Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Are the Blue Mountains blue?

The Blue Mountains were not always my home. My mother came from Victoria in the cooler south of Australia and Dad came from Queensland in the subtropical north where I lived as a child. This was the source of good natured rivalry between my parents and the reason why every few years we made the 2000km journey to Melbourne.

On the long trip south, as the plains gave way to mountains, Mum always announced, “The hills are getting bluer.”

I doubted this claim because from home we could see the Bunya Mountains on the horizon and they always looked blue to me. “Is she only making it up?” I asked Dad.

“No, they are bluer,” he said. “Perhaps it is because they’re higher.” I was surprised at his concession to something being more splendid in the south and knew they must truly be bluer than at home.

View of Grose Valley from Govetts Leap


So on my Dad’s good authority they are blue. The word from wikipedia is that the bluish tinge is caused by the release of volatile oils from the eucalypt forests carpeting the hills and valleys and that most forested mountains in Australia take on a similar hue.

Words to Walk With:
"South of my days' circle, part of my blood's country,
rises that tableland, high delicate outline
of bony slopes wincing under the winter,
low trees, blue-leaved and olive, outcropping granite-
clean, lean, hungry country."
From South of My Days by Judith Wright

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

The secret of the Blue Mountains

In Tokyo and Geneva I was told, "There are mountains over there." Peering into the smog hazed distance I thought "Really?" Then one day the clouds lifted and Mount Fujiyama/Mount Blanc were on magnificent display and I gasped at their enormous beauty.

When someone in Sydney similarly points to the west and says. "The Blue Mountains are over there," perhaps tourists peer at the low line of bluish bumps on the horizon and hope that one day real mountains will appear from some engulfing cloud. If so, they will be disappointed. These are not high mountains.

And yet this low plateau 100kms from Sydney was an impenatrable barrier to the early settlers. It took them more than 20 years to find a way across to the valuable pasture land and beyond. Why?

The Three Sisters
iconic rock formation of the Blue Mountains
The challenge of the Blue Mountains and the secret of their beauty is in the sheer cliffs and deep valleys cutting into pristine wilderness. I call this wonderland home.