SketchingNow Adventure: Blue Mountains

November 26, 2014 | 3 Comments

Last Friday I headed west – to the Blue Mountains for a day of exploring and sketching. It was a scorching day of 40C in Sydney but thankfully it was only a bearable 32C up in ‘the mountains’. The Blue Mountains are not technically mountains. they are a ‘dissected plateau’ with the settlement on the narrow ridge bounded by sandstone cliffs on either side. It is famous for the very strong blue colour caused by the eucalypts haze.

I have grown up with day visits and week long trips to the region with a big emphasis on ‘bushwalks’ (Australian for hikes – or easy hikes). I haven’t been on a proper bushwalk for years but it is always nice to see some bush.

My adventures on this day included

  • Morning cafe visit at Leura
  • Echo Point and The Three Sisters at Katoomba
  • Cahills Lookout
  • High Tea at the Hydro Majestic
  • Pulpit Rock

This is a long post… so I better get cracking!

First stop Leura – I wanted to visit a well known cafe called Leura Garage but sadly they were not open till 12 noon.

So I headed down the street and re-visited The Red Door Cafe. We are looking at shapes this week in my Foundations course, so I started my Mushroom and Polenta with a shape.

And here is the finished spread. I think I am starting a trend for brunch on these SketchingNow Adventures.  I did a quick wander of the shops before moving on to my next destination!

Next stop: Echo Point. I really dislike what they have done to the lookout… so this photo was taken as a protest to the unbearably uninviting expanse of pavement. I have no doubt that the insane number of tour buses are part of the reason for it. No matter how many times you have seen them, The Three Sisters always look good.

And… I always enjoy sketching them – even in the midday sun. It was hot!

I was a little worried about the weather forecast as only last week there was a bushfire (maybe more than one fire?) in this area but it seemed all clear at that moment. I haven’t fully planned my day but I thought I would re-visit another rock formation which doesn’t get much exposure as these three girls do. I am referring to Boar’s Head which you can see from Cahills Lookout.

The usual drive along Cliff Drive suddenly changed. Oh! this is where the bush fire was last week.

A quick sketch from the comfort of my car with the air conditioning on….

So barren and bare and still with a smell of ash. Hmm, I might not be able to do that walk…

Indeed…there was no way I could make it down to the lookout…

 But I still got to see ‘the pig’ (as I call Boar’s Head) from the road.

I suddenly looked across the road – yes the fire had crossed the road – but what about those houses?
Sadly one of the houses here had been lost. I don’t like to be ‘nosy’ but I couldn’t help taking a quick photo of the house and the melted garbage bin! Oh! so sorry for these people. The neighbours on either side were fine.

 Just when I was about to head off I noticed the ground. The only thing that had survived the fire were cans and bottles – obviously many people drink at this spot and discard their waste into the bush.
Although only a week past the first new growth had already appeared. I don’t know what this plant is – does anyone know? All kinds of amazing lush growth and wild flowers appear on the bush floor within weeks (or even days) of a fire.

It was getting hotter and hotter so time to go somewhere cooler… how about the newly renovated Hydro Majestic? Wow! they have painted it white.

It has been very tastefully renovated but somehow my old associations were still strong – run-down, tacky colours, the feeling that its glory days were past. I sat in the foyer and sketched in ink and watercolour pencil. I probably could have risked using watercolour but I didn’t feel like moving… so I stuck to dry media.

I then decided it was time for afternoon tea – I didn’t actually want high tea but stupidly forgot that most fancy hotels ONLY offer the full thing. I afterwards discovered there is a cafe attached to the hotel – that would have suited me better.

The High Tea was lovely – the staff were too – but I just find high tea too much food and way too sweet. Oh I need to do a walk now…

But before I left – a crazy quick sketch of the building. The heavy handed colour could be a sign of two things 1. too much heavy sweet food  or 2. just so out of character to have a pure white Hydro – my mind is thinking about it in pink or orange or… what was the colour before?

Ok…time for the big ticket item of the day – My favourite spot in the Blue Mountains. Pulpit Rock. Perhaps it is my favourite place of all time?
Not many people know of this place!

But first I had to drive on a dirt track (thankfully not too many pot holes, though it is SO hard to see with all that spotty shadow on the road) and then a walk in the bush. Ah! I love the sight of the sunlit gum trees with the deep blue in the background. I really need to get out in the bush more.

And here it is… a dramatic viewing spot.

Totally deserted with the whole valley to myself! What a treat!

I have once timed my visit here so that the afternoon sun was still on the rock but the whole valley was in shadow causing it to look like you were walking down into an abyss. I was a little early for that this time, but oh! still so dramatic.

Time for a sketch… it was blowing a gale (a very warm gale) so I worked quickly on this one (why do I need to say that?…when do I ever work slowly??)

And then an even quicker sketch as I started my climb back up to the carpark – ok, fatigue has hit.

It was a VERY hot walk back to my car… I have forgotten how hot one gets bushwalking in summer climbing a mountain. Ok, this was not a mountain – just a short stroll – and I didn’t really feel that puffed at the top…but for those of you that read my notes my face stayed red for 30 minutes.

And then the drive back… ah! cricket on the radio! What a great day.

Can anyone guess where I will be headed this week – or at least what direction?
So far I have been south, then north, then west. Ooops! stealing my own thunder!


  • Alissa Duke says:

    A great blog post about your day. I just wan to sit down and chat with you about it. iT would hve been fun to be there too. Those bushfire photos are a real shock to look at and a scary reminder of the summer season to come. I think the plant might be a xanthoria ? (except on ground level instead of the black tree root) ,
    I have only been past the Hotel Majestic and had hoped to see it restored one day. But I agree that it still has the look of faded glory. I am sure that was not what the new owners hoped for.

    I hope that you enjoyed your time there and there was a bit of "me time" for you

  • What exquisite photos and what looks to have been an amazing day. I remember seeing Mt. St. Helens in WA about 10 or so years after it erupted and the land looked much the same. There were minute traces of new green as plants were finally beginning to try to come back to the area. I always hate to hear of those who lose their homes in fires. So heartbreaking!

  • Sue Pownall says:

    Great post. The tarmac and bush fire photos are awful. The effect of man and nature both terrible.

    I need to head to the photo albums as I remember visiting the 3 sisters and somewhere else in the Blue Mountains, but no idea where.

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