On Phil’s recommendation, I stayed in a town called Katoomba at a small hostel called the Flying Fox. This is the kind of place that a lot of people come for a few days and end up staying for weeks or months. I didn’t quite end up like that, but I booked three days and ended up staying six. The town itself was quiet and small and I thought felt a bit like Byron Bay with its small shops and lack of fast food chains.
Being "mountains", there were plenty of hikes to do in the area. I spent about three days hiking and there were some spectacular views and spectacularly long stairways. Along the many paths I met some interesting people; someone from Brooks Alberta and another group who asked to get a picture with me as I walked by. I felt like a celebrity.
Canyoning is another big thing to do in the Blue Mountains and Phil told me I had to try it. The first part was a half day of abseiling, which may or may not be the exact same thing as rappelling… I don’t know the difference. If you haven’t done it before, you can see from the pictures that abseiling involves descending backwards over a cliff edge, hanging from a rope. After a morning of backing off cliffs, we got to the actual canyon part of the day. We made our way down a rocky stream, jumping off small waterfalls and sliding down rocks. The finale was an abseil down a pretty big waterfall, and I was the first to go. It was exciting, scary, and a lot tougher than the morning abseils because of the water in your face and the slippery rocks. Unfortunately because of all the water and my lack of a waterproof camera, there are no pictures from the canyon part, but I found myself at the final waterfall during a hike the next day so I managed to get a photo of that.
After the Blue Mountains I headed to Canberra with my friend Ben who lives there. Did you know Canberra is the capital of Australia? True. Its not a very popular backpacker destination, possibly because its not on the coast, but I had a good time. I stayed with Ben’s family while I was there, and had a real cultural experience of Australian family life. Turns out its basically the same as Canadian family life. Canberra itself was an incredibly nice city, as the capital should be. The city has quite a few sights as well; museums, galleries, parliament houses. But I mostly enjoyed being able to live in a nice house with my own room and a big bed for a few days. I had a nasty cold so that’s my excuse for staying inside too much. Also it was 40 degrees outside so for once in my life I felt justified to stay inside on a sunny day. Another Canberra highlight was being invited to Ben’s cousin’s fifth birthday party… that was an enjoyable day, certainly not a boring one.
Next I’m off to Melbourne for my final Australian stop!
The Blue Mountains aren't mountains, but they are blue. They should be called the Blue Plateaus, Valleys, Canyons, Gorges etc, but not mountains. The blue comes from something given off by the trees causing a bluish haze. Sure. Still they were impressive and its hard to believe that a place like this exists just a short train ride west of Sydney.