Everywhere you go...

Trip Start Jul 26, 2007
Trip End May 10, 2008

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Where I stayed
Cecil Guest House

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Surely every Australian teenager's dream is to drive along the Pacific Highway, tearing up the tarmac through Surfers paradise, taking in stunning scenery and flirting with bikini-clad meter maids, whilst at the wheel of an Hyundai Accent (Automatic).  Well, OK, not the Hyundai part, but nevertheless, here we were on the threshold of our first great road trip.

After grudgingly accepting Europcar's suggestion that we increase the insurance cover beyond that of the standard no-cover-at-all-unless-you-wrap-the-car-in-cotton wool policy, we were off.  A little confusion around how to escape the roads of Sydney and we were heading West to the Blue Mountains.  The car drifted effortfully along the highway and the radio blared.  Australian radio really can't be criticised harshly enough.  If you discount the stations aimed at 14 year olds with their mix of Hip-Hop, Garage and R&B nonsense, you're left with stations restricted to a playlist of around 14 songs, 7 of which are variously songs by Elvis, Billy Joel and Crowded House.  Surely the world and musical taste has moved on. 

The Blue Mountains, named after the hue of the covering foliage, were enveloped by grey cloud by the time we reached Katoomba.  We checked into the Guesthouse Cecil, a huge rambling old house that certainly had a touch of Lake District B&B about it.  In fact, the whole of Katoomba is a bit Lake District really, with its activity tour operators, twee coffee shops and absolutely dismal weather.  There was a conspicuous lack of pubs, and the only one open was exclusively patronised by men who looked like they'd been thrown out of the benefits office.  It is a really nice little place though (Katoomba, not the pub), and if the postcards for sale in the shops were anything to go by, so were the Blue Mountains.  We hoped to find out for ourselves by waiting for the weather to clear up.  Unfortunately it didn't, but we still walked through the cloud to see the view of the 3 Sisters Rock formation only to be disappointed that we couldn't even see across the road to the Visitor Centre.

Giving up on any hope of the weather improving, the next morning we left for the Hunter Valley.  The Hyundai impressed with the ability of its automatic gearbox, able to change down at the slightest hint of an incline, and subsequently make a complete dog's breakfast of any attempted overtaking maneuver by cruising slowly along almost too embarrassed to be seen going faster than another road user.  We arrived into Singleton at the same time as the sun, and walking into the Visitor Centre were welcomed by the owner of one of the easiest and least fulfilling jobs on the planet.  Our open questions were met with: "..well there's not really anything to do in Singleton, the wineries are worth a look but they're all out of town."  We managed to get the name of a decent place to stay though and after checking-in we had our, now customary, wander.  We'd passed a sign on arrival proclaiming the "World's Largest Sundial".  This had been conspicuously absent from the Visitor Centre Overview, but this may be due to the fact that its not actually the WLS (that's in Sweden apparently).  It now claims to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere a claim that is back down the track a fair way me thinks.  Anyway, it struck us as a good place to have a picnic, so clutching our carrier bags we turned up to discover that its basically in the middle of a traffic island on a main road, making it perhaps one of the Southern Hemisphere's least attractive picnic spots.  The town itself is pretty unspectacular really, a fact confirmed when by following the Heritage Trail signs we happened upon a very modern and well appointed library.  When we planned this trip we certainly didn't envisage spending an afternoon on the Internet in a public library in a small Australian town, but then the life of intrepid adventurers is never that predictable and that's what gives it the edge and excitement.

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