It was when I arrived home from a trip to the Blue Mountains and kicked off my hiking shoes and socks that I noticed trickles of bright red blood dripping down on to the floor. And it wouldn’t stop.
By the awesome power of a borrowed car and a TomTom sat nav, I had cruised along the Great Western Highway, away from Sydney with the radio blasting and the Blue Mountains up ahead.
At Echo Point nearby Katoomba, a thick covering of fog concealed any natural wonders. I sat down and ate a sandwich to the sound of a didgeridoo being played by an Aboriginal guy who had been traditionally painted up, ready to pose for photos with impressed tourists.
Within a little while The Three Sisters revealed themselves, their stony prison smaller than I expected. I joined the crowds on the viewing platforms, got some truly bad pictures taken by a stranger that I had to delete (lots of sky, lots of me, barely anything of the Three Sisters) and then did a short walk over to the Lady Marley lookout where I took in the vast mountainous landscape, wisps of mist still drifting about giving it a mystical edge.
Legs unsatisfied, back at the start and with the Information Centre behind me I took a right and headed over to the start of the Giant Stairway with over 850 narrow steps leading down from the Three Sisters mounting point and into the arboreous gulley below.
The signposted track led me along the Federal Pass on forest pathways, squelchy and covered in leaves. A building purr of thunder rattled the sky as rain drops slapped onto damp leaves, working up to a steady downpour. I hid in a hollow tree trunk until the worst of it passed.
After two hours and a steady pace later, I arrived at the Scenic Railway. Would I cheat and take the train up for an easy wander back to Echo Point? Hell, no!
In fact, on the way back I was on fire, getting to the bottom of the Great Stairway within 40 minutes. Super speedy (wait for the pain tomorrow). ‘Are you really going up?’ asked a Dutch guy raising his eyebrows. He had just made the descent with his friends. ‘Sure’, I said, ‘I came down so now I’ll go back up. It’ll balance things out!’ ‘If we don’t see you back by 6:00pm’, he said, ‘then we’ll send the search parties out to the steps’.
It was unnecessary. Although I took a couple of breaks and nearly puked as my heart battered my rib cage, I was back at the top within twenty minutes, legs fully worked out and shaking.
And then back along the Great Western Highway, back to the house and kicking off my shoes and my socks and spotting the mystery blood dribbling down my ankles. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted my sock moving. I lifted it to reveal a squirming, wet and well-fed leech. Eurgh! How had I managed to miss that?! Thanks very much, Blue Mountains, what a parting gift.
For free parking by Echo Point, drive past the Information Point on your right, continuing along Cliff Drive. You will see a sandy stretch on the right hand side where you can park for free.