Budget travelers have to watch their dollars carefully in Australia. If you’re brushing your teeth in the Blue Mountains, a national park about 50 km west of Sydney, you’re likely doing so in the shared bathroom at Blue Mountains Backpackers Hostel, which has some of the cheaper beds in Katoomba, the heart of the region. I recommend humming a tune while you brush to drown out the sound of the other guests knocking impatiently on the bathroom door. Since your primary activity in the Blue Mountains will be hiking, the following song from Australia’s greatest band ever seems most appropriate.
On that note, here’s a rock soundtrack to accompany the rest of your adventures in Blue Mountains, Australia.
“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
A good place to start exploring the bush, as Aussies call it, is from Echo Point, just a 20-minute walk from downtown Katoomba and one of the best views of the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley. There are a few options for treks down to the valley either beginning or ending with the thigh-burning, 900-step Giant Staircase. Take the stairs a hundred at a time and break often for close-ups of the Three Sisters and stunning panoramas.
“Waterfall” by The Stone Roses
You could take a different hike every day for a week and never leave Katoomba. But because most tourists hover there making trails and viewpoints busy, head over to Wentworth Falls for some more stunning but less crowded scenery. Just a 15-minute train ride to the west from Katoomba, you can begin your day on the easy Charles Darwin Walk along a picturesque creek and imagine the landscape through the naturalist’s eyes when he took the same walk in 1836. At the end of the walk, descend to the Valley of Water, a veritable fairy land of misting waterfalls and sloping sandstone cliffs.
“Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix
Why are the Blue Mountains blue? The pale blue or lavender haze is thanks to a phenomenon called mie scattering, in which certain particles in the air cause wavelengths of light to scatter and become visible (it’s the reason why clouds are white). It’s possible that substances called terpanoids released by the abundant eucalyptus trees cause the mie scattering and give the mountains their bluish tinge. Something to contemplate on your long bush walk.
“Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog
By now you’ve probably burned so many calories that hungry doesn’t quite describe your need to devour something and pour fizzy, hoppy liquid down your throat. Quick, head to Greco’s for fast fish and chips or a tasty burger without gut-wrenching prices. Burgers are home-style and wrapped in paper, à la your local drive-in, and in Australia they put pickled beet on their burgers, which was a delightful surprise. Afterwards, walk a few doors down to the Jack Duggans Irish Pub for a pint of Australian microbrew or Guinness for a reasonable (for Australia) 7-8 AUD per pint.
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne
After a few days drenched in beauty and the sweet eucalyptus-soaked air, returning to pricey, crowded Sydney may feel like a bit of a downer. To feel better about your exodus, take the nature train and spend your last moments enjoying the greenery from the top floor of the City Rail. It takes about an hour and a half, a perfect amount of time to daydream about your next bush adventure.