The following day we planned to head out early because we hoped to make it all the way out to the Blue Mountains, with a stop at Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary on the way. The Sydney public transit system is so incredible! We were able to use our same transit passes to get all the way out to Blue Mountain – 2 hours outside of Sydney.
We were hoping that Featherdale would fulfill Clay’s mom’s wish to see “Australian marsupials”! Off we headed to Featherdale and, after a lengthy subway ride, a stop at the mall to get Clay’s mom some new running shoes, and a bus ride, we arrived at the Wildlife Sanctuary.
Featherdale was animal heaven for the boys! There were large areas where the wombats and kangaroos hopped around freely and the boys could pet and feed them. You could pet the koalas and get your photo taken (for free!) beside one. We spent several hours visiting the various Australian animals until our brains were saturated with animal information and we couldn’t cram in any more!
Clay’s parents caught the train back to town while we continued on to the Blue Mountains, hoping we still had enough time to see everything we wanted to. Our train ended up stopping for about ½ hour at one point, apparently waiting for a freight train to pass, and we were worried that we were cutting our visit to the Blue Mountains a little tight! We caught a bus from the train station and arrived at Blue Mountain’s Scenic World at about 3:30 p.m. “You might have time to take the train, the Cable Car and you might just fit in a ride on the Sky Rail if you don’t take too long on the boardwalk,” said the lady at the ticket counter.
“Let’s do it!” we said and ran to the train. The Scenic Railway is the steepest passenger railway in the world, with a 52 degree incline. It descends 310 metres through a cliff-side tunnel, emerging into the rainforest. Since it was so late in the day there were no lines and only a couple of other people boarding the train with us. What a cool ride it was! You could adjust your seat to have a “cliffhanger” ride and go down the mountain at a steep 64 degrees, or you could choose the “laid back” option of only 44 degrees! We, of course, had to try the “cliffhanger”!
Once at the bottom, we disembarked and headed down the boardwalk. We ran into a large group of Asian tourists and managed to weave our way through them so we could move at a good clip through the rainforest. It was beautiful! We wished we had more time. No time to stop and read the information placards….no time to stop at the mining display……We arrived at the cable car and waited for the next car to pull up for us to board. With a capacity for 84 passengers, the Cableway is the steepest and largest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. Just as the car arrived so did the Asian tour group so we all boarded together. Unfortunately it seemed no one in the group spoke English so when the guide began to explain the legends of the Three Sisters to us, they completely ignored him and continued talking. I looked at him empathetically. Being a teacher, there is nothing I find more irritating than when people talk over the person “in charge”. He seemed to notice my expression and came over and said, “I think I’ll just tell you the commentary!” So for the 545 m ascent I had my own personal guide! (Clay and the boys were huddled in another corner of the cable car taking photos.)
Once at the top, we noticed there were still about 5 minutes before the final Scenic Skyway left for the day. We were going to make it! Suspended 270 metres above the ravines, the Skyway provides breathtaking views beneath your feet through the glass cabin floor. The journey provides the best views of Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and Jamison Valley stretching to the horizon. Leaving the Asian tour group behind us, we started our trip across the ravine. Our guide, Eric, was entertaining and informative. One of the things he told us about was how the falls are lit up at night and you can walk down to see them. “It’s a beautiful walk,” he said. “No, mommy!” came the boys pleas, knowing how much I love hiking…..for hours and hours. But it did get me thinking….. “Well, why don’t we just go for a short hike through the mountains now, then?” I suggested. Off we went! The mountains and the rainforest are truly gorgeous and I could have walked around them all day but by this point it was about 5:30 pm, it was soon going to be dark, and we needed to eat something. So, we made our way up out of the ravine to the bus stop. Hmmm….apparently the last bus left at 5:00 pm. There were no more buses until the next morning! Hiking back to town was our only option and not really too bad (in my opinion!). It was only 4 ½ km but it was totally uphill for the last 3! Since the train only ran every hour at this point we had to make sure we got there on time. We finally pulled into the Holiday Inn at 10:00 p.m. and everyone slept well that night! Clay’s parents were super pleased that they had decided to ‘call it a day’ after Featherdale!