Give the Blue Moun­tains a break

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

CONTRIBUTINGed­i­tor Ju­dith Elen has just been up to the NSW Blue Moun­tains to see how tourism is far­ing af­ter the re­cent bush­fires, the most dev­as­tat­ing in decades. The most pop­u­lar spots of Leura, Went­worth Falls and Ka­toomba were un­af­fected but vis­i­tor num­bers have dipped dra­mat­i­cally this month.

In tourism terms, this im­me­di­ate lull is a typ­i­cal case of wait-and-see, a pe­riod in which trav­ellers as­sess the sit­u­a­tion, ex­er­cise cau­tion and, let’s face it, wait just a tiny while for the come­back deals. I don’t feel there’s any­thing wrong in tak­ing ad­van­tage of such dire cir­cum­stances — bet­ter to give lo­cal op­er­a­tors a boost, kick in some rev­enue and help the re­build­ing process than stay away when visi­tors are needed most.

Vul­ture tourism is the in­dus­try’s term for such post­dis­as­ter strikes by what some would call op­por­tunis­tic hol­i­day-mak­ers. We’ve seen it af­ter the Bali bomb­ings, the tsunamis in Sri Lanka, Thai­land and Ja­pan, the Queens­land floods and, no doubt, the tragic, ty­phoonstruck Philip­pines will be the next desti­na­tion on sale. Watch for the bar­gains — air­lines, op­er­a­tors and hote­liers need to get, as they say, bums on seats and in beds or the in­dus­try col­lapses.

So if you’re up for it, and don’t mind be­ing as­so­ci­ated with a bird of prey, early vul­tures get the best deals. In terms of the Blue Moun­tains, I hope the re­cov­ery is rapid and that the word gets out about vil­lages, scenic at­trac­tions and na­tional parks that are wait­ing for us.

If you’re not a Syd­neysider, you might not un­der­stand all this fas­ci­na­tion with the Blue Moun­tains. It was the city’s first real hol­i­day desti­na­tion that wasn’t just the beach; hon­ey­moon­ers headed there in the late 1940s and into the 50s to stay at English-style board­ing houses with log fires and Tu­dor beams and take the air and mar­vel at blue-hazed val­leys and gen­er­ally stroll about with their heads in the clouds. The sou­venir kiosks used to sell the crisp moun­tain air in cans — Mother kept just such a thing on the man­tel­piece to open in case she got one of her ‘‘heads’’ and the daily in­take of Vin­cents pow­der wasn’t up to it, but I never saw her open the can. It looked oddly at­trac­tive next to our snow­dome shaker of the Three Sis­ters.

My par­ents loved Ka­toomba as pas­sion­ately as if it were some­where al­to­gether for­eign, like a colo­nial hill­sta­tion. The Blue Moun­tains was the ul­ti­mate Sun­day road trip for us in the late 60s and al­ways in­volved a stop at Bilpin to buy ap­ples, which tasted some­how sweeter than they did on the plains, and af­ter­noon tea at a faded Ka­toomba ho­tel with wait­resses in frilled pinafores and lash­ings of cream on the scones.

Mother would even break her golden rules about the ne­ces­sity of fine bone china and sil­ver tea­spoons and we’d sip from big coun­try cups and lick strawberry jam from our fin­gers. Dad drove like Mr Ma­goo from the telly car­toons so it would be a long day, all up, and we’d sing as we went and Mother would have to loosen her stays. Do read Ju­dith’s piece (Page 4) and I hope it in­spires you — let’s all give the Blue Moun­tains a break.

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