“Done.” The deal’s been sealed and, courtesy once again of a world renowned travel publication, our wallets are disproportionately lighter. We have been. We should’ve seen it coming, there’s only so much trust you can put in people before they keep letting you down (Hello parents! Hello ex-girlfriends! Err, hello one or two others!). The Bogan bus driver taking our twenty-five dollars sits low slung in his chair, be-hatted and bearded like the rifle toting, Bourbon slinging veteran of Spaghetti Westerns. The sunglasses and shifty disposition frame his guilt.
He cannot believe his luck, two Poms looking for a day’s walking in the Blue Mountains, two hours by train west of Sydney. He could, he could, he really could talk us out of it and say something like,”‘aw look mate, once you’ve seen one set of ranges, you’ve seen ’em all, tell ya what, for three bucks I’ll drop you down the road, you can take it from there.”

He doesn’t. Groping at China’s fifty note like a Cistercian monk granted a day’s leave in a strip club, he lodges the money in a different place to the rest of his cash and makes a play of giving us a leaflet and croaks some strangulated words of consolation along the lines of you can use these tickets on any route around the town. Which, after you’ve parted with your cash, is as empathetic as saying you can enter your hobby horse in The Gold Cup.

I know where that note has gone, mate, and I hope it finished last and is on the way to the glue factory.

So, we’ve been done on the pricing, how else can every traveller’s indispensable guide to the universe help? Take coats or jumpers as it’s likely to get cold.
As I’m traversing steep forestry with my waterproofs and fleeces stowed resolutely in my oversized, over-full backpack in temperatures hot enough to smelt your own currency, I’m less than grateful for this advice. In fact, I curse myself for not taking the task seriously enough. I have not used those walking shoes that I enthusiastically packed in urgent expectation. How silly would that be to take them all around the world and not use them? As silly as over-paying for a Hop On-Hop Off tour of the Blue Mountains, clearly.

To be fair, the train from Sydney, in comparison with a lot of what this amazing country has to offer tourists, is good value and the views from Echo Falls are rather wonderful. The Prince Henry Cliff Walk gives you your fix of cliff faces, fauna and waterfalls. The Three Sisters, while not as impressive as The Corrs, are pretty good too.

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For me though, the afternoon is summed up by an encounter with another amateur trekker, China gauges her opinion on the route ahead as we’re halfway down up and she’s halfway up. Is it worth the trip down? A resounding ‘no’ before I’ve had chance to commit to paper a semi-pejorative, pre-fixed and by now rather obvious “aw, look mate” sentence opener.

It’s been a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the first Monday after the New Year usually is, but being stung for the bus fare first up has soured the Blue Mountain experience a little. Deciding, the second-most place of refuge for the scoundrel is in a Caaaaald One, we walk back to Katoomba, the nearest town.
More big hills, this time round the suburban type so nowhere near as scenic. We stumble past a bloke performing tree surgery who looks like he could be Paul Hogan had he not made it big.

Ironically, oh how ironically, there are no buses to be found anywhere. Probably lunch hour. Or their drivers have gone down the TAB.

The Old City Bank Bar and its chirpy, cheeky barmaid is a good choice. Having glugged the first draft beer, Chancer by James Squire (and not, as you may think 90’s TV drama fans, Clive Owen) and thoroughly enjoyed it, a cursory glance at the timetable means there’s perhaps time for another.
Champagne Supernova steps slowly and regally on to the pub jukebox.
There’s time for another.

Talk turns to how this mountain range got its name. I venture it’s probably down to the forthright language used by hacked off tourists after they’ve been done like a kipper by the local bus companies….

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