The power came back on sometime in the middle of the night and we were once against warmed by the small tiny heater which we are grateful for. The morning came and despite everything, we had a pretty good rest hibernating under our sheets.
We did a quick wash up and breakfast on go, glad to finally leave the mountain lodge behind us. This morning, we headed out to Scenic World to catch a glimpse of the Three Sisters.
Enroute I shared with the children the local myth about the rocks which got them all excited to see these magical needle of rocks which used to be three princesses.
We arrived at Scenic World about 9am and the car park was still relatively empty. This must be the first time we got to our destination so early in the morning. The weather while slightly gloomy looked promising and we quickly bought our tickets for the rides.
There are three main rides in this nature theme park so called which allows you to pretty much explore the entire area if you try them all. For A$70, we bought the Scenic Family pass which covers two adults and accompanying children. This allows you to take the railway and cableway once and the skyway twice. There are other ticketing options and a map of the area on their website http://www.scenicworld.com.au/
A bit of history here. Scenic World is situated around the old Katoomba Coal Mine which was operational from the 1800s to mid 1900s and our first ride – the Railway – is a relic from this time and also the steepest passenger railway in the world at 52 degrees incline.
Even though we were here early, we still had to queue up for our turn on the railway which takes about 10 minutes to descend and ascend again. When we finally got bundled into the carriages, I have to admit that it was rather claustrophobic and when it started to descend through a tunnel, I felt like I was plunging headlong into the unknown. While it was a rather scary experience, it helped that the speed is controlled.
Prior to becoming a tourist attraction, this railway used to transport miners into and out of the coal mines located on the Jamison Valley which is where the railway deposited us for the second leg of our journey. There are boardwalks created to allow visitors to explore the flora of the valley and some remnants of its mining history.
I was particularly impressed by the very informative sign posts along the trail which not only points out interesting phenomenons of the forest, it also provides opportunity for adults and children alike to look out for these amazing features like shedding barks, holes in trunks, two different plants supporting and growing on each other etc.
We also met many groups of children on their school field trip here as well as tourists coming for the a day trip out from Sydney.
After the Walkway, we were taken back out of the valley by the cableway to the top of the mountain. This ride was rather uneventful as we had to squeeze in together with hoards of vistors but we got to admire the structural make up and composition of the mountains.
From the top, we embarked on the final leg of the journey via the Skyway. Our pass allowed us a two-way passage across the ravine which opens up the valley below us as well as complete views of the Three Sisters. The Skyway also has a glass bottom for riders to gaze down into the whole valley 270 metres below us.
In addition to the Three Sisters, you can also catch the majestic waterfall crashing down the cliff midway through the Skyway. From the landing point, it is a short walk to Echo Point, a platform lookout for more views of the valley. Brave souls can continue further onwards for a close up view of the Three Sisters but as it was a slippery and potentially freezing cold walk, we decided to trek the other way.
This is like the backdoor of Scenic World as there is a road here with bus stops. I think this park is open to public and there are treks descending into the valley. We took a short trip down, picnicked for a while and then retreated our steps back to the Skyway. This completed our two hour exploration of Scenic World.
There is a souvenir shop back at the entrance where you buy all sorts of memento of your visit here. One thing you should not miss is the tree oil extract which you can get for A$8 for a regular sized bottle. The oil is useful for cuts and bites.
After Scenic World, we left Katoomba for Sydney. We tried to look for lunch options along the way, checking out the many hill towns along the road but most were small little towns with little to offer. We finally stopped at Springbrook for some Chinese fare.
We arrived in Sydney in mid day and it took us quite a few detours along the one-way George St, King St, Elizabeth St before ending up on the right side of Hunter St where our hotel City Lodge for the next two nights is located.
The only carpark option here is the A$4 per hour roadside until a certain time at night. Turns out that parking in Sydney was a horrendous affair.
We checked into our hotel which is operated by mainland Chinese. The reception was pretty warm and the rooms are comfy. What we liked was the free Wi Fi, DIY laundry room and the entire common kitchen and dining area at our disposal just outside our room.
Once settled, we went looking for dinner options in the evening. Before that we made the customary visit to the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge for a photo stop.
We had dinner in Eating House Food Court at Haymarket which is the Chinatown of Sydney. It offered the common food court fare like in Singapore but at comparatively exorbitant prices. A few plates of chicken rice, nasi padang and other sides cost us A$38!
There are many Chinese eateries, bistros and cafes located along the alleys so there is no short of food options here.
After dinner, we had originally planned to return the car at the drop off point one day earlier since carpark was a nuisance in Sydney. I was surprised to find the drop off area closed and there was no security guard around to open the area for us. This gave us the headache to hunt for parking options all over the city.
Apparently paid parking in the city center is available up to middle of the night only. To park overnight would cost about A$30 – $50 depending on location. Cheaper options are located in the suburbs several kilometres away. We became rather frantic at this point.
Back at our hotel, we checked out the roadside parking options and discovered something really absurd. We could only park along the road outside our hotel up to 4am provided we have some kind of pass. However if we parked across the road, we could park until 5am without any pass. Desperate, tired and without options, we decided to do just that.
Poor Theo had to wake before 5am, take the car to the drop off center, wait till 7am for them to open their doors and then take a 3 km walk back to our hotel in the cold spring morning. You can imagine he wasn’t the best of moods by the time he returned to three cozily wrapped up snoring individuals.
So one lesson learnt from this, NEVER EVER use private transport in the city center. I should have learnt this from our Italian experience.