26 Aug 2017 Left my heart in the Blue Mountains, Australia
Left my heart in the Blue Mountains, Australia
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”
—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
…and happiness and peace are what I experienced when I first glimpsed the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, Australia. If life begins at the end of your comfort zone, then peace arrives in an environment where you allow yourself to breathe. To be. For me these places are the mountains. The breath-taking scenery, the fresh air, being alone but entirely at ease, all combine to make me feel fully alive.
The Blue Mountains are a 2.5 hour train journey away from Sydney and creatively named so because apparently, from Sydney, they look blue. Vast eucalypt forests span as far as the eye can reach and in hot sun they discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves. The mist refracts light which makes the haze look blue from a distance. I could wax lyrical about the beauty of the area, but I really was taken aback. The undulating carpet of trees rolls out for miles, blending into endless stretches of sandstone cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and hidden canyons. The stunning natural beauty really is awe inspiring.
The captivating power this area has held over its visitors across the centuries is well reflected by the legends that surround the mystery and history embedded into the rock. Aboriginal legend goes that three beautiful young sisters from one tribe fell in love with three handsome young brothers from another. Law prevented them from marrying so the defiant brothers tried to capture the sisters by force, resulting in a major tribal battle. The lives of the sisters were placed into grave danger, so a witch doctor turned them to stone, to protect them from harm. After the witch doctor died in battle, the spell was unable to be reversed. The three sisters would remain forevermore in their magnificent rock formation, at Echo Point near Katoomba, as a poignant reminder of the battle that took place.
The draw of the spectacular three sisters leads onto the aptly named 800 step “Giant Stairway,” and all the other tourists melt away. The stunning Leura Cascades tumble down striking, rugged sandstone formations, while powerful waterfalls from below turn into trickles down the rock face from above. You feel on top of the world as you take in the sweeping vistas from viewpoint after viewpoint of perfect photo opportunity after perfect photo opportunity. Each sublime view is more breath-taking and magical than the last. The splendour is both relaxing and invigorating.
The Blue Mountains are a World Heritage Area; a place on earth that is of outstanding universal value to humanity. Perhaps this is because areas like this give you a sense of what really matters. Life is perhaps more than deadlines and timetables and rush hour and money… maybe we could even pause and enjoy it? Because surely that is what it is to be free. To be free from the routines and comfort zones that keep us trapped. Free to ask questions about where we are in life and where we are headed. Freedom to be who we are in a society that insists we are not enough. Free for mind, body and soul to be in alignment, accepting the day and the moment as a profound gift.
Travel gives us permission to do all of this and more. You experience the freedom to discover and explore and chase the sparks that interest you. Travel invites us to find the places and people that make us feel free and alive and embrace them. The challenge is to let that taste of freedom infuse everyday life back home. Because maybe when you listen to yourself, trust yourself, and discard societal expectations, that is the only time you can be truly free, living with no regrets.
Back in the mountains, night falls and I watch the sea of clouds sinking into the valley, the majestic mountains emerging superior, silhouetted against the moon. I fall asleep with a smile, full to the brim with gratitude for the gift of travel and the beauty of nature and life.
Thank you for reading and commenting. Please enter the Inspiration 2017 Travel Writing Award and tell your story.