“Platform 8 – Train to Katoomba departing at 11:02am,” bellowed from the train station loudspeaker as dozens of people spilled onto the Sydney Central platform turning the previously tranquil station into a bustling maze of people and voices.
Straining to hear above the stations’ noise, I got through to the Flying Fox Hostel on the pay phone.
“Hi, this is Emily, can I speak to Carl?”
“You could, but Carl’s dead.”
DID I just hear him correctly?!
“Ah..I’m sorry, the train station is loud so I couldn’t hear what you said. Is Carl there?”
“No, but I’m Ross, I own the place. You’re coming to WWOOF, right?
“Yea, that’s us. I just wanted to let you know we’d be there in a couple hours – we’re just about to get on the train.”
“Great – see you then.”
Carl’s dead? He couldn’t have just said that – it must have been too loud to hear properly.
Shortly after arriving, we met Carl (not dead), and realized that Ross just had a somewhat morbid sense of humor. Next demonstrated when three of us – Miranda, Tom, and myself – offered to take his dog for a walk. Miranda and I piled into his car, and he told us to close the doors because Tom was going to run along behind. Not believing he’d actually torture Tom that way, we shut the doors. Just as Tom was about to reach the door, he accelerated a few meters forward and stopped. Tom ran to catch up. Ross accelerated and stopped. Tom ran to catch up…. etc. Shocked that Ross had no intention of ever letting Tom get in the car, and that Tom KEPT running – Miranda and I couldn’t help but laugh. Two blocks later, Tom was out of breath, Ross had a smug look on his face, and Miranda and I were still giggling.
The Flying Fox Rocks
The hostel is a cool old house with a big woodstove in the main room (thank-goodness!). Everything is brightly coloured, and the walls are covered in art work by previous visitors. Our beds are piled high with duvets and fleece blankets. Out in the back yard, there’s a “Chill Out Hut” – that’s Aussie for a shed with three walls and a fire pit. The Chill Out Hut is the warmest place to go after the sun sets, and the free mulled wine doesn’t hurt either.
The Blue Mountains
From what we’ve seen, Katoomba is the best gateway to the Blue Mountains. What’s the draw? The colourful mountains offer spectacular day hikes and climbing throughout the amazing national park and World Heritage Site – just two hours (by train) west of Syndey.
Why blue? The eucalyptus trees excrete an oil into the atmosphere that scatters the light, and resulting in a blue tinge.
As you can guess, we’ve been walking a lot around the park. So far we’ve explored around The Three Sisters, the Great Staircase (~900steps), went up the world’s steepest railway (52degree incline), the Charles Darwin walk, Wentworth falls, National Pass, Leura Cascades, and Bridal Veil Falls.
There is a top secret area of the Blue Mountain National Park. No joke! It’s home to the Wollemi Pine (Wool-emy) – one of the oldest SPECIES of tree in the world.
“The discovery of the Wollemi pine is the equivalent of finding a small dinosaur on Earth.” – Professor Carrick Chambers, Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens
Fossil records show evidence of the tree 90 million years ago; dinosaurs still roamed the Australian mountains at that time.
Note: if the Wollemi really twists your noodle, and you want to get your geek on, check out the Wollemi Watch – “a quarterly online newsletter for Wollemi Pine enthusiasts the world over”
Winter Magic Festival
Our time up here in the mountains luckily fell during the annual Winter Magic festival. It’s hard to explain what the festival is all about…. I think it’s mostly a chance to close the main street of Katoomba, listen to heaps of great music, and dress up in whatever you like. We saw monsters, pirates, witches and wizards, princesses, trekies, ghouls, hippies, fairies, cowboys, and pretty much everything in between.
A simple lesson, but worth repeating when every Australian toaster I’ve encountered is overzealous and lacks an obvious cancel button. The folks at Flying Fox have noticed a pattern, and posted a sign beside their toaster:
“”If you don’t want to be roasted while your bread is being toasted … don’t put your knife in the toaster.”
Perhaps Carl had suffered from death by toaster the morning I called?