The Blue Mountains

Image via Tom Häkkinen
The fog gave the town a quiet mysteriousness.
Last Monday, Anzac day, Esther and I, getting away from the city and all the “old diggers” headed up to the Blue Mountains for the day. It’s not that we have anything against war veterans, it’s just the jingo-istic patriotism and fake solemnity and nationalism of Anzac day is getting increasingly unbearable. I suppose Anzac day always had a nationalistic element that sought to glorify war, but I get the distinct impression, that as the years pass and the memory of the horrors of World War II fade, that the tone of Anzac day is evolving from a day of sombre reflection to one of bellicose flag-waving similar to that which has taken-over Australia Day.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
The cooler climate of the Blue Mountains led early settlers
to plant European trees and create English Gardens in an
attempt to recreate the "Old Country".
The Mountains however remembered the spirit of the day. From Lithgow, to Blackheath to Katoomba, the mountaintop towns were enveloped in a great grey fog.

Leaving Sydney at the break of dawn we arrived in Katoomba on the train at nine in the morning, the fog gave the town a quiet mysteriousness. We caught a bus to Echo Point and after talking to a lady at the Information Centre who told us that in this weather walking to the Ruined Castle wouldn’t be a good idea we departed in search of the Ruined Castle.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
In the shadow of a looming mountain, almost completely
swallowed-up in the fog.
I know, you’re reading “Ruined Castle” and thinking there were no castles in Australia. What was this? Some early colonial fort? Some rich pasturalist’s folly? Sadly, nothing so grand, the early colonial forts were directed towards the sea and Australia’s pioneering pasturalists hadn’t the imagination to build themselves a European-style castle, not even a folly. The Ruined Castle is a strange rock formation that, seen from afar, looks uncannily like a ruined castle. Of course, on a day like last Monday there was no chance of seeing it from afar, and as we never got near so far as our intended destination on the waterlogged muddy track that day, we didn’t get to compare how close the rock formation resembled a castle at a closer inspection.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
A Ghost Gum in the mist.
The forest though was altogether otherworldly. There is a species of Eucalypt commonly called the “Ghost Gum”, named for its ghostly white pallor. In the silver-grey light of the fog, these strange trees had an ethereal presence, which combined with the architectural gracefulness of their long slender branches to make them seem like the marble pillars of some pagan temple. The surreal imagery stimulated the imagination like a strange narcotic, the naked limbs of the trees at times seemed like dancers locked in a final pose of supplication to the sky; seen from a different light, with strips of bark hanging from the branches like so many nooses from a gallows the forest took on altogether different hue.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Is it just me or do these trees not look like they are reaching
out towards the sky?
I’m glad, however, that I took some photos (if you click on them you will be able to see them in their full-size) because in reality my purple prose and unimaginative metaphors give no justice to the stately grace and serene quiet of these trees standing quietly in the mountain fog.


Juniper said...

Super photos, very atmospheric.

I'd have chosen to be out in the wilds too ;-)

Claude said...

Your enchanting description of the forest completes the fantasmagoric atmosphere your photos convey. On a full screen, I was transported way up to a dreamland by whispering, heavenly trees.

I could get happily lost in a place like this...

Francis Hunt said...

A somewhat more sober view of Link Anzac Day

Roxy said...

What beautiful photographs. I've always wanted to see ghost gums but haven't until now. Thanks!

Judie said...

I was struck by the quiet beauty of your photos when I clicked on to enlarge them. You are a man of many talents!

Anonymous said...

I loved your word- jingo-istic patriotism. Yes, I understand that.

Your writing about these glorious Blue Mountains is beautiful. Your metaphors are anything but unimaginative and your prose is elegant and substantial. Your photographs bring it all home.

I enjoyed every word and every photograph. Thank you for sharing!

Tom Hakkinen said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. Yes it was very atmospheric. I'm glad I could share the experience with everyone else.

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