My hostel offers up a reasonably priced tour to the Blue Mountains. However, I’d decided to pass on it due to me having a previous appointment in that area. One I’d be heading to this morning.
Since I was very little, there is a hair style that I have been fascinated with. Something strange and quirky and oddly enough usually associated with travelling. When I finally left the UK with my crew cut, it was a few months and several countries before I realised this may very well be my only change to have them myself.
So for the last 9 months or so, I’ve been growing my hair, coaxing it out until I reached the minimum of 10cm, and then started hunting down a stylist. Many had waiting periods, or needed more hair than I had, but while in Sydney, I finally found a woman in Katoomba who could do them while I was their.
Sydney Dreadlocks, run by Ginny Shearer (and isn’t that just a great name for a hairdresser) works out of her home. I was picked up outside the train station and brought to her living room to have the work started.
I’d already decided that I wanted to keep my fringe dread free, so I could have a little more flexibility with my style – I’ve also found a lot of female dread styles look better with a fringe (unless the haircut never had a fringe to begin with).
In order to obtain dreadlocks, the hair is sectioned off and first backcombed into loose rattails. Once they’ve been formed, Ginny takes a crochet hook to each dreaded and hooks the loose hairs tight, shrinking the mass of the hair and creating a much neater and tighter dread.
Even with my short hair, and 2 people working on me, this takes 3 hours to complete. Once done, each dread is tied off with a small rubber band (to keep it from untangling), and leaves me looking a little like Weird Al Yankovich. The dreads are pretty stiff, and stick up from the scalp – it’ll be at least 3 days before they’ve relaxed enough to drop. Thankfully, that’s what dread socks are for – and I grab once to pin down the biggest problems and leave me with a bunch sticking out the back of my head.
I also get dread specific shampoo and gel, along with an accelerator to help coax my dreads along. Caucasian hair isn’t designed for this style, so it takes a few months to really get good dreads. It may be related to the traveller lifestyle, but it’ll require more maintenance on my part than I’ve ever done with any hairstyle. The reason dreads get a rep as dirty, smelly and unhygenic is because people don’t perform proper maintenance or use the wrong products. I’m not to put anything on for at least 2 weeks (including water – gonna be desperate to shampoo my hair in a fortnight), but I’m fully intending on maintaining these as well as I can.
When I say goodbye to Ginny and Marcus, I get a lift back into town, but get dropped off this time at the lookout for the Three Sisters. I’ve still got a good chunk of the afternoon left, so want to see as much of this area as I can.
There are about a thousand tours and optional buses for this area, but I figured I’d be able to make my way along this chunk by foot. After first grabbing something to eat from the restaurant (which was expensive, but exceedingly generous in its portion size), I went to check out the view from the lookout.
The mountains and forest seem to go on for miles. Its one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Australia since I came here.
Part of the track is closed off for renovation, but I followed the diversion signs to get to the Giant Steps, a 900 piece staircase that takes you down the cliff. Sounded relatively interesting – and how hard could it be.
As it turns out, VERY when you have vertigo.
When they save down the cliff, they mean quite literally hanging from its edge! Sometimes there is nothing but a steel railing between you and the drop down. And of course, I was going down instead of up, so I was getting views all the way to the ground floor.
From the bottom, you have 2 options. One is to go through a forest walk, the other is to head towards Scenic World, a part of this park that specialises in a cable car and the worlds steepest railway. I wanted to try the railway, but that trek would take anywhere from 1-3 hours depending on how fit you were, and the signs were warning me the last train left at 4:50. It was already past 3.
Regardless, given that the alternative was to go back up the Giant Steps, I grabbed my drink and started heading down the path.
This is such a relief after the steps. Far too many trees get in the way of the view (though you do get this gorgeous scene when you get to the railway), and did slip and fall once on far too loose dust just before running into a very large goanna, but actually made very good time. There’s several waterfalls along the way too – and though I clearly missed it, judging from the wet swimsuits there’s probably a few places to swim as well. I ended up making it to Scenic World in about 70 minutes – well in time for the last train.
Or so I thought…the queue was miles long.
I ended up waiting about an hour – the train leaves every 10 minutes, and it was only the attendant coming along and assuring us that the train would actually run until everyone was out of the crater that relaxed us. The railway itself crawls up a cliff face with a very sharp incline similar to that of a roller coaster. Its not a sheer drop, but just a few degrees short of it. The seats also give you an option of incline, so you can have a relaxing 2 minute journey up, or cling to the handles like a lifeline as you dangle in the air. Its probably a lot more fun going down, but going up was a hoot and well worth the wait.
Scenic World was sadly shutting down by this point, and if I wanted the bus to the train station I had to go now or miss the last one. As it happens had to bolt to the train station too – as the next train to Sydney was leaving in 6 minutes. Frustratingly, the damn drinks machine at the station was out of water, and there was a queue of Sydney goers at the cafe too, so had to endure a 2 hour train trip home desperate for a drink.
Kind of wish I’d been able to spend a few days in the Blue Mountains. Get the feeling its a really great place to explore and check out – maybe I’ll be able to come back later in the year.