Our journey to the Blue Mountains was also our first taste of the "Oz Experience", which was the bus company that would be taking us down the east coast. The driver/guide was a complete nutter called Jason, who was shouting something about a rodeo monkey when we met him at the Oz Experience office. He was basically taking us on a day trip, but we had decided to stay in the Blue Mountains area for a night rather than go all the way back to Sydney that night. Anyway, our first stop was a Kangaroo hunt, where we drove into a clearing in the forest and took a few photos of the Kangaroos milling around there and being all Kangarooish. We didn't spend too long there, and after Jason had told us a few stories about how Kangaroos will drop kick you if you act in a manner which displeases them we were on our way. It was at the second stop where things got good, as we were guided through the forest and out onto the cliff side overlooking a vast valley, with the mountains themselves in the distance. They weren't particularly impressive mountains in terms of size, as they'd been worn down to stubs over thousands of years due to constant wind erosion etc, but the panoramic view of the massive valley with them in the background really was spectacular. Apparently the reason they're called the "Blue Mountains" is something to do with a chemical given off by all the Eucalyptus trees around which gives anything on the horizon a blueish hue.
We stopped for lunch at a place overlooking a rock formation called the "Three Sisters", which was three massive rock towers all sitting next to each other. Later we were told the Aboriginal story behind the name, but all I remember of it was that it involved some kind of wizard turning three sisters to stone to prevent them getting eaten by a rampaging monster. It was probably told more elegantly and in a bit more detail than that, and the wizard may or may not have even featured at all, but aside from these minor details that's probably about right. We went on another walk down the valley to get a better look at it and saw a couple of impressive waterfalls coming out of the cliff side on the way, and on the way back took the steepest railway in the world. Time taken to reach the bottom: 90 minutes, time taken to get back up again: 90 seconds of pure excitement. After that we were dropped at the YHA hostel back in town and were delighted to find our room had a radiator, which was exploited to the very limits of it's capabilities.
The next day we went on another outing, this time to explore the cave system under the mountains outside the town we were staying in. We stopped briefly to take a few photos at a cliff side lookout, from which we could see a few waterfalls in the distance as well as the mountains and the forest stretching out forever beneath us. We were ridiculously high up and I didn't even realise until I saw that the birds were actually flying beneath us. The caves themselves were, as we were told, over 350 million years old, massive and generally amazing. We went into two main ones on two different guided tours. Our first guide was a strange fellow who couldn't have been out of his twenties but had a ginger afro, an involuntary twitch and probably lived in the cave. He knew his stuff though, and told us loads of complicated things about crystal formations and how the caves themselves were made. Our second guide resembled a lumberjack but didn't have the other guy's aura of a murderer, and his tour was probably the better of the two. The caves he took us to were more colourful and the rock formations were weirder, but everything was generally smaller in scale than in the first set of caves. All in all it was definitely well worth doing, as much for the scenery of the area as for the caves themselves. That evening we briefly forgot how broke we are quickly becoming and had a nice meal at one of those pubs which fancies itself as a restaurant, but to be fair the food was great.
The next day we walked all the way back down to the three sisters area (a long way) and took the walking track down to the sisters themselves. There wasn't much to see down there to be honest, and Jacqui wanted to take the never ending stairway down to the valley floor despite the plethora of signs around notifying the public that it was incredibly steep, took forever and to remember that once at the bottom the only way back up was the way you had come. We didn't do that. Anyway, that afternoon we were dropped back in Sydney and found that we'd been upgraded to a better room at Base, so we now had our own bathroom and a flatscreen tv! After weeping at their kindness, we congratulated each other for moaning about their rubbish airport transfer service and sat watching Australian Idol all night. It is now clear to me why everyone here seems to listen to country music.