We woke up Thursday to beautiful weather with yet another dramatic change in landscape on the agenda. From Lithgow, Matilda and the Grey Nomad climbed the steep highway east into the Blue Mountains proper. Our loose destination was the tourist town of Katoomba, the center of all Blue Mountain hikes and tours, but we weren’t sure or agreed on where we wanted to camp. Obviously, the caravan parks were convenient with bathrooms, hot water and amenities, but we all kind of liked, at least in principle, the wilder spots. After a stop at an “i” center along the highway, we picked three possibilities.
The first several miles before Katoomba was a caravan park that looked pretty if a bit sterile, but the manager, once we found her, evinced such a decidedly bitchy attitude at our presumption of an unplanned arrival that we left promptly, determined to camp rough at a small “park” the map showed on Megalong Valley Road.
But Megalong Valley Road was mega long, carrying us down, down, down tight switchbacks reminiscent of our foray to the Mann Valley, but this time into ever wetter and wetter forest. At the bottom of the road, we found a cluster of sites, barely hacked out of the soggy woods with no river and not even an outhouse! After our cold wet stint at Mann, we decided we just weren’t up for that after all, plus it put us a fair drive from the center of things at Katoomba. So, with our tails between our legs, we climbed laboriously back up the road and pushed further into town where we struck pay dirt at the new Katoomba Caravan Park.
Although the camp, which seemed to have two parts – a sweeping “lawn” for tent and small camper sites and a “parking lot” for bigger C-class-style campers up above, was fairly full, they were able to put us both on one site on the far perimeter of the camp – one site for the price of two! Hah! Oh, well, it was perfect for us, with the cook building just next door, and only a slightly longer jaunt to the facilities. Those facilities had warm, tiled showers (which were quite a luxury) and a laundry! A far cry from the Megalong sites! Ah, well, you’ve gotta tough through life’s compromises.
We set up our tent on a square of fairly level, cushy grass and Mike and Kathleen pulled in behind us, popped Matilda’s top and put up her awning. Then we emptied the Grey Nomad into the tent so that four of us could fit in the car for getting around.
Our first hike in Katoomba was the Leura Falls Walk to the Leura Cascades, then to Bridal Veil lookout, and then to Copeland’s Lookout. The Blue Mountains National Park in Katoomba is honeycombed with paths that descend from the ridge top down the nearly vertical cliff front to the valley floor way below, most well maintained and marked and many with steps and handrails. You can go down one path and up another, or branch to the right or left for relatively level paths that parallel the ridge top. There are promontories at various levels producing precipitous views, plus a cable car and a tram. We returned to the campground via Echo Point, our relatively easy afternoon circuit taking about 2 hours!
Unlike the other two caravan parks we’d stopped in, the folks in this campground were super friendly, perhaps because the Katoomba area drew more international visitors. Don quickly befriended Rod and Judy, an older Ulysses club couple who were pulling a Camparoo pop-up trailer behind their Honda Goldwing, on which they had a “wedge-tail trike conversion” (“Five minutes on and off,” Rod claimed). The pop-up trailer opened up and out to include, when fully set up, a queen-sized mattress, a camp table, and even a covered patio! Don was totally entranced! How could so much come out of such a small container! Then over our dinner of kangaroo steaks and salad, cooked in the BBQ center, we became friendly with Elton and Patty, a Canadian couple from Vancouver who had been car camping Oz for two months. This being their last stop before flying out from Sydney, they had lots of stuff for sale. It’s always fun meeting fellow travelers!