I'm going to post a few photos, but if you'd like more, here's the links: Blue Mountains 1 and Day 2. I tried to put captions so you know what you are looking at. There's a few more still to post, but it takes time to upload all of them. Here in Australia there's no such thing as all you can eat internet. So once we've hit our allotment for the month (which was about halfway into that album), it slows down to dial up speed.
Thursday we headed to the Blue Mountains, which are about 2 hours from Sydney. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but got the impression they were sort of like our Blue Ridge Mountains--smaller than the Rockies and covered with trees and other green things. This was pretty close to the truth. They even have a lot of rhododendrom bushes, although I think I read these are Himalayan varieties. They are a bit different than the Blue Ridge Mountains when it come to the actual rock formations, though, which reminded me more of Sedona if they could actually grow trees in the desert. Our first glimpse of the mountains was at Wentworth Falls. We climbed a lot of steps down and then unfortunately back up to get closer to the falls. On our way, we ran into a couple who had American accents, so we asked them where they were from. Charlotte. Weird, huh? Two hours away from Durham, yet we met them clear across the world. We haven't actually run into very many tourists from the States so far, so it was even weirder that they were from NC.
Next we stopped in the cute little mountain town of Leura. It reminded me a bit of Blowing Rock. Lots of cute overpriced shops with nice things. I even found a stationary shop (there are lots of those here, much to my delight) that sold Kate Spade notecards 10 for $65 and $89 address books. I like to look at this sort of stuff and laugh at the price tags, but Daniel says it makes him worry about our priorities as a society. We did find a cheap snack finally at a bakery in town. We got homemade raspberry jam donuts for $1.50. They charge about $3 for one Krispy Kreme donut here, so this was a steal. We didn't feel too guilty about it after all those stairs at Wentworth falls. I kept looking for Bygone Beauties, which boasted a collection of over 300 teapots. Much to Daniel's relief, we never found it. I took him through a teapot exhibition at the Mint Museum in Charlotte once and he's never let me forget it. I thought it was wonderful, but he did not.
Next we went to Echo Point, where the overlook for the Three Sisters was. I tell the story behind the name in the captions in the Picasa album. It was very peaceful and beautiful and dizzying if you looked down. We were glad we did, though, as we spied that someone had lost a shopping cart over the edge (also in the album). It sort of weird to finally lay eyes on something you've seen over and over in guide books.
We went on to Blackheath, where we took in Grovett's Leap. Here's a nice picture from that.
Finally, we headed back to Katoomba, where we were spending the night in this nice hostel. We made ourselves dinner and then headed back into town to walk around a bit. This meant a lot more trudging up mountains, but was pretty. I found a gourmet food store that I wanted to take back to Cronulla with me. Unfortunately, I didn't have much use for it then.
We slept well at our hostel and had our cereal and gold kiwi for breakfast. Lindsey told us that kiwi in the US is only tart because they harvest it so early to ship it over there. She said the kiwi here would be much sweeter. She's right, more so than about the vegamite being good. They even have a special variety here called gold kiwi that are even sweeter than that, and are a pale yellow. There was an adorable French family that ate breakfast at the same time. They had a three year old daughter who came to breakfast in a shirt and striped tights--no skirt. She sang little songs she made up to herself and had a stuffed kangaroo that hopped around with her. She also had sea creature finger puppets that flew through the air with more singing. Her mother apologize for her making noise, but I assured her I thought it was delightful.
We headed out to Jenolan Caves, another hour further from Sydney. The last bit was on a very, very narrow and twisty mountain road where you could only go about 10 miles per hour. I was trying not to hyperventilate and watch for wombats and kangaroos at the same time. They had several signs warning of their crossing, as well as a 15 km stretch where the cows weren't fenced in, either. I saw three kangaroos that had met their maker along the road--enough to make me take the warning seriously.
We arrived at the caves in one piece and bought our tickets for the Orient Cave tour. That cave had just been revamped with a new lighting system and was supposed to be spectacular. While we waited, we had lunch at a picnic area. I had made tuna salad, or at least as close as I could come to it. I could not find pickle relish or pickle chips or anything but those fancy little gerkins you put on relish trays. I had to cube them up to approximate pickle relish. We had several kookaburras and lorikeets that were pretty aggressive about wanting to share our lunch with us.
After lunch, we took a self guided tour of the Devil's Coach House and Nettle Cave, that had an audio guide with it. It was very informative (read: my eyes sort of glazed over when they talked about limestone formation). I was impressed with just that, and it was the freebie that you got when you bought a cave tour. Here's a pic of the Devil's Coach House.
Finally, it was time for the Orient Cave tour. It did not disappoint. It was a tight squeeze at times and a lot of stairs, but well worth it. It was just gorgeous. Daniel had been spelunking before with a friend, where he lost his glasses in the dark and mud and the dad by some miracle was able to find them. I hadn't ever been in one, though, and it was just breathtaking. I guess this is a particularly showy one, though. Here's a couple of my favorite pics.
After the caves it was back up that windy road and then we took Bells of Line road back to Sydney. It provided us with more beautiful Blue Mountain scenery and cows and sheep. I even saw a couple of lambs. We got back tired but having enjoyed the experience. I made mushroom swiss burgers on the barbie for dinner. Daniel said I was making the neighbors jealous from the smells.