By Ellen Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism
Under a clear spring sky with kookaburras and cockatoos vying for attention, the annual Festival of Walking was launched at Euroka Glenbrook, Blue Mountains National Park, on Saturday, September 20.
Visitors and locals enjoyed a community barbecue; learned about bush safety from NSW Police Rescue Senior Constable Chris Jayne, Aboriginal culture and the NPWS Bush Trackers program; and embarked on a “nature play’’ children’s bushwalk during which kids had the opportunity to smell gum leaves, draw, create, play games, explore the bushland and share the joy of the simple things life has to offer.
Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) chairman Daniel Myles acknowledged Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill, Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus who attended and paid special tribute to Katoomba resident Marie Wood for instigating the “no brainer’’ festival several years ago.
During her Welcome to Country, Gundungurra elder Aunty Sharyn Halls encouraged everyone to explore the landscape on bushwalks and engage with National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) Discovery rangers and local Aboriginal people to learn about one of the oldest continuous cultures on earth.
“We have been walking this land for thousands of years. Where we are today is an Aboriginal pathway.’’
NPWS Blue Mountains regional manager Alan Henderson said: “There are few greater pleasures than walking, and having a festival to celebrate it is a wonderful thing. We are blessed here in the Blue Mountains with some of the finest walking tracks in the world.’’
He, Mr Myles and Snr Const Jayne urged all walkers to practice safe walking habits by planning ahead, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, carrying plenty of water and food, registering their walk at Springwood or Katoomba police station or the NPWS visitor centre at Blackheath where they can borrow for free a personal locator beacon and staying on the track.
Mayor Mark Greenhill encouraged people to explore Aboriginal culture and the grand backyard of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area as a family.
“Follow your feet this Festival of Walking. Let them take you where they will, whether it’s from Jellybean Pool to Jenolan or Katoomba to Kanangra or the waratahs of Mount Tomah to the Woodford Academy, follow your feet throughout this beautiful city and this beautiful area.’’
The Festival of Walking showcases the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area to nature lovers of all ages, budgets and fitness levels and will continue throughout the school holidays until October 19.
Presented by the official regional tourism organisation and supported by the NPWS, local councils and Destination NSW, the Festival of Walking includes self-guided walks, adventure walks with expert guides, Aboriginal experiences and non-nature walking activities such as history rambles and a beer walk.