Alex's and Andrew's Awesome Aussie Adventures, the Blue Mountains, Jenolan Caves, Sydney, and back to Melbourne

Previous entry.

This time happens to bring a lot of pictures, despite the fact that some parts of this trip segment forbid photographs and the last day (today) had almost none (2).  Hopefully I don't kill anyone's inbox...

So, to start, we took the walking path down (and down and down and down and down...something like 900 steps) the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.  This put us down in a beautiful rainforest valley with lots of trees, waterfalls, and even an old mine and let us walk to the bottom of the tram car back up (for all of a minute...amazing how technology affects accessibility).  We even got to see how Australians deal with all the tourists coming down the tram and keep them from getting lost (see the sign).  At the top, we walked back along the cliff top (past a few more waterfalls and spectacular views, but much different trees).  Simple to describe, but a beautiful way to spend half a day.

From there we moved on to a less famous part of the park, where things like rock climbing are allowed (although we probably wouldn't have found it without a rock climbing guide book...even though it's at the western end of the first crossing of the Blue Mountains).  We scrambled down a ravine to the cliff faces and tried to find something to climb.  After spending half an hour looking for something appropriate, we ran into another climber who had just been ditched by their partner (had to run to work) and was happy to show us around.  Lucky us.  We eventually find a good place to climb and spend the rest of the day there having some fun.  Sadly, I couldn't convince Alex to try going up the cliff.

The next day, we decided to go down rather than up.  Jenolan Caves, the oldest (over 340 million years) known cave system in the world, just happens to lie under the Blue Mountains.  Nestled in the bottom of a beautiful valley (with a hair raising road to reach it) you find a Victorian retreat set up just for these caves.  With a beautiful blue lake and a massive open cave greeting us as we arrived, it was clear this would be a quite fun day.  While our lack of knowledge and foresight (i.e., a friend recommended this to me a while back but hadn't mentioned that it's a huge tourist attraction that you should really book ahead for) prevented us from taking some of the more intimate cave tours, we still managed to go through the beautiful Lucas and Nettle Caves.  Definitely something to plan better next time, but easily worth the trip.  Even with Alex's colorful descriptions of the road on the way down.

The next day, Alex had meetings at the University of New South Wales in the morning and we had tickets for Aida at the opera house that night...basically, we were "stuck" in Sydney.  As he was leaving for his meeting, Alex dropped me off at Coogee for the Coogee to Bondi beach walk.  I'm not sure how normal this is, but quite amazing wave power along the cliffs and beaches that day.  And even some friendly (and not so friendly) wildlife putting on displays.

When Alex got back from the meeting, he decided he wanted to try snorkeling.  Having seen the waves that morning, I recommended he come up with other plans.  Despite my recommendations he decided to go out...in retrospect, I should have joined him just to take pictures...  He was gone a surprisingly long time, but conceded the point upon his (very wet) return.

At that point, though, it was time to get ready for the opera.  While neither of us had originally anticipated going this trip and so didn't really have appropriate attire, we managed to scrape something together (don't believe they officially have a dress code anyway).  While there are no pictures to show (they don't allow photography of the shows), I think the best way to describe the experience is "Most Impressive".  The acoustics are quite amazing.  We had close to the worst seats in the house (again, planning...) but could hear everything, including the water splashing from the singers' footsteps (yes, they actually had a real "river" running across the stage).  As you might guess from the previous parenthetical comment, the stage settings and costumes were quite extravagant.  Especially interesting was the angled flooring and amazing lighting system, allowing for special perspective and background effects.  Treadmills and similar were seamlessly integrated into the presentation as well.  Oh, and the singers were pretty good too.

After all that, it came time to return to Melbourne.  We decided to drive through Canberra, interested in seeing the Australian capital.  They did have a fairly nice tower on the hill there...  Although a small town further along had a submarine half buried in concrete...take that, Canberra!  We were lucky enough to arrive late enough to miss the traffic (the traffic authority seemingly decided today was the best day to have a computer malfunction requiring them to close off the city's tunnels for most of the day...) and are anxiously awaiting what tomorrow brings (the beginning of Fun with Family time!).

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