other fabulous views such as . . .

Katoomba Falls Cascade

. . . the Katoomba Falls Cascade.

Rock and Ferns

. . . strange rock outcrops and lush rainforest.

Cloud Shadows

. . . and panoramic views with a patchwork of cloud shadows.

The Blue Mountains is continued on Page 40. Please click below.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 39 was completed on 27 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.