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Sydney, Katoomba, The Blue Mountains

World Trip Two

Thursday, May 28 2009: Cairns-Sydney, Australia

A psychedelic Sydney Opera House.

The flight from Cairns to Sydney took the better part of four hours. We have been flying Virgin Blue around Australia as it is one of the el cheapo carriers. Like most air travel, gone is the free food, drinks, and even peanuts. They have individual video screens in each seat but you have to pay to watch the TV and movies on it. Commercial flying has become quite basic these days.

We landed in Sydney, safe and sound, and once checked into our hotel, walked the beautiful Circular Quay. Sydney is in the midst of a festival of lights. Many buildings have intricate moving light patterns projected on them. This really added to the already breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbor.

Friday, May 29 2009: Sydney, Australia

A grand view of the harbor.

We spent the whole day walking, motoring on a ferry boat around the harbor, and touring in the monorail all around Sydney town. We ate lunch in the vast Sydney China Town. We walked about the peaceful Chinese Garden surrounded by waterfalls and herons. Then we went window shopping all over town. After six hours we were both worn out.

Later, after a long nap, we met up with a good friend of mine, Mark, and his friend Coleen. We had several glasses of wine in the hotel lobby and caught up on 10 years of water under the bridge. Then we all went to the Rocks district for dinner. The Rocks is a very old area in Sydney that had a very bad reputation, but is highly gentrified today. If you would like to know more about the Rocks I recommend you read the poem " The Captain of the Push" by the great Australian poet Henry Lawson. He really captures the feel of the area back then. We ate a delicious dinner, drank much more wine, and eventually staggered back to the hotel. It was great to catch up with Mark and nice to meet you Coleen.

Saturday, May 30 2009: Sydney, Australia

The eleven ships of the first fleet to Australia.

It was a late rise and a very slow start this morning after the frivolity last night. We did eventually get out and visit the Museum of Sydney. It is built on the site of the original government house where much intrigue and politics took place during the early days of the colony. Govern Bligh, of the famous mutiny, got into all kinds of trouble here and ended up having the whole colony mutiny against him; I guess it was a theme with him. The museum is definitely worth a visit as it really is a treasure-trove of the history of Sydney. It has a great mix of artifacts, art, and audio visuals.

We spent the evening with our friends Sue and John at their new home in Oyster Bay. Oyster Bay is some 45 minutes south of the city and their home overlooks the bush and the water. Sue is studying to be a chef so our dinner was delicious. Sue and John just completed two years of traveling around Australia in a campervan. We took pleasure in watching their many beautiful photos.

Sydney Video

Sunday, May 31 2009: Sydney-Katoomba, Australia

Main street Katoomba.

It was only a two hour drive from Sydney to Katoomba, but our extreme good luck with the weather ran out today as it was foggy and raining all day. The city is located on the edge of the southern escarpment of the Blue Mountains. Somewhere under the white sheet of fog were spectacular views of sand stone cliffs and lush green rain forests.

Alas, we saw none of this because of the weather. Also our party lifestyle caught up with us as we both felt really drained of energy. We shuffled over to main street Katoomba for a look around and some lunch. Then we located the information office and bought a map to plan our hikes. All of this was done with little energy and not much enthusiasm. Perhaps after a good night's sleep we will feel better in the morning.

Monday, June 1 2009: Katoomba, Australia

The Giant Stairway.

With the start of the new month so came renewed energy levels for Julia and me. We felt well rested this morning and ready to go out and face the weather square in the face. The foggy skies were still with us as we walked the cliff walk from the Scenic World car park to Echo Point. As we descended the Giant Stairway the clouds lifted a bit and the view broke through intermittently.

After half an hour of climbing down stairs we reached the Dardanelles Walking Track. Now the thick canopy of the lush and overgrown rain forest blocked our view. But we were greeted by hundreds of birds singing and calling to each other. Whip birds, Bell birds, Cockatoos, and other unidentified direct descendants of the dinosaurs. We walked on through the green world and had to climb over three downed trees blocking the path. Eventually we arrived at Lila Falls were we stopped to eat our cheese sandwiches. Then we turned back and joined the Federal Pass walking track. We found ourselves, once again, in almost deafening by bird song. The rain forest turned to less dense Australian bush full of gum tress, turpentine trees, and five leaf water vines binding them all.

The Three Sisters in the mist.

We finally reached the bottom of the Scenic Railway were the weather lifted enough to give us a view of the Three Sisters in the distance.

We walked around the Ledged Boardwalk and then began the slow climb up the Furber Steps back to our car at the Scenic World car park. What a great day of walking and how beautiful the Blue Mountains are.

Giant Stairway Video

Tuesday, June 2 2009: The Six Foot Track, Australia

The Blue Mountain uplift.

The fog and mist were still with us as we drove to Blackheath down the road from Katoomba this morning. The Ranger at the information office was very helpful and advised us to make the walk on the Six Foot Track as it would keep us out of the fog.

The String Bridge.

The Six Foot Track is below the escarpment where Blackheath and Katoomba sit. So we took her advice and drove down the Megalong Valley road which dropped us below the great Blue Mountain uplift. We pasted through lush rain forest on windy roads until we reached the trailhead.

Winter flowers.

The first part of the walk had us tramp over green farmlands, past vineyards, and through cow paddocks. Eventually, the track took us through inspiring Australian bush which was filled with bird song, kangaroos, gums, and turpentine trees. The trail joined the Cox's River were we eventually came to the String Bridge. The bridge is not really made of string, It's steel cable, but it looks like it is string. It took great courage from anyone who thought to cross the river on the suspension bridge. Julia gave it a go and retreated after climbing the access ramp. But I made the crossing and returned unscathed. Although about midway I became quite concerned as the accumulation of oscillations injected into the bridge by my steps seemed to increase to a point that might throw me from the spidery contraption.

We returned the way we had come back to our car. We noticed that it had indeed rained on parts of the track while we had been walking, but the rain had completely missed us. Perhaps our luck with the weather has not been as bad as I first thought.

Six Foot Track Video

Wednesday, June 3 2009: Mt. Tomah and Banks, Australia

The view from the ridge of Mt. Banks.

Julia was really hoping for clear weather on our last day in Blue Mountains. She wanted to see un-obscured views of the vast gum tree forests and the golden browns, reds, oranges, and ambers of the cliff faces.

The wildflowers were surprising.

But the weather was as it has been since we arrived; overcast and foggy. The fog hung thickly over the roads we drove to reach Mt. Tomah. We visited the Botanical Gardens there and despite the weather it was a great experience. The gardens are superb and filled with many exotic plants, trees, and birds. From here we drove to the trailhead of the hike up Mt. Banks. This hike took us climbing slowly over an exposed and rocky ridge. The view from here was intermittent as the weather blew through quickly. The trail got very steep and slippery as we approached the summit. As it flattened out it became heavily forested.

Fog engulfed the trail and us with it. A short climb and we were there, at the summit of Mt. Banks. We could not see the views we knew were there as the summit was completely fogged in. But the forest on the summit was very beautiful and tranquil in the heavy air; only the ever present bird song broke the silence. We walked back down the other fork of the looped track and passed by badly burnt eucalypt trees that were doing a great job regenerating.

Mt Tomah Video
Goodbye Australia Video

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 11,229

Miles Hiked: 179

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 4,152

Miles Sailed: 110


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