Lebanon, Three Sisters, Worlds oldest cave, train

Trip Start Oct 11, 2010
Trip End Apr 18, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Monday, October 18, 2010

Sydney is a melting pot of cultures, and it has very distinct neighborhoods that make it truly unique. It is maybe similar to what NYC was like when everyone was migrating to the USA. We live 20 minutes from the Lebanese area of town, which we traveled to this weekend.

 Jihad decided to take us to one of their families favorite restaurants that serve Lebanese food. In one word, tremendous! It was one the best cultural and food immersions of my life. We got there right before this small restaurant became packed. Jihad ordered everything for us in Arabic and we soon got a huge sampler platter of food that was almost overwhelming. The most unique item to me was the babaganousch, which is grilled eggplant with the insides ground. On our platter we also had lamb, sausage, hummus, falaffel, chicken, garlic paste, and lots of flat bread (which we used as our silverware. Silverware was only used to cut the chicken into little chunks and we dipped and matched everything wrapping it in the bread. We both loved it, but neither of us enjoyed our breath from all the garlic!

The next day we traveled up to the blue mountains. They are named so because from afar they appear blue because they are covered in Eucalyptus trees, which have a blue tint to their leaves. The day before it had snowed, which normally happens less than 5 days a year; however, by the time we got there it had all melted. We went to the town Katoomba, which had several different activities to do. We started by going to Echo Point where the famous Three Sisters are located. This is an ancient Aboriginal story about a witch doctor trying to save three sisters by turning them into stone, but then the Doctor was killed so he was never able to turn them back.

Jihad had borrowed his brother's car so we could all travel together and after hiking around Echo Point the battery had died. He stayed behind to fix it while the rest of us went to the worlds steepest train! It was a short ride, but exhilarating because we got to sit in the first row. After that we hiked around the base in a rain forest-like environment and took a cable car up, which gave us a glimpse of the Katoomba Falls. By the time we finished Jihad had fixed the car and we stopped at a fish and chips restaurant. I had a burger with a fried egg on top.

The Essas dropped us off at our first hostel, and they continued down the mountain. We stayed at the Flying Foxes, which was full of hippie wanderers. It was a pretty interesting experience to say the least. We had a barbecued chicken pizza that night from a local place and we also (enjoyed) Passion Pop a $6 bottle of sparkling fruity wine.

The next day we got a taste for the price of adventure as we headed to the Jenolan caves. It was $53 each for the bus ride alone, which was only an hour in length. A price so steep it makes one consider hitch-hiking, which our hostel director suggested we did instead of "waste our money."  But using good judgement, your welcome parents, we opted for the bus.

We did a self-guided hike around a uniquely colored blue lake just outside the caves. Historically this lake had been used for healing purposes. Along the way we managed to avoid snakes and see several Water Dragons, which are 1-2 feet in length. We then walked through the nettle cave, which had huge formations of stalactites and mites.

The Jenolan caves have recently been claimed as the oldest caves in the world, at 340 million years old. We took the adventure tour, and it was pretty intense. In order to get to the cave we abseiled 30 meters, which is repelling in the states. We dressed in overalls and had head lanterns as our guides made us squeeze, bump and climb through narrow passages. Melissa and I barely fit through some of the openings, and one of the gals in our group was a little overweight and actually couldn't go through some and got stuck in another! We felt bad when she had to call out that she was stuck. The most tricky passage was through an S bend, which we had to go through head first and crawl through using only our toes to propel us slightly each push. It was exhilarating! It was hard to imagine how they did it back in the mid 1800's when they had only candles, but they somehow did because in several locations there were signatures dating back over 150 years!

We spent the rest of the day taking the train back to Sydney and finding our way back to Tracy's via bus and foot. We were both pretty tired after the Blue Mnt. adventure. 

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