agent suggested a 4-wheel-drive tour through the Blue Mountains
because we would be able to travel to places in the mountains that a
65-passenger coach wouldn't be able to get to. She was right! Our
tour by Australian
Wild Escapes took us on a restricted fire trail in the Blue
Mountains National Park, provided us with a gourmet picnic lunch, and
taught us all about the Australian bush. We learned that bush fires
are necessary in order for bush growth to regenerate and the major
problem with bush fires is that people have moved farther and farther
away from the cities into the bush, allowing the fires to threaten
Our guide Chris was very informative and was able to tell us quite
a bit about not only the bush but other aspects of life in Australia.
The Blue Mountains were given their name because the drops of oil
falling from the leaves of the eucalyptus trees turn the sunlight a
bluish-green color. We learned that Australia has the highest rate of
skin cancer in the world and that it is not safe to venture out
without a hat (which I didn't have until two days later) and
sunscreen. A hat is even part of the school uniform in Australia. One
aspect of the bush that I was not prepared for was the huge flies
that pestered us at every turn. They didn't bite, but they really
were a nuisance and bothered us all day long. Our first experience
with the flies was at the first rest stop at a picnic area (no
restaurant with an attached souvenir shop on this expedition) and I
was glad that I had my insect repellent and wrap-around sunglasses.
Bill had worn long pants and said that although he got hot, at least
the flies didn't bother his legs. I was going to take every advantage
of summer in December so of course, I had on shorts. At least I had
on sturdy Reeboks instead of sandals although smooth-soled aerobic
shoes aren't the best choice for a bushwalk.
The vehicle was a new 15-passenger 4-wheel-drive which was built
so that the front was able to take a different direction from the
back on steep, bumpy roads. There was plenty of storage space for
picnic items as well as a built-in water tank to provide water at
rest stops. The only convenience missing was an on-board toilet and
with the lack of facilities in the bush, the ladies found a nearby
secluded area, watching out for snakes all the while.
The first stop was in the pretty mountain town of Katoomba where we
viewed the Three Sisters mountain formation, which is a set of
sandstone formations. There are several legends concerning the origin
of the three towers.
On the right is an example of an aboriginal carving. We learned quite
a bit about the nomadic life of the early aborigines, including their
method of finding water.
After lunch we went for a short bushwalk down into a canyon and came
upon a red-bellied black snake, the third most poisonous snake in the
world. The snake was in a small pond eating tadpoles. Although Chris
took a stick and held the snake up, the closest I would get to it was
through the zoom lens of my camera. Sorry the picture isn't any
The picture on the right is a eucalyptus tree that was recently
burned in a bush fire. We saw areas that had been burned only 6 weeks
before that had already regenerated so that there was no evidence
that a fire had ever happened.
Read about bushfire fighting by Ian White,
volunteer bushfire fighter from Church Point, a suburb of Sydney.
On the way back to Sydney we stopped at a picnic ground where there
were kangaroos which allowed us to take their pictures. However, they
wouldn't let us get close enough to touch them. One even turned his
back on me when I tried to get too close.
This is a view of the western suburbs of Sydney from Tunnel View
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