Saturday, June 2, 2007

Notes from Sydney, Part 2

One of the things I wanted to do during our trip to Sydney was, ironically enough, get out of Sydney a little bit, capture a glimpse of wild Australia. We couldn't exactly do a Jeep journey into the outback with our limited time, but fortunately, a day's trek to the mighty Blue Mountains were an excellent sample of Aussie woodlands.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSydney has a superb mass-transit system, and all we had to do Friday morning was step onto the trains, head to Central Station and catch the line bound for faraway Lithgow, a few hours west of Sydney. It was a fine train trip as we slowly moved out of Sydney's massive suburban sprawl, and rose in elevation up through a gently rolling eucalyptus forest that reminded me a lot of where I grew up in California's Sierra Nevada. We arrived in the touristy town of Katoomba after about a 2-hour ride, where we caught a double-decker tour bus that we'd bought tickets for as a package with the train ride – it went on a 30km loop around the area and you could get on and get off whenever you wanted. It all turned out to be a nice way to see some scenery while dragging a 3-year-old along and not having a car.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnd the mountains were worth seeing. Katoomba perches on the edge of a huge canyon that showcases immense forests, giant limestone cliffs and in the distance, the blue eucalyptus-generated haze that gives the mountains their name. The Blue Mountains start about 70km west of Sydney, and for the first explorers, they formed an impenetrable wall keeping them from exploring the rest of the country (which they foolishly imagined to be lush and green. Hah hah! Foolish explorers!). It took more than 30 years for the first settlers to "break the barrier," which I always thought a little wimpy of them – until I actually saw the mountains. Imagine these gigantic cliffs and canyons stretching on into the infinite – and crossing them without cars or airplanes. (Peter's favorite sight: the cable car spanning over two sides of the canyon.)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWe took a nice kilometer or so walk along the very edge of the canyon (which had fences for most of the walk, but we still had to keep a very tight grip on Peter during it all) over to Echo Point, which features a Grand Canyon-esque panorama and the distinctive rock formations of the Three Sisters. An Aboriginal busker blowing on a didgeridoo completes the Aussie vibe (note the ultra-modern water bottle though).

We also took a nice hike down into the canyon a little bit, as far as we could safely with Peter, viewing the Leura Cascades (a very gently sloping waterfall) and the Australian bush, including some gorgeous red parrots. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSure, it wasn't exactly heading to Darwin – tourists from all over the world head to the Blues every day – but standing on that canyon rim staring out over the gum trees without a house in sight, you can still kind of imagine what Australia must've been like, 250 years ago now. I'm already counting the days till I get a chance to explore further into the abyss.

More Blue Mountains photos up on our Flickr page!

Next: Wrapping up our Sydney adventures, a surprise appearance by Jim Woodring, and a day at the beach! Plus, bikinis!

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