Royal viewers a welcome sight in the Blue Mountains

Above: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge observe abseiling at Narrow Neck Lookout in Katoomba, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse – Pool/Getty Images)

Note: The article below is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Royal viewers a welcome sight after long wait in the Blue Mountains” was written by Oliver Laughland in Katoomba, for theguardian.com on Thursday 17th April 2014 07.50 UTC

Despite the 3,000-strong crowd there was an odd hush as Prince William and Duchess Kate descended the pathway to Echo Point in Katoomba to look out over the Three Sisters rock formation.

For some it bordered on the anti-climactic. Many gazed into smartphones, recording the moment the couple passed by. The odd whimper of excitement escaped but quickly petered out. Some had been camped there for over five hours.

This stop-off was designed to showcase the region on the international stage. A spokeswoman for the Blue Mountains city council said that since last October’s bushfires $100m worth of tourism or 500 jobs had been lost.

And the view was breathtaking. The undulating mountains extending for miles into the distance. The sun shone.

But, as one TV royal correspondent put it in a piece to camera: “Over there, two people watching the view.”

Then, pointing away from the royals to the crowd: “Over there, countless hundreds of people watching them watching the view.”

For others, though, the visit was more than just a postcard moment.

Sue Tait, a Gundungurra woman from Katoomba, and a traditional owner of the Three Sisters, an Aboriginal sacred site for women, said the brief trip was an opportunity for the royals to experience Indigenous heritage.

Tait, wearing a traditional cloak made from possum fur, said she hoped the royals would recognise the Indigenous heritage in front of them. “That’s part of their journey here – to learn about culture,” she said.

The royals have yet to experience a formal welcome-to-country ceremony – that won’t happen until next Tuesday in Uluru.

For nine-year-old Sophia Witting the visit would be unforgettable. Before the royals arrived Witting had written them a poem and was hoping for the opportunity to hand it over.

“So here we now sit on our deckchairs to wait, for a glimpse of you in our memories to take,” read the last line.

Witting was one of five girls pulled out the crowd for a few minutes with the couple.

Afterwards, she was elated: “They told me they were glad to be here and said thank you for taking the time to write.”

Earlier the couple visited the areas in the lower Blue Mountains hit by last year’s bushfires. In the town of Winmalee, at the Guides Hall, William and Kate met members of the volunteer Rural Fire Service and locals affected by the fire.

In this area alone about 200 hundred homes were lost.

“I want to shake as many hands as I can. Everyone,” Prince William told the volunteers.

“To not have any loss of life is incredible,” the duchess said.

For Fiona Hillan, who lost her home in the fires, the chance to meet the royals was a step forward in trying to rebuild her life.

“It is wonderful. I nearly said it almost makes it worthwhile, but it doesn’t really. It doesn’t replace everything that we’ve lost, but it certainly helps the healing process,” she said.

After watching an abseiling exercise, the royals took a helicopter back to Sydney where they will meet the prime minister, Tony Abbott.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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