Exploring Blue Mountains

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

We started our two-month long road trip in the Blue Mountains. I had made intensive research beforehand and was so excited to see what this wilderness area has to offer. The name of the mountains, which in reality is a series of hills shaped by dramatic gorges, comes from a fine mist of oil exuded by eucalyptus trees. The mountains are a part of the Great Dividing Range, rising to a 1100m-high above sea level. For years these mountains formed an impenetrable barrier to colonial expansion from Sydney as numerous attempts to find a route failed. Many settlers also had the rather bizarre notion that China-and freedom-lay on the other side. It wasn't until European explorers Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth successfully traversed the mountains. Today the Great Western Highway follows their route through the hilltop towns of-surprise, surprise-Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth Falls.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

There are some beautiful National Parks around the area and we camped in three of them. My first ever camping experience was at Murphy's Glen. Deep in the forest, preferably accessible with a 4WD, it was surrounded by some very tall gum-trees. We were super eager to set up our campsite, as it was our first time ever trying out all the expensive camp gear we saved up for. As it's the most advertised free campsite in the Blue Mountains, and it was the holiday season, we were pretty lucky to get a camp-spot to begin with. During the afternoon and evening hours, we saw a lot more people pulling up, looking for a place to spend the night. There was even a young couple hiking down to the campsite with a tent and sleeping bags on their back. I don't think I could ever do that after being spoiled with our camping setup. They did not carry anything more than some sandwiches from the service station and a bottle of pink wine. They did look pretty happy doing so and good for them. (EDIT: A hiker now myself, I find it interesting how opinions change after experiencing the things you thought you might never ever like. If you would like to read more about my hikes in the wild, click here.)

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

The campsite was cold as it gets really cold in the Blue Mountains. Michael saw an injured Cockatoo who let him get really close. There must have been hundreds of birds around because they did not let us sleep and acted as an early morning alarm clock. We also got a bit of rain during the night, which is not uncommon for the area. We were in a hurry when packing up the campsite and I'm telling you, never again! Packing it all up quickly is one thing, but packing it up quick when it's wet is completely another. All in all we rated our first campsite 8/10. Minus points from the loud birds (give me birds over traffic noise any time) rain and general business. It does have clean toilets on site and that was a huge bonus.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

We had pre-booked tickets to Scenic World in Katoomba and they only guaranteed admission between 9 and 10 am. This is why we had to rush. As Katoomba's crowning glory is Echo Point, where a series of sensational viewing platforms overlook the Jamison Valley and the impressive Three Sisters rock formation towers, it's also a place which draws busloads of tourists. Now, that can really spoil the scenery, so we decided to spend $35 each for a day in Scenic World instead. It has an 1880s railway descending the 52-degree incline to the valley floor and an elevated boardwalk through the rainforest. Much to our surprise, we bumped into Michael's good friend Nathan and his lovely girlfriend Peta. Out of all the places, running into each other in a rainforest was pretty surreal! 

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

The Scenic World is Eco-certified and also features a cable car and a glass floored Sky-way floating out across the valley. Now this is a much better way of experiencing the Three Sisters, rather than fighting tourists over a photo opportunity. The Three Sisters legend has it that a sorcerer turned the Three Sisters to stone in order to protect them from unwanted advances of three young men. Unfortunately for the sisters however, the sorcerer died before he could reverse the spell. I would totally recommend going there if you want to see the beauty that Blue Mountains has to offer. One word of advice though, go early in the morning and when the school holidays aren't in full swing.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

We struggled to find a campsite on our second night, as the directions we got from WikiCamps and Google Maps led us to a doorstep of a quarry and not a campsite. We were near Lithgow, so decided to ask for directions to the Marrangaroo National Park from there. Even with the directions, this has been the hardest national park to find. Once there, the 4WD tracks made it worth it. Well at least for Michael, I was sitting in the passenger seat and screaming for my life as I was terrified about the car flipping over to the side. Our destination was the Cox river and once we found it, it reminded me more of a stream. We camped right near the water crossing we had just done with wallabies and kangaroos jumping around us. It was quiet with only the sounds of the streaming water on the background. Windy and with a rocky base, we had to pack the large awning up. The place is remote, there are no toilets as it's not a designated campsite, but the best part-there were no people. We rated the campsite 8/10.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

On our third day in the Blue Mountains, we decided to go to the Jenolan Caves. The story behind the discovery is the stuff of legends: local pastoralist James Whalan stumbled across the prehistoric caves while tracking the escaped convict and cattle rustler James McKeown, who is thought to have used the caves as a hideout. There are over 350 caves in the region and are proven to be as old as 430 million years. This is 200 million years before the first dinosaurs walked on Earth. The oldest and one of the most extensive and complex limestone cave systems left us baffled. Again, go early and when there are no school holidays on, as we found ourselves waiting for three and a half hours to get on the last tour of the day to the only cave there still were tickets left at 14 pm. Keep in mind that to go inside the caves, you have to join a tour. The area was full of families and screaming, whingy kids. The wait was worth it, but when the tour was nearing to an end, I couldn't wait to get out of the 13C caves as I was cold and we were running short of daylight to get to our next campsite.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

The road to Jenolan and later to our campsite in Kanangra-Boyd National Park was an attraction itself. At least for me, who I had never driven on a road carved on the side of the mountain like a snake. The narrow road becomes a one-way system between 11:45 am and 13:15 pm daily, running clockwise from the caves out through Oberon. There is a blue lake and a river next to the caves and the water is coming from an underground river from the caves. It's thought that the water has healing powers and has been used by indigenous Australians for centuries. There is an indigenous story that goes with the caves and the lake, but as no foreigner can tell an indigenous story, you have to go to one of the tours in Jenolan Caves to find out yourself. The area is also a wildlife reserve to several animals like platypus and an endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Racing with daylight and the steep curvy road to our researched campsite, we arrived to Boyd River campground in Kanangra-Boyd National Park. We were expecting to stay in our best camping spot yet and it didn't look half as bad at first. We had a nice meal, our first campfire, saw red-neck kangaroos hopping around the campsite and possums on the tree above us, dropping leaves on our awning. Everything looked really peaceful that night, so we decided to stay for an extra night. We planned on doing a bit of bush walking, seeing the Kanangra Falls and just relaxing. This all changed the next morning when the place got swarmed with flies and not just a few, a whole army of nasty flies. We also couldn't find any short walks around, the area must be more for mountain biking. Kanangra Falls was eight kilometres away which made it too far to walk and this all put together made us want to leave really quick in the afternoon. We packed up and drove back to Sydney for NYE in Darling Harbour. We rated this disappointing campsite 7/10 due to the flies and dirty toilets.
 Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

If you managed to read this all the way until the end, then give yourself a big pat on the shoulder as it's the longest post I've written so far. Have you ever been to the Blue Mountains? What are your recommendations? If not, would you consider going? Lets talk in the comments! I have used the Lonely Planet's Australia Guide to give you a bit more knowledge about some of the places I have been.

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Come and read about 4WD driving, camping, exploring Jenolan caves and other adventures in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

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