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Blue Mountains Tourist : Summer 2009 - 10
Mountain bike mecca The Blue Mountains world heritage national park is a mecca for mountain bike riding with numerous trails and tracks that cater for the novice through to the expert down-hiller. As a tourist destination, the Blue Mountains offers the visiting mountain biker a plethora of off- road tracks from one hour's duration through to 2-3 day long expeditions. For resident mountain bikers once is never enough! Mountain biking is a great way to explore the beauty and diversity of the bush, letting you get close to nature and exploring areas inaccessible by car. It's also a great way to get and stay fit. Mountain biking can be accessed by everyone and is a great family activity. But best of all, mountain biking is fun! So where do you go? If you are a novice or want to enjoy a family-orientated off-road ride, start at Blackheath, ten minutes' drive west of Katoomba. Here you will find rides that are less strenuous due to the flatter terrain. Mount Blackheath and Hargraves Lookout are both situated along Shipley Road just over the railway track, and combine some tarmac with easy to ride off-road sections. These rides are approximately 10kms return from Blackheath station and can be done separately or combined to make a casual 2-3 hour ride. Turn left at the traffic lights at Govetts Leap road, over the railway track and left onto Station street. Turn right onto Shipley road and follow this pleasantly winding road past some apple orchards. At the junction at the art gallery turn right for Mount Blackheath or left for Hargraves Lookout. Both rides are sign-posted and cars also use these roads so be car aware. The left turn to Hargraves Lookout begins with a steep but short ascent and then the road turns to dirt and undulates until it opens out onto magnificent views of the Megalong Valley and the Wild Dog Mountains. There are picnic and BBQ areas and a small shelter here so you can lunch with a view and afterwards follow the walking track along the ridge. To get to Mount Blackheath follow the road to the right and turn left at the T-junction onto a dirt road. Follow this along until you come to the end where there are picnic facilities and the jumping off point for hang gliders catching the thermals. For the more experienced mountain biker, Narrow Neck Plateau at Katoomba is a classic off-road ride with steep, rocky ascents and thrilling downhills, this ride is guaranteed to leave you breathless, in more ways than one! The views at the end extend out into the wilderness area and to Lake Burragorang, also known as Warragamba Dam, Sydney's water supply. Narrow Neck plateau can be accessed from Katoomba by following Cliff Drive past Scenic World. Turning left onto Glenraphael Drive you hit the gravel and over the locked gate and into National Park territory. Its straight on from here passing rocky outcrops and sandstone cliffs and stunning views into the Jamison and Megalong valleys. Some steep ascents and technical downhills will excite the most enthusiastic rider. The spectacular views at the end of the ride extend out to Lake Burragorang and beyond and make for a mandatory lunch stop. A small monumental plaque embedded in the rock adds a nostalgic atmosphere to the scene. Breathe in the fresh air, look for wedgetailed eagles and enjoy the peace and tranquility. To find out about more exciting rides, either visit one of the local bike shops in Wentworth Falls or Katoomba. Here you will get expert assistance and advice on bicycles, tracks and trails. So discover the Blue Mountains by mountain bike and be amazed at where it will take you! 2009 Blue Mountains tourism awards www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au summer 2009-10 24 The Blue Mountains tourism industry took out a total of nine 'gongs' at the recent 2009 NSW Tourism Awards -- the highest accolades that the state's industry has to offer. GOLD: Outstanding Contribution by an Individual - Philip Hammon, Scenic World Ecotourism - Blue Mountains National Park Rod Murdoch Memorial Award Visitor Information and Services - Oberon Visitor Information Centre Tourism Education and Training - Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School Unique Accommodation - Old Leura Dairy Major Tourist Attractions - Featherdale Wildlife Park SILVER: Tourist Attractions - The Magic of Jenolan, Jenolan Caves Meetings and Business Tourism - Old Leura Dairy BRONZE: Adventure Tourism - Adventure Underground, Jenolan Caves One outstanding contribution Scenic World CEO Philip Hammon was recognised for his long-standing contribution to tourism in Australia. NSW Tourism Minister Jodi McKay presented him with the award for the 'Outstanding Contribution by an Individual'. Phil accepted on behalf of his family, which has run the business for three generations. "Without my family I would not be here tonight," he said. "Together we have brought the business started by my father and his sister in 1945 through to the 21st century. "It was a process started in 1996 as dementia began to take its toll on the authoritarian, 'take no prisoners' head of our family. "Fortunately, he had accumulated sufficient liquid funds to enable me to build the badly needed extra access into the Jamison Valley in the form of a new aerial ropeway. Although it took four years to get the proposal past our council, I opened the Cableway just before Christmas 2000 ... "That year my wife Peta and I had three children in university and two still in school. Now I have my son -- a graduate in Commerce and Economics -- and a daughter -- who graduated with 1st Class Honours in Mechanical Engineering -- working for me; and two other children on the Board of Directors." "Working from this beginning, we completely rebuilt the buildings and the Skyway and bought my sister out of the business. This latter exercise had held up the expansion of the business for the last four years and more recently this has been compounded by the global financial crisis and the swine flu scare. "Fortunately, as international business dropped the domestic door opened and we kept going." In his speech, Phil reiterated the importance of tourism. "Governments know its value to the national and state economies. They know that 'self-loading freight' is a very cheap export and that expenditure on promotion brings in many times its value in international currency." Photo courtesy / copyright Oneill Photographics