By Rama Gaind
The true brilliance of the lush, green, grassy plains of the Leura Golf Course was hidden by the flimsy, glittering mist as we drove past on our way to the Fairmont Resort in the Blue Mountains.
A haze cloaks the gigantic plateau, as it twists through the dark forests and coils around canyons and clifftops that comprise the Blue Mountains.
There’s a certain blue tinge that the range takes on when viewed from a distance. The tinge is caused by mie scattering which occurs when incoming ultraviolet radiation is scattered by particles within the atmosphere creating a blue-greyish colour to any distant objects, including mountains and clouds. Some believe that it’s named after the blue haze of vapourised eucalyptus oil.
Consisting mainly of a sandstone plateau, the area is dissected by gorges up to 760 metres deep. A large part of the Blue Mountains is incorporated into the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Site, consisting of seven national park areas and a conservation reserve.
The area includes the local government areas of the City of Blue Mountains, the City of Hawkesbury, the City of Lithgow and Oberon.
There are many feel-good reasons why holidaymakers are being attracted to this 11,400 km² of NSW.
One of them is to stay at the Fairmont Resort which changed ownership 13 months ago and a new management team, under the Accor banner, was appointed to progressively restore it to its former position as the premier leisure and conference destination in the region.
Perched on the edge of Australia’s World Heritage-listed mountains, the sprawling resort is the perfect place for a special romantic getaway, a reunion or a celebration with family or friends or for a business retreat.
With more than 200 deluxe rooms, the Fairmont Resort is the perfect place for a romantic escape, a get together with a group of friends or family or a business retreat or conference. The resort is a haven from the madding crowd with views over the beautiful Jamieson Valley and an extensive array of leisure facilities including two restaurants, a bar lounge, indoor and outdoor pool, table tennis, gymnasium, tennis and squash courts and spa treatment facilities.
As part of the upmarket MGallery brand, renovations to Fairmont Resort at Leura are underway with a very close eye being kept on progress by general manager Geoff York.
The expansive resort, especially in the cool autumn and winter weather, is a delightful retreat with roaring log fires.
The resort is also a great base to explore the local attractions including Leura village, Wentworth Falls, the Three Sisters, Zig Zag railway and much more.
Simple pleasures of Oberon
You have to make your way down to Oberon located near the famed Jenolan Caves and the Kanangra-Boyd National Park.
Oberon has a population of 3600, while the shire has 5000. This is where the simple pleasures of life are very appealing: fish for wild trout, go mushrooming in pine forests or fossick for sapphires and precious stones.
Fossicking is a popular and rewarding activity in the Oberon district, with a number of designated fossicking areas accessible to the public, but these areas are preserved.
Who know, you could strike it lucky and come away with gold, sapphires, zircons, occasionally diamonds or smokey quartz.
Lynne Causer from the Oberon Information Centre said Arthur Streeton painted in Oberon – and no wonder – the surrounding countryside is fabulous!
Take pleasure in participating in an out-of-the-ordinary mission and go mushroom foraging.
Mushrooms are the quiet invaders of the NSW pine plantations.
Jack Simpson, a specialist in tree diseases with State Forests of NSW, and one of only a handful of mycologists (mushroom experts) in Australia says, pine plantations contain a number of recognisable, good, eating mushrooms.
If you see a little mound on the ground, push the needles away gently and there will be your mushroom and if you find one, look nearby, as it will have neighbours.
However, you must remember four things when mushrooming: never go without a knife, preferably pocket knife and cut the stems then cover them over with the pine needles so they will come again next year, walk slowly, but look quickly.
The onus is on the gatherers themselves to take responsibility for the correct identification of edible mushrooms.
Mr Simpson says the mushrooms are ecomycorrhizal with the pines, helping the tree to extract nutrients from the soil.
What’s more, the best thing about these exotic fungi is that they are free. The Saffron Milk Caps should be cooked quickly at a high temperature to avoid stewing. The stalks should be discarded.
Prized in Europe, coveted by top Sydney restaurants, these wood mushrooms are yours for the picking – absolutely free!
However, you must correctly identify your mushrooms as edible. Some mushrooms are poisonous and will make you extremely sick. If in doubt, do not eat them. Saffron Milk Caps and Slippery Jacks are in season for just a few weeks of the year in the pine forests and we found them in abundance.
The best of the Caps which were picked by our group, were later prepared for lunch at RoosterHill Guesthouse where hosts Wayne Cooper and Monica Vince made us feel very welcome.
It was the love of providing “food with flair” that has led to a unique business in the Central West – Two Birds and a Shed catering – which is run by Monica and her neighbour Kate Bird.
To further their love of cooking fresh local produce and in presenting food with flair, Monica and Kate have formed a unique partnership. They share a common passion for presenting and sharing fresh food in interesting and straightforward ways. The lunch we had was simply delicious!
Why not spend a night and sample the RoosterHill hospitality that involves total relaxation in your own queen-sized guest quarters and relishing some home-cooked delectable fare.
Over lunch, we were also introduced to Colin and Sue Roberts, owners of Lowes Mount Truffiere, in Oberon. Visitors to Oberon and the Blue Mountains can join them and their truffle dogs, Morris and Sully, on a truffle hunt during the truffle season in June, July and August.
Lowes Mount Truffiere grows, harvests and sells Black Perigord Truffle and makes truffles products for sale.
Fresh truffle and the products can be purchased on the hunts or at Farmer’s Markets in Oberon on the first Saturday of each month
This is where you learn about the truffle industry, see truffle dogs in action, find, smell and taste fresh black truffle and preserved truffle products are also on sale. As well, there’s a new crop of fresh hazelnuts.
It was at the entrance to RoosterHill Guesthouse that I made a surprising discovery: finding Australia’s oldest pine tree – a Wollemin Pine. A smaller version, of course, was thriving in their front yard – in a ceramic pot!
Tread Lightly eco
Discover the region’s natural environment through nature-based touring with Tread Lightly eco tours. It supplies interpretive ecological tours in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area, 90 minutes west of Sydney, and specialises in fully guided bush walks and 4WD eco tours.
Tim Tranter, award-winning head guide and owner-operator, has lived in the Blue Mountains for over 45 years and provides strong links to the local community and region.
He is quick to point out that the company is a specialist in the environmental and the cultural aspects of the region with tours that explore remote wilderness experiencing the natural beauty and ecology of this region.
Professional interpretive guides with extensive knowledge of geology, fauna and flora, Indigenous culture, astronomy and venomous creatures will accentuate your experience as you visit ancient rainforest, waterfalls and deep canyons in the area. Night tours offer a different view of this amazing place, exploring the southern night sky and glow worms.
In 2010, the company was acknowledged as one of the top 50 responsible, ethical and sustainable businesses in Australia.
Rama Gaind was a guest of Fairmont Resort and Blue Mountains Tourism.
To book at Fairmont Resort telephone (02) 4784 4144 or visit
Bookings at RoosterHill can be made on (02) 6336 3136 or 0407 276 023 or visit www.roosterhill.com.au
Tread Lightly eco tours can be contacted on (02) 4788 1229, 0414 976 752 or email email@example.com