Australia, days 8 and 9: The mountains and the music

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Wow! I’ve been decidedly not-so-good at keeping up with you guys. However, I want to assure any concerned parties out there that, no, I was not eaten by a shark, accidentally locked inside the Opera House, or knocked on the side of the head with a didgeridoo. I am, in fact, intact and back in sunny(ish) Santa Barbara for a wedding with my partner this weekend! He’s the best man, so I’m helping him with his speech even though he would do splendidly without me. I think he might even give me a run for my money writing-wise. He could easily take my job as Master of IC if he were so inclined.

Anyway, let’s see what I need to fill you in on. Wednesday and Thursday were my last full days in Sydney. Wednesday consisted of an incredible all day tour of the Blue Mountains with the very appropriately-named Blue Mountains Tours and Thursday consisted of getting in some last-minute beach viewings and miraculously being able to see David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed, an exclusive 3-day show at the Sydney Opera House.

That said, this is going to be THE most picture- and word-heavy entry of this trip, so hang in there. I’ll try and separate everything with headings for once.

Blue Mountains Tour

The tour began just after 7:00 am on Wednesday. I had gotten up at 6:00 and had responsibly headed over to McDonalds to load up on an, uh, filling breakfast prior to our departure. I was disappointed (but not surprised) to see that the bacon that came with my bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich was the floppy, thick Commonwealthy kind I had seen in England and Scotland. I don’t eat meat, but I’ll be danged if I can’t occasionally eat something with crispy, black bacon on it. However, given that this was one of the only complaints I have about Oz, I think I’m doing okay.

I ended up chasing – literally, chasing – a bus that turned out to be from a different tour. Thankfully, I spotted the correct bus shortly afterward and hopped on. Though I felt like a nimrod, my tour guide was thankfully uber-nice and quelled my fears of looking doltish.

Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park about 45 minutes outside of Sydney. Although it seemed a touch smaller than the Wildlife Habitat of Port Douglas, it seemed to have a little more diversity animal-wise and it was easier (and free) to see the koalas up close. At WH, you must pay for such encounters.

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And once again, I fell in love with a kangaroo. Or, at least I think this was a kangaroo.
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Yes, they have penguins in Australia! How cute are these guys?
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I just loved the intense stare of this owl. Not sure if she was as happy to see me as I was her, though.
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“Oooh, hey human! You look nice, what’s your name? Hey, do you have food?”
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“No food, then? Oh…”

I’m telling you, these koalas were hysterical.

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*gratuitous chewing sounds*
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Nyamnyamnyamnyam.

I was also pleased to see macaws, dingoes, bats, dingoes, and wombats here. Though, fair warning, the wombats were pretty shy and it was tough to get just one good picture of one. There were echidnas, too, but they were all sleeping. I think I would have died of cuteness overload had they been awake.

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After the park, we headed to the mountains themselves, which were an additional hour and fifteen minutes away. People aren’t lying when they say the Blue Mountains are like a greener (and, of course, bluer) Grand Canyon. It certainly has the same vibe and it’s much drier up there than in Sydney proper. There are some rainforests, but they’re not as wet and populated with creatures as the ones up in Northern Queensland. The mountains are a sight to behold and I can’t imagine visiting Sydney without making the journey to see them.

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The Blue Mountains’ premium viewing center, or Katoomba Scenic World, is the ideal way to experience a 360-degree view of the mountains. Here I am on the gondola, which has a glass floor to look down into the canyon. ‘Twas dope.

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The tour also included an Aboriginal show and a trip to a nice little mountain town called Leura, a small, garden-like village known as the “Jewel of the Blue Mountains”. There, we went on a mini hike and had some lunch. Well, other people had lunch. I had quiche, cake, and sourdough bread. My kind of meal.

After the hike, we headed back into Sydney’s Olympic Park and took a ferry back to Circular Quay. The day was basically over by around 5:30 pm.

Is it possible to see the Blue Mountains without a tour? Absolutely. You can take a bus there yourself and while it will take a little longer to get there, you will see the same sights as the people on tours. However, getting a full-day experience with the trip to Featherdale, the trip to Scenic World, the Aboriginal show, the trip to the town, and the ferry back to Circular Quay (Sydney’s city centre) was well worth the approximate $130 USD price tag. Plus, we got to travel in a new Mercedes-Benz bus that had USB charging ports in all of the seats. That kind of can’t be beat.

The Last Beach Hurrah and the David Bowie Tribute Show

This last day was pretty self-explanatory. I, embarrassingly enough, had not been to Sydney’s most famous beach (Bondi) during the entire trip, so we decided to do the walk from Bronte to Coogee Beach then take a taxi back to Bondi. While most people opt to walk directly from Bondi to Coogee, we did things a little differently because we first wanted to stop for lunch near Bronte. As one might expect, there are some amazing sights on this walk.

I had only my iPhone during this walk, as I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of protection/weather for my big-girl camera. However, these will hopefully still do the walk some justice.

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The park near Bronte Beach.
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Bronte Beach.
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More Bronte – I was a fan of these rocks.
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The pool next to Bronte Beach. They have quite a few of these pools here, which siphon water from the ocean.
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A pool overlooking the ocean.

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Bondi itself, at last!

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We ended the day at the famous Icebergs Club at Bondi, then bid farewell just a few short hours later to my brother and his friends. They headed off to Thailand that evening and will be going on to Shanghai and Tokyo thereafter for the next three weeks. So, they weren’t exactly jealous of my dad and I just because we got to stay an extra night.

Although, they were jealous of my dad and I’s final Sydney activity: the David Bowie tribute show at the Sydney Opera House. I didn’t get very many pictures because, again, I had only my iPhone and I felt like photos didn’t do it justice anyways. I did, however, snap one photo each of the inside of the lobby area during intermission and the end of the show.

Although all the performers were spectacular, one in particular, iOTA, stole the show. His costume, his mannerisms, and especially his voice were filled with Bowie’s aura and spirit, and when he sang “Let’s Dance”, “Fashion”, and “Is There Life on Mars?”, the crowd confirmed that he just might have been the low-key star of the show.

Inside the hall. The drink line was unreal as people gathered robotically into lines to ensure they could top off their champagnes.
Inside the hall. The drink line was unreal as people gathered robotically into lines to ensure they could top off their champagnes.
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Long live the Thin White Duke.

Reflections of the Trip

Going to Australia was something that, given my job situation and the generally high cost of visiting the country, I did not think I was going to be able to do for quite some time. I feel incredibly thankful that my dad just so happened to have some required business there and even more thankful that he graciously invited us to the trip.

Australia is unlike any other place you will ever visit. It is chock-full of mountains, deserts, rainforest, and beaches, all within close range of each other. It has more endemic flora and fauna than almost anywhere else on earth. The people are relaxed and laid-back, to the point where you could swear you’re hanging out with San Diegans or Angelenos. The Australians have a language all their own, and I’m not just talking about how they call ketchup “tomato sauce” or appetizers “entrees”. Being Australian is absolutely a way of life.

Will I be back? Absolutely, although I’m partial to exploring the more barren, sparsely populated, and desert-like Northern Territory next time around. I loved Australia and you will, too – but you have to go there to find out what it’s all about.

Until next time, my cornsnakes. I’ll be in touch. Need to go get this contour on fleek. After all, I have a wedding to go to.

-H

Travel tip: Sometimes, paying more for something while you’re traveling really is worth it. Remember that when you’re deciding between a $20/night hostel room that you share with five people and a private hotel room for $100/night.

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