New South Wales

Our first week on the road has been soaked with rain. The first campsite we barely found because we thought the road had turned into a floodway (turns out it just turned sharply around the corner). We tested out all our new gear and all was well. Then we headed to the mountains.

Washpool National Park

This park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area (which includes 40 parks). After climbing the mountain into the park, we were greeted by the famed lyrebird walking across the road. We set up camp and went on a quick stroll by the creek in the last hours of daylight.

Down by the creek
Not a lyrebird.

We made a fire because it was quite chilly (in the 40s F) and because, quite frankly, we had nothing else to do. Camping in winter means sunset is around 5pm, so we quickly decided to reset our internal clocks and try to go to bed early. Next morning we woke up to the dawn chorus of birds (none of which we recognize). But it was quickly stifled by more rain. We decide to be bold and hike anyway.

Rainforest hike
Rainforest hike in the rain
Christina sitting happily at Washpool waterfalls
Christina sitting happily at Washpool waterfalls

The first half of the 8.5km walk was serene and beautiful. The second half, was full of panic and shear terror. Leeches. Little ones, mind you, but the first ones either of us have ever encountered. All I remember is running down the path stomping and trying not to slip down the soggy hillside, on the verge of tears but too out-of-breath to bother with anything but getting back to camp. Every time we stopped to do another leech check, it felt as though they were seeping out of the ground and falling from the trees (which they were). All was well in the end, by the time we made it back the rain had stopped and only one had drawn blood (my blood). The rangers even made a joke about it… Ha ha ha.

All in all, it was a gorgeous park and we had it all to ourselves the entire time. Lots of birds and even a little furry critter we couldn’t identify (all we saw were glowing eyes in the dark, probably a possum).

Mist over the forest floor
Mist over the forest floor

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is a moderately-sized tourist trap, the eastern-most point of Australia. A subtropical Santa Cruz with a brewmaster-less brewery (they’re importing a new one from South Africa), lots of backpackers, dreadlocks and ukeleles in carrying cases. Our initial intention was to make this a lunch stop, but after three days we decided hot showers, food and dip in the ocean would be a welcome change of pace. It was strange to go from the cold isolated mountains to the warmish seaside hubbub in one day. But the beach really is beautiful and worth the stop.

Nothing beats coming out of the shower to a rainbow
Nothing beats coming out of the shower to a rainbow
Paul feasting on an Aussie burger -- with beetroot. And a nice ale to wash it down.
Paul feasting on an Aussie burger –with beetroot– along a Billygoat lager from Byron Bay Brewery
Sunrise over Byron Bay
Sunrise over Byron Bay

 

Minyon Falls

We were originally planning to visit Border Ranges National Park, but unfortunately they seem to be rebuilding every single road in the park, so it’s closed. Luckily, on the east coast of Oz you’re never too far from another wonderful park, so we ended up at Whian Whian State Conservation Area, near the hippie town of Nimbin (we felt right at home).

Here’s a little video I made:

 

So long Sydney (and thanks for all the fish)

(no fish were involved in any way)

Our last sightseeing outing was to famous Bondi Beach, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day. A long coastal walk connects Bondi to many more beaches and coves south of Sydney.

Bondi Beach with a sprinkling of winter beach-goers.
Bondi Beach with a sprinkling of winter beach-goers.
Leathery old men from the Bondi Icebergs
Leathery old men from the Bondi Icebergs
Ocean swimming pool
Ocean swimming pool
Cemetery by the boardwalk
Cemetery by the boardwalk
Spider! Not the highly venomous Sydney Funnelweb, just a little orb-weaver.
Spider! Not the highly venomous Sydney Funnelweb, just a little orb-weaver.

Wonderful Hosts

This trip would not have been possible without our generous hosts in Sydney, Richard & Rosalba and Linda. They took us in for our first two weeks in Australia and we shared many meals, conversations and even some books. We are extremely thankful for their generosity and warmth.

Dinner with Richard & Rosalba. Roasted goat and vegetables with roasted red pepper salad.
Dinner with Richard & Rosalba. Roasted goat and vegetables with roasted red pepper salad.
Christina & Linda
Christina & Linda
Paul & Linda
Paul & Linda

 

 

 

The Blue Mountains

Our friend Fergus took us to the Blue Mountains this weekend, which are a couple hours to the west of Sydney. Near his house was a fantastic little walk:

I love the warning
Great sign. Darwin was here in 1836.
Darwin Walk follows the creek all the way to Wentworth Falls
Darwin Walk follows the creek all the way to Wentworth Falls
Lots of boardwalks
Lots of boardwalks over the marshy wetlands
Eucalypt hill side with fern understory
Eucalypt hill side with fern understory
Small waterfalls. Darwin was here in 1836.
Small waterfalls.
Walking across the falls
Walking across the top of the big falls
Wentworth Falls, from the top...
Wentworth Falls, looking over the edge…
Another view of Wentworth Falls...
Another view of Wentworth Falls…
Paul and Fergus on the edge
Paul and Fergus on the cliff
Paul on the ledge
Paul on the ledge
Wentworth Falls
Wentworth Falls

 

After the hike, we visited Wentworth Village for lunch

IMG_9095

Christina wanted to try a new chocolate bar...
Christina tries a new chocolate bar…
Apparently  this is "cracknel."  Felt like I was eating Superman's fortress of solitude
Apparently “cracknel” is minty crystals.  Felt like I was eating Superman’s fortress of solitude

 

Then we drove to Katoomba to see the famous Three Sisters:

With tourists
With tourists
Without tourists
Without tourists

 

We spent the night in Blackheath with Fergus’ dad, Nick. Had a fantastic lamb roast and then learned a new card game called “500.” We managed to play for 4-5 hours straight…

In the morning we woke to kookaburra laughter!

This guy was about 10 feet away.  There were 4 more nearby.
This guy was hanging out in the backyard. There were 4 more nearby.

Then we headed out to a lookout called Govett’s Leap:

View from Govett's Leap
View from Govett’s Leap. These rocks are over 250 million years old.
We walked down to these falls
We walked down to these falls
This is the reverse shot looking back
This is the reverse shot looking back

 

Our last stop in the Blue Mountains was the world’s steepest railway! (52°)

It wouldn't be a tourist trap without some serious queueing...
It wouldn’t be a tourist trap without some serious queueing…
We managed to get spots at the very front of the train!
We managed to get spots at the very front of the train!

 

Coal. The railway was originally created to move coal miners up and down to work
Coal. The railway was originally created to move coal miners up and down to work

Once at the bottom, we walked around the the valley floor amongst ancient trees:

The scenic walkway
The scenic walkway
Paul and Fergus admiring the greenery
Paul and Fergus admiring the greenery
Christina communing with a tree fern (they can live over 250 years!)
Christina communing with a tree fern (they can live over 250 years!)

Then we had to say goodbye to the brisk mountain air and return to the city.

Only 3 more days in Sydney!

Real Car, Real People

As we left Berkeley, there was one tough good-bye…the good old Subaru (or as we tenderly called her, “Suby”). She taught me how to drive, how to commute, how to ghost-ride, and most importantly, how to road trip. So when we left her on the other side of the planet, doomed to donation, the car gods felt our pain. Although Suby can never be replaced, she can have a little sister…

It gives us great pleasure to introduce Suby-Two!

(I enjoy saying it à la “Scooby-Doo”)

car 1

She’s an Outback (*naturally*), born March 2000, with ~171,000 miles –so we’re basically picking up where Suby left off (she had 180,000). I drove her home, refreshing my left-hand driving skills (it’s been 5 years since I did it in South Africa…), and then Paul got to have a go.

car 2

 

Don’t worry, he did fine.

 

What else have we been doing?

Not much, sadly. I got a nasty cold a week ago and am just now recovering. We did go on some day trips, but first, some maps to situate you:

map_syd

As you can see, the Sydney harbor is quite intricate (especially compared to the SF bay), so there are lots of ferries buzzing about that go all the way up river and out on the open ocean.

Sydney-Map-102

 

We are staying in Dulwich Hill (halfway between Ashfield and Marrickville).

We spent one day in Manly (northeast peninsula), famous for its large beach and shopping. We tried to enjoy the beach, but it’s winter and a bit nippy, so we dipped our toes in the water and jumped out to cuddle in the wind. There’s a lovely walk along the coast between ocean swimming pools (built into the rocks filled and with sea water) and steep cliffs filled with hiding water dragons! (Sorry no pictures…)

We also visited Parramatta (westernmost end of the inlet), which is actually the historic city center. The river is so long that the Rivercat ferry we took actually couldn’t go all the way to the last stop because of low tide (so they plopped us on a bus for the last bit). Alas, this has also been taken over by shopping…

In the days in between, we’ve kept busy getting all our details in order. We’ve now got Aussie bank accounts, tax numbers, health insurance, car insurance… so we’re practically native.

Don’t worry there will be more photos next time. We’re planning a trip to the Blue Mountains this weekend, and might even take some pictures of the city, or of some Sydneysiders 😉