Day 65: Blue Mountains
We wrapped up our time in New South Wales with a stop in the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. The mountains contain a series of sandstone plateaus that extend off of the Great Dividing Range. The Greater Blue Mountains area has over 400 species of vertebrates and is listed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO. The forecast called for rain the following day, so we made sure to get out and see the vistas the evening prior. A couple hours before sunset, light peeked through the clouds and illuminated rock formations and sections of the valley floor.
(Above) The Three Sisters; a sacred site to the Aborigines. (Below) Wide view of the Great Dividing Range and valley below the town of Katatoomba.
In the late 1700s, many people explored the Blue Mountains region, but no one could find a way across. Settlers were determined to find a way straight over the top. They wanted more grazing lands for their cattle and assumed the area on the far side of the mountains was more fertile. One day the whole lot of cattle escaped from their confines at the settlements and disappeared. Urgency to find new grazing lands intensified. There are early stories of convicts surmounting the sandstone fortresses in the Blue Mountains, but those are unverifiable. To avoid credit going to former prisoners, an 1813 crossing is considered the first successful European expedition by three men: Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson, and William Wentworth. Their findings were later confirmed by a surveyor, and road construction began in 1814. Thirty convicts and eight guards finished the road after just 27 weeks, which is still the exact route used today. Once the settlers crossed the mountains, guess what was on the other side? The missing cattle that walked off more than two years earlier. Supposedly the animals traveled around the mountains instead of going over - a much easier task no doubt.