Mid-winter and the forecast in the Blue Mountains is a dusting of snow above 800 metres. I haven't seen snow in Katoomba for a number of years and my son never has. With the car at the mechanics, the next best way to get to Katoomba is by train. A boring and laborious way to travel you may say, however, it is a great way to journey to through the mountains.
Having boarded the train at Parramatta rail station, I kick back in the comfortable seats with large windows enabling a great view. I put the headphones on and watch the suburbs change from horizons of apartment towers to quarter-acre blocks with fibro houses, to open spaces followed by eucalypt trees blowing in the strong wind while climbing through to Glenbrook. It's a nostalgic way to travel that brings back memories of my youth, carrying backpacks with provisions for a weekend adventure bushwalking in the Grose Valley.
Arriving at Katoomba Rail Station, the chill mountain air hits my face as soon as I open the train door. A few grey clouds interrupt the sun and a strong wind sweeps along the platform. The prediction of snow may still happen. Opposite the station, the street is lined by early 1900s buildings housing pubs, galleries, antique stores and a fantastic camera museum that will have a photographic enthusiast captivated for quite a while.
Walking along the footpath, my son stops and stretches his hands out. With a beaming smile, floating around him a light shower of snow falls, just enough to dust his shoulders before quickly evaporating but snowing nonetheless. There is no shortage of cafes along Katoomba Street to stop for a hot chocolate and apple pie. Numerous heritage-listed buildings line the town's streets many still exhibit art deco interiors that add to the warmth, friendliness and quality of the shops. The iconic Paragon Café was forced to close its doors in May' but has thankfully reopened at a new address, 16 Katoomba Street' still, with its old-world charm. The Carrington Hotel still stands in all its majesty, a world where elegance was revered. For those looking for antiques and books, Macarthur's Arcade will have spellbound as you rediscover things that were in your grandfather's house when you were a child.
The beauty of Katoomba is its diversity. Old and new co-exist and each complements each other. In Beverly Place, Street art adorns the walls of buildings. Not mere graffiti, but murals some two and three stories tall. Each wall is a piece of art painted by local and national artists. Further up the street, 1960s styled neon signs advertise motels.
The wonderful thing about walking through these streets is you get to really see what is around you as opposed to glimpsing things while driving. You get to see through the windows of shops and cafes. You get to see the tourists, writers, poets and artists in the street. You take your time to look and are part of the surrounds, not just an observer.
A 40-minute walk from the middle of Katoomba will get you to The Three Sisters. Even with a lot of tourists, it is a breathtaking view looking into the wilderness of the Jamison valley and World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains. The tourist information centre has the usual souvenirs and a small food court supplies hot food and beverages. Picnic tables and shelters are in the surrounding park area.
An hour stroll along a designated path will bring you from the Three Sisters to Scenic World which offers views of the Jamison Valley. You can hop on the Skyway, cableway or railway for a greater look at the valley and cliff walls. Not just a favourite for international tourists, it is worth visiting and experiencing one or all of the rides. Various walks are available in the area catering for all levels of fitness and the scenery is spectacular, regardless of the season. Scenic World has been a tourist destination for decades and relics of past attractions are still visible. The Katoomba Falls Kiosk still stands but empty and the track of a roller coaster still ring the modern buildings. Billed as the world's scariest roller coaster, it was never open for use. Rumour has it that a number of sandbags disappeared off the edge of the cliffs during test runs.
Several festivals are held in the town throughout the year such as the Winter Festival held in June, the Elvis Festival 15th to 18th August 2019 and the Writers Festival 22nd to 25th August 2019.
As the sun began to set and the temperature began to fall, we walk back into town stopping in a vegetarian burger café to fill an empty space in our stomachs and wait for the evening train to take us home. As people start to fill the station platform, my son comments that he now appreciates that you can have adventures and see places without using the car. He is waiting for the next school holidays to take his friends on a train journey. To where I'm not sure, but they will go somewhere. The adventurer has awoken.
This is such a beautiful article! I was just complaining to my mum today that I don't want to catch the train to the Blue Mountains, I want to drive (but she won't let me lol!) However this article came to as if the universe is trying to tell me something, what breath of fresh air, I really appreciate how beautifully you have narrated your experience and I can't wait to visit the Three Sisters by train for the first time! Cheers