The Blue Mountains - Leura
"It's going to be another hot one", we're told by our host at breakfast."They say it's going to hit 33 today. You wouldn't believe we had snow in October". We wouldn't. We eat our breakfast and watch the white cockatoos eating theirs outside. It is our plan to walk to Leura which is the next town along from Katoomba: three kilometres from Echo Point to the Leura Cascades along the cliff path and then a mere twenty minutes uphill on the road into town. After yesterday's exertions, it should be a dawdle. There'll be no pressure to catch a funicular train or cable car. We can take this at our leisure. Once again, our trusty tourist map foreshortens distances and conceals the descents and climbs along the way. As we've discovered the term 'cliff path' is somewhat misleading: this is a proper Bushwalk, at no point do we walk along the top of a cliff. "I've never known it to be so humid this time of the year", are our host's last words as we leave for Echo Point. This time we'll be walking in the other direction, past the Three Sisters.
According to our guidebook, Leura is notable for its European Gardens and Art Deco architecture. Its tree-lined main street is 'a magnet for fine art galleries, cafes, shops and upmarket restaurants'. Think Kinsale, without the harbour; think Cowbridge, at 3300 feet, in sunshine. This is the Noosa of the Blue Mountains. Our destination.
The Prince Henry Cliff Walk is dotted with platforms sited precariously on rocks from which to catch the views. These are memorably named: the Honeymoon Lookout, the Tallawarra, Minnamurra & Lady Carrington Lookouts; the Kiah Lookout and the Bridal Veil Lookouts. All offer dramatic views of the sandstone cliffs and distant mountains. Today, maybe because of the heat and humidity, the blue haze is more apparant than yesterday.We stop periodically at these to wonder at the views and to photograph them.
We come to Fossil Rock where the fossilised remains of a huge sea creature are clearly formed in stone, three thousand-odd feet above sea level. There are other less clearly defined fossils nearby: something that looks like a crocodile's tail, the torso of another animal. You expect to see this sort of thing on beaches, not on sites such as this.
We reach the Leura Cascades which provides Monica with a chance to cool off. The Cascades descend in a series of minor waterfalls before the stream falls off a cliff and crashes into the forest hundreds of feet below. The flow is rather benign today, but it's possible to image the force of water that has carved this channel when it's rainier.
We eventually reach the Leura Mall, the main shopping street and, after a snack, Monica investigates the shops while I check the train times back to Katoomba. It's a five-minute journey in an air conditioned carriage. I notice that, Leura, like every town and village in Australia, has a man's hat shop. Wide brimmed hats are respected here. This must be the only place outside Texas where a man can stroll down the street looking like a cowboy and not invite a second glance. This is my kind of country. When you're thin on top, and the sun shines, you need a hat. We ate last night in a restaurant called 'The Hatters' Cafe'. It had a collection of huge arty photographs of minor Australian celebrities, men and women, wearing hats. The hat shop next door had pictures in the window of Charles sporting and Camilla carrying local hats during a visit to Katoomba. The royal seal of approval.
We kill some time before our train by visiting the new Katoomba Library. It has been opened only two weeks and is probably the most beautiful library in the world. It certainly has the best views.