Blue Mountains

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
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Trip End Jul 23, 2007


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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Andrea: Today we scheduled an all-day tour of the Blue Mountains. The bus picked us up bright and early at 7:40am after a little confusion about the pick up point. The gentleman who works at the hostel desk and helped us has now given us the exact wrong directions TWICE. We think he doesn't really know his right from left........

The tour started off slow - the driver seemed a little out of it, although he did have a pretty neat accent. We found out later that not only was he Uruguayan, raised in South Africa, but he was also deaf in his right ear completely, and had lost his hearing aid for his left ear. Jose was already planning on how he was going to make fun of this guy in the blog after he responded to the question ""is it time for a cigarette?" from one of the other passengers, his reply was "no this is an automatic..." We were really confused - and he didn't explain the deaf situation until about an hour later...(Jose decided to cancel his blog about that....) he was an overall nice guy, but he just talked way too much with horrible grammer. It drove me slightly crazy. He also, we found out later, a snake handler, botanist, a whip instructor, and all around know it all. Pretty interesting dude.  

After about an hour picking up the rest of the tour group (a couple Americans, one dirty Gator, a Dutch couple, and a fun group of guys our age from Toronto), our first stop was the site of the Sydney Olympics. It was fairly impressive, although nowadays it looks like a ghosttown. They are trying to turn it into a sports facility that people will actually use as a concert venue - but it looked pretty dead. Some neat sculptures and fountains - see attached pictures, but overall nothing too exciting. 

After about a 45 minute drive, we were in the Blue Mountains - the name of the town I've already forgotten. We drove into a national park - with flashbacks of New Zealand as the roads became twisty and turny, uphill and downhill. I really did wonder if our little shuttlebus was going to make it - we had a couple of close calls going up!! The guide kept telling us to look for kangaroos - "Yeah right" I thought. But after unsuccessfully spotting any on the drive, he parked the shuttle and pointed to an open area in the park - there were about 4 kangaroos! They were just hanging out - laying, eating, and hopping around! They were much cuter than I expected - one even had a little joey in her pouch. After we stood there in amazement for about 20 minutes just watching them (and Jose took about 5000 pictures of them) we continued to walk around the park - only to notice more and more kangaroos just lying around! It was so cool - obviously they are not afraid of people anymore, but this was definitely not a zoo. They were in their natural habitat and just unafraid of us (although we didn't really get any closer than about 5 or 6 meters). The park also had a ton of interesting birds - we saw Cucabirds (sp?) and a million cockatoos, all singing away happily. Jose thinks I'm crazy - but did anyone ever have to sing that song in school...."Cucabird sits in the old gum tree......dance, cucabird, dance, cucabird...." - i don't know, I have the weirdest array of songs in my head sometimes. This one must be from piano lessons or something - thanks Mom!

So after a treachorous trip back out of the campground/park, we headed to another park where Wentworth Falls are located. The guide took us on a hike for a little over an hour - down deep into the canyon and then back up again. It was pretty interesting - he showed us lemongrass, tea trea, eucalyptis, and a few other interesting plants that we could either eat or rub on our hands for a cool smell. By the end, we all smelled kind of like a face wash I used to use...mmmm... Our guide was really knowledgeable, but I think he got a kick out of trying to scare us. He kept talking about seeing snakes, pythons, black-red belly somethings, etc. Luckily, we saw no snakes. We did see the remains of a parrot vs. snake encounter, however...and it was pretty obvious that the snake won!! We also learned that the Blue Mountains are named because the eucalyptis leaves that cover the area exude a blue colored oil - which in turn make the mountains appear Blue. Another cool fact - there is Iron Ore running all through the mountains there -and you can really see it! It also rusts after rains and has turned some of the plants rusty! Pretty cool!  One problem - this causes land slides, as the Iron Ore splits some of the sandstone over time.....we stood on a ledge that is going to be collapsing in the next 50 years...just glad it wasn't today!! We learned all types of good stuff on the hike though. For instance, about 32,000 hectares of the land were given to the richest man in England (John something or other), and most of it has yet to be mapped out or explored. They just recently found a bunch of trees that no one had ever seen before and they think they are thousands and thousands of years old - they also believe that some primitive aboriginal tribes may still be living in the land. Wouldn't that be a cool job - to walk around that land, discovering new species of plants, animals, and tribes!!?

Anyway, after a long walk ending with a beautiful scenic view of the valley, we hopped on the bus and headed into town for lunch. Our lunch was included in the tour, but apparently everyone else's was not. So we hung out in this small tourist village for a bit, and then jumped back on the bus to head to see "the three sisters" at a place named "Scenic World". The Three Sisters are a series of three pieces of a mountain - there is an aboriginal legend that three sisters disobeyed their father's orders and tried to awaken the evil spirit at the bottom of the valley. As the evil spirit came up to get them, their father noticed, and turned them to stone to save them (he was a medicine man type). Unfortunately, then the evil spirit turned on the father - and he had to turn himself into a cucabird to get away. One problem - as a bird, he couldn't hold onto his magic stick - so he was stuck as a bird and the girls are stucks as mountains.....interesting. Apparently he dropped his magic stick..and the last part of the legend says that if he ever finds his magic stick he will be able to turn himself and the girls back to human, so then the mountians would no longer exist......interestingly enough there are tons of cucabirds inhabiting the valley where he supposedly dropped his stick. The weirdest part is that they actually stay on the ground - which is extremely unusual for those birds. I guess they are all looking for the magic stick!

Anyway, Scenic World  looked to be a bit of a tourist trap, a pseudo-Disney type place. After grumbling over forking over an additional $40 for the tram ride down to the bottom, we were excited to see the tram. Our other option was to climb 1000 steps down and 1000 steps back up - for free - but this did not sound liek too much fun! We settled for the tram! Apparently it is the steepest tram in the world and goes down at a 52 degree angle. Unfortunatley, the ride is short and it doesn't go super fast - but it was pretty interesting to see, regardless! We walked around at the bottom where they had a bunch of exhibits about the coal mining that used to go on there - pretty neat stuff.As the sun began to set, we took a gondola ride back to the top. After laughing at the Canadian boys for awhile, who had sprinted down and back up the 1,000 stairs....we all hopped back on the bus to head home. The guide had a bunch of puzzles with him - like the one with two horseshoes and the ring, and you have to get the ring off? Anyway, he offered a prize to whomever could finish the most puzzles on the way home.....can you guess who won? (not the dirty gator....) Jose, with his determination and strategic thinking of course took home the grand prize! He is so smart! Before the guide had even finished describing the competition, Jose had finished one of them! 

Anyways, after a LONG traffic jam that added an extra hour to the trip, we finally made it back to the hostel. Good night everyone!!!

Love,
Andrea and Jose
 
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Comments

marwilt
marwilt on

field trip?
I love it--as much as you used to complain that our vacations turned into field trips, you're actually turning a honeymoon into an educational adventure!!Seriously, it sounds fun. What's a gator? The song is Kookaburra, by the way. Did you teach it to your friends? It could be just like summer camp! love and miss you, mom

romero
romero on

Re: field trip?
I gator is a person who unfortunalely attended the University of Florida.

jr0
jr0 on

He takes after me.
Clearly after all those years of living with me my smart sense rubbed off on you. :P The story of the three sisters is really neat! I love all that folklore stuff so don't forget to add it in more of your blogs if you come across some more interesting stories. Love you~Jenny

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