You know what it’s like – work consumes the majority of your week, you’re always on the go with family/spouse responsibilities and whether you are aware of it or not you are probably spending most of your energy stressing about what you should have done or what you still have to do. You are asking a lot of your mind and body when you are constantly running on this type of anxious energy. I found myself in the same position recently, so a timely trip away at the Blue Mountains turned out to be the wellness weekend.
The spot: If you have never been before then I recommend you add the Blue Mountains to your must see list. I couldn’t believe I had never visited despite living in Sydney my whole life. The trip up is so quick now, especially with the motorways, our drive only took 1 hr 20 mins.
Leura: My partner and I began our first day in the mountains with a walk around Leura, a quaint village town. Its main street had splattering of small cafes, bakeries and some finer restaurants. A small community hall sold honey, handmade beanies and scarves and chatting to the locals showed me that time for them was simply something to guide them from one part of the day to the next. This was a wonderful reminder that although we have to live our regular days by ‘clock time’ you don’t need to live out that same clock in your head.
Mind tip: Don’t let time be a problem, don’t let it create stress. You will get there/do that/ see that/ eat that whenever you do. There is no right or wrong time to do it in.
Being the foodie that I am I had already scoped out a vegetarian café called Rubyfruit for lunch. My partner and I are not vegos by any means, but these cafes always seem to serve something a bit different – plus my body always feels better when it’s had a good dose of vegetables.
The café was small and a single waitress greeted all customers and the sole chef delivered each meal to its designated table. I ordered the Dragon Bowl, a deconstructed salad with soba noodles, avocado, an array of vegetables, grilled tempeh (a new favourite of mine) and a ponzu dressing. We also ordered the Moroccan spiced ‘chicken’ burger, which was actually a piece of Seitan. Never heard of it before? I hadn’t either, but it is made of gluten and has a slightly meaty flavour. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, it has a very similar nutrient profile to tofu and a great protein source for vegetarians.
BODY TIP: Trying something new can be challenging and scary. Something simple as a vegetarian dish will give your body a more nutrient dense meal, topping up your micronutrients giving you more energy.
Katoomba was the next town we visited after our lunch on Day 1. It’s best known for its proximity to the Three Sisters, Scenic World and Echo Point. We took the typical tourist photograph with the mountains in the background – our first realization of how enormous the mountain area actually was. Then we began our first walk of the trip, taking the popular track from Echo Point around to Scenic World and back.
The mountain air was invigorating to say the least. I was a little unprepared for the cool temperatures and couldn’t feel my fingers for most of the afternoon. However the stunning views of distant sandstone cliffs, green carpeted rolling hills and rocky outcrops distracted me from most of my minor complaints.
Mind tip: Complaints are verbal expressions of the negativity of your brain. Why are you letting this mental ‘garbage’ pollute your world and those around you? Acknowledge your negative thought then drop it, like you would anything else that would be causing you pain.
Wentworth Falls is a very small community where we stayed in a roomy studio apartment with a gas fire and giant spa. There isn’t much to see around Wentworth Falls town centre but it wins in terms of location because of its close proximity to the falls and some amazing hiking trails.
Back to Leura.. After a soak in the enormous spa bath and relax by the gas fire we drove 15 minutes back to Leura for dinner at Zest, a modestly priced restaurant that had a modern Australian twist on Mediterranean classics. We shared some spicy prawns for entrée which were on the oily side, a reminder of how rich eating out can be. One Mediterranean tradition they upheld was drizzling olive oil on their bread, two thumbs up from me!
We chased this with their falafel plate that had a small sampling of hummous, tahini dip, roasted eggplant, mashed pumpkin and a spicy chilli relish as well as one of their specials, which was a vegetable ragout served on spiced sweet potato mash and goats yoghurt. It actually inspired me to trial some new spices in my own home cooking.
Food tip: Sweet potato mash is easy enough to do yourself, so elevate yours by experimenting with cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg.(Sorry no photos this time!)
I started day 2 with my first Iyenga yoga class in Katoomba. The class began with a hindu chant before it launched into handstands, balances and stretches. Not only did it provide my body with a great stretch but settled my noisy mind – a great headspace to be in to start the day.
Body tip: Trying a new version of a normal activity creates new movement patterns in your body. You will recruit different muscle fibres that help you strengthen in areas you didn’t know you had.
National Pass Walk: After a sneaky coffee and morning tea we headed back to begin the National Pass Walk at Wentworth Falls. To be honest, this was my favourite part of the weekend. The track took us across to Wentworth Falls, where there are plenty of photo opportunities. It descended down a very steep sandstone staircase (yes, you have to climb up more stairs at the other end) and delivered us to an undercliff path. The track weaved its way underneath waterfalls, through pockets of rainforest and lookouts perched along the way. The scenery was just breath taking. The only sounds were those of the birds. It was just serene.
We powered on, climbing the last set of stairs at the other end with ‘just one more step’ approach. I suggested we sing a song to distract ourselves, but I turned out to be the only voice so resorted to humming in my head so not to disturb the wildlife. We reached the end point, Conservtion Hut, in a very timely manner. I think we power walked more than we realized. We rehydrated and peeled off a few layers, of which I was wearing about five – including gloves. The return trip was nowhere near as strenuous, 20 minutes along the ‘short track’ took us back to the starting point at Wentworth Falls carpark, 5 minutes from our apartment.
Mind/ body tip: Use a mind over matter approach whenever you are challenged. Break down whatever ‘problem’ exists (remember this is one you have created in your head) into smaller pieces and tackle it one step at a time.
We stopped back in Katoomba for a refuel at a local café – between us we tried a very filling breakfast plate with homemade baked beans, eggs, tomato and sourdough and a chicken, avocado and haloumi salad.
Blackheath: We decided to take a drive further west to Blackheath, another small town by the side of the highway. There we took it down a notch and walked a paved path to Govett’s Leap Lookout. We called this this grandma and pram walk in comparison to what we had done earlier. The views from the lookout stretched as far as the eye could see – again, putting things into perspective. We legged it back to the main shops for an afternoon coffee at Anonymous. Many friends had recommended the trendy place to us so we simply had to go, safe to say it did not disappoint. We quickly stopped in the historic antique shop where you can play dress ups in some crazy clothes or pick up a piece of jewelry (if you bring your $$) on our way back to the car.
Food tip: Caffeine is always controversial in the food world, however more studies are showing it is helpful in reducing risk of diabetes and possibly Alzheimers, not to mention it helps you feel energized to perform athletically at your peak. Choose your poison, coffee or tea but remember to enjoy it with small amounts of added extras, hold the sugar.
The sunset – Lincoln Rock: With time ticking away we decided to venture back to Wentworth Falls to find a sunset spot that is famous amongst photographers. Lincoln Rock as it is known was hidden down a short dirt path with huge potholes, we weren’t brave enough to take the car. The photos just don’t do this place justice. We stood at the edge of this flat white rock and looked out into the horizon, watching the sun slowly slip below the mountains. The sky turned from a light blue to a dull golden yellowy orange. Taking the time to breath in the fresh air and watch something truly beautiful made me realize how thankful I was for all of the things I had. Something I don’t do on a daily basis.
Mind tip: Say thank you for three things in your life every morning. Set yourself up positively in the day and remind yourself of these good things!
We treated ourselves that night to some well-deserved R&R with another soak in the tub and a lovely three course dinner at nineteen23. The wait staff were exemplary, taking our coats on arrival and never letting our water glasses go empty. Some of the dishes almost looked too good to eat (see below) and danced on the tastebuds. It was a wonderful indulgent night even though we were secretly looking forward to getting into our trackies!
The last morning – Leura Falls & Megalong Valley Tea Rooms
We woke with tired legs however wanted to squeeze in a couple last sights. We drove to Leura Falls and took a short rainforest walk to the lookout where we say a blanket of clouds over the valley. Shortly after we headed down a very windy road to Megalong Valley Tea Rooms. When we arrived in the valley we drove through the very same clouds of fog we had just seen from the top of the waterfall. Incredible!
he tearoom is quaint and quirky, it had a log fire and served a hearty breakfast with tea brewed in the same pot as ‘grandma’ had over 60 years ago. Unfortunately they don’t sell any leaves so I couldn’t bring any home.
So, that brings us to the end of our short but jam-packed mountains retreat. It reminded me that health is not just about the food you eat and the exercise you do. It is state of mind and state of being. I encourage you to take the time in your own life to check in mentally, take a deep breath and use that energy to make ‘healthful’ decisions each day. I highly recommend a trip to the mountains – just remember to pack your winter woolies this time of year!