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Residents rewarded as local tourism ambassadors

Scenic World will reward residents for being local tourism ambassadors

Blue Mountains Attractions Group (BMAG) members will recognise Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon residents as valuable tourism ambassadors through a new rewards program.

BMAG president Dave Robertson said tourism was one of the largest industries in the Greater Blue Mountains region, attracting more than 3 million visitors a year and injection about $489 million into the economy.

“Of the three million that visit, we know that 40 per cent of them are friends and relatives of residents of the area.

“That means that the people living in the area are frequently taking their friends and relatives to many of the attractions available in the region. They also direct them to accommodation houses.

“Most tourism operators would be aware that many of these tourism ambassadors are repeat visitors to their business and therefore should be rewarded for their actions.’’

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said he supported the program: “This is a worthwhile program that duly rewards our loyal resident community which supports tourism in so many ways every day.’’

The BMAG rewards program will be available from September 24 to all residents of the Blue Mountains, Oberon and Lithgow council areas (cardholders must be aged at least 17).

To obtain a Greater Blue Mountains Rewards card and information package instantly, residents simply visit Glenbrook, Echo Point, Lithgow or Oberon Visitor Information Centre or one of the participating tourist attractions with photographic proof of identity (driver’s license, passport).

Once they have their card, they are ready to receive their well-deserved discounts and offers from the many quality tourist attractions listed.

The card will initially only offer discounts from BMAG members but the program will eventually be made available to all Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism members.

Blue Mountains Attractions Group currently includes Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, Blue Mountains Trolley Tours, Bygone Beautys, Everglades Historic House and Gardens, Featherdale Wildlife Park, Jenolan Caves, Koomurri Aboriginal Centre, The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mt Tomah, Nana’s Teddies & Toys, Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum, Scenic World Blue Mountains, Selwood Science & Puzzles, Talisman Gallery, The Brook Art & Craft Co-op and Werriberri Trail Rides.

Addresses and offers can be found at

The project was funded by Destination NSW, the tourism department for the State Government.

Talisman Gallery and Cafe at Little Hartley

Tim Burton meets Bizet in circus opera

Review by Ellen Hill    Photos: David Hill

Opera can’t be fun, sexy and a little bit naughty. Can it? Oh yes, it can.

Fresh from a sell-out season on London’s West End, cabaret-style show The Carnival plays the new auditorium at the Fairmont Resort MGallery, Leura, every Friday night until mid-November.

A stunning blend of opera, classical music and circus acts, it is a first for the Blue Mountains and sweeps aside any false notion of predictability and mustiness in Australia’s original holiday destination.

If The Carnival is an indication of the regular schedule of events promised by Fairmont general manager Geoff York, then the nightlife of the upper Blue Mountains will soon be the place to be.

Audiences know from the first note that this is no traditional piece when singer Keara Donohoe warbles through an aria repeating the lyrics “it sucks to be me’’.

The show features an all-female cast and is a very intimate introduction to Australian composer and The Carnival co-creator Chloe Charody.

Crazy characters from her imagination manifest themselves on stage and reach out to the audience, crossing that invisible boundary between the stage and the audience and stream up the aisles.

Violinist and co-artistic director Sonja Schebeck doubles as a flame eater and Donohoe and fellow songbird Michaela Leisk belt out tunes suspended from hoops. These divas have the voices of La Stupenda but the bodies of Mariah Carey.

The show centres around the beautiful young Mischa unencumbered by a job and elated by her impending marriage to a wealthy stockbroker. Her world is turned upside down when a shock encounter at her family’s annual masquerade ball reveals that her Romeo has a Romeo of his own.

Distraught and alone, Mischa stares into her bedroom mirror. Through it, a parade of bizarre characters and mythical creatures step and take her on an adventure, after which she is reborn a woman of virtue and strength.

Operatic-burlesque-music-meets-carnival in style, The Carnival debuted in London’s West End with a sell-out season in March 2011, again in October 2011, and went on to run a series of successful shows in Australia.

Charody hopes the circus tricks, outrageous costumes and more modern storylines will help entice a new generation of opera lovers – not to mention the spiciness of pole dancing.

The controversial dance genre performed by Bailey Hart in the first act is very PG, romantic rather than sexy, and the aerial tissue routines stunningly beautiful.

The show hots up in Act 2 when Miss Stacey Minx, clad in leather and attitude, wraps her lithe limbs around the pole, shiny black thigh-high boots glinting as she moves.

Just as the temperature on-stage threatens to boil over, Hart returns to cool things down with her white and silver leotard and long red hair tied in a casual ponytail, a picture of girlish innocence.

Fairmont general manager Geoff York said he was excited to bring the work, which has been hailed “a showcase of genius’’, to the Blue Mountains and looked forward to a regular schedule of events at the hotel in the future.

“This work is a small-scale production with large-scale theatricality, combining classical musicians and circus artists in a bold new show that will delight audiences of all ages.

“The show really pushes the boundaries of theatre and will help to attract visitors from all over Australia to the Blue Mountains.’’

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said: “We would not have a tourism industry unless operators are prepared to take a risk and make an investment. I commend the owners of Fairmont Resort for investing in bringing The Carnival to the Blue Mountains, it is a new and colourful genre of culture.’’

The Carnival will be staged at The Fairmont Resort, Sublime Point Rd, Leura, each Friday evening until November 16. Tickets: $43.50 adults, $33.50 concession, $23.50 children (10-14 years). Bookings and information: Accommodation inquiries: (02) 4785 0000.

Step out for Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Festival of Walking

Step out for Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism’s Festival of Walking

By Ellen Hill    Photos: David Hill

HOW do you make a global icon?

Take a swamp rich with flora and fauna and wait until it all dies. Squish down all the rotting bodies in layers and leave them to bake in the sun for endless millennia until they have morphed into coal and rock.

Then slice the “lasagne’’, push up wedges, let the elements mould them and allow plants and animals to reclaim the new-look landscape.

That’s the surprisingly effective explanation Wild At Heart Safaris eco-guide Keiron Sames gives visitors on his guided walks through the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area at Katoomba.

The tale will be told to those who take part in an eco-tour during the annual Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism Festival of Walking (October 6-14), during which visitors and locals will be encouraged to put their best foot forward and explore the wild beauty and unique streetscapes of some of the most popular locations in the world.

Promoting fresh air and the grand backyard of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, the festival will feature treks and challenging bushwalks, history tours combined with local wine and cheese sampling, ambles through the day and walks at night, garden tours, singles walks, indigenous experiences, family events and child’s eye view walks.

It will be held at locations throughout the region including Jenolan Caves, the Glow Worm Tunnel near Lithgow and Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah, as well as Blue Mountains towns.

Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker said the festival was “a fantastic opportunity to explore the unique beauty of this magnificent World Heritage Area’’.

“It’s also a chance to rediscover well known paths through themed walks that highlight the region’s history and gastronomical experiences.’’

Sames’ environmental lasagne story is bound to be told during Wild At Heart Safaris eco-tours most days of the Festival of Walking.

He tells it at Honeymoon Point about halfway along his two-hour long easy grade walk while the tourists point their camera phones at the endless vista of trees and cliffs and try to grasp the magnitude of one million square hectares of genuine wilderness.

Every few paces along the track, Sames stops to share a titbit of geological or agricultural trivia (“the process of the claystone being undercut and the land falling off is called `sapping’,’’ did you know), point out an interesting plant species or magnificent view or “shush’’ the group to listen to a bird call.

Tall, slim and super fit, Sames has been an eco-guide for about a decade, a role which satisfies his urge to share the environment with others and encourage them to be more considerate of it.

He peppers his tours with questions encouraging people to think and learn from the experience.

“Why do you think this is called the Blue Mountains?’’ he asks. “Does anyone know why the Blue Mountains are blue?’’

The tourists shuffle their feet and look at each other expectantly, each hoping someone else will have the answer.

Sames lets them squirm for a moment before relieving the tension with an explanation of the Rayleigh scattering affect.

Caused by the elastic scattering of light or other electromagnetic radiation by particles much smaller than the wavelength of the light, it can happen when light travels through transparent solids and liquids but is most prominently seen in gases.

In the case of the Blue Mountains trees, especially eucalypts, “sweat’’ and release oil into the air, which magnifies the Rayleigh scattering giving the mountains their blue hue.

As Sames talks, we move from temperate rainforest to open woodland in a few steps.

He pounces on some yellow flowers (a type of pea from the Fabaecea family, apparently). Shrubby in appearance, “often they are the first to regenerate after an upheaval like bushfire’’.

Next thing, everyone’s huddled around a shrub, bent over double to see the tiny pores on the leaves, through which the plant breathes like skin.

“Anywhere you go in the bush have a look, touch may be nice if it’s appropriate, but never take anything,’’ Sames says, striding off towards a towering fern.

We soon learn that: a) only the top of the plant is living; b) what appears to be the trunk is actually the roots; c) it looks the same on the inside as the outside; d) its pithy inner material was an important source food supply for the indigenous Gundungurra people; and e) the plant grows higher than others so can reach the light source from the sun and its canopy catches falling leaves from other plants which decompose and feed it.

We move onto a scene unique to the Blue Mountains – a hanging swamp on the side of a hillside, and Sames explains how it is created before seamlessly moving onto another topic, then the next.

During the next five minutes we learn that the mountain ash eucalypt is the tallest flowering tree in the world, the sight of eucalypts shedding great strips of bark like a snake skin is a spring giveaway; gum leaves hang down (“They’re like: `Don’t let me get hot and lose water’ ’’); and of the 111 species of eucalypts, 25 per cent are found in Australia and 25 per cent of them are found in the Blue Mountains.

We move down to a temperate rainforest, which used to be the dominant plant community when Gondwanaland was all one land and the environment was moister.

“This area is a living example of that, and that evolutionary process is the specific reason why we were given World Heritage status,’’ Sames says.

We amble up a few shallow steps and are surprised to find ourselves back at the roadside, much the wiser and already missing Sames’ easy company.

  • Visit for more information about Wild At Heart Safaris guided eco-tours and numerous other activities during the Festival of Walking.