Welcome to another edition of the interview series “Through the Eyes of a Local”! I’m pleased to say that in today’s interview we’re going to get to know more about the Blue Mountains in Australia.
Approximately 70 kilometers west of Sydney, the capital of NSW Australia, one can find the gorgeous Blue Mountains. Although dotted with towns much of the area is rugged bushland, a region of over 11,000 kilometers square, a little over a quarter of this area forms the Blue Mountains National Park. Known for the spectacular countryside and dramatic views, the Blue Mountains form part of the Great Dividing Range, which extends through three states and is Australia’s most substantial mountain range.
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Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself? Where are you from and what do you do?
I was born in Sutherland, Australia to British immigrants, so I have the excellent benefit of dual citizenship. My passions are creative, I play guitar, dance latin, am a live music junkie and of course I write! I also love to travel as often as I can and take photos.
I’m also passionate about developing and helping people, so my day job is in Human Resources. I love animals and have rarely been without a pet of some kind, for the last 20+ years it has been a cat. I currently have two mischievous little kittens that make me laugh while being far too cute for me to rouse on them for anything!
What do you like about the Blue Mountains?
I love the peace and quiet. The air is clean, and there is always somewhere you can go and find no one else there, which you’d be hard-pressed to do in the city. It’s a beautiful part of the country, and it’s not too far to head into Sydney if you want.
Which 3 places in the Blue Mountains do you highly recommend paying a visit?
That depends on what you like. Most people go on a day trip to the Blue Mountains to see some pretty spectacular landscapes. I’ll generally take visitors out to Jenolan Caves and then onto Kanangra Walls which is a short drive beyond it. After all, much of the mountains is National Park and has Heritage status.
The Three Sisters at Echo Point are well known internationally, and if you like horses, then a ride through the Kanimbla Valley is a lovely way to spend half a day. If you like art one of Australia’s most famous artists has a gallery in his old residence in Faulconbridge. The gardens are lovely. Oh and to get up close and personal with the Australian Wildlife, Featherdale Wildlife Park is well worth the visit, even though it’s not quite in the mountains.
And which places should people avoid?
I wouldn’t say there’s anywhere to avoid particularly, but some towns don’t have as much to see or do as others so you probably wouldn’t go there for longer than it takes to drive through.
What is the best way to get around the Blue Mountains? Is it easy to reach nearby towns?
The train line runs all the way up the mountain, and all the towns are along it. However, if you want to get out to all the lookouts or do some hiking, you’ll need a car to get there. They are often at the end of a long dirt road. Along the Highway, the towns are close to the next one, but off the main road and further out into the country there can be quite a distance between them. The base of the mountains is about 70 kilometres west of Sydney.
How travel-friendly is the city?
The mountains towns are generally small communities, so everyone is pretty friendly. We are a pretty diverse country, but English is predominantly spoken. The nearest international airport is currently in Sydney, it’s over an hour away by train but the mountains trains are generally express, and you can catch the airport link from Central station, which will drop you off at the terminals.
How safe is the Blue Mountains area?
It’s generally pretty safe, as with any area there are parts where you would be a bit more cautious than others but I’ve never had an issue.
What is the most unique aspect of your culture?
Australian’s are generally known for their laid-back ‘She’ll be right mate’ kind of attitude to things.
Can you tell us where we can find the best view of the city?
From the approach to the mountains, you can see how they get their name, as they appear blue in colour. You won’t find any spots in the hills that give a view of the mountains themselves as it covers a large area and some of it is pretty rugged country. However, you can find some great views of Sydney from the hills, particularly at night. Lookouts at Hawkesbury Heights, Glenbrook and Wentworth Falls are some examples.
What is the most traditional dish in Australia?
Australia is a pretty multicultural society and a youngish country, so I don’t know that you would consider it to have a traditional dish. We do eat Kangaroo, and visitors to Australia should try damper if they have the chance – it’s the traditional drovers’ bread that can be made in a camp oven.
Could you recommend a local bar and a restaurant?
There are great places continually popping up in the mountains! A couple of my favourites are The Union in Penrith; a quirky little tapas restaurant with a cocktail bar downstairs, and 2773 at Glenbrook; which has animals onsite for the kids to look at, a lovely outdoor area and live acoustic music on Sunday afternoons.
Can you tell us a memory that you have in this city?
I once dated a guy who was a complete disaster-prone and never well prepared for anything. It led to many misadventures over the years. Once, on a camping trip out to the gold rush town of Hill End, we got three flat tyres and ended up stranded 8km down a bush track and had to hike out to call for help and get tyres delivered down to us, which was two nights longer than we’d planned to be gone.
Another time we ran out of fuel in his boat on the Nepean River. He had no oars either, so the best we could manage was rowing with half of an eski each. It took us hours! Another time he decided to drive his two-tonne Land Rover across a dry creek bed at Lake Lyle. We ended up with the front of the car submerged in mud to the top of the bull bar and had to flag down a passing boat to send us help. Funny now, not so much at the time!
Could you describe the people of the Blue Mountains?
I think we’re probably reasonably typical Aussies. We’re pretty relaxed about things, love to kick back with mates over a beer and love taking the piss, whether it’s out of ourselves or someone else, and its all in good humour. There’s a bit of an urban myth we like to tell overseas visitors for a laugh, but if I told you I’d have to kill you.
As a culture, we also love an underdog and are really generous and supportive of the community. In 2013 the mountains had a particularly bad bushfire season, and 200+ people lost their homes. The community rallied around, people donating all sorts of things, from toiletries and clothes to cars and rent-free accommodation. It’s one of the really nice aspects of living out of the city where you don’t really get that sense of community.
Tell us a fun fact of the Blue Mountains.
The first settlers to cross the mountains were explorers by the name of Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth. You can imagine how challenging it was back then! There is a town named after each of them in the mountains, and a tree at Katoomba called the Explorer’s tree, where they each carved their initials.
What piece of advice would you give to readers who want to visit your hometown?
If you’re going out in the bush make sure someone knows where you’re going and when to expect you back. It’s really not that hard to get lost if you don’t know the area.
Is overtourism a problem in your city? If so, could you explain why and how?
The big tourist attractions can be bustling, Scenic World and the Three Sisters come to mind. You’ll often find a few busloads of tourists there, but the buses can’t go off the beaten track, and the locals know where to go.
What is the biggest misconception other countries have about Australia?
People seem surprised that we don’t all have Kangaroos and Koalas in our backyards. Kangaroos are a pretty common sight in the mountains but not generally in areas which are densely populated like closer to Sydney. I’ve only seen a Koala in the wild once! People also underestimate the sheer size of Australia. My cousin from the UK visited last year and thought he could just pop over to Uluru in Central Australia. He was a bit surprised to find it would be a flight of a few hours.
Can you tell us a book based on Australia?
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