Three Sisters at the Three Sisters

Day 37, Grand World Voyage

Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023; Sydney, Australia.

On this, my sixth stop in Sydney, I “got outta Dodge,” as they say. My sisters and I took the popular day trip to the Blue Mountains, an area about a 90-minute drive west of the city. The tour includes three highlights: a wildlife park, an overlook to see the Three Sisters rock formation, and some extreme rides.

We were due to sail into Sydney harbor before the sunrise, so I set my alarm. The ship was even earlier, but fortunately I woke up before the alarm and looked out to see that we were quickly approaching the famous Sydney Opera House. I didn’t have time to dress and go to a public viewing site on the front of the ship, but instead stood barefoot in my nightgown on my balcony to watch. It gave me the opportunity to see the darkened Opera House against the nighttime lights of the city. Sailing into Sydney is special because it’s never the same twice.

By 9 a.m. we were off the ship, through face-to-face immigration inspection and ready for our tour. We started at the Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park, which gave us a chance to see native Australian kangaroos, koalas, wombats, wallabies, dozens of birds and even snakes if you want (I didn’t). We never found the Tasmanian Devils, but our hour-long visit simply wasn’t enough to do the park justice.

Many of these animals are nocturnal, so mid-morning wasn’t prime time. The koalas were all sleeping in tree tops, with the exception of a few who posed for photos with visitors like my friend Laurie. You could pet, but no cuddling with them and their long sharp claws.

The wallobies even performed for us. Sparring like any kids.

Next it was off to the town of Katoomba. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, we were in a cloud. Our guide lamented our bad luck as we walked in low visibility to Echo Point Lookout to see the famous Three Sisters. Our friends Sharon and Al insisted on taking our picture in the cloud, saying any three sisters would do.

But just a few moments after we got to the overlook, the cloud started to break up, and before you know it there was the rock feature, just in time for a photo of the three sisters with the Three Sisters.

After a nice lunch with great views of the mountains, we were off to Scenic World, a commercial enterprise that features three breathtaking rides and lots of boardwalk paths through the rain forest on the side of the mountain.

We started with the world’s steepest railway and a short trip down a 52-degree incline. It was all I could do to hold on so I wouldn’t go tumbling down on my sisters in front of me. The steep railway was built in the 19th century to serve the Katoomba coal mine.

From there we took a leisurely stroll through the rainforest. If we had more time, we could have explored the extensive network of boardwalks. But more rides awaited us, so we queued for the Scenic Cableway, the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. Again, it provided great views of the rainforest below as it gently ascended back up the mountain.

Closing time was fast approaching, so we hustled over to the Scenic Skyway, this one the largest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. It slowly glided over the Jamison Valley, past the Katoomba Falls on one side and the Three Sisters on the other. An electro-glass cabin floor let you see the rainforest below.

I can’t bring myself to take some escalators in open atriums, but none of these rides induced that sense of paralysis – perhaps because we always were in fully enclosed cars.

After a long day, our guide told us more about her life in Australia as a transplant from Ukraine, as we used the trip to sort through pictures and catch up on social media. As we returned to the ship, we passed crowds of passengers off to see Don Giovanni at the Sydney Opera House, with more than a few in tuxedos and formal wear. That would have been fun, but I need to save something for my seventh visit!