Long drop: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch abseilers at Narrow Neck Lookout. Photo: Wolter Peeters
As the Duke of Cambridge peered over a cliff edge at Narrow Neck lookout near Katoomba on Thursday afternoon, there was a reason for his wife's apparent nerves. Unlike accompanying media and the Mountain Youth Services abseiling team, neither the second in line to the throne, nor the duchess, had the comfort of a safety harness.
The private interaction with the youth group was in contrast to the massive public viewing opportunity afforded at Echo Point lookout minutes earlier, where more than 2000 people crowded to see the royal couple as they vied for attention alongside the Three Sisters, their rocky faces some of the most photographed in Australia.
The visitors appeared to notice the vista the crowd had temporarily forgotten.
''She loved it, of course. It's a pretty stunning view. I showed her Mount Solitary and the Jamison Valley,'' said Anthea Hammon, joint managing director at Scenic World, who guided the couple around the lookout.
Aboriginal tourist body representatives presented the couple with a possum cloak for Prince George, a kangaroo pelt for William and Catherine, and bookmarks decorated with aboriginal artwork.
With a sea of well-wishers hoping for a moment with the royals, it might have been time constraints that persuaded minders to pluck five girls from the throng.
''I wondered what he was up to, first of all,'' said Cliff Girdler from Katoomba, whose granddaughter, Ellie, was selected.
Five-year-old Ellie, wearing all pink, had selected one of her ''going out dresses'' for the occasion.
''It was really cool,'' she said of meeting the duchess. ''I gave her honeycomb and said, 'That's for Prince George.'''
It was a well-timed visit. The fires cost the Blue Mountains $100 million and 518 jobs were lost. The message from Katoomba was as clear as the view: the Blue Mountains is open for business.