Author: BFDU

Author: BFDU

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Day tours from Sydney

Off to the Blue Mountains today! Beautiful day in Sydney, we couldn’t have planned it any better. It has been rainy and cloudy all week and we woke up to blue skies and just cool enough for a beautiful hike. Phoebe, Sam (2 of my 3 flat mates), and I went with a tour group called Barefoot Down Under, appropriate name right?

We first stopped at an army base with hundreds of wild kangaroo, a much better sight than to see them behind a glass or small enclosure. There are more kangaroos than people in Australia and the over population requires catching them in order to save the environment and species. Around 7million kangaroos are hunted each year so you can only imagine how many there are if this is considered a small amount! Unlike cows and sheep, kangaroos do not need to be farmed since they eat everything. Better yet, they only eat the plants above the ground, not tearing the roots and allow a quicker growth return. Another fun fact. Kangaroo meat is 98% protein, the leanest meat there is. It must be cooked at medium rare other wise if I may quote, “it will taste like a flip flop.”

On our way towards the Blue Mountains to hike to Wentworth Falls. From the high look out point, you can see beyond. The photos will never do it justice. Once upon a time, this was a solid rock cross the highest peak. Soon the water underground eroded chunks of the land and created what you now see today. We walked down and around Wentworth falls hugging the cliff side under overhangs, and up 260+ stairs steeply inclined. Our guide said the record time for climbing them was in 3 minutes and 46 seconds. Haha I was so tired after even the first few I was dragging myself up with my arms as they were pulling on the railing and side wall. I took maybe 10-15 minutes and about collapsed. My breath was taken away from both the stairs and the view.

We then moved on to visit the most iconic and touristy location, the Three Sisters. One of the many stories go:

3 beautiful princesses fell in love with 3 brothers, but by tribal law, it was forbidden. The Brothers weren’t happy and so they hashed a plan to kidnap the sisters. The sisters started to run away and from this disagreement, a big battle occurred with the brothers and tribe. The Witch doctor of the tribe found and stopped the sisters by turning them to stone. As the battle continued and came to a close the brothers saw found sisters as stone and went back to the village to hunt down the witch doctor to ask to change the sisters back. As it turned out, the witch doctor was killed from that battle, by the brothers.

Our guide told it much better and as confusing as that was; basically, all you need to know was that it was its own version of Romeo and Juliet in a way.

We hiked along the three sisters view point and across the honeymoon bridge which led us directly onto one of the three sisters’ stone.

Back in the car, we drove to Lincoln’s Rock getting just a glimpse of where we hiked from above. It was absolutely incredible sitting above it all.

The entire time I was hiking, I couldn’t help to think about a book that I am reading, The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. I know the title sounds cheesy but I love self-improvement and self-motivational books. So coincidence or not, the part I read right before I left, he wrote:

“You are Life passing through your body, passing through your mind, passing through your soul…You find out that you are in every tree, you are in every animal, vegetable, and rock. You are that force that moves the wind and breathes through your body. The whole universe is a living being that is moved by that force, and that is what you are. You are Life.” 

I walked through the trails with such awe and appreciation, it is something to see if you find yourself in Sydney, Australia.

The perfect end of the day, we all stopped by a local pub for a complimentary drink and cheers’d to an incredible day. I plan to go again soon.

Written by Jen – Through the Hazel Eyes

Blog: https://throughthehazeleyes.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/blue-mountains/

Well wanderers, Downunder I learnt that the blue haze comes from something called ‘Rayleigh Scattering’ a phenomenon investigated by Lord Rayleigh that causes rays of light that impinge on small particles to scatter in various directions. As the atmosphere is laden with dust and water particles, the eyes receive a blue, scattered reflection of the distant object (mountains in this case), and therefore! Are the mountains blue 😀.

Sydney is a huge tourist destination with gorgeous beaches, several major landmarks, gardens, parks, art galleries and more. Some of its most popular claims to fame are the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Bondi beach, which are all beautiful and definitely worth visiting. However, the swarms of tourists in Sydney can be overwhelming. Also, I’m a bit of an adventure junkie, so when I travel I jump at any chance to get out of the city and go for a hike, swim in a secluded location, or do something a little more physically challenging than posing for a photo with a statue.

A slightly less well known destination outside of Sydney is the Blue Mountains. One of my friends here told me about them because she was able to visit them with her aunt who lives in the area, and she said it was a great experience. I figured it’d be fun to go hiking and see some wilderness and get out of the city for the day, so I started looking into making the trip.

There are a few ways to get to the Blue Mountains. You can drive if you’re comfortable with renting a car, you can take trains or buses to several different towns in the mountains, or you can book a tour with a guide. Considering I still almost get hit every time I have to cross the road because I can’t remember to look right and then left, I didn’t think driving was a great idea. I also didn’t want to waste time wandering around trying to figure out where to go and which trails to take and end up missing things, so I decided to book a tour, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made since I got to Sydney.

I booked with Barefoot Downunder, which is a boutique tour company owned by a husband and wife who live in Sydney, and to be honest, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The owner, Adam, was actually our tour guide. He picked me up about a block from my hostel, and after picking up the rest of the passengers for the day, we set off for the Blue Mountains. During the drive there, Adam had us all introduce ourselves and get to know each other a little, and gave us a laundry list of things to do and see throughout Australia that would save us from overpaying for regular tourist traps.

The drive to the mountains was about an hour and a half, but it was full of information, and it was great to see some Australian countryside and learn a little about the towns we passed along the way. The hike itself was definitely not for beginners. Adam takes a much longer route than other tour companies, which we know because we saw other groups only go about half the distance we did, but it’s because he wants his customers to get their money’s worth.

blue mountains tours
You get to climb down these,
blue mountains tour tripadvisor
hop across these
blue mountains tour tripadvisor
and see a dozen of these!

Instead of going straight down to the biggest waterfall and back up, he took us on a two and half hour loop that starts with a descent through the forest into a canyon, passes by at least a twelve waterfalls, and ends with a steep climb up a stairway built into the side of a mountain. It was both invigorating and exhausting. The scenery was incomparable to anything else I’ve seen here, but by the time we got back to the top my legs I almost couldn’t walk to the bus.

blue mountains tour tripadvisor
The views are amazing,
best blue mountains tour
and the waterfalls never end,
best blue mountains tour
there’s another one around every corner, *

 

best blue mountains tour
but they keep you going… *
* PHOTOS BY POOJA JARADI
best blue mountains tour
until you have to climb these

The tour didn’t end there though. After the hike, we had lunch at a great café in Leura, where everyone with the tour got 10% off their meal, then we visited the Three Sisters, and  went to Lincoln’s Rock to hang our feet over the edge of the world.

best blue mountains tour
The three sisters
best blue mountains tour
Lincoln’s Rock
best blue mountains tour

When we got back to Sydney, the tour ended with Adam taking us to a bar to treat us all to a drink and by that time it was like sitting down for a drink with a group of old friends. My one beer turned into three, and I was still one of the first people to leave.

best blue mountains tour

Overall, it was definitely one of the best days I’ve had in Sydney. It was exhausting in all the right ways, but more importantly, I felt like I got more than what I paid for. As a natural adventurer, I don’t usually do guided tours or group activities because I like to push myself and I don’t want to be held back, but this was definitely a trip designed for people who want to get out and really experience nature, and challenge themselves, and learn a little something along the way.

If you’re planning a trip to Sydney and you want to get out of the city, away from the hordes of tourists, and connect to the great outdoors, I would definitely recommend booking a trip to the Blue Mountains with Barefoot Downunder. You could technically get there by yourself, and the trails are clearly marked once you reach the mountains, but there really is no replacement for a knowledgeable guide who is passionate about their work and the land. If you’re feeling daring, they actually offer an overnight trip to the mountains too! Plus, it takes a pretty special experience to turn a group of 20 complete strangers into friends in less than 12 hours.

best blue mountains tour

Sydney’s Blue Mountains; an adventure traveler’s paradise

FIGURE 8 POOLS DAY TRIP – THE HASSLE FREE WAY!

The Figure 8 Pools at Sydney’s southern doorstep have become a hotspot for intrepid travellers in recent summers. Their popularity now placing them up there with must-see natural phenomenon like the Three Sisters and the Jenolan Caves. Despite this, I’d never visited them! As such, a Figure 8 Pools Day Trip had become a must-do on my Sydney bucket list!

FIGURING IT ALL OUT

What had stopped me so far? It’s a bit of a trek, no pun intended. You see, these beautiful sea-side rock pools aren’t the easiest to get to. Public transport will only get you so far. So a car is definitely a necessity. As are some good hiking boots, plus some insider knowledge on how to access the pools (the old hiking track listed on national parks signs has been closed since earlier this year meaning access is unmarked). Furthermore, the pools are only accessible during low tide. Oh, and did I mention how dangerous it can be? As Adam, our local guide, informed us, there’s at least 1 rescue there a week and the only way in and out is on a helicopter!

That’s why I opted to give the only folks operating a Figure 8 Pools day trip a go. Yep, you read that right. There’s only ONE tour that goes here. We didn’t encounter a single other tour group on our Figure 8 Pools day trip! That’s quite something when compared to the hordes that swarm to the Blue Mountains each day.

THE ONE AND ONLY

figure 8 pools

The Sydney Coastal Adventure tour is run by a husband and wife team. One half of that team, Adam, is our guide for the day. An ex-surf instructor and adventure guy, he brings a passion and sense of spontaneity to the day. There’s no script reading here so when he sees our small group huffing and puffing from the heat he doesn’t mind suggesting a little unplanned dip at Burning Palms beach. He’s also a champ and seems to barely break a sweat carrying 18kg of water for us on our strenuous hike to the Figure 8 Pools on a 36* Celsius day!

STAYING COOL AT WATTAMOLLA

wattamolla royal national park

Yep, it was a hot one. The hottest day that Adam has had to do the trek! Thankfully, the day starts off early and we manage to beat much of the heat at our first stop at Bald Hill where we get a stunning vista of the south coast and the wide expanse of Pacific Ocean in front of us.

After this quick little stop we head down to Wattamolla, another area that had been on my Sydney must do list! The beautiful little haven in the Royal National Park gives us a chance for a little reprieve from the building heat. Floating under over-hanging gum trees and sandstone rock outcrops I suddenly have that moment: “Wow, this really IS a beautiful country!”

After a lunch of wraps for both veggie and meat eaters at local surf spot, Garie Beach, Adam gets us to throw ourselves under the beach side showers. Staying cool on our hike to the pools is going to be crucial!

HIKING THROUGH THE ROYAL NATIONAL PARK

hiking trips royal national park

I’ll admit that before this day I had no idea the length nor difficulty of the walk to the Figure 8 Pools. I was rather ignorant and so too it would seem were many others. I lost count of the amount of travellers who we passed who were hiking through rocky terrain with nothing but thongs (flip flops) on! We even passed two girls who had done the entire hike there and back through the rainforest, shrubbery and slippery coastal cliff faces in nothing but their bikinis! So this is me, telling you, if you decide to do a Figure 8 Pools day trip, whether on your own or with this awesome team – be prepared!

The heat didn’t help of course. But with a mixture of water stops, a brief beach interlude at Burning Palms beach and picture stops we make it down to the pools in about an hour. The hike itself is simply stunning and the view down to Burning Palm beach from above is a reminder of just how many secret and serene beaches are hidden along Sydney’s coast.

figure 8 pools royal national park

DIVING RIGHT IN

figure 8 pools royal national park
figure eight pool

We make it! We spy a crowd gathering at a certain point and it doesn’t take much figuring out to guess which insta-famous rock pool everyone’s busy taking snaps over. Adam, however, urges us further along to a spot free of happy snappers. He shows us his favourite of the pools; a series of perfectly circular pools that have mashed together to form a beautiful blue natural infinity pool. After some exploring of the other pools I decided that this was my favourite of the lot too!

FUN FACT!

If you look closely, in all of the rounded or spherical pools you’ll see a rock at the bottom. When the tide comes in and out the rocks rotate in circles thus creating the perfectly formed circlular pools you see today! How cool?!

 Our small group has the infinity pool all to ourselves. It’s deep enough in parts to jump into and calm enough to just chill out in. It was exactly what I needed after the hike – a refreshing dip in icy clear waters! We then venture over to the crowd (though really, it’s nothing – about 7 people or so, if you can call that a crowd?) around the Figure 8 Pool. Once the requisite travel snaps have been taken it’s time to explore the other pools. While the Figure 8 Pool is the only one shaped like the namesake, there are plenty of other beautifully round pools to admire and take a dip in, as well as larger pools perfect for plunging in to.
swimming in the royal national park

We spend a solid 1 and a half hours at the pools. This place isn’t just a photo opportunity. I definitely recommend exploring, or if that’s not your thing, then simply relaxing. It’s an uphill hike back!

Naturally, the way out and up is longer and more arduous. We make it though, having gone through all our water!  Thankfully, the next drink we get is an ice-cold beer back at Side-Bar in Sydney. After all that hiking, I feel like I’ve earned it!

 THE LOW-DOWN
 This tour is good for: the adventurous traveller looking for a unique Sydney day trip.

This tour isn’t so good for: the clumsy or not-so fit. A moderate level of fitness is definitely required.

royal national park tours
 SHARE THE ADVENTURE!
figure eight pools tours

6

Abby

Abby

Founder. Avid traveller. History dork. Waiting for someone to invent teleportation so I can do more of this thing they call travel.
blue mountain tours

BLUE MOUNTAINS- BAREFOOT DOWN UNDER, NEW SOUTH WALES

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The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region located in New South Wales, around a two hour drive from Sydney’s CBD.

blue mountains day trip

Thus, the best way to visit them if you are a tourist, without your own transport, is through a guided tour. As usual, Nathan and I only went to book our Blue Mountains tour the night before and unsurprisingly almost all of them were sold out. Luckily, we found one website which still had places- Barefoot Down Under. The website promises that this is not your average bus tour, in that it is more active and ‘off the beaten track’. This could not have been more true!

We arrived at our bus at half 7 to be met by our tour guide, Adam- who was possibly the most Australian person I have ever come across. We were pretty exhausted and slumped into our seats ready to fall asleep for the ride. But Adam had other ideas. As we waited for the rest of our group, Adam placed a black rubber snake on the pavement next to the bus. There were some brilliant reactions from passers by and we knew we’d let ourselves in for a hilarious day.

As we drove along, Adam told amusing stories about his own life in Australia and pointed out our surroundings along with fun facts and personal anecdotes about them, that your standard tour guide just wouldn’t do. He even pulled over to show us a spot where tonnes of wild kangaroos were grazing- his local knowledge was insanely good. Although my photography of the moment was insanely bad.

blue mountains see kangaroos

The first official destination on our Blue Mountains adventure was Wentworth Falls- a beautiful cascading waterfall. We had an intense hike down some very steep and uneven old stone steps and I was wondering why we couldn’t have gone to somewhere more easily accessible. However, all my negativity evaporated the minute I saw the breathtaking falls and the incredible view out over the valley beyond.

hiking tours blue mountains

blue mountains tours

It was 100% worth the trek (although I would’t have admitted that on the intense hike back up), my glutes and calves were on fire, but my eyes were in heaven.

hiking in the blue mountains

On our ascent back up, we went along Charles Darwin walk and passed a smaller waterfall there which was also stunning- I could never tire of seeing natural wonders such as waterfalls.

hiking blue mountain tour

Once we finally made it back up to the top, we collapsed back onto the coach and headed to the Three Sisters- three rugged sandstone peaks set among the cliffs of the Jamison Valley. The view from Echo Point, where we were dropped off, was unbelievable. We also walked along the track to stand right next to the Three Sisters, where the history and natural beauty of them feels truly special.

blue mountains hiking tour

blue mountains hiking tour

Adam’s incredible knowledge also spanned into aboriginal culture and dreamtime stories- he told us the fascinating beliefs of the aboriginals, who believe that the Three Sisters were turned to stone by a witchdoctor, for their own protection, during a major tribal battle. They remain in stone forever as the witchdoctor was killed in the battle. I’m obsessed with mythical stories and the aboriginal dreamtime stories that Adam told us were absolutely magical and enhanced our experience even further.

blue mountains tour echo point

Whilst in the Three Sisters area, we also headed to an aboriginal cultural centre, where Adam taught us how to play the Didgeridoo- an indigenous Australian wind instrument that can produce some lovely music but also sounds very amusing if you can’t play it well. And we definitely could not play it well!

echo point waradah cultural centre

Our final stop of the day was at ‘Scenic World’. Scenic World has the steepest railway in the world and some other rides and general tourist attractions, which most tours would take you on. Adam offered us the option, but also said that they were very overpriced and not worthwhile when you could trek through the stunning scenery on foot for free. We took his advice and headed down to Katoomba Falls.

Although it was still a very active walk, Katoomba falls was more easily accessible than the first stop and you hardly noticed the walk, as by this point everyone had made friends and we were all enjoying chatting away and getting to know each other. Adam also made a mission of finding a Funnel Web spider to show us- a huge deadly Australian native, that although gross, was definitely cool to see.

blue mountains hiking

When we arrived at Katoomba Falls, it too was just as beautiful as the other waterfalls. It was made even more beautiful as a swarm of cockatoos came to greet us all the way up there. Adam was definitely some sort of animal whisperer as the birds just flock towards him on instinct.

blue mountains hiking trip

blue mountains hiking trip

wildlife tours blue mountains

Our final stop of the day was at Lincoln’s Rock- Adam’s favourite spot which he had been hyping up all day. At Lincoln’s Rock, he showed us how to ‘safely’ take a picture hanging off the edge, with the most stunning backdrop imaginable. Not everyone was up for the dare, but both Nathan and I thought it was too good of an experience to miss out on.

blue mountains fun tour

best blue mountains tour

I was certain I was going to blow straight off the edge and although I was shaking uncontrollably, the view was the best ever and I was so proud of myself for once again stepping out of my comfort zone- something which has become common place for me now!

The tour was definitely one of the best days we have had in Australia so far. It was completely full-on, exhilarating, and exhausting, but so worth every second, every step and every penny.

If you are thinking about exploring the Blue Mountains- please do head onto Barefoot Down Under’s website– run by Adam himself and his partner. The company is just a year old but we couldn’t have asked for a better and more fulfilling experience. Adam’s knowledge of plants, indigenous animals, aboriginal culture and the history of the land, along with his natural Aussie humour, was unbeatable.

best blue mountains tour

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PUBLISHED BY SHAKIRASACKS

Shakira Sacks is an England-based lifestyle blog with a huge emphasis on worldwide travel and a heavy dose of fashion and beauty thrown into the mix. Many travel blogs show beautiful images of mesmerising landscapes and cultural experiences; this blog is more than that. To entice you into the deepest realms of wanderlust, Shakira Sacks will combine travel, beauty, fashion, food and a sprinkling of more serious lifestyle posts to reveal exactly what travelling can be like for modern women in her twenties.

Blue Mountains- Barefoot Down Under, New South Wales

backpacker tour sydney

The Golden Backpack Awards are the original and most established awards dedicated to the independent travel sector! Barefoot Downunder is super pumped to be nominated for ‘Best Tour Activity in NSW’ in the Golden Backpacker Awards which will be held in the Gold Coast, this November 2016.

These events show off the best of the best in the adventure and backpacking sector. The Golden Backpack awards, ITE and ABiC are built on over 30 years of TNT being a leading voice of this industry sector and celebrates 20 years of being at the forefront of travel industry events.

2016 sees the 10th Golden Backpack Awards ceremony take place alongside the Independent Travel Exchange (ITE) and the Adventure Travel and Backpacker Industry Conference (ABiC) which, celebrates it’s 21st year.

After entering the awards through a simple nominating process, the awards are consumer voted following a national campaign in TNT Magazine, on www.tntdownunder.com and www.tntmagazine.com and their social media channels.

The voting process is closely monitored and supplemented by secret shopper assessments, and winners are announced on 10th November at the Q1 Resort in the Gold Coast.

Lets get voting now!

Figure 8 Pools

First time I came across Figure 8 Pools was in an article and since then I always wanted to visit this geological spectacle. Finally, I got an opportunity and the next thing I know is that I am on a bus on my way to Figure 8 Pools.

So, what is ‘Figure 8 Pools’ ?

Figure 8 Pools is a cluster of naturally formed rock pools located in coastal headlands in Sydney’s Royal National Park. Royal National Park (which Aussie’s lovingly call as ‘Nasho’), is located 40 mins away from Sydney and is the second oldest National Park in the world (after Yellow Stone).

My trip started at sharp 7:30 am on a Sunday morning from Central. The drive was around 40 mins until we reached Garrawara Farm.

The Track

It was the perfect day with bright sun. From the Garrawara Farm Car Park we headed towards Burning Palms beach down the hill.

Figure 8 Pools Track

The trail begins with  tall trees turning into lush green bushes and the amazing views of the coastal line.

Figure 8 Pools Coastal view

The refreshing walk takes you to the Burning Palms Beach in around 45 mins.

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We took a short break at the beach and it was the perfect time for some beautiful pictures. Very thoughtful of the team to ensure we are at the right place at the right time of the day to take the perfect pictures!

From the beach, the coastal walk continues towards the right-hand side (south) but this time, it is sharp rocks and steep edges we have to walk through. This is the hardest part of the track.

Figure 8 Pool Rocky Patch

En-route to the pools are the rocky patches & sharp stones covered with seaweeds, Neptune’s necklace, and little starfishes.

Figure 8 Pool - Neptune's necklace

Another 30 minutes of the walk, you are in for a beautiful sight of the naturally formed figure 8 pool.

Figure 8 Pools

Apart from the big pool which is clearly defined, there are few others which are under formation. Also few of them are big enough for a short swim. A great location for photography too.

Figure 8 Pools

Access to the pools is safe only when it is low tide as the waves can crash across the rock platforms. We were visiting at the end of winter and during the first half of the day which allowed us to view the pools in isolation. However, it seems to be a crowded place in summer.

Wanderer’s Tip 

  • It is advised to check the wave size & tide height before traveling to the pool as it is risky otherwise
  • Though public transport is available it will be safer to travel with an experienced group
  • There are no food or toilet facilities available anywhere along the route from the Garrawarra Farm car park.
  • There is no lifeguard service available
  • Phone reception is limited and almost non-existent at certain areas.

Figure 8 Pools

After a nice dip in the rock pools, we headed back. The return hike is uphill which is quite steep, I would allow enough time for the return.

Figure 8 Pools

We headed to Stanwell Tops Park where we were offered a freshly barbecued Australian lunch by the crew. The food was yummy and generous to fill our hungry & tired tummies.

Australian Barbeque

Next location was Wattamolla which is 40 mins away from here . On the way, we spotted the glimpse of  whales in the ocean, though from far away. Wattamolla has a great view point which is easily accessible as well as a beach and a cliff. After spending some time in Wattamolla we returned back to Central. At the end of the

Wattamolla has a great view point which is easily accessible as well as a beach and a cliff. After spending some time in Wattamolla we returned back to Central. At the end of the day, we were offered a drink at the nearest Pub.

Wattamolla

Overall it was a great day. Wonderful team of Adam, Smokey & Debbie at Barefoot Downunder made sure the trip is enjoyable for everyone (special mention to the Aussie humour!) This carefully tailored trip ensures the visitors get a good view of the best outdoor locations in Sydney and is a definite value for money.

Why You Wander was welcomed to Figure 8 Pools by www.barefootdownunder.com.au, however, all opinions are my own!

Here is your chance to win a tour to the Figure Eight Pools in the Royal National Park with Barefoot Downunder! It is super easy to enter all you need to do is head to our Facebook page and ‘like’ us and ‘share’ our post. Winners will be announced on Saturday morning 🙂

 The Figure 8 Pools is a natural rock shelf found in the worlds second oldest National Park – the Royal National Park which is just 45 minutes south of Sydney. It can be reached only on foot and can take around 3 hours return to hike down and back. Check out our new Figure 8 Pools Coastal Adventure Tour on our website for inclusions and all trip details.

Figure Eight pools trip