By Ellen Hill for Escarpment Group Photos: David Hill
Respect your elders, celebrate the holidays and begin the Chinese New Year of the Rooster afresh with Asian street food, music, lanterns, lights and lions at the Hydro Majestic Hotel on Sunday, January 29.
The original Blue Mountains party palace will celebrate its Asian heritage past and present with all the sights and sounds of the Orient.
The Hydro Majestic Pavilion at Medlow Bath will be adorned with colourful lanterns, and cherry blossoms and cumquat trees will stand at the doors with lucky red money bags for children to tie to the trees as offerings to respected ancestors.
Escarpment Group general manager Ralf Bruegger said: “Our Lunar New Year will recreate the romance of the East and be reminiscent of Oriental opium dens and cigars, although our guests these days will have to make do with dreamy sunsets and cocktails.
“We will, however, adopt the tradition of respecting our ancestors. In our case, we will pay homage to Louie Goh Mong (nicknamed `Charlie’), who worked as a cook at original owner Mark Foy’s home and managed the mayhem at the Hydro Majestic for 35 years.’’
Charlie Goh Mong was just one of many Chinese workers who reverted to their traditional skills across the Blue Mountains post-Bathurst gold rush era around the turn of the 20th century, with many working as butlers, cooks, nannies, maids and produce suppliers to inns, guesthouses and manor houses during that time.
Decades later, people from all over the world continue to work at the grandest of the grand Blue Mountains hotels.
Chinese New Year celebrations will wrap-up a weekend of celebrations of cultural diversity at the Hydro Majestic, after World Degustation Day revels in the flavours of all continents on Earth with a seven-course feast on Friday, January 27, after Australia Day.
Locals can mingle with international visitors to watch the exciting lion dance troupe performance and nibble on Asian street food such as dumplings, barbecued meat and seafood skewers, Banh Mi, fresh spring rolls, rice paper rolls, fried noodles, roasted corn cobs, Asian desserts and more.
Mr Bruegger encouraged visitors to fully immerse themselves in cultural diversity and stay at least one night to experience World Degustation Day from 5.30pm to 9.30pm Friday, January 27; explore the spectacular Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area on the Saturday; and then attend Chinese New Year celebrations from 12pm to 3pm on Sunday, January 29.
Go to www.escarpmentgroup.com.au to book accommodation and dining options at one of the four Escarpment Group properties in the upper Blue Mountains (the Hydro Majestic Hotel, Parklands Country Gardens & Lodges, Lilianfels Resort & Spa and Echoes Boutique Hotel & Restaurant).
* Escarpment Group is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media
By Ellen Hill Photos: David Hill
This article was written for and published in the Blue Mountains Gazette monthly Review magazine on September 16, 2015
“Is there anybody here tonight?”
With the agony of long-gone tortured souls reaching out from the sandstone walls at your back and the sticky black of darkness all around, you nervously prepare to meet ghostly company in the dead of night.
Paranormal Pete’s spooky ghost hunting tools flicker into life as they sense a phantom presence.
The name of someone’s dearly departed mother is distinguishable from the Ovilus or ghost box machine that converts environmental readings into real words.
Someone stifles a shriek as they experience a cold shiver. The wooden benches creak in discomfort as the rest of us shift uneasily in our seats.
The old courthouse at Hartley Historic Site slowly awakens from its supernatural slumber.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours dark tourism guide Paranormal Pete is comfortable in this “other world” and guides locals and visitors on spine-tingling ghost tours to discover the rich and sometimes bloody history behind the rugged Greater Blue Mountains landscape.
Ghost hunters shiver in ghoulish delight at deliciously dark tales of murder, mishap, convicts, hangings and more as they explore haunted buildings, abandoned cemeteries and other bereft locations.
“With adventures like the first European crossing of the Blue Mountains, pioneering the first inland settlements and establishing the nation’s industrial heart at Lithgow come many stories and, 200 years later, reports of paranormal activity,” Pete (aka Pete Clifford from Springwood) says.
The “energy worker who specialises in dark tourism” has always been interested in the paranormal. His mother and siblings talked about ghost stories and local legends and, as a child, lived in a house that was haunted by what was believed to be his protector.
Pete says his scariest experience happened after one ghost tour at a council reserve.
“I walked up the road and saw a light coming towards me. I continued to walk. By this time the light was on top of me and it’s gone through me and on to the other side. I heard a voice say: ‘Get out of here now.’
“I was the only one that experienced it. I had to sit on a log for 10 minutes to get my composure and energy back. I didn’t go back there for about six months.
“I think I might have actually been walking over the poor fella’s grave.”
However, “the spirit world is very positive — they’re there to help us and guide us and protect us”.
“I’m always into communicating with the spirit world first and if we come across a ghost we’ll do our best to help them cross over if that’s their will. If not, it will go when it’s ready.”
People on Pete’s tours may hear the names of loved ones or other words.
“We’ve had the smell of a loved one’s perfume or their aftershave or they’re rubbed somebody on the face, tickled their ear or something else special they used to do that they would remember them by.
“Our tours are fully interactive. We like people to use their senses of intuition, smell, sight, hearing, touch and then we back that up with our gear to enhance your senses on the night.”
Ghost hunting equipment such as EMF metres, an Ovilus 111, full spectrum video, night vision video and Patrick Boo Buddy Bear help discern between the quick and dead.
Participants travel on Buster the Ghost Bus with the only ghost tour in the Blue Mountains and take morbid glee in hair-raising access to unique, forgotten and secret locations that are off limits to the general public.
They visit historic wells, convict graves, an abandoned cemetery, a convict stockade and colonial buildings oozing tales of shadowy figures from the past. They may even meet the ghost of Victoria Pass (“the lady in black”).
The faint-hearted can lean about phantom figures of the night during the light of day on a scenic tour where they can gaze at the world-famous sites and the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area with its jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery, exhilarating attractions and elusive wildlife.
Sightseeing tours take in Scenic World, Govetts Leap at Blackheath, Coachwood Glen through ancient rainforest to the Megalong Valley for wildlife spotting, as well as historic locations around Lithgow and Hartley Historic Site.
The dark tourism business holds a limited Nature Based Recreation License and National Parks and Wildlife Service Eco Pass, giving them access to secret locations known only to select local residents and off limits to the general public.
Tours leave from the Blue Mountains City Council carpark in Katoomba or participants are collected from accommodation or other pre-arranged locations in the Blue Mountains.
- Gift a loved one a goose bump-filled experience with Blue Mountains Mystery Tours. Gift vouchers are available for all tours. Simply decide on a tour, contact 0418 416 403 or 4751 2622 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange payment and a voucher will be posted or emailed to you. Gift vouchers are valid for 12 months after purchase.
Blue Mountains Mystery Tours is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity
By Ellen Hill for Hartley Historic Site Photos: David Hill
Explore one of the best examples of colonial history afresh when Hartley Historic Site holds its annual Back to Hartley family fair on Sunday, October 25.
Be entertained with live music by Lithgow Folk Club; take a trike or pony ride; have a close encounter with a furry friend at the petting zoo; make a fire poker with metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at Talisman Gallery; and hit a bullseye at the archery.
There will be the Galloping Gumnut travelling playgroup for pre-schoolers, face painting, sheep shearing, a reptile show, locally-made handmade arts and crafts stalls, vintage cars and dancing demonstrations. New this year will be a rock climbing wall.
This year’s Back to Hartley will also commemorate the first 100 mile motorcycle race in the Hartley Valley and motorcyclists are invited to submit their bikes for judging by Lithgow Motorcycle Club with a range of prizes and categories up for grabs.
The Hartley Vale Circuit was originally marked out on public roads in 1915 just south of Lithgow. The circuit was first used by the Sydney-based Canberra Motorcycle Club to hold its first annual 100 mile race. The circuit was 6km long and a gravel surface. Racing was conducted in a clockwise direction and later controlled by Western Suburbs Motorcycle Club. It closed in 1936.
Hartley Historic Site manager Steve Ring said funds raised from the day would go towards Paxton – MPS Journey to help pay for treatment for Lithgow one-year-old Paxton who was diagnosed with the rare and incurable MPS II disease also known as Hunters Syndrome when he was nine months old.
“Back to Hartley is a good chance for NPWS to work with the community to raise funds for a local charity or causes we both feel are important. This year we are pleased to be helping young Paxton.’’
Hartley Historic Site is managed by National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and buildings tell the story of the village from the 1837 Greek Revival courthouse to Corneys Garage built in 1945 of timber and iron.
Set among pastures, orchards, native plants and 19th and 20th century cottage gardens, the village’s sandstone buildings preserve an important piece of history – the settlement of inland Australia.
The settlement began when a need for a police centre in the Hartley Valley led to the construction of Hartley Court House in 1837.
During the next 50 years a bustling village grew around the courthouse, the judicial and administrative centre surrounded by churches and accommodation, a post office and staging facilities.
The village served travellers and settlers west of the Blue Mountains until it was surpassed by the Great Western Railway in 1887 and became stagnant and fell into decline.
In 1972 the village was declared an historic site under the management of NPWS.
Today, it includes 17 buildings of historical significance, two privately owned, including Old Trahlee (1840), Post Office (1846), St Bernard’s Presbytery and St Bernard’s Church (1842) still operating as a Catholic church, Shamrock Inn Cottage (1841) and the Court House (1837).
“We have recently completed many improvements and added new attractions to the site including an Aboriginal art gallery, café, the Kew-Y-Ahn walk and modern toilet facilities, new gardens and fences,’’ Mr Ring said.
He also encouraged visitors to explore the wider region.
“If you’re coming from Sydney, travel up the Great Western Highway and see the Blue Mountains, spend the day with us at Back to Hartley, then drive into Lithgow and head home via the Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury to experience the World Heritage Area from a very different perspective.’’
Visitors can choose from a range of accommodation and dining options in the Lithgow area.
Go to lithgowtourism.com for more information.
Back to Hartley will be held at Hartley Historic Site, Old Bathurst Rd (just off Great Western Hwy), Hartley, from 9am to 4pm Sunday, October 25. Cost: $5 per vehicle. Details: (02) 6355 2117 or email@example.com.