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Published: October 29th 2006
Blue Mountains Panorama
You can see the blue haze in the air here from the eucalyptus oil in the atmosphere
Alrighty, time for a quicky update of our activities over the past few days...
On Thursday (WOW I can't believe that was so long ago. Time flies!) the three of us planned to go to take the train to an area outside of Sydney known as the Blue Mountains. My guide book says the name comes from the blue haze in the air caused by the eucalyptus oil in the lower atmosphere. Eucalyptus? Koalas? We hoped so!
The train ride was 2 hours on the Sydney train. When we got to the station we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the week-long transit passed we'd purchased earlier entitled us to a savings of $10, so that the trip only cost $14 return. Score!!! We've recently discovered that we've been waaaay over spending and are now incredibly poor, so every little bit counts. There were some screw ups on our journey, resulting in us missing the proper train and having to wait an extra hour, but it was all right. We got to spend our time in a mall and the hugest surf store ever, and I got a cappaccino. Mmmmmm. The problem was that the coffee made me have
Derek's pretty excited to be on the train to the Blue Mountains. Mark, on the other hand.... (he wasn't actually grumpy)
to seriously pee, and after the 2 hour train ride I nearly died trying to find a bathroom ASAP, with Mark and Derek doing all they could to make me try to pee my pants (they don't know how close they came to their goal...)
Haha, well, that was probably more information than you needed to know. We were way too cheap to pay for any kind of tourist bus, so we opted to walk to the national park from the train and hope to find a good trail head. It was a bit of a walk, but it turned out to be a good idea because we didn't have too much trouble finding exactly the trail we were looking for. The view was spectacular, and the trail was really well maintained. Someone went to the trouble of carving all these stairs out of the stone cliff down hundreds of meters. The Blue Mountains are really just hills on either edge of huge canyons that have been eroded away over time by water, leaving a tropical rainforest ecosystem in their path. We didn't see any koalas, but we did see a lot of cockatoos, parakeets, and other tropical-y birds.
Mark on the steps
Some of the many, many steps we walked down. Erich counted later on when they went and said there were like 1200 or something
We walked casually down the trail for a few hours and were getting increasingly concerned with the distance we had descended due to the dread of the ascent back up, when we came across a glorious thing called the "Scenic Railway," which was basically a short railcar ride STRAIGHT up the side of the mountain. It was like 52degrees angled, or something. You had to brace yourself so you wouldn't fall forward out of your seat. A ticket was $8, but since we'd saved money on our ticket out there we thought we could justify it. Since the train ride up was going to save us time, we were able to hike another trail for about an hour. There was a whole coal mine interpretive thing there, but we weren't really interested.
At the top of the railway there was a big giftshop, where we found amazing platypus necklaces for only $10!!! YES! We'd been looking all over for platypus jewllery--the aquarium really let us down on that front. Derek and I both bought matching Platys, after searching through the entire rack for ones with just the right expression (hey, they were all different!). Then it was time for
The thought of walking back UP all those steps was too much to bear. Luckily, this incredibly steep railcar was there to save the day! (for a fee, of course)
the long walk back in to town, which nearly killed us because it was all uphill and we were tired from our hiking. We just missed the train, so had an hour's wait for the next one. It started to get seriously cold, and before long we were freezing. We tried to play slappies (our favourite card game) to warm up, but I was too cold because I'd spilled a fruit cup all over my pants and my hands so eventually I just huddled on a bench and endured Mark and Derek's taunts of "Fruit Legs!!!" until the train came.
On Friday we took a ferry (fare was included in the cost of our week-long transit pass. MAN I'm in love with that thing. I'm going to cry when it runs out on Monday) to the northern shore of the Sydney Harbour to Manly Beach. We wanted to check it out because it's supposed to have good surfing and we were considering staying there for our final days in Sydney. It was pretty cool and windy that day, despite being sunny, so we never actually made it in to the water. The waves looked great for beginners, and we
On the railcar
We had to brace ourselves to keep from falling forward out of our seat. The chain-link fence wasn't just to keep our arms in...
checked out a few board rental shops, but overall the area wasn't very interesting and we ended up going home mid-afternoon. I DID finally find a perfects straw cowboy hat from RipCurl, though. I've been looking this whole trip and had all but given up. They're always either too ugly or too big or two expensive, but this one is perfect. It fits me because it was in the kids' section, and it has a nice big brim with pink writing that says "Ripcurl." Sooo good. I love it. The only problem is that it really catches the wind, and since it's been so windy here lately I've been constantly fighting to keep it on my head (luckily, it comes equipped with a chin strap).
Saturday plans included checking out a big market down the street from us. We wanted to check it out early, but I slept in fairly late so that didn't really happen. I was happy, though, because I seemed to have lost my ability to sleep in and I was getting a little concerned. After a delicious breakfast of raisin toast, Milo, and a huge bowl of cereal I bought in Byron Bay but never ate, I waded into the maze of kiosks in search of the perfect summer dress. The market had everything from used clothes to fashion student creations to food to jewellary... it was pretty overwhelming. I eventually found a dress that I realllly liked, but I was totally torn about making the purchase since it was $35 that I felt I shouldn't spend. I tried it on and then left the market and had lunch (more raisin bread... that's pretty much all I eat these days) but in the end I came back and bought it. It needs a bit of safety pin alteration... slightly revealing. Ahem. I feel OK wearing it around here because it seems pretty accepted to show a bit of "skin" in Sydney, but I kept my jacket done up when we had dinner with Mom tonight =) After the market, we bussed downtown to the Opera House and the Botanical Gardens (free activities!). The Opera House looked neat up close, but we were disappointed that we couldn't go in. It looked like some kind of matinee performance was just getting out. So, we walked to the Botanical Gardens next door and started to scroll around the gardens. It was sunny again, this day, but really cool due to a fierce wind that was giving me and my new hat a seriously hard time. The gardens were pretty nice, but they're no Bucharts. Hehe. In the tropical area, we saw this bird and the TINIEST little black baby chick ever, and the little chick couldn't make it up a little brick into the garden to be with its mom. It was really cute. Despite my protests, Mark picked up the chick anyways and put it in the garden. I was afraid it would be abandoned by its mom (who was FREAKING out at us) but it seemed to be OK. I hope. It was really cute, though.
We had fun watching the families playing the park, doing funny stuff. Asian kids striking weird poses for their parent's camera, and this group of little girls trying to teach some guy a dance they'd made up to the Shakira song "My Hips Don't Lie" (or whatever that song is called). We sat for quite a while in this little cave made out of sandstone and watched the proceedings. The cave was sheltered and the cave was giving off some nice conductive heat. Mmmm. I was so comfy. Then we reunited a small child with his dad. The little boy kept hiding from his dad (who had a long, grey ponytail and a big picnic basket), and his dad just kept wandering around trying to look unconcerned. Hopefully, he really was concerned. I talked to the boy a bit and eventually made enough big motions to catch the attention of his dad, who then knew where the little guy was and came and snatched him up and carried him off upside down. The whole situation was rather strange.
After a huge bus fiasco that I won't get in to, we eventually got back to our hostel and went straight to a $5 Pad Thai place and consumed our food greedily. Then I went on the internet at my favourite internet cafe: Home.Cafe. I LOVE it there. Sooo good. If you're ever in Sydney, go to Home.Cafe on Glebe Point Rd. Only $1 for 1/2 hour, and $3 cappaccino!
Today we planned to go to another market in Bondi, but it turned out to be a bit disappointing. It was smaller than the Glebe Market and had a lot of the same vendors. Plus, we'd pretty much resolved to not spend money so wandering through a market was ab it pointless. In the end, we sat on gorgeous Bondi Beach for a couple hours and watched the surfers. The surf was HUGE, so we would have had no chance to even get out past the break, let alone catch any waves. Plus there were a ton of pro people out there who would have been annoyed by us amatures. Oh, and we also walked around looking for a good hostel to move to and found an INCREDIBLE place with FREE board/wetsuit loans to its customers. We were so happy to find such a great place, but, sadly, they didnt' have any beds available for us. Noooo. We found another hostel that looked fine, but it didn't have surf boards available so in the end we've decided to stay at our current hostel, Alishan, because it's so nice and we love it there. We'll go to Manly Beach again tomorrow with Troy and Erich and just rent boards and wetsuits. It's rather expensive, but it will likely be our last chance to surf for awhile so it needs to be done. The waves there seemed great for beginners, and there's a surf school right on the main beach. I'll likely just see where they're surfing and surf right beside them =) The place we're going to rent seems like a nice, local place where they do their own shaping and stuff, so I'll be happy to support them. Plus they were friendly and didn't make me feel intensly intimidated like all of the other board shops in Manly.
Tonight we ate dinner with my Mom, which was great. Gotta spend some quality time with her because after Wednesday I won't see her for like 5 months! She's having a good time here, too . She got some great egg masses and she's working on getting them to develop properly; possibly they need some water temp manipulation (she's an invertebrate marine biologist, for those of you who don't know)
Well, Mark and Derek are busy picking out our accomidation for our first couple nights in Bangkok, so I think I'd better go supervise. Hopefully my next update will be about the great waves I surfed in Manly!
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