Sydney on Sunday

Today was a great way to end our whirlwind trip. We hired a car and ventured out of the city to Jenolan Caves, about 180km out of Sydney in the Blue Mountains.
The first thing to note was the terrible weather – it was foggy and drizzling the whole way – sometimes we couldn’t see more than 20 metres in front of us because of the fog. The rental car had a temperature gauge for outside temperature – a chilly 8 degrees!
Luckily, visiting caves means that the weather is pretty much taken out the equation anyway. I had visited these caves back in 1990 when I was 12, and still clearly remembered the majestic entry to the Jenolan Village through a huge cave-tunnel. The road was paved back in the early 1900’s, as were most of the concreting throughout the caves. Today’s climate would not allow for any of these changes to be made for both natural and cultural reasons.
There are 7 cave tours to go on, with a couple of additional expert and novelty ones as well. It is an amazing system, with crystal clear river water running through the base of the system, and a huge array of stalagmites, stalactites and crystal formations. We chose the Lucas cave system, which involved an hour and a half of stunning beauty. Our tour guide took things a little to the wacky side by proclaiming the Cathedral Cavern an acoustic heaven (they play regular cello gigs there), and proceeding to play a symphonic version of Metallica throughout the chamber. He followed it up with a terrifyingly unrealistic “dinosaur” roar. Tacky, but the Japanese tourists loved it.
One minor disappointment was the seeming complete lack of regard for traditional owners of the area. The caves must surely have been a meeting place and law area for local Aboriginals, yet the fact the entire area had been completely concreted and “anglofied”, and there was not a single reference to traditional aboriginal owners or names was interesting, if not very noticeable.
With the weather again closing in, we left Jenolan Caves at 4pm to head back to Katoomba in order to visit the famous Three Sisters. Here the mission began. Sunday afternoon is clearly not a good time to head back to Sydney from the Blue Mountains. Things were fine until 20km out of Katoomba – at which stage it was about 4:45. The last 20km took well over an hour. The fog became even worse than before, and we seriously doubted whether a) there would be any light, and b) even if there was light, could we see the Sisters anyway?
We passed time in the car laughing at Sydney drivers (they are as bad as Perth drivers). As a sign of our boredom, we noted one bus could “eat 15 passengers”, and felt shocked at the revelation that Queensland was “The Smart State” (courtesy of their official numberplate), relegating all other states to dunce status.
We hit Katoomba determined to at least visit the Three Sisters. It was very dark, very foggy and very cold. Thoughtfully, Katoomba set the Three Sisters alight with a brilliant red light so it can be viewed even at night. It was a stunning view… except for the fog. Note the photo of Emma and Simon – yes, that is (apparently) the Three Sisters in the background!
All in all, we took it in our stride, and treated it all as a bit of lark. We elected to get some dinner in Katoomba, eating at a little café called Savoy – simple food, but nice. We then hit the road again and immediately were confronted by the same crawling traffic! It was a Sunday, but the jam lasted most of the way to the Motorway. A long drive home, which saw us leave Jenolan Caves at 4pm (remember – only about 180km from Sydney) and arrive home at 10pm. Take out an hour for Three Sisters and dinner, that still leaves 4 hours of driving! Aargghh!!
Overall, we’ve had a fabulous time, and are looking forward to getting back to Broome tomorrow, and then Fitzroy Crossing on Tuesday. I’m not sure we’d actively tour Sydney again, but the Blue Mountains and beyond hold a lot of time for us, I’m sure. As for Melbourne, we pretty much fell in love with the city! Bring on another term of school before our next big adventure to Darwin and the Northern Territory.