Katoomba is a good spot if you have been meaning to use the phrase ‘rarified mountain air’ but never get the opportunity.
Katoomba reminded us of a town called Strathpeffer where we stayed when we were in Scotland. Both are Victorian era mountain towns with amazing established trees and long histories as tourist destinations. Both are also the kind of place where you can see an incredible view and then buy a tea towel with a picture of that view to remind you of what a good time you had, until it gets filthy (the towel, that is).
Much of Katoomba is typical New South Wales country town and if you look around you can find ‘country’ local guys with thick necks watching the rugby league over schooners of Tooheys New in the front bar. I say ‘country’ local to distinguish from ‘inner city’ local, by which I mean fairly trendy people who have moved up from Sydney to live there. And there are lots of these. The second-hand record shop is called ‘Velvet Fog’, for instance.
Further, the place is also a magnet for hippies. Every winter it gets overrun by pagan people who would like you to believe that they can do magic. (I have never actually spoken to one of these but I have seen the pained grimaces on the faces of people who refer to them). In addition there are outdoor education enthusiasts, and health and fitness freaks, confused German tourists, daytrippers from Sydney, cancer survivors who will eat only organic vegetables, and various other categories of folk looking to take in the rarifed mountain air (hooray!).
To complete the mix you get the ‘outer-city’ locals, a mix of single parents, long term unemployed, and the drug-addled. We sat fascinated by a conversation in the train on the way up: “You are a hopeless junkie, Merlin, but I love you for who you are on the inside. So lets get married and have children so we can get lots of money from my rich grandmother in America.” Kirsty tells me that eavesdropping on such conversations is de rigeur on the Central-Lithgow line.
The other place of which Katoomba reminded me (of) was Daylesford in Victoria, which is a similar distance from Melbourne as Katoomba is from Sydney, and has healing springs and a tourist tradition dating back to Victorian times. You can still swim in the same old baths where the old Victorian dears used to soak themselves in the hope it would cure what ailed them, and still breathe the same rarified mountain air. Furthermore, it has that same feeling of being like an inner city hip-strip that someone has plonked down in the middle of a country town.
Anyway, we love Katoomba. For me it feels like coming home, even though I have never lived there. Autumn leaves, foggy breath, rusted tin rooves and boots crunching on gravel are really my kind of thing and it was nice to dose up on all that before coming back here. My boots haven’t seen much use in Honiara.
Here are some pics to finish off with. Both of these places are on Lurline Street where we stayed. My ideal mountain house woud somehow have the cuteness of the rusted one without any of the stuctural flaws or repair costs. The trees in the other photo would be adequate.