Blue

Against all common sensibility I’m starting this blog with a test. A mental Rorschach, if you will. Word association, if you like. I’m going to type a word. What’s the first thing that pops in your noggin?

Australia.

It was the Opera House wasn’t it? Or a kangaroo. Or maybe a burnt gold landscape sweeping dramatically into the distance with nary a soul in sight. It may, in fact, have been none of these but I am willing to bet it wasn’t something that went a little like this:

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I’ve seen my fair share of dramatic landscapes over the past year: the shrouded mists of Machu Picchu, the undulating valleys of northern Peru, the burnt gold landscapes (yes, sweeping dramatically into the distance) of Colorado* and the endless sprawl of Bogota from on high. All were very nice indeed. One might even call them awe inspiring if awe is something one believes to be inspired by such things. All however were expected; no-one sets off to the Lost City of the Incas expecting an experience akin to a walk on Cleveleys seafront. I’m not saying this diminishes the effect at all, just that for better or worse the element of surprise is lacking.

This brings me to the Blue Mountains. I’d heard of the area before although I am currently unable to remember from where. It was a name I immediately found interesting for two main reasons:

1) I did not know mountains came in blue.
2) I did not know Australia had mountains at all.

Now I have visited said area, I have reached two important conclusions:

1) Mountains do not come in blue
2) Australia, to my knowledge, does not have any mountains at all

The name is a gross misrepresentation of the geographical features of the region, something I shall be contacting the local tourist board about toot sweet. Fact: the whole area is primarily a sort of leafy green. Fact 2: the whole area is a series of river cut valleys. Fact 3: the whole area is right up there with the most breathtaking sights I have ever, ever seen.

It blew me away. That first glimpse of the dropoff from the visitors centre carpark, the sight of an endless green carpet (or as a hiking compatriot pointed out, a massive broccoli patch) stretching to the horizon in an area roughly the size of Greater Manchester, the shock of white cockatoos flitting happily between the trees. It was crazy beautiful. This was about as far from the archetypal Australian landscape as I could imagine but it did give me my first sliver of a nugget of an idea of the brain blastingly massive scale of this country. Sights like this simply don’t exist in most of western society due simply to population; an area this large anywhere else would be filled with towns, villages, farms, roads and trainlines. Here though…nothing. As far as my rapidly decaying sight could see there was no hint of human life besides the 100 strong Chinese tour group chattering excitedly behind me. Seriously, when are people going to realise you’re never not going to look stupid taking a photo with an iPad.

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Anyway. I’ve spent the last few days hiking this displaced wonderland and can confirm that just like Holly Valance it’s every bit as beautiful up close.** My fellow ramblers and I dove feet first into walks in eucalyptal treetops, along the cliffs themselves and through temperate rainforests secreted in damp, verdant valleys. The variety of ecosystems was just as impressive as the vistas, although we didn’t see any snakes which is disappointing. Well it is now after the fact, typing from a place most definitely free of silent, slithering death. It was an incredible fews days.

Also fantastic is the hostel. I like to think I know a thing or two on this particular subject considering the number I’ve graced with my considerable presence. I’ve seen the great (good old Lima Limon in Bogota, Eco Packers in Cusco), the noisy (Pit Stop in Medellin, Adventure Brew in La Paz) and the shit (Pariwana in Lima, Amigo Hostel in Sucre). The Flying Fox in Katoomba is a different kettle of wallabies entirely. It’s adorable. Every night we get free cookies (and Tim Tams! Tim Tams for free!), free mulled wine (at the start of Summer!) and an enforced social time where laptops, tablets and phones are banned from the living room, the living room with a real life fireplace to warm away the blisters incurred from all that bloody walking. A lot of hostels attempt it but this really is like staying in a benevolent uncle’s holiday home. Ross the owner even acts like one, knocking prices down here, lending free equipment there. I even managed to beat all comers at chess for an evening, something which finally proves my mental maturity. Or that Germans are shit at chess. Could be both.

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It’s a massive shame to leave but due to the rapid and seemingly unstoppable vanishing act my money is performing I need to move on. Next stop: the old penal colony of Port McQuarrie. They’ve banned lynchings now so I hear.

Song of “The Mountains”

I can’t access Youtube as it’s banned from the wifi here. I dunno, scroll down and play Baba Yetu again it’s great.

*Never waste a good hyperbolic characterisation, I say
**I touched her hand once. Haven’t washed since. Unrelated facts but, you know, informative.

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