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Lifestyle : Spring In The Blue Mountains
1HERSA1 S003 Escape to the outdoors Warmer weather makes now the ideal time for a mountains adventure, writes Megan Johnston. Back to nature . . . learn more about indigenous culture by taking an interpretive walk. With so many chic boutiques, luxury lodgings and top- notch restaurants, the Blue Mountains may seem a refined sort of destination. But venture a few steps beyond virtually any street and you'll find it's not all scones and tea. From quiet pleasures to exciting escapes, a huge range of adventures awaits outdoor types of all persuasions. Best of all, most are only a few hours from Sydney and are accessible via public transport. In fact, picnics are one of the main attractions for visitors, says Sandy Holmes, who co-ordinates guided walks, talks and tours within the region's seven national parks. ''It sounds so simple but it's that idea of people wanting to connect with nature in a safe way,'' she says. ''In a landscape of more than 1 million hectares, it's really easy to find peace and solitude.'' Bushwalking and mountain biking are popular active pursuits, while nature lovers, such as campers, birdwatchers and photographers, can find a huge variety of plants and animals within the vast World Heritage-listed wilderness. ''You're looking at a hugely diverse area of geology, wildlife and habitats,'' Holmes says. For the culturally inclined, the mountains are a great way to learn about indigenous culture. Aboriginal discovery rangers host guided walks, teaching people about bush tucker and medicine, while a commercial Aboriginal guide, Evan Yanna Muru, also leads interpretive walks via his company Blue Mountains Walkabout. For those with an ecological bent, Tread Lightly eco tours offers bushwalks, four-wheel-drive trips and tailored tours that examine different aspects of landscape, astronomy, fauna and flora, each with an interactive, sensory focus. One popular tour takes visitors to a remote area for breakfast among kangaroos and other wildlife. ''We base our tours on fitness level and interest so some people may wanttodoaseverehike. . .orhavea nice two-hour stroll,'' says the owner Tim Tranter. As for action sports, the rugged plateaus, sheer cliffs and deep ravines invite abseilers, rock climbers and other adrenalin seekers. Canyoning has a particularly large following, says the owner of High n Wild Mountain Adventures, Aidan McGarry. It combines many different skills, taking people through valleys, down water jumps and through swimming areas. ''There are more than 600 canyons here and 2500 kilometres of escarpments -- it's just a big playground really,'' he says. Demand is also growing for bush survival courses. One new service, called Commando Experience, offers tailored wilderness adventures that teach military-style team-building skills, while High n Wild courses focus on bush basics and building confidence. Regardless of the activity, McGarry says visitors walk away with much more. ''You can discover a great philosophy in the bush that you can't discover anywhere else,'' he says. ''The bush is a great teacher and you can discover so many great things out there.'' See wildwildworld.com.au, wildwalks.com, treadlightly.com.au, high-n-wild.com.au, bluemountainswalkabout.com and environment.nsw.gov.au. The Sydney Morning Herald Friday, October 8, 2010 3 SPECIAL REPORT Follow the leaders on a guided tour Self-guided activities sound like a lot of fun but if you're not confident exploring the bush, it's best to join a guided tour, says Sandy Holmes, a Discovery Tour co-ordinator with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. From beginner level to advanced, they offer a better way to safely enjoy adventure sports, access local expertise and limit environmental harm. The national parks service offers a range of bushwalks and activities, as do many commercial operators. For horse fans, there's Centennial Glen Stables, Werriberri Trail Rides and Megalong Valley Farm. Youcantakearideona Harley-Davidson with Blue Thunder DownUnder, join a four-wheel-drive tour with Misty Mountains or take in the sights on the Scenic Railway and Cableway. Companies such as River Deep Mountain High and Life's An Adventure cater for all sorts, such as campers, hikers, cyclists, photographers and abseilers.
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