We had planned to rent a car the next day, to take a day out, away, to talk, walk, and to contemplate all that we had seen and experienced so far. The Lord was continuing to speak to us personally, individually and as a couple, but also now as leaders and for our church back home. Our days had been full since hitting the ground in Sydney, meeting pastors and leaders, asking questions, listening, watching, observing, attending services and meetings, taking notes; when everything is new, exciting and there’s so much to see and take in you need time to reflect in order for it to be beneficial. We both felt we needed time to gather our thoughts, to breathe and to pray. Several people had recommended we visit the Blue Mountains which were within a few hours access from the North West suburbs of Sydney where we were based; so with a few recommendations, place-names, GPS/Sat-Nav, maps and a motel booking this is where we headed for 24 hours.
Australia’s a funny place, and Australians (whether local or localized) are funny folk. In both the ha-ha and peculiar way it would seem. Just as well too – who’d want to travel half-way around the world just to see more of the same ordinariness and feel at home? Well, we didn’t, but it would seem some do! Let me explain: Katoomba – a town which had been described to us by several city-folk in Sydney as “quaint… olde worldy… you’ll love it!” we found to be queer, mouldy, worldly, we wanted to leave it… as fast as we could.
It just reminded us of sad and dreary has-been towns in the North of England we’d pass through, quickly, en route to somewhere less depressing. Maybe in hindsight we did not look close enough, but I guess if you’re a fan of the Industrial Revolution and are pining for a dirty brick-house mill-town, where unemployment is topping 50%, exemplified by bottle brandishing bristly men sitting on benches along the roadside, and where wiping tables and sweeping floors in eateries are not considered as essential then you’ll find Katoomba the quintessential embodiment of your dreams, a quaint and nostalgic reminder of that type of place, in a warped kind of way! We were not pining in this way as it turns out.
And so, having journeyed for a few hours with high hopes, and arrived at Katoomba, we parked the car and looked for somewhere to have lunch. I was conscious of my masculine duty to hunt for a suitable establishment that would suit my feminine mate’s delicate tastes. Not necessarily overtly romantic – we’d leave that for dinner – but maybe quaint, hospitable, clean and serving decent soup.
We walked past what resembled a redundant factory and then found the main street which had several establishments of a certain ilk, full of men who looked like they once been in the employ of aforementioned factory and were now semi-permanent fixtures in aforementioned establishments. We walked on and continued to look for somewhere without perhaps the radio blaring, without a laminated menu including photos of the food (hinting perhaps that pictures were necessary in order to identify the alimentation – although how many pictures of a burger and chips do you really need?) somewhere maybe with clean windows, chairs and floors, with welcoming decor, perhaps with a view – was that too much to ask?
Perhaps so. I kept on arriving first at a cafe door and peering in, only to find it did not look inviting, clean or quiet, and turning to Judith to say “Er… no, let’s walk on!” Eventually, Judith said “Look, I’m hungry. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a bit greasy-spoon. Let’s just eat at the next place.” So without further ado, we found ourselves walking in to the next cafe, Judith first, confidently slipping me a “This’ll be fine!” as we enter; we managed about 6 steps, roughly half-way into the place, when Judith looked around, saw the tables, smelt the air, noticed the staff, felt the stickiness of the furry flooring-material, and promptly blurted “No. Not here.” And so we left.
We did eventually find a place which was, apart from a dirty glass, an exceedingly unruly infant, the farts of an old man, and half of the 8 item-menu being unavailable, just about bearable. But it did not register on the quaint scale.
Why had people sent us here? We walked to the Visitor Centre after lunch in search of an answer. We were offered a bus drive to a cable-car, a guided tour costing a small fortune, and suitable insect-proof clothing and guide-books to purchase in case we were thinking of camping out in the woods. We headed back to the car.
“Let’s try and find the motel we booked for tonight” I said, in an attempt to sound optimistic.
It was meant to be on the edge of Katoomba. Most of Katoomba had appeared to be a bit edgy so far. The most positive comment we could make was that it resembled in certain places the kind of frontiersville of a Wild West, but one where the wild had sadly metamorphosed into woebegone. It seemed to lack the charming eccentricity of Garrison Keillor. Maybe if we’d stayed longer it would have grown on us, but it did not seem as endearing as “Lake Wobegon, the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve.”
So, with slight trepidation, we set out in search of the Motel. The directions we had printed out from the website turned out to be not a little vague; they did not seem to match up with GPS coordinates or map markings, also road names seemed to have changed; perhaps new roads been built recently. We got a little lost. Rather fortuitously, it turned out, because we stumbled across some exceedingly beautiful scenery, and then some simply stunning vistas, and then we found Echo Point and now we realised exactly why people had sent us out here!
Wow and double wow!
Natural beauty, just the way God created it, has that ability to just take your breath away. The Blue Mountains live up to their name, and what a landscape, what a view! In driving up the way we came from Sydney we had evidently bypassed any scenic views. Then, the disappointment of Katoomba, sold to us as art deco but which turned out to be more fart wreck-o for us. Now, suddenly, just around the corner we caught a glimpse of the real reason we ought to spend a day and a night here.
Moreover, just a few paces from the view at Echo Point we discovered Leura, a pretty little one-street town which, despite being perhaps a tad pastiche, did register on the quaint scale for us (we returned here for a romantic dinner at Silks brasserie!) So, without further ado we spent the rest of the day walking, talking, looking, observing, sitting, sipping (tea and beer), listening, watching the wildlife, taking an amazing sky-ride in a cable car across a ravine (with a friendly, personal tour-guide – Judith and I ended up being the only passengers!)
Thus we were able to find the space and environment to contemplate all that God was saying and doing in our lives; and the whole ‘Katoomba experience’ made me think how sometimes we are led into situations which seem disappointing or even depressing when just around the corner is the real deal, which, maybe we might miss if we gave up searching, gave up moving onwards.
Don’t give up! Keep searching, keep moving on!