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Published: July 18th 2009
Wow, what a temperature change! At last we are feeling the benefit of carting walking boots, fleeces, thermals etc all around South East Asia where it was averaging 35 degrees. It's now averaging 15 degrees! We arrived in Sydney after an all night flight from Bangkok and decided to stay awake the whole day to get our body clocks into Oz time - we did very well and were looking forwards to feeling the benefit the next morning, had we not been rudely awakened by a bunch of gap year kids partying away till 3 am - the joys of backpacker living a bit lost on us! The following morning we met up with a friend of ours who lives in Sydney - Phoebe. She drove us around all day and showed us the highlights - we started off at Bronte Beach and walked round to Bondi Beach and back. It was a cold day but with brilliant sunshine was just the tonic we needed to cheer us up (and wake us up!). The following day (after timely use of earplugs to get a good night sleep) we had a walk through the Botanical Gardens to see the Opera House and
Sydney is a very nice city to visit, but like all cities its good to get away from them after a couple of days. So we headed for an area of National Park to do some exploring - the Blue Mountains. Only a couple of hours on the train from Sydney to Katoomba and its another World - beautiful mountains as far as the eye can see, a place you could walk for days and never see another soul. We spent a few days here doing a little exploring but it was quite misty and murky so we spent more time curled up by the fire with a good book (especially as we knew we were coming back after the weekend).
On Friday we got a train then bus up to a place called Capertee (one of those places you could quite easily blink and miss - it seems to be nothing but a petrol station and two houses). A physio friend of Gayle's (Jacqui) has bought a farm up here with her husband (Michael) so we wanted to visit and see how they were doing 18 months on. The farm is in a place called Glen
Davis, 20 minutes from Capertee on a mostly tarmacced road, and is a hundred acres of grassland at the moment. They have 2 alpacas (won in a raffle by Jacqui's mum), a kelpie called Jess, a cat called slinky and a son called Jeremy. The house has been completely renovated by Michael and Jacqui and a little help from Ebay (you really can buy anything, including the kitchen sink, from that website!). The next stage is lots of fencing then stocking with a beef herd - they're going for something called cell grazing where the cows spend small amounts of time in each paddock, then move on to the next. Its supposed to be good for the environment (and makes the cows nice and fat!).
On Saturday, Jacqui, Michael and Jeremy took us on a tour of Mudgee - New South Wales' premier winemaking region. It seems you can simply drive from vinyard to vinyard and taste their free samples - brilliant! We visited about half a dozen vinyards (there are about 50 in the area), with a break for lunch to line our stomachs. It was a lovely day, finished off with the best home-cooked food we've had
since leaving the UK (and a nice bottle of wine of course). On Sunday we drove to Wollemi National Park (only about 20km from the farm), and had a barbeque by a beautiful little stream, followed by a wander upstream... just to see where it went! We didn't have a map so just followed the stream a bit, but decided to turn back when the trees got a bit too thick and the boulders the size of tractors... Michael is going to do some more investigating so we'll come back in a few years and he'll have a whole trail sorted! That evening we were again treated to a wonderful home-cooked meal and some great local wine - just the tonic we needed after the chaos (and lack of decently priced wine!) of South East Asia.
On Monday morning we got the bus and train back to Katoomba to continue our explorations - hoping for some finer weather. Whilst waiting for the bus Dave bought a coffee from the garage and whilst chatting to the lass behind the counter (in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the world), it turned out that she's from Norfolk not
far from where Dave is from - just proves it is a small world!
Tuesday was a blustery start but with enough blue sky for us to head to Wentworth Falls on the train, then a four hour hike, then back to Katoomba on the train. The falls were nice to see, the bushwalking was good, if only because we've hardly done any exercise since leaving the UK. The only downside to this place is that all the towns (Wentworth Falls, Leura and Katoomba) are all perched up on a ridge, with an almost vertical drop into the valley below, but they all look out on to the same mountains in the distance. So no matter where we go to walk, the view is the same. On Thursday we got the train to Wentworth Falls again and had a fantastic calorie burning (we are both in need of that!) walk up, down and along the cliffs back to Katoomba - we saw hardly anyone all day! We ended up in the pub around the corner where we have become locals - as we walked in, the guy was already pouring our drinks!
We are now back in Sydney
and staying in a different hostel to last time - this one seems to have adults staying at it which is nice! They also gave us lots of vouchers for free beer which we will be spending this evening! We went to watch some international hockey today - England v China. Sadly England lost 1-4, but it was a nice game to watch as we got grandstand seats so the view was great. The 3rd goal from Cina was almost disallowed (we have a great photo of the back of her stick hitting the ball into the goal!!) but they let it go after watching the replay. What we didn't know was that Australia and the Netherlands were on straight after, and they didn't boot everyone out of the arena so we got some lunch and wandered down to the pitchside to watch the next game. The teams were Worlds apart from the first match - much faster (and feistier!), with Australia winning 2-1 (the second goal a penalty that was in our opinion a bit harsh). After that was Argentina and Germany, but sadly we didn't have time to stay, although it would have been a brilliant match as
Argentina are top in the World.
So tomorrow it is over to New Zealand for a campervan adventure...
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