Published: February 14th 2011January 17th 2011
Happy New Year!
Fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge
My first month as a resident of Australia has flown by!
Firstly, yes, I am safe from the floods, the cyclones and the bush fires. La Nina seems to be making quite a mess of the country!
My first month was both busy and relaxing. We relaxed in Jamberoo and celebrated a friend's birthday in Sydney. We enjoyed a lovely summer day while celebrating Christmas in Sydney, and shivered two days later when Mother Nature thought it'd be funny to give us another dose of chilly wedding reception weather. At our "meet the newlweds" reception, the cold, rainy weather forced us under tents and awnings and inside around the fireplace. We enjoyed the party anyways. And I survived my first large family gathering with the new in-laws and all the extended family, friends and neighbours.
The next few days in Jamberoo we played host to some of Dave's mates, and then headed to Sydney via Royal National Park for New Year's. We spent a couple hours in the park, enjoying the warm weather, then enjoyed a lovely dinner overlooking the water at Coogee from a cousin's place.
We started off New Year's Eve with a swim at Marubra Beach,
View over Jamberoo
A view from the lookout at Saddleback Mountain
then faced the crowds and the heat at the Royal Botanical Gardens to stake our tiny piece of grass from which we would watch the famous fireworks. Our claim to the land was wide enough and long enough for the two of us, and it was certainly cosy. We read the paper, attempted the crosswords, and made friends with a fellow Canuk as we waited for the sun to set and the activities to begin. There was a blessing ceremony on the harbour, which we couldn't see very well from our position, then a round of fireworks at 9pm. The big ones were of course at midnight, and they were pretty good. I must say though...there was room for further impressiveness. Perhaps it's due to the anticipation that the countdown to midnight on New Year's Eve should always be bigger than it ends up being. Or perhaps I was spoiled coming from Montreal, which hosts an international fireworks competition every year. If you want to see some fireworks, those competitions blow NYE fireworks out of the sky!
Nonetheless, it was great fun, and it was delightful to see how the city of Sydney's public transit system stepped up to the
plate to make sure everyone got home safely. It was actually quicker getting home than into the city, despite taking the wrong bus and having to change buses! Huge signs and plenty of staff in bright yellow vests directed the thousands of people to various areas to catch buses. In order to hurry things along, the buses were free! Having heard so much negative press about Sydney's public transit, the planning and efficiency of these New Year's buses really impressed me.
After New Year's it was back to Jamberoo for a few days while we packed up for a road trip to the Snowy Mountains. Having never been to the area, I was looking forward to saying I had hiked the tallest "peak" in Australia. My cousin did warn me though - it's not like mountains in Canada or Switzerland! Of course, having previously been to Oz, and lived near Mount Royal in Montreal, I knew that the definition of a "mountain" can be relative. We set off for our 10 day trip, first stopping near Goulburn to visit Dave's sister. We stopped at the town of Tumut, which we both decided was a lovely town, then headed for
Tracks in the Sand
A kangaroo was here!
one of the free campsites along the Blowering Reservoir. We could see that the water levels were higher than normal, as there were plenty of submerged trees. The next day, we spent most of the day at Yarrangobilly Caves, where we did a self-guided tour as well as a guided tour. The caves were fantastic and among the best we've seen thus far. We also relaxed in the (not so) hot pool, for which my feet were grateful (borrowed boots aren't the best hiking option!).
That night we headed 25km down a dirt track to get to the Blue Waterholes campsite. We did attempt a hike to the cascades, but it involved river crossings. Normally this isn't an issue for us, but the water was COLD. It actually hurt to stand in the water for a few seconds, let alone cross the river several times. I'm surprised there was no ice floating in the water! In addition, the dark clouds looked rather threatening, so after a few kilometers, we gave up and turned around.
The next day we headed towards Australia's highest town, Cabramurra. I hate to dismiss a place, but it's really not a town worth a visit.
Inside the Caves
Yarrangobilly Caves, Kosciuszko National Park
It's a town built specifically for the Hydro-electric workers, and not much else. Still, there were some interesting photos of life in the early days of the purpose-built town to look at, and it gave us a chance to check our fuel and oil levels. The area would also be interesting for an ecologist studying the response of an ecosystem to forest fires. Much of the landscape surrounding the town was damaged by fire. The white, dead gum trees gave the area a ghostly look.
We continued on towards Khancoban, where we purchased our National Park pass. Past Khancoban, we visited a power station to learn about the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. It's a bit of an engineering feat, with tunnels through the mountains delivering water from one reservoir to another, re-using the same water to produce more electricity.
That night, we checked into the YHA at Thredbo, and enjoyed drinks at the pub while we watched the sunset. It was from the deck of the pub that I gained an appreciation for my cousin's mountain disappointment. Kosciuszko may be Australia's highest mountain, but it certainly doesn't stand out. It is along a series of very eroded peaks, so
Kosciuszko National Park
it doesn't stand much taller than the rolling hills around it.
The next day we took the chairlift up to the start of the summit walk. I looked around for the peak, but well, I didn't see it. For most of the walk, the peak was even obscured by clouds! Still, I could tell we were in an alpine area, with the fierce winds forcing me to leave my hat behind at the chairlift office! The 6.5 km summit walk is along a mesh walkway, designed to protect the fragile alpine plants and soil. It wasn't a difficult walk (which my feet in those borrowed boots were happy about), and with the puffy white clouds in the sky and the wildflowers dotting the landscape, it was a lovely walk. I'm very happy we went during the peak of wildflower season! We enjoyed lunch and a rest at the top, and then started the walk back to the chairlift.
After our mountain adventure, we headed to Jindabyne, where we found out from a lady that there were plenty of jobs available if you are a school teacher, but when we asked about parks jobs, she replied "how's your murder?". National Parks
The Highest Mountain
Mt Kosciuszko, 2228 metres
jobs are hard to come by, no matter what country you may be in! Jindabyne seems like a lovely town to live in, and we gladly spent several hours wandering around the shops and cafes.
Onto Canberra for a night visiting the cousins, then we headed to the coast for some beach action. However, the threatening clouds that appeared over Jindabyne had followed us, and by the time we stopped for lunch in Bateman's Bay, the skies had opened to a downpour. We had no desire to camp in the rain, so we ended our roadtrip early and headed back to Jamberoo. On the way we stopped at the very pretty Pebbly Beach to say hello to the resident kangaroos on the beach.
All in all, we enjoyed our roadtrip, even if the rain forced us home early. We spent the rest of Dave's holidays relaxing in Jamberoo, checking out the beaches in Kiama, helping a friend paint his roof and dig out his barn after heavy rains made a muddy mess, and catching up with friends.
And now it's back to Orange, where Dave goes back to work and I search for jobs!
There are more photos below