A place with such inspiring views and a fascinating history is always going to generate some interesting quotes. Blue Mountains Quotes!
We have collected a selection of quotes related to the Blue Mountains, ranging back to the first European explorers, the early settlers, the burgeoning Blue Mountains Tourist Industry and some fun related extras.
To the round out the article we have some excellent quotations about Mountains in general, not just the Blue Mountains.
As John Ruskin so aptly said …
“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.”
Who named the Blue Mountains?
During the first year of the Colonies existence, Governor Phillip had named the area we now know as the Blue Mountains “Carmarthen and Lansdown.”
However popular usage soon took over, as it often does. His Deputy, David Collins the Judge-Advocate soon observed …
“commonly known in the colony by the name of The Blue Mountains.”
So, the answer is, the people of New South Wales did.
Why are the Blue Mountains Blue?
This is a commonly asked question, but it doesn’t really have a simple answer!
I love this description of the colour of the Blue Mountains by Lady Tennyson, wife of the South Australian Governor written in 1900.
“The afternoon and the evening were the most beautiful & most wonderful lights and shadows. What struck us more than anything was the wonderfully brilliant blue of the distant hills. I have never seen anything to compare to it at all, the most gorgeous real sapphire blue, really transparent blue – it is impossible to give any idea of it.”
The main school of thought on why the Blue Mountains seem Blue is light scattering off the tiny droplets of oil from the millions of eucalyptus gum trees in the area. However, as Professor Harry Messel of Sydney University pointed out …
“if an observer looks at any distant object with the intervening atmosphere illuminated by sunlight, his eyes will receive the blue scattered rays of sunlight in addition to the rays reflected from the object itself. Therefore any distant object will always appear to display some shade of blue.”
Perhaps this is why we also have the “The Blue Ridge Mountains,” “Blue Mountain” in Jamaica, and even the famous “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
Crossing the Blue Mountains
Europeans first discovered a way over the Blue Mountains in 1813 with the famous expedition of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson. It had taken 25 years of failed attempts since the fledgling city of Sydney was founded, to discover a way right through the difficult topography.
Australian Aboriginal people had of course been happily traversing the area for many thousands of years before, with 2 established routes, shelter sites and food gathering areas along the way!
The great need of the fledgling colony had been to find productive areas of grazing land, as the area around Sydney itself was limited and food supply had always been a struggle.
In fact the Colony nearly completely failed due to starvation in it’s second year!
As Watkin Tench wote at the time …
‘Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides, and gloom and dejection overspread every countenance…”
Lieutenant-General Watkin Tench wrote two excellent books on his time in Sydney, A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay and A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson.
These are an excellent account of the very first days of Sydney which I highly recommend. You can get them in a combined edition. “1788” Check out the Book here at Amazon.
This was why the crossing of the Blue Mountains was so important and is still celebrated today.
The poet Henry Kendall proclaimed the successful explorers …
“The dauntless three!”
Somewhat forgetting the 4 servants, 4 pack horses and 5 dogs who also made it possible.
The team made it through by following the ridgelines, rather than the valleys that had confused explorers in their previous attempts.
Blaxland declared in his journal that he had seen …
“Enough grassland to support the stock of the colony for 30 years.”
William Wentworth waxed lyrical about the Mountains in his Journal …
“A country of so singular a description could in my opinion only have been produced by some mighty convulsion in Nature. Those immense unconnected perpendicular Masses of Mountain which are to be seen towards its Eastern Extremity towering above the Country around, seem to indicate that the whole of this tract has been formed out of the Materials of the primitive mountains of which these masses are the only parts that have withstood the violence of the concussion.”
In the following year, 1814, Governor Macquarie ordered William Cox to began constructing his famous road,
“at least 12 feet wide, so as to permit two carts or other wheeled carriages to pass each other with ease.”
Remains of the road can still be seen in many places.
Convicts in the Blue Mountains
Of course the road through the Blue Mountains was built by heavily guarded convicts …
“bound down with iron chains.”
As Lt Colonel Mundey wrote in 1846
“We passed several lots of these wretched creatures – England’s galley-slaves , clanking along with straddling gait and hopeless hang-dog looks to their allotted labours, escorted by soldiers; or working with pick and spade, crowbar and wedge on the stubborn rocks – working with mule-like slowness and sulkiness, forced to work by fear of the lash.”
The completed road was declared by Charles Darwin to be …
“worthy of any line of road in England”
But even with the construction of the road, it was still a hard journey and not every one was happy about the trip. They still aren’t.
“It followed it’s lonely and tortuous route along a narrow ridge top. On either side was the unexplored bush, forbidding and alien to minds still rooted in European traditions. The Blue Mountains was not a place one wished to be in for too long.”
Barron Field, Judge of the Supreme Court wrote in 1822 …
“There is no grass on the whole road over the mountains, whatever Governor Macquarie may say about “the travellers assuring himself of good grass at all his encampments” – nothing but rocks and stones and trees and flowers ; – yes there is water enough. The traveller must therefore take corn for his horses with him.”
Another complained loudly in the Sydney paper …
“If a man could be put down here in a balloon, or find some royal road to the country, without having anything to do with the Blue Mountains, he would hug himself with a constant satisfaction, and desire to know no more. “
Letter to The Australian newspaper 1827 from someone just arrived in Bathurst.
Flora and Fauna of the Blue Mountains
Of course the impact of Europeans to the Fauna & Fauna of the Blue Mountains was felt instantly.
As Charles Darwin noted during his famous trip in the 1830’s …
“A few years since, the country abounded with wild animals; but now the emu is banished a long distance, and the kangaroo is becoming scarce; to both the English Greyhound is utterly destructive. It may be long before the animals are altogether exterminated, but their doom is fixed.”
Did you know you can retrace the exact walk Charles Darwin took at Wentworth Falls? It’s a fabulous feeling to walk in the footsteps of the man who changed the way the world thought about the origin of species.
Here’s what he wrote about the walk down to the Falls …
“Following down a little valley & its tiny rill of water, suddenly & without any preparation, through the trees, which border the pathway, an immense gulf is seen at the depth of perhaps 1500 ft beneath ones feet.”
After he pushed through the Mountains his mind was racing about what he was seeing. Examining a Platapus and a Rat-kangaroo and realising that they filled the same ecological niche as the Water rat and Rabbit in the Northern Hemishphere he wondered why a single “Creator” would make such different animals for the same niche?
He speculated in his diary …
“Surely two distinct Creators must have been at work.”
The First Hotels in the Blue Mountains
The Discovery of Gold in Ophir in 1851 led to a surge in traffic through the mountains and the first of many accommodation venues appearing at strategic spots.
Louisa Meridith wrote about one in 1839, describing it as …
“this comfortless habitation”
“stayed to breakfast at a small wayside public house, where the slovenly slipshod women, dirty floors and a powerful odour of stale tobacco -smoke , gave me no very favourable expectations of cleanliness or comfort.”
The Railway over the Blue Mountains
If you thought building a road over the Blue Mountains was tricky, how about putting a railway line across?
Tunnels, Viaducts, Rock Cuttings & Bridges were all used, but still the sheer scale of the assent and descent at each end of the Blue Mountains would always be a challenge.
Two massive Zig Zag sections were finally constructed to conquer the…
and were hailed as landmarks in Australian engineering.
Described by a visitor, Edmund Meslee …
“It seems miraculous that human brains and brawn should have been able to conceive and construct the zigzag along the fearful face of this escarpment.”
The Knapsack Viaduct, part of the Zig Zag at the eastern end was described by a paper as …
“Certainly the most imposing, picturesque, finely proportioned and substantial structure of which NSW can boast.”
(The Old Viaduct, no longer used is the highlight of a very popular bushwalk. Details HERE)
By 1867 the railway track had reached present day Wentworth Falls and in the following year Mount Victoria. Trains were delivering people down the other side of the Blue Mountains by the end of the following year and by 1876 all the way out to Bathurst.
With the ease of travel on the trains the Blue Mountains suddenly had a quantum shift in visitation numbers and attitude. It was no longer somewhere you had to struggle through, it was now somewhere you could go and enjoy.
The Boom in Blue Mountains Tourism
By 1880 Mt Victoria was described as …
“a busy thriving country resort. High class hotels, stores, boarding houses, and villa residences.”
Hotels were springing up to accommodate the visitors, many of which can still be seen and enjoyed today.
Three great examples are The Hydro Majestic in Medlow Bath, The Carrington in Katoomba, and the Imperial at Mount Victoria. Drop into these and get a feel for how they would have been back in the day.
The Carrington was opened in 1882 and advertised as …
“The largest and best known Tourist Hotel in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The Hydro Majestic opened in 1904 and really was majestic. It had it’s own electricity generator, internal Telephone system and Spa facilities.
An early visitor remarked …
“The conception of the place was daring and brilliant enough for Monte Cristo himself.”
Wealthy Sydney residents had also been buying up big and establishing palatial holiday homes and for some, permanent residences. Sydney at the time was a very dirty smelly place. Many of these fine homes are still around.
This move to the Blue Mountains soon became known as …
“The Blue Mountains Craze.”
Blue Mountains Air
“breezy highlands” where Sydney’s citizens could seek “the re-invigoration of mountain air and the refined pleasure afforded by the contemplation of beautiful scenery.” The Railway Guide of New South Wales in 1886
“Mountain air is more rarefied than ordinary air. It is perfectly pure also, and free from all atmospheric dust and micro organisms.” Dr Phillip Muskett 1890’s
“To those debilitated by strenuous work in the cities, or suffering with any form of anaemia, nerves or lassitude, a course of the ozone laden winds proves a veritable elixir of life.” The Katoomba Daily 1920
“As a result of the asthma I was sent to school in the country, and only visited Sydney for brief, violently asthmatic sojourns on my way to a house we owned in the Blue Mountains.” Patrick White
“Come Up for the Air” 1980’s Blue Mountains Tourism Slogan
I doubt that anyone visits the Blue Mountains these days and does not visit the Three Sisters! But it was not always this way. In fact the Three Sisters received little attention in the early days.
The Orphan Rock was the big drawcard back then!
“Standing solitary like a sentinel on duty” proclaimed one common guidebook.
“In all my travels I have scarcely met anything more wonderful than the Fish River Caves; and the time here was spent so pleasantly, and everyone has been so attentive and obliging to us that we shall always have a happy recollection of the few days we spent in this land of wonders.”
“Grand sights! Grand guide! Grand everything!”
“Every cave is a palace or a gem; every stream is musical, and the scenery is poetry materialised.”
Comments from the Jenolan Caves Visitors book 1894
Quotes about Mountains in General
“Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
this is not done by jostling in the street.”
“I live not in myself, but I become
Portion of that around me; and to me
High mountains are a feeling, but the hum
Of human cities torture”
“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of church-going.”
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
“Whenever I look at a mountain I always expect it to turn into a volcano”
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
“Mountains are the beginning and the end of all natural scenery.”
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”
“In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds.”
“I’m always looking for a new challenge. There are a lot of mountains to climb out there. When I run out of mountains, I’ll build a new one.”
“People commonly travel the world over to see rivers and mountains, new stars, garish birds, freak fish, grotesque breeds of human; they fall into an animal stupor that gapes at existence and they think they have seen something.”
“The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.”
Robert M. Pirsig