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Monday, June 29, 2009

Eucalyptus-scented fresh air

(Blogger is being a bugger and not letting me upload pictures -- they ARE on Facebook though.) 

The amount of pita I’ve eaten the past two days may be the death of me – if nothing else, I’m determined to get my fill of pita before heading back to the land of none. Just today, I had pita, hummus and tzatziki for lunch and a veggie burger on pita for dinner. Mmmm… Which was promptly followed by my all-time favorite candy bar, impossible to find in the States, a Mars Bar. What a delicious day!

Today I was up early to see the Blue Mountains. It’s an easy day trip from Sydney – trains leave about every hour from Central Station and it’s a 2-hour ride to Katoomba.

Why are the Blue Mountains blue?

The blue haze, unique to the Blue Mountains, is of a different hue and deeper than anywhere in the world. It is caused primarily by Eucalyptus trees emitting oil vapour into the atmosphere, which along with fine dust particles and droplets of water, scatter the blue light (blue is short wave-length) more than any other colour in the spectrum.

This is an absolutely gorgeous part of Australia and a World Heritage Site and National Park. There’s an easy hop-on/off bus that goes around the park so you can see as much as possible in a short amount of time. It’s nice because the bus makes it easy to get from place-to-place but also suggests a ton of hikes for each location. The drivers were really friendly, too, making sure you knew exactly where the path was and how to get to the end-point. Highly recommended.

My first hike started at Katoomba Cascades and wound its way along the cliff-line for a couple of kilometers, ending up at a cheesy tourist destination called Scenic World, which offers train and cable car rides into the mountains. I skipped the rides and hopped back on the bus to see the famous Three Sisters and Echo Point, enjoying another nice hike there with some stunning views of the valley.

Because it’s winter, there aren’t nearly as many tourists here as in, say, January, so the paths were deserted for the most part. It wasn’t too cold either – I was worried about freezing temperatures and almost packed gloves and a hat – but I was comfortable in a pea coat.

Yes, a pea coat. And ballet flats. Despite being completely unprepared for strenuous hiking, I still saw a lot of the area and was able to be active. Most of the hikes are extremely easy and some are even paved, so don’t ever let a lack of sneakers stop you!

Lunch was in Leura Village, a small town that caters almost exclusively to tourists. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as my brochure suggested (I was expecting something like those gorgeous Cotswolds towns all the buses go to) but it was a pleasant place to grab lunch and people-watch.

Breathing in fresh mountain air – ah, my poor pollution-ridden lungs feel 100 times better. The air smelled like eucalyptus at times – lovely!

Olga arrives in Sydney tomorrow so I’m excited to have a travel buddy for a couple of days. I think I’ll spend the day at the zoo (yes, I want to see kangaroos and koalas!) and maybe go to the top of Sydney Tower before meeting up with her in the late afternoon.

I already feel at-home here. The train even went by a Westfield Shoppingtown (hello, Montgomery Mall!) that had Borders and Target. Someone also stopped me on the street this evening to ask for directions and – woo! – I actually was able to help him.