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Aboriginal artist Thomas Brown creates chalk drawings at The Gully. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Aboriginal artist Thomas Brown creates chalk drawings at The Gully. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Three launches, free activities, bush tucker, Aboriginal culture and a walk marked the opening of the annual Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) Festival of Walking last Saturday.

Gundungurra elder Aunty Sharyn Halls. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Gundungurra elder Aunty Sharyn Halls. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Held at The Gully historic site at Katoomba, the opening was attended by about 250 visitors including Gundungurra elders and event hosts Aunty Sharyn Halls and Aunty Merle Williams; other Gundungurra, Darug and other Aboriginal language groups; Aunty Sharon Brown who provided bush tucker; Blue Mountains councillors; Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage; Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus; National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Blue Mountains City Council staff; Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute (BMWHI) members; and Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area chairwoman Joan Domicelj.

The event was organised by BMLOT in collaboration with The Gully Traditional Owners, Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association, NPWS, BMCC and other activity providers with funding support from Destination NSW.

This year's Festival of Walking featured the Blue Mountains Blue Wave re-enactment walk team. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

This year’s Festival of Walking featured the Blue Mountains Blue Wave re-enactment walk team. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

As well as interpretive walks, Aboriginal art and cultural activities, the Blue Mountains Blue Wave 1813 explorers re-enactment walk team including John O’Sullivan and Uncle Graeme Cooper and Junior Rangers Choir, highlights were the launches of the Aboriginal Cultural Experience Guide for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the iconic Grand Cliff Top Walk, a partnership between BMLOT, the council, BMWHI and NPWS; and latest series of Bush Trackers guides (walks for kids by kids) including one for The Gully.

BMLOT chairman Randall Walker said: “Thank you to everyone involved in the festival, the opening and the new products and experiences launched on the day.’’

Special guest Kimberly country Aboriginal elder Neville Poelina praised the festival as an inclusive outdoor activity and encouraged everyone – Aboriginal and non-indigenous – to explore country with an Aboriginal guide local to that area to fully experience the region.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

In launching the festival, Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill thanked festival instigator Marie Wood and said it celebrated many World Heritage Area values including Aboriginal culture, conservation history in Australia and “the joy of walking in our land’’.

The Festival of Walking will continue throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region until October 13 with a program of activities for all interests and fitness levels.

Go to www.festivalofwalking.com.au for festival information and bookings.

The Festival of Walking opening involved organisation by a host of people from Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism, Blue Mountains City Council, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and NPWS. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking opening involved organisation by a host of people from Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism, Blue Mountains City Council, the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and NPWS. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

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The annual Festival of Walking kicks off with a range of free activities in the Blue Mountains on Saturday, October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The annual Festival of Walking kicks off with a range of free activities in the Blue Mountains on Saturday, October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Are you a claustrophobic, pacifist republican on a budget who loathes the grittiness of sea salt on your skin and is already breaking out in nervous hives at the thought of a million people descending on Sydney this long weekend?

There is a solution.

Come up to the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, where the air is fresh, there’s plenty of room for everyone and parking doesn’t cost a fortune.

There’s also lots of free and low-cost stuff to see and do day and night.

  • The annual Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism Bicentenary Festival of Walking kicks off at The Gully site, Warriga St (off Gates Ave), Katoomba, from 9am to 1pm on Saturday, October 5.
The Festival of Walking will be held from October 5 to 13 throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking will be held from October 5 to 13 throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Soak up Aboriginal art and culture, free bush tucker, entertainment and be among the first to hear about a new and exciting bushwalking experience.

Then, jump on a shuttle bus to Wild Valley Art Park at Wentworth Falls (a cool place itself) at 1pm and walk with the Blue Mountains Blue Wave 1813 costumed team as they re-enact part of the famous Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth trek across the mountains.

The best bit is the cost – it’s all free. Yep, even the tucker and the bus ride.

The Festival of Walking will continue throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region until October 13 and includes an extensive program of affordable activities for all fitness levels from foodie, history and quirky walks (even a beer enthusiasts walk) to multi-day hard core treks through the wilderness.

The event has been organised by BMLOT in collaboration with The Gully Traditional Owners, Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association, National Parks & Wildlife Service, Blue Mountains City Council and other activity providers with funding support from Destination NSW.

Details and bookings: www.festivalofwalking.com.au.

  • Blue Mountains Film Festival & Yowie Awards at Scenic World, The Carrington Hotel and Mt Vic Flicks (October 3-7).
The Blue Mountains Film Festival begins tonight at will continue until October 7.

The Blue Mountains Film Festival begins tonight at will continue until October 7.

Set against the dramatic Blue Mountains landscape and incorporating iconic venues with that renowned Blue Mountains flare, the annual festival offers a jam-packed program of short films, family screenings, public programs, feature films, awards and celebrations.

The evening events hosted at Scenic World will showcase award-winning films by established and emerging filmmakers from Australia and around the world.

The festival will be a chance to meet celebs like Tim Ferguson who will lead a comedy-writing workshop on Sunday and Corinne Grant who will host the Yowie Awards & Scenic World Grand Prize of $5000 ceremony on Saturday.

Event major sponsor Scenic World will also launch Family Film Nights, set in a relaxed cinema environment where families can have a feed and watch a short film suitable for school age children.

Another fantastic budget carrot is the Scenic World rides deal for festival goers. Upgrade your ticket to adventure down the thrilling new Scenic Railway and explore the Jurassic landscape along the Scenic Walkway. Great value packages are available offering all-day unlimited rides at Scenic World, plus hop-on hop-off bus passes, exploring Leura and Katoomba with Blue Mountains Explorer Bus.

Details and bookings: http://www.scenicworld.com.au/event/2013-blue-mountains-film-festival-yowie-awards/.

  • Leura Gardens Festival (9.30am-4.30pm daily, October 5-13).
Waldorf Leura Gardens Resort is one of 10 gardens to feature in Leura Gardens Festival. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Waldorf Leura Gardens Resort is one of 10 gardens to feature in Leura Gardens Festival. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Another low-cost drawcard is this blooming popular trail around the most spectacular spring gardens in the upmarket picturesque village of Leura. Details: www.cityrail.info/tickets.

Just $20 gives you entry to 10 gardens ($5 single entry). Buy a ticket at the festival stall at the top of Leura Mall, invest a further $5 in an all-day hop-on/hop-off shuttle bus and still have spending money left over for lunch.

Details: www.leuragardensfestival.com  or leuragardensfestival@fastmail.com.au.

Of course you can’t fit everything in on one day so why not stay the night or three?

Go to www.visitbluemountains.com.au for information about accommodation, dining and activity options in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region.

The Festival of Walking will be officially opened at The Gully site, Warriga St, Katoomba, from 9am to 1pm Saturday, October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking will be officially opened at The Gully site, Warriga St, Katoomba, from 9am to 1pm Saturday, October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking 2013 official opening will be from 9am to 1pm on October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking 2013 official opening will be from 9am to 1pm on October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Aboriginal art and culture, free bush tucker, entertainment and the chance to hear about a new and exciting bushwalking experience first at the official opening of the Bicentenary Festival of Walking at The Gully, Katoomba, on October 5.

The annual Blue Mountains, Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) festival will be held throughout the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region from October 5 to 13 and includes an extensive program of activities for all fitness levels from foodie, history and quirky walks to multi-day hard core treks through the wilderness.

The Bicentenary Festival of Walking is a celebration of the beauty of nature, the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, acknowledgement of Aboriginal custodianship and culture, and homage to the history, heritage and conservation of this special region.

The event has been organised by BMLOT in collaboration with The Gully Traditional Owners, Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association, National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) and other activity providers with funding support from Destination NSW.

The official festival opening will be held at the historically significant The Gully site at Katoomba from 9am to 1pm on October 5.

The day will include guided interpretive walks around The Gully, an Aboriginal chalk mural created on the old Catalina Raceway for children, an Aboriginal cultural exhibition in the gallery, face painting and the opportunity to meet and have photos taken with members of the Blue Mountains Blue Wave 1813 explorers re-enactment walk team.

NPWS will showcase walks across the World Heritage Area with the help of popular cuddly mascot Wanda the Wombat and other visitor information will be provided by BMCC and BMLOT.

Official proceedings from 10am to 11am will include a Welcome to Country, a traditional Aboriginal dance performance, the Junior Rangers Choir, opening of the Aboriginal Cultural Experience Guide for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, opening of an iconic upper Blue Mountains bushwalk to rival the great walks of the world and the opening of the latest series of Bushtrackers guides (walks for kids by kids) including one for The Gully.

The Junior Rangers Choir with NPWS mascot Wanda the Wombat. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Junior Rangers Choir with NPWS mascot Wanda the Wombat. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Visitors to the site on the day will then be treated to a bush tucker lunch and refreshments.

BMLOT chairman Randall Walker said: “We thank The Gully Traditional Owners and Gundungurra Aboriginal Heritage Association for the opportunity to showcase the wonderful new indigenous cultural experience at The Gully at the opening of the festival.

“This will be a fantastic day for the whole family to take in the fresh air and learn more about the World Heritage Area, individuals and organisations which care for it and the marvellous activities they can take part in during the festival and beyond.

“You can’t possibly choose just one activity during the festival, so why not stay a night or two?’’

Festival of Walking participants will have the chance to walk with Blue Mountains Blue Wave team members. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

Festival of Walking participants will have the chance to walk with Blue Mountains Blue Wave team members. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

After activities conclude at 1pm, visitors will have an opportunity to walk with the Blue Mountains Blue Wave 1813 explorers re-enactment walk team at 2pm at Wild Valley Art Park, Wentworth Falls.

The Bicentenary Festival of Walking opening will be held at The Gully, Warriga St (off Gates Ave), Katoomba, from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, October 5. Cost: FREE.

Beginning just three years ago, last year the festival attracted more than 2000 recognised participants. This year, it is anticipated that because of the bicentenary and growing awareness of the festival there will be more than 5000 recognised participants.

Go to www.festivalofwalking.com.au for Festival of Walking information and bookings.

Go to www.visitbluemountains.com.au for accommodation information and bookings.

The Festival of Walking official opening will be held at The Gully, Katoomba, from 9am to 1pm on October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism

The Festival of Walking official opening will be held at The Gully, Katoomba, from 9am to 1pm on October 5. Photo: David Hill, Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism