Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Blue Mountains

Today we went on a coach bus tour to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are about 2.5 hours outside the city proper. Our tour included many stops which were on our list of possibilities in Sydney, and since it was all inclusive, we knew this was the one for us.

The first stop, which honestly sold me on this tour, was to Featherdale's, an interactive animal park. How could we come to Australia and not touch a koala and kangaroo? My favorite was obviously the Koala.
I think Jay enjoyed our hour stop there as well since he took well over 100 pictures of the animals.

Next, we stopped at Echo Point Lookout for the three sisters, but first we grabbed lunch. I am not sure what it is about sausage rolls and men, but they love them. Jay even had a 20 minute conversation with on of our bike tour guides about how delicious they are...

With our tummies full and happy, we headed to the overlook to take in the beauty of the Blue Mountains. These Blue Mountains get their name and color from the blue haze caused by the oil released from the gum trees and humidity. This area is also known as Australia's Grand Canyon, and I think the name fits.

The Three Sisters are the three stone formations on the left hand side of the picture above. The aboriginal legend states that the sisters accidentally woke a giant, and in order to protect the girls, their father turned them into stone with his magical bone. When the giant started chasing him, he turned himself into a bird. Of course, a bird doesnt have fingers so he dropped his bone and he still lives in bird form. It is said that you can still see him digging around, looking for his bone around the park. Legend has it that if he finds his bone, he'll turn himself and his daughters back to human form. Later in the day, we actually saw a bird digging as legend says.

Having a few extra minutes and being in good health, Jay and I decided to go touch the sisters. We quickly realized why our bus driver told us only to go under certain conditions, the Giant Stairway is named such for a reason.

But the walk was worth it. We got another great view from the 15 minute walk.
Next, we headed over the Scenic World. Scenic World includes multiple rides into a rainforest, essentially making this national park accessible to anyone. Our first ride was the Skyway which took us from the east side of the canyon to the west side. You get breathtaking views of the mountains, Katoomba Falls and the valley below. If you're scared of heights, don't stand on the glass floor!

Our next ride was the Scenic Railway, which took us down into the canyon valley. This ride uses an old coal mine railway and is the steepest railway in the world with an angle 52 degrees. To put it another way, you descend 252m in just 380m of track!

This picture below gives you a better idea of the steep slope. When you sit in the ride, you are actually almost in a V, you quickly find out why as you speed to the valley floor.

After this thrilling ride, we walked on a boardwalk around the rainforest. It was a nice little stroll and if we had more time we would have rather hiked from the three sisters to the rainforest.

With such a short amount of time (only an hour at Scenic World) we truly got a bang for our buck and got a taste of a lot of different aspects of the area. Next thing we know, we're headed out of the valley via the Cableway. Another ride which gave us great views of the area.

Our afternoon included a brief stop in the town up in the mountains. Since it is summer weather during Christmas, this town holds a very popular Christmas in July festival. It is winter during this festival and often snows, which gave the English settlers the familiar Christmas feeling they were used to.

Our drive back took about 1.5 hours before reaching the 2000 Sydney Olympic Park. We literally drove through it, winding around the roads with our driver pointing things out. I was very impressed how the town has embraced the park and all it has to offer.

The athlete village is now residences, and is the largest solar powered community in the world. Also to be a little more environmentally friendly, during the Olympics, patrons had to visit the park via train, bus or water taxi, instead of personal cars.

The water taxi station built for the Olympics was where we hopped on our last event for the day, a boat cruise.

We cruised into the harbor during sunset and caught beautiful views of the city. By the time we got to our port, Circular Quay, it was dark, really allowing the city to twinkle. We also got a chance to meet and talk to some other tourists. The Canadians we met start work with 6 weeks of vacation! Seriously, America, what are we doing wrong?
In the evening, we headed out for a Thai place that we had heard really good things about. Sadly, we couldn't find it and, after a 45 minute walk around The Rocks, wound up at this joint.

We thought the name was cute and it satisfied our craving for Thai food. We also got to over-hear a story from a walking ghost-tour that stopped near us.

It is amazing how quickly our trip has gone by! We only have one day left in Sydney before heading home. Honestly, though, since I had a few Internet issues, I am probably already home by the time this is posted. One more Sydney post and then 1 or 2 wrap up posts before we return to food and fitness. Get excited!