In the clouds
12.03.2012 - 19.03.2012 11 °C
Hope all is sunny in your worlds. It's cold, cloudy and raining here! Boooooooo.
I'm in the Blue Mountains which is currently like living inside a giant cloud.
However, I have been on cloud nine whilst here, but for a different reason
which I shall explain later, ooh cliffhanger! I'll start from the beginning...
I arrived in Syndey, Australia at 8am last Monday and took a train straight to
my hostel in a little suburb called Glebe. I instantly liked it for it's artsy, relaxed,
bohemian feel. I did my laundry and sorted stuff out in my dazed haze, since
I'd been up at 3am for the flight. Later I had a walk down the road to the park
situated by Rozelle Bay, right on the harbour. When I say harbour, I mean a
tiny bit of it. Sydney harbour is enormous (and I called Wellington harbour big!),
with hundreds of inlets, bays and beaches. Anyway, the walk was good with the
sun shining and lots of dog walkers. I could see the ANZAC (Australian and New
Zealand Army Corps) Memorial bridge and the infamous Harbour Bridge from here
and I could feel Sydney growing on me already. It was so nice to be warm after NZ!
The next day I went on a free walking tour (which I actually paid $20 dollars for
in the end coz it was so good) which was an excellent way of seeing the main
sights, getting my bearings and learning something about Sydney, aswell as
getting good tips for what was best to do and where to eat cheaply etc from
a Sydney born and bred guide. Afterwards I ate my packed lunch on the ferry
to Manly (where I missed some good photo opportunities as I was too busy
scoffing my sandwich, typical!). Manly is a peninsula of the harbour which is
popular with tourists mainly for it's surfing beach. I was pleased to find an
Internet cafe which also did luggage storage and locked away my bag so I
could go for a swim. I walked the length of the beach and then went in the
sea which was gorgeous. Perfect temperature and relief from the baking sun.
It was my first time in the Aussie ocean so I had poisonous creatures on my
mind, but there were loads of other swimmers and the waves were ace so I
carried on regardless. I did feel a few tiny stinging sensations which I assumed
were harmless jellyfish, and the lady back at the lock-up confirmed this. She
also warned me about the Blue Bottle, which isn't officially a jellyfish but a
collection of strange blobby marine animals with tentacles (sound like jellyfish to
me) that float on the water. They have blueish transparent air-filled pockets
which float on the surface. Apparently their stings aren't deadly but do hurt,
a lot, so I'll be looking out for them from now on!
After that I did a couple of hours walk through the National Park bush nearby,
where I spotted some enormous spiders on gigantic webs, fortunately away
from the footpath! And as I walked down to a little cove called Collins Beach
I came across a foot-long (wanted to say Subway then, ha ha!) lizard which
sat on a rock and watched me whilst I photographed it. Cool. I ended up back
at the town centre where after a bit of searching, found a lovely restaurant
called In Situ, where I had delicious salmon and dill pasta, and discovered
yummy James Boag, a Tasmanian beer. There was a guy playing acoustic
covers, so I hung around to write my journal and didn't get the ferry back
until 10.30pm. A fantastic, long and pleasantly exhausting day. I'm really
feeling the love here now.
On Wednesday I woke up with a cold, bugger! It wasn't too bad so I got
ready lazily and then got the bus to another suburb called Surry Hills. I had
heard it was a funky place with great Op Shops (charity shops) and whoever
told me that was right! I hadn't brought many clothes for hot weather, or for
going out in the evening, and as I had done (or so I thought!) the majority of the
cooler places i.e. Northern India and some of NZ, I decided to send home my
thermal gear and invest in some beach/evening wear. I couldn't believe it,
I only spent $57 dollars (about about 38 pounds) and I got two dresses,
some shorts, loads of tops, some pumps and some flip flops! Really nice stuff
too. much better than what you get in English charity shops. Sorted.
Afterwards I walked into town through Hyde Park and had a sneaky look at
some of the Australian Museum. I was only going in to use the loo, and you're
supposed to pay to see the exhibits, but no one noticed when I walked in so
I just carried on! I'm learning the backpackers ways! I walked through the
Botanic Gardens where I watched Flying Foxes coming in to roost in the trees.
I spent ages with my binocs watching them. They were really quite funny,
squabbling for the best spot. Theyre basically just huge fruit bats and are '
actually a nuisance, causing a lot of damage to the trees, so a management
programme is being developed. Also in the gardens were loads of Sulphur
Crested Cockatoo which are sooo noisy, and Ibis which are large black and
white birds with extra long black beaks, both common sights here. The gardens
were lovely and I walked up to Mrs. Maquarie's chair, a seat carved out of stone
by convicts on instruction from her husband Lachlan Macquarie, the governer of
New South Wales in the early 1800's (and no I'm not using Wikipedia to help
me, honest. ;oP).
I sauntered, back into town to the Three Wise Monkys pub for a giant chicken
burger and chips, before getting the bus back to the hostel for a well-earned
The following day I got the ferry to Watson's Bay where I managed to get a
good place to take the photos I missed on the last ferry. This was more fun
too as the boat was more like a big high speed jet boat, and stuck closer to the
coast where you could see all the big posh houses. I had a swim and a sunbathe
at Watson's Bay, a quick look at The Gap, a rocky area, and then got the
bus to Bondi Beach. From there I did the coastal walk down to Coogee which
was good. The beach was nothing special, as people had warned me, and the
coast was actually very English-looking, a bit like Cornwall. I had some rubbish
Asian food at Coogee and got the bus back to the ranch.
I have totally fallen for Sydney. And the lovely sunshine definately helped woo me.
On Friday I checked out of the hostel and caught the train into the Blue Mountains.
I'd had a recommendation for a hostel in Katoomba called the Flying Fox and
was just heading there when I got chatting to a girl going in the same direction.
She said she was here to volunteer at the local music festival. Well, most of you
know of my love for festivals so you can imagine my excitement when I heard that!
I hadn't known there was a festival going on, this was looking good.
I got directions from her, and after dumping my bag, walked the 15 minutes to the
school where the Blue Mountains Blues, Roots and Folk Festival was being held.
It was $200 for a weekend ticket which I knew I couldn't afford, so I went directly
to the desk to ask if they needed any help. Within minutes I was signed up as a
volunteer and had an access all areas wristband on my arm for the duration of
the festival! Get in! They needed someone straight away so I did a 3hr
shift, putting out chairs in the main tents (it's a very civilised affair this one) and
doing security on the gate. I was in my element and it felt good to be doing some
work after 8 weeks of being a bum. I instantly met some lovely local people and
other travellers, one of whom, Anthony, was staying at the same hostel as me.
After work we went back there for dinner (free pasta! - you get free breakfast
here too - hurray!), and then headed back down to watch some bands.
Now I had come here to do some walking. As you probably know, the Blue Mountains
are famed for their amazing views of Gum Tree(Eucalyptus)-filled valleys, cool
rock formations and waterfalls. However, it had started raining on the evening I
arrived and had carried on that way all night. When we woke on Saturday morning,
there was just fog and rain. And cold. Yuk. Well, undeterred, me and a girl Charlotte,
also staying at the hostel, decided to stick two fingers up at the weather go for a walk
anyway, just to get some fresh air if nothing else. We got the train two stops and
walked to the Wentworth Falls. We took photos of each other in front of where the
amazing view should've been, and sloshed through the walk. The waterfalls were
still good and a brief break in the cloud allowed us to get a look at just how deep the
valley is, not for the vertigo afflicted! So we still enjoyed ourselves even though we
got thoroughly drenched.
After getting back and getting dry I called in at a cosy 50's style cafe called Savoy's
for a tasty dinner of pumpkin pie, before showing my face at the festival again to
watch a few gigs before my shift at 9pm. Those were a cold three hours. I worked
on the desk checking other volunteers in and out and doing general jobs, but it was
in an outdoor tent with an open front, so we took it in turns to go for wander or
get a hot drink to warm up.
On the Sunday, yesterday, the weather had cleared a bit and I was torn as some
of the others were drving out to the Jenolan Caves. These caves are reknowned
for their amazing mineral formations and I had been told on many occasions they were
well worth a look. The skies began to darken again and I didn't have much hope for
the clear skies lasting, and I didn't feel much like being on my own either (no one
else was doing walks), so I decided to tag along for the caves.
The drive there was great and the views were actually really clear so I did get to
see some of the landscape after all. The caves were ok, I wasn't blown away to be
honest, but I was tired so I think I had made the right decision. I was working at
7pm so I called down early to watch some music. The festival is a family affair,
it reminded me a lot of the Cambridge Folk Festival, but I was still surprised to find
that everything finished up by 9pm, with the last band on the main stage finishing
at seven! Unheard of at an English festival, but I guess the kids needed the school
back today. I was supposed to work til ten but we got cleared up dead quick and
they let us go at half eight, which was a treat as it was freezing and I was shattered.
For those who are interested, over the whole weekend I was ecstatic to have seen
brilliant performances by Chris While and Julie Matthews, Beoga, Eddie Reader,
Judy Collins (spell-binding) and Eric Bibb! All for free!! A seredipitous event, which
somewhat made up for the crap weather, and the fact that I've seen no live music
shows since I left Sheff.
Well, it's Monday lunchtime now and I have booked the overnight Greyhound bus
from Sydney to Byron Bay tonight at 7pm. It's a 13hr journey during which I shall
be trying to sleep in my seat to save on accommodation. Wish me luck with that one!
The weather report looks rainy there but a much warmer 26 degress (instead of
the 11 degrees we have here right now!) so I intend to spend three days relaxng
and reading a book, either on the beach or under cover of a bar or cafe. Let's see if I
can sit still, as you already know or have probably guessed, if there's something
interesting or exciting to do, I find it hard to resist temptation!
Right, best go and pack my bag and get out of here before I get charged for another
night! Actually this hostel has been the most chilled I've ever stayed in. As well as
lots of free food, there is a lovely shared lounge area and free internet. It's a bit
like staying in someone's home, so I'll miss it. Don't think there are many others out
there like this but I will strive to find them.
Take care everyone.
Lots of love,