Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Katoomba Blues or Riding the Rails

Ok, so like the next day we decide to like keep up with the walking thing cause like when after we eat dinner it is like soooo easy to go to sleep. Now we have this upstairs room with a balcony that shields us like from all the street noise more than the other downstairs room on the first floor by the porch with all the night noise and drunks screaming. BUT maybe it is all deception since there is not nearly so much drinking and partying on Sunday night?

We spend Sunday morning first thing checking out the train station, and there are lots of people around and some weirdos who blessedly do not interact with us, although given half a chance they seem to be the types Wendy asks for directions.

The reason for wanting to know about how long it takes to walk from our hotel to the station and when trains depart and how much they cost ties in directly to a plan we have to travel out to the scenic Blue Mountains outside of Sydney and spend part of the day hiking and enjoying some fantastic scenery and being out in nature a bit. This idea was given to us by the mom of the baby who sat next to us on the Qantas flight from L.A. to OZ. All right, we probably WOULD have gone to the central train station anyway because even though Wendy does not want me to say this, it is our weird tradition to do this when we visit foreign metropolitan areas.

Directly from the station we walk over to a nearby neighborhood that hosts Paddy's Markets on weekends. There are regular stores in the building, but on three days of the week there are numerous extra displays where you can purchase clothing, curios, various electronics and fresh fruit and vegetables. It is pretty much a mob scene but we take go with the flow and see a lot of stuff for sale.

Then it is off to China Town which is only a couple of blocks away. Wendy orders some food to go and we chat with a local guy who is very friendly and recommends some things to see and do.

We return to our room and have a feast of a lunch with food from the market, Wendy's Chinese take out and left over Thai food from last night's dinner. We dine on the enclosed balcony of our room and the windows are open letting in a pleasant breeze, for although I have kept you in suspense about the weather, it is a beautiful day with sunshine and no hint of rain.

Then we are off again to the main tourist area back over by the Opera House, but on the opposite side of the bay. We wind up on Pitt Street where there is a monorail that goes through part of the downtown area and where the street turns into a pedestrian shopping mall with all sorts of expensive upscale stores lining both sides. We do not spend even a dime here, but lots of other overseas tourists are making up for our fit of stinginess.

When we finally reach the core tourist zone by the bay it is packed with people. We get away from them and visit another market which has lots and lots of crafts displayed for sale. It is extremely crowded so we do not escape from people by going there.

Some temptation exists to make a purchase, but again nothing leaves our wallets. We then go to a nearby museum whose entry fee is free. They feature an exhibit titled Sydney Biennale 2006 which is a multi media work that would be nearly impossible to describe, so you will be spared reading any more about it.

There are some street performers that Wendy spends some time photographing and then we head back to Darlinghurst for dinner. There, we wind up a an Indian restaurant called Malabar where we have a very tasty feast. The owner is a friendly Indian decent man who mixes with the customers and is genuinely interested in how everyone is enjoying the food, the atmosphere and the music. When Wendy inquires about a particular photograph on one of the walls, he goes into significant detail about the work, when it was taken and who is pictured. There is also amazing music being played on the sound system and he tells us that it is a random mix from his database of over 8,000 songs. They even let us take home what we did not finish of our feast, although usually they do not allow that. Before we head home with our leftovers and full bellies, I stop across the street at a bakery and purchase slices of gluten free chocolate cake for breakfast, Wendy buys a croissant for the next day and we go home. I was wondering even after our feast if the croissant would last until the next day, but it goes untouched until the morning,

(Wendy at the Indian restaurant with a borrowed Turban looking like the Maharani)

On Monday, we get up early and realize that we do have both the energy and the inclination to make the train trip to the Blue Mountains. It costs about $20 round trip for each of us and as it turns out the trip is 2 hours each way with all the stops that are made. We do not care since all the scenery is new to us, and we even see Kangaroos in a field both on the journey outwards and then once again on the way back to the city that evening.

Once in the small town of Katoomba, we walk about 15 minutes and are at the canyon edge and can see the mountains, forests and facinating rock formations that dominate the area. Actually, it was not that simple since Don was worried about how far we had to walk to get to the canyon, so we stopped at the police station and talked to a friendly officer. We wanted to see if we could avoid paying for an expensive bus tour of the area, many of which were advertized and gave the impression that they were the only way to see the sites in the region. The officer assured us with good humor that our plan to go on foot was entirely feasible and that the canyon was only a 10 minute walk away.

Once we were there, another pleasant surprise awaited us in the form of an older couple we meet at a scenic overlook who spent quite a bit of time talking with us.

They live in the area and share so much about what is good to see and what is a tourist trap.

They tell us that the reason the area is called the Blue Moutains is due to a haze that results from the vapors emanating from the eucalyptus forests that collect around the rock formations and give them a distinct blue hue in the sunlight.

We notice a wonderful aroma in the air as we walk along the trails that affects our sinuses in a positive way, it is the same vapors from the trees.

(Don has neglected to tell you about these very noisy birds inthe mountains that the older couple calls Carolyn (?) birds. There are many kinds of birds,some of wich we see and some like the bell birds which we hear, but never locate)

We do a little bit of hiking/walking and see these rock formations called "The Three Sisters":

Much of the soil and rocks is a beautiful ochre color. Here is an exxample of one of the formations we went around:

We walk back into town and have lunch at a little cafe that is attached to a hat store of all things. They had an eclectic menu with gluten free main courses and desserts available so I am able to take in a good dose of both. I also had there house special iced tea which was incredibly flavorful and had lemon, lime and mint. Wendy even remarked about how excellent it was and she is not easy to give praise to iced tea unless it meets distinct standards. We got into a good conversation with a local resident and a French woman who was traveling about Australia and various South Pacific islands on a lengthy vacation. We would have stayed longer but our train was only a few minutes from departure so we said goodbye and had to double time it to the station. We made it with just a few minutes to spare, but long enough to inspect and use one of their little rooms that are needed by us humans a few times a day.

Once back at our hotel in Sydney, we had to get our stuff packed and call our shuttle service to confirm our reservation for a ride to the airport for Tuesday morning. We had to brace ourselves for another five hour airplane flight the next day and decided that turning in early was a good way to do this, never mind that we could barely stay awake after hours of walking and riding the train.

We know that once we arrive on the west coast of Australia, our time will start to be taken up by work and preparations for the arrival of our twenty-two CSB and SJU students. It has been good to have some time to be on our own and take in some amazing sites before our work begins.


At 10:51 PM, Blogger Janine said...

Thanks for daily 'mini-vacation'! Keep writing! Smiles, Janine

At 11:35 PM, Blogger Wendy and/or Don said...

Thanks for reading janine. There will be more pictures on Katoomba blues soon, so check back. (ws)

At 7:00 AM, Anonymous min said...

Hanging with kangaroos. How cool is that?

At 5:36 AM, Blogger VW said...

Hey Don-
How come you are eating in almost all the pictures? I am dying over here waiting for chocolates and shortbread. Glad to hear you two are having a good time! VW

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous VW said...

Hey Don-
How come you are always eating in the pictures?! I am dying over here waiting for chocolate and shortbread! Glad to hear you two are having a good time...we miss you! VW

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Wendy and/or Don said...

Wendy replies. Don is always eating because 1) the food is really good 2) it is the only time he can't turn around when I'm taking his picture and 3) He is actually a humming bird that must eat 6 times his body weight every day (which in his case isn't nearly as much fun as it would be for me!!)


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