On Saturday after O-Week, I had another trip to go on, once again organised by the university. This was only for one day, however, which meant getting up early in the morning to walk to Central Station, where the bus was picking us up from. Our destination: the Blue Mountains.
The bus driver, although no as uniquely dressed as the one last week, was very Australian in the sense that he was grumpy that people were running late. And he was loud. Even though we left late, we still arrived at our first stop roughly on time. This was Featherdale Wildlife Park, which had all your typical Australian animals.
When we arrived on the coach, the bus driver/tour guide told us that the guy telling us where to park was Chris Hemsworth’s cousin – I couldn’t tell if he was serious or if it was just Aussie humour. Once again, we could feed the kangaroos here, but unfortunately, you couldn’t hold Koalas. We did spot a cute sleeping Koala in one of the trees which was cool to see.
There was a greater range of animals at this park than at the Australian Reptile Park. There were Wombats and Dingos, plus lots of birds. One type of bird looked a lot like an Emu, but it also had a dinosaur-esque vibe to it. We only had an hour, so we had to walk through quickly, but in the end, we were all given a free Koala souvenir so that was a cool thing to keep.
Next, it was time to head to the Blue Mountains. This mountain range, so-called because of the blue colour of the eucalyptus leaves, is a National Park to the West of Sydney. It was one of the biggest geographical challenges for the first colonists to overcome (cheeky historical fact there!).
On the day, we were to take part in two walks, the first of these being in at Wentworth Falls. At the point where the bus stopped and we all got off, there was a lookout point overlooking a beautiful plateau. At least, that’s what we were told. It was so cloudy that you couldn’t actually see anything; it was just a sheet of white. The strange thing is, even though it was wet, it was still humid, making me regret wearing jeans (plus the jeans got very muddy).
Out tour guide led us through the walk, leading us down the side of the mountain. He provided us with many warnings. If you leave the main path, you’ll probably die. If you see a spider, don’t touch it as it will probably kill you. Watch out for snakes, they’ll kill you. You get the picture. He also told us about the landscape, showing us the old mines and pointing out the various trees, ranging from Eucalyptus (know for its teatree oil) and ‘Black Boy’ (inappropriately named because from a distance it looked like an Aboriginal).
The path was very muddy and waterlogged, meaning that we all had to be careful when walking down otherwise we would slip. When it wasn’t muddy, we were walking on rock, which was also wet as water was running down it. The bottom of my jeans were too long, so I had to roll them up to stop them getting soaked, thus making everyone jealous of my awesome sense of fashion (I used ‘thus’, how fancy).
We continued to go further down, going through a unique mountain swamp, until we reached another lookout point, which once again, showed nothing. At least from here, we could just about make out the Wentworth Falls below us (and we could hear them so I guess that’s something). Then began the climb back up the side of the mountain, which is a definite calf workout!
After getting back on the coach, we headed to Echo Point (Katoomba), where we stopped for lunch (I had a delicious chicken and spinach roll if you’re interested). This is normally a great point to see the ‘three sisters’ rock formation, but only a few made the walk down the road to try and see them. The rest of us explored the Waradah Aboriginal Centre. As we were walking around the shop, a staff member showed us how to play the didgeridoo! How very Australian! There were lots of souvenirs here, which I didn’t buy. I could have got myself a Kangaroo scrotum bottle opener!
The final, and longest, walk of the day started at Scenic World, which is also in Katoomba. Fun fact: this had the world’s steepest mountain railway. This walk was to take us down the Furber steps. We had a choice, we could either walk all the way down and get the train back up, or walk halfway down and walk 1000 steps up – we chose the latter.
We were taken through one of the last remaining rainforests in Australia, complete with waterfall, before being taken to another lookout point. The weather was starting to clear up, so we got to gauge how big the Blue Mountains are. At one lookout, the tour guide showed us some holes and markings, which is actually where Aboriginal people ground down grain and sharpened their tools.
The mountains are an important site for the Aboriginal people. Many rocks overhang the path – these are sacred sites as it is where groups would take shelter from the rain, often from the rain. If anyone was lost in the mountains, then they would shout ‘Cooee’ (with the first syllable being long). The group would call back, and this back and forth would continue as they got closer to each other, and eventually find the lost person. It is a call still used today if anyone is lost. The seeds of the trees here are very good for fires too – they Aboriginal people would often tie them to a stick and it would last them a long time.
Anyway, enough history. The walk took us to Katoomba Falls, which was a beautiful site, blocked off by a fence as many people fall to their deaths here. The weather had cleared so we could finally see the three sisters! We spent a lot of time at the waterfall, taking many photos, before walking back the route we came. We went to one final lookout, before climbing back to the top of the mountain (we had to be careful not be bitten by leeches at one point).
When we arrived back, the tour guide bought us all a drink at the local bar (legend!). I was heading home, but then I realised it was Mardi Gras. The main reason I remembered was because of all the men walking around wearing glitter and budgie smugglers.
Mardi Gras is essentially Sydney’s Gay Pride Parade, and it’s a really big event here, so I decided to go and watch it. I found a space where I could stand and watch, but it was at least an hour and a half before the parade came by. It was lonnnngggg. So long, in fact, that I left over three hours since the parade had started and it it was still going on. It was great to see so many people proud of their sexuality. It wasn’t so great to have a man in a thong twerk in front of me though.
On Sunday, I went to church at the Salvation Army, which is right in the centre of the city. It was a good Sunday to go on, as it was youth Sunday. I already knew a few people, so it was good to see them and to be introduced to the church.
I was invited to lunch, but I couldn’t stay as I had already planned to travel to Manly to meet up with some friends as it was the final for the Australian Open Surfing competition. Unfortunately, I had seriously underestimated the amount of time it would take me to get to Manly, so by the time I arrived they only had 20 minutes left of surfing. Still, it was worth going to see the winners collect their prizes!
Since I arrived late, I stayed with Anna just chilling on the beach. It was soon time to go home, though, as university started the next day. But before I could get home, we had to take the ferry. The wind was picking up, and as a result, the water in the harbour was fairly choppy. We had also made the foolish decision to sit outside – not a good combination! The waves splashed us a lot, and there were moments when people cheered like they were on a rollercoaster! If you want to see a comparison of what is was like, click here.
Luckily, I made it home safely and didn’t die.
Here’s some maps of where I went if you’re interested: