On the weekend, my wife and I went to visit some friends of ours in Wentworth Falls, which is about an hour’s drive west of Sydney in the blue Mountains. Our friends have a house which is only about five minutes easy walking to Wentworth Falls (a total drop of 187 m or 614 ft) in the photograph the below.
With their local knowledge, our friends took us walking for several hours along the cliff line so we could get much better views than are usually available to people who just follow the groomed national park tracks. The falls are on the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park, which is joins up with two other national parks, the Kanangra, and the Wollemi (where the prehistoric Wollemi Pine was discovered), which when you join them all up together cover a larger area than the country of Belgium. The whole area is listed as a World Heritage Wilderness area. It is a truly vast and ancient place. In years past, I’ve climbed many of the cliffs and I’ve been on many overnight hiking trips in the valleys below.
On the top of the ridges, strong winds blow constantly, and the soil is very poor making it very difficult for many plants to thrive. The vegetation that can survive such torturous conditions, tend to be shrubs no higher than a metre or two, which have either very thin water conserving leaves or prickles.
In the more protected and wetter valleys below, very tall eucalypts such as the blue gum thrive.
Hiking in the blue Mountains is a bit different to walking in many other parts of the world, because most people tend to start in the low lands and walk uphill into the mountains, but in the blue Mountains you start at the top and you walk down into the valleys. The reason for this is because the road follows the ridges. It’s very rugged and steep terrain, therefore quite of few people have been lost, because they have underestimated how rough the country is and overestimated their fitness and abilities.
In most parts of the world, the common wisdom is that if you get lost you follow the rivers out to the sea. If you were to do that in the Blue Mountains National Park, you would probably starve as it would take a fit person about two weeks to follow the rivers through very dense bush out to the coast. If you are ever lost in the blue Mountains, the best strategy to get yourself out of trouble is to head east and walk uphill to the ridges so you can meet up with the highway.