Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mythical Australian Roller Coaster Still Draws Visitors

In 2012, an infamous Australian landmark will turn 28. The Orphan Rocker was the only roller coaster ever designed and built entirely in Australia but has never opened to the public. And like every late-twenties birthday, this one brings up a lot of questions. The most important question may be why roller coaster enthusiasts and travel junkies still make the trip to Blue Mountains outside Sydney to see this little engine that couldn't.

Begun in 1984 as a monorail for tourists to the region, the Orphan Rocker was named for Orphan Rock, a nearby rock formation that many trips to the Blue Mountains include on their journey. The monorail soon became a roller coaster, with minecar-like seats that would rock when the cars came around turns. But the company producing the ride had trouble getting it insured and was therefore not able to open. To this day, the tracks have been repainted and covered over with brush but never removed, giving hope to many that it may someday rumble and rock once again.

The simple answer to this question is that there is more to see at the Blue Mountains than an unfinished roller coaster. As a World Heritage Site, the Blue Mountains have been sited as a location of unique cultural and biological importance in the world. With thousands of endangered species, rare plant life and ancient rock formations know as "orphans" dotting the horizon, Blue Mountain tours have become a unique part of the Sydney vacationer's itinerary.

Not only is there more to do than check out the Orphan Rocker, there are more thrilling attractions. Scenic World—the Blue Mountains tourist center—offers the Scenic Skyway, a cable car that drops visitors down over the steep cliffs of the Blue Mountains for a view unlike any in the world. And the Scenic Railway is the world's steepest scenic railway incline, allowing passengers to travel four meters per second down the side of the Blue Mountains. And while thrill ride veterans visit the Orphan Rocker for the story it has to tell, their true joy comes from riding the historic Scenic Railway.

But the main reason people come to see the Orphan Rocker is the legend it holds. Some say test runs declared the ride too dangerous. Others say it was too scary for the average rider, banking turns over a massive cliff side. And while the tracks and infrastructure remain in tact, the ride has never made a single run that was open to the public.

For some, the mystery is more thrilling than any ride.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Photographers Hunt Down Blue Mountain Beauty

While cell phones and Facebook have reduced popular photography to a few blurry snaps at the back of a restaurant, there are still artists out there committed to preserving the art of landscape photography. From scaling panoramic mountain vistas with heavy equipment to climbing into cave shots from below waterfalls, few artists fight for their art like landscape photographers. And few battlefields are as prominent in the landscape world as Sydney's Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains are a photographer's paradise. With traditional aussie wildlife—koalas, kangaroos—and scenic sandstone cliffs, shutterbugs have flocked to the region on Sydney day tours to get the best view, just before sunset. But hobbyists are not the only ones braving the Australian outback in search of the perfect snap. Blue Mountains tours have recently become a hot-spot for aspiring and professional photographers to scout out the perfect shot.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, professional photographers have been taking trips to the Blue Mountains to scout locations for professional shoots and photography classes. The article, published September 9th, follows Matt Lauder, a professional landscape photographer leading a class of digital-friendly photogs on a journey to find the perfect landscape shot. From editing tricks to color spectrum settings, Lauder shows his students how to take an average view and turn it into a detailed, multi-faceted photo fit for a frame.

The Blue Mountains have also become a popular location for destination weddings, as wedding photographers dazzle brides and grooms with sunset canyon photos. The Blue Mountains town of Leura is home to hundreds of boutique businesses—from hotels to the Leura Candy Store—that offer services to weddings. This, along with the breathtaking views, makes the Blue Mountains a perfect nook for pending nuptials.

Professional photographers look to set cameras for sunrise or sunset to capture the best natural lighting. For a picture-perfect Blue Mountains tour, check out our tour itinerary and ask one of our guides for the best views.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011