Sunday, August 12, 2007

Australia: Katoomba/Sydney/Wollongong: 7-12 August 2007 (Written 12 August 2007)

Wow, so much to write as a lot has happened in the past week...

On Monday evening Bronwen, Matt, and I drove up to Katoomba. Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains, located about 2 hours west of Sydney. We spent the night at the YHA there, and on Tuesday morning, started walking before 7am. We did a walk starting from Echo Point down to the Three Sisters, over to Leura Cascades, down Federal Pass, and over to the Scenic Railway. It took several hours, and was a fantastic walk.

The Three Sisters are an interesting rock formation, 3 peaks just next to each other jutting out of the cliff. There is an Aboriginal legend that a wizard turned three beautiful sisters into stone to protect them from the attention of ill-meaning men, and before he could turn them back into beautiful girls, the wizard died. Going over to Leura Cascades, we passed through beautiful eucalypt forest, frequently passing through lookouts looking into the valley. The Blue Mountains are called as such because the leaves from the eucalypt trees actually create a bluish mist, and from far away, the mountains actually appear blue.

From Leura Cascades, you descend steeply for about a kilometer on the Federal Pass track; the vegetation changes drastically, into rainforest with giant tree ferns. We then ascended for awhile to again walk beneath the Three Sisters, and I saw 4 lyrebirds that day! How exciting ; ) These fascinating birds, that are on Australian coins, are known for being able to mimic any sound that they hear - this includes not only other birds' calls, but also car alarms and chainsaws.

When we arrived at the Scenic Railway, the quietness of the track was quickly transformed into dozens of Japanese tourists. The Scenic Railway is the steepest railway in the world, and goes nearly straight up or downhill. We were going up, and it was terrifying.

We then went over to Blackheath, where the Grose Valley is. We had lunch, then went on an easy one hour walk on the Fairfield Circuit Track, passing through a few different lookouts. We then drove over to a few other lookouts, at Pulpit Rock, Anvil Rock, and a few others in the area. We headed back to Sydney in the late afternoon, and we spent a quiet evening back in Lane Cove.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling really really horrible. Even more horrible than I thought I would have considering how much I had walked the day before. My head was pounding, and my whole body ached. I wasn't sure what was up, but Chris had just sent me directions to get to the Chinese Massage place in the city that Jade, who is a nurse in Sydney, goes to, so I decided I would go check it out. I made some phone calls and finally headed into town.

I ended up walking a lot around the city before going over to find the Pain Relief Centre. They were able to take me right away, and at $50 for an hour Whole Body Massage, it was a great deal. I was in severe pain and struggled to keep from crying out for parts of the massage. Afterwards, I got a fresh squeezed juice and vegetated in Hyde Park. By this time, I definitely had a full-blown fever.

I got back to Lane Cove and passed out after taking some medicine. In the evening I moved to Mark's place and immediately began to feel better. We had an early night which was good.

On Thursday, I still wasn't feeling perfect, so after breakfast I went back to sleep. Mark and I went on a walk around the area in the afternoon - University of Sydney, Newtown, and back. I really like the University of Sydney, with large open green spaces and old buildings. King Street, the main street in Newtown, is packed with great little eateries and pubs and shops. It reminds me a lot of Brunswick Street or Acland Street in Melbourne, and has a great young vibe.

I met Lorenzo in the late afternoon on campus and we walked and walked. We ended up going to a yummy noodle place in Chinatown, which I really enjoyed, and then went to meet his friends at The Clare Hotel. Stayed for a bit then back up to Harbord. It's nice, commuting on the ferry to Manly. On Friday, I slept in, then went down to Curl Curl Beach. It's a beautiful, quite large, nearly empty beach, and I found myself a rock to perch on while I read my book. I then continued to walk along the coast to Freshwater Beach, then down to Manly Beach. I jumped on a bus in Manly to get to Cremorne where I was meeting Brad.

The last time I saw Brad was January 2006 in Vail, Colorado where he had been working winters as a shuttle bus driver. We'd both travelled heaps since then and it was really great to catch up with him. He had recently spent time in Mexico and Guatemala before coming back to Australia for the first time in 2.5 years, so I felt like we had a similar sort of situation, in terms of returning to the old stomping grounds, not knowing what on earth to do for an occupation, missing being on the road, and a love for Latin American culture. It was great to see that after 20 months of not having seen him, we could still get on as we had in the past. Lots of random conversation and brainstorming; all good stuff.

I met Lorenzo in Manly in the evening, and we shopped for that night's dinner. Back at his place, he treated me to a FAN-tastic Italian meal, and in true fastidious Italian fashion, we had a primo piatti and secondo piatti - mushroom and rosemary creamy penne, and eggplant parmigiana, with real Italian Grana Padano...YUM. We decided not to go back into the city and instead went for a walk along the beach and it was beautiful, lots of stars, listening to the waves. Ahh I had forgotten how much I missed leaving near the beach in California.

Saturday morning I slept in longer than I thought I would which meant that I rushed to have breakfast and then I had to go. Caught the ferry from Manly and then I transferred down to Central Station. I got on the train to Otford, where Karen and her boyfriend Lukito were meeting me. Otford is at the southernmost end of Royal National Park, and I instantly felt a refreshing breeze when I got off the train. There was green everywhere, and the sky was a deep bright blue. We went to Garie Beach, which is in Royal National Park, and then we parked the car and went on the Coast Walk - we only did a few kilometers each way but there were some great views, and nice walking tracks.

We hung out at the Scarborough Pub, situated on cliffs overlooking the sea - a wonderful way to spent a Saturday afternoon. After a nap at Karen's place, we went to Sonny's Pizza for her friend's birthday dinner. Yummy gourmet pizza followed by a chocolate fountain at her house...mmm.

And today, after a nice sleep-in, Karen and I drove down the coast to Kiama where she grew up. We went on a walk along the coast, down to the river, and afterwards went to her parents' house. Her 15-month old nephew Lucas was there, and man was he cute. We had an enormous lunch and it was great to meet her family - they were really welcoming and we had a great time. Jumped on the train in Wollongong and I went back up to Sydney to Mark's. I arrived just in time for a huge barbecue that he was having with a few friends. So, the weekend turned out great and I feel much better than I did mid-week, so that's good.

It feels really strange that I'm leaving Australia so soon, yet at the same time I feel really ready to go. It feels like I've been here a really long time, at the same time I realize I've only seen a microscopic portion of the country. We'll see how the rest of the week goes; I'm happy to just relax and catch up on reading and writing before I get to L.A., which I'm really excited for :)

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