Saturday, July 07, 2012

24 May 2012: The Boutique Mountain Tours

Blue Mountains. Three Sisters from Echo Point.

When I was visiting Sydney in May 2012, aside from hoping to reconnect with a few of my friends who are living in Sydney, one of the other objectives that I hope to achieve was to spend some time to be closer to Nature. A part of me would like to know more about the Aboriginal culture as well.

The wish to spend time closer to Nature and to learn about the Aboriginal culture led me to chance upon a few tours that somewhat met my area of interest. I was deciding between the Boutique (Blue) Mountain Tours and the Northern Beaches Cultural Heritage Tour. I was more attracted to the latter but the issue of a lack of clarity of the tour details led me to chose the former. Furthermore, I was travelling alone and did not intend to form the minimum size of eight persons to book the Northern Beaches Cultural Heritage Tour.

At the aboriginal culture centre of Muru Mittigar.

What had made the Boutique Mountain Tours enticing to me were the visit to the aboriginal culture centre of Muru Mittigar at the base of the Blue Mountains which would give the guests hands-on insights into the Aboriginal culture. In addition, the tour is said to take its guests to enjoy the views of Blue Mountains from the smaller, secluded lookouts. I was also looking out for the possibility to see some of Australia's wildlife in the wild at the Blue Mountains National Park.

Making reservations online for the Boutique Mountain Tours was generally easy. When I encountered a challenge with my reservation and emailed Boutique Tours, I appreciated the fact that I received a reply within the following working day. On the day of the tour, there was a bus service that collected me punctually  from the hotel that I had stayed in. I had nice vibes of the other guests on the same tour as some of them graciously introduced themselves to me to make me feel at ease with the rest of the group.

At the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre.

On the way to our first stop for the day, our tour guide and driver gave us commentaries about Sydney and the interesting landmarks that we saw along the way. Before we knew it, we were at our first stop, the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre. Located at 89 - 151 Old Castlereagh Road, Castlereagh, NSW 2749, the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre was first opened in 1998 as an initiative of the Aboriginal Community of Western Sydney. The centre "acknowledges the Darug people as the traditional custodians of the local area while creating an environment that maintains Aboriginal Cultural Heritage" (view source).

At the centre, our Aboriginal guide gave us a warm welcome and an introduction to the Aboriginal culture. We learnt about the concepts of family tribes. We were also given an overview to the new Aboriginal map and the "old map". I was reminded that the connection to the land was an important concept in the Aboriginal culture. Our guide also spoke about the concepts of "similar but different 'nations' in the Aboriginal Australia."

The intriguing "old map".

During our stay at the centre, our guide allowed us to touch and learn about the use of various hunting tools used by the Aboriginals. We learnt about tools from spears, boomerangs, clubs and more. One of the more interesting things that I had learnt was that boomerangs could be used to mimic flying eagles so as to scare the birds and then run them up with nets being cast from above. Our tour at the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre concluded with a performance by our Aboriginal host on the didgeridoo. I was pretty delighted and enchanted by the raw yet organic sounds from the didgeridoo.

Performance on the didgeridoo.

The weather for 24 May 2012 in Sydney was less than ideal for a traveller who would prefer good weather. The rain started showering the earth just before lunch hours. On such a wet day, the views appear misty at most of the lookouts. The first lookout that we went to was the Kings Tableland. The wind was very strong that I had to brave against it. Thankfully, our tour guide provided each of us with an umbrella in his attempt to keep us dry. It was breath-taking to be looking out from the Kings Tableland. Nature is so magnificent. I felt so humbled looking out at the valleys from the Kings Tableland.

Our next lookout was Echo Point where we saw the famous Three Sisters. This was my very first time in my life looking out at the Three Sisters while the weather was misty and wet. I was grateful for the alternative perspective of the Three Sisters. During my previous two visits to Echo Point, the weather was bright and clear. The misty and wet weather somehow put a mysterious veil over the Three Sisters, lending the landscape a melancholic atmosphere.

From Govett's Lookout.

Govett's Lookout.

The next lookout that we went to before lunch was the Govett's Leap Lookout. I heard that this is a popular lookout to a number of bushwalks. I recalled visiting it in the year 2008 when I visited Sydney during spring-time. I had to use my imagination to attempt to visualize the falls and the terrain of the mountains.

Lunch at the Conservation Hut. The delicious roasted vegetables on stack.

I was keeping my fingers crossed that weather would be better by lunch time, yet the weather seemed to want me to learn to make the best out of whatever the weather would be. The tour group headed to the Conservation Hut for lunch. Each of us can choose our preferred main course and a drink. I selected the roasted vegetables on stack and I enjoyed it very much. I supposed it was because I love the taste of the roasted vegetables, and I am a lover of fresh and juicy vegetables. 

The Conservation Hut.

The lunch at the Conservation Hut was one of the highlights of the tour because of the views that it offered. Since the views from the Conservation Hut were dependent on the weather, I tried to imagine how beautiful the views would be on a bright and clear day, and tried to enjoy the mysterious view of the Blue Mountains covered under the shroud of fog.

Walking down the valley.

We were supposed to visit other lookouts. However, our tour guide checked with everyone and decided the better option would be to visit the Scenic World. I took the option of walking down the valley to the Scenic Walkway. One thing I had forgotten to do was to do warm-up before my walk down the valley. In the end, I ended up experiencing muscle-aches at my thigh areas and that persisted for close to a week. My lesson learnt: Please do warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after every hike.

The view from the valley. I was awed by Nature's beauty.

The Cableway that led us up.

The rest of the day seemed to be asking me to learn to deal with mild disappointments graciously. The tour was to bring us to Euroka Clearing in the Blue Mountains National Park in the hope for a chance to see some of Australian wildlife. Strangely, we did not see any. Perhaps the wildlife had very effectively camouflaged themselves in the wild? I was disappointed that I did not see any wildlife. Thankfully, the opportunity to be close to Nature and to be in a spacious space relieved me from the disappointments. I chose to enjoy the beauty that Nature has to offer on a misty day. That was possibly a meaningful way to end the tour at the Blue Mountains before the tour group headed back to the city of Sydney.

Looking out for wildlife at the Blue Mountains National Park.

Despite the less than ideal weather condition, I felt that I have enjoyed the tour. The people on the tour were friendly and kind, and the tour guide was thoughtful in looking out for everyone. I did manage to learn a little more about the Aboriginal culture, and I was grateful to spend some time being close to Nature. Somehow, the majesty of Nature heals and inspires.

I count my blessings that my imagination was put to good use during the foggy weather because I could learn to see beyond the shrouds of fog. Actually, the Blue Mountains look mysteriously beautiful during a rainy and misty day.

The view from Govett's Lookout.

Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre
89 - 151 Old Castereagh Road, Castlereagh NSW 2749, Australia
Tel: 61-2-4729-2377

The Conservation Hut
End of Fletcher Street, Wentworth Falls, NSW 2782, Australia
Tel: 61-2-4757-3827
Opens 7 days a week

The Boutique Mountain Tour

Related posts:
18 Nov 2010: The refreshing Blue Mountains
16 Sep 2008: The Three Sisters Formation
16 Sep 2008: The solo hike
16 Sep 2008: The Scenic World Blue Mountains
16 Sep 2008: Breathtaking Blue Mountains
16 Sep 2008: The ride to Katoomba

Also visit: Sydney, May 2012: A time to heal and to be inspired.

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