Australia! - part 2
August 28, '04

(click on the first picture to get started; captions are at the bottom of each picture page)

That evening we took the train to Albury, which is part of the way towards Sydney.  Here is our train at the Melbourne train station. Hehe, so we figured no trip would be complete without a little trespassing through cow pastures.  Moo to you too.
We were trying to hike to The Monument on top of a small hill, but there turned out to be a big ol' river in the way.  So Sara and Hilary called a break for tree climbing.  It's a truly giant old eucalyptus. We eventually made it to the Monument, below which Hilary and Sara sit contemplating
checkin out the Australian flowers The Monument, after we'd hiked a ways away.  This is also basically what the Australian countryside looked like - rolling hills, lots of eucalyptus trees... monuments sticking out of hills... i mean...
After a little while we found a little grove off the trail and ended up sitting there literally for hours, just looking, listening, sketching, and writing.  And the longer we sat, the more things we noticed.  Birds, flowers, smells, colors...  It was so peaceful.  We were so glad that despite the general frenetic tourist pace of the trip, we were able to have some relaxing times like this. I drew this sketch to represent the view from our relaxing spot.  I recorded this background audio to go along with it.
Wo-DONG-a!  a rainbow!  (on our way back to town). So if I haven't yet told you the Red Alert story, I definitely want to. :)  But I won't give it away in this photo caption of the Albury train station.
After our day hiking around the Albury area, we took the train to Sydney - about an 8 hour trip.  Australia is so much bigger than you realize.  Despite the warnings by locals that the train ride would be boring as all hell, it wasn't.  The scenery was quite pretty and it was generally a relaxing trip.  I think Sara slept about half the time. :)  Yay for jet lag.  
Sydney!!  It was so odd to be standing there taking this picture, knowing that almost anyone in the world could tell you it is Sydney.  The opera house is simply that iconic.  We were like wow... that's the real thing.  I still find it hard to believe.  And that's just the beginning... that evening we went back and saw an opera there (Manot)!  It was very good.
Hilary and I in the classic tourist (backlit) pose Sara and HIlary with the Sydney skyline.  We walked all the way along the harbourside, past the opera house to the ferry terminals (Central Quay).
We bought an all-day travel pass and took the ferry across the harbour to "Manly" where we laughed at the "manly cafe" and "manly laundromat" and "manly festival" and such.  Here is a glipse of ocean from inside the harbour. We took the "Manly to Spit" walk along trails of varying difficulty along the edge of the harbor.  As you can see, it started out nice and warm tshirt weather... we didn't think that the hike would take so long, or that it would start raining... oh well.  And I know you are dying to find out if that is a kangaroo on my shirt.  Yes it is. :)
A bigger glimpse of the ocean.  It's just so... flat.  Do you see any rain?  no. The next morning we walked through downtown Sydney.  This walkway is through Sydney's Hyde Park.  It was quite cool how all the trees had grown together at the top forming this big, long archway over the walkway.  Not to mention the fountains etc.
Robin and some sharks in the Sydney Aquarium!  The "oceanarium" tank was the coolest part of the aquarium; you could walk through glass tubes and see all manner of sharks and other large ocean dwellers. ...including this absolutely gigantic sting ray.
There was also a cool Great Barrier Reef exhibit in the Sydney Aquarium - the closest we could come to actually going to the reef (which is far, far away from Sydney).  Here is one of the viewing areas. Just for fun we took the monorail from the aquarium to the subway station.  The monorail does a loop around Darling Harbour area.
We took the subway and then walked 45 minutes to Bondi Beach, namesake of the "bondi blue" iMac. We sat on the beach, played in the sand, watched the surfers, and waded in the waves... standard beach stuff really. :)
After saying goodbye to Sara, Hilary and I took the train to the Blue Mountains, a few hours away from Sydney.  The next morning we set off on a big ol' hike. The trail down into the valley was essentially built on cliffs, and mostly made of up staircases like this.
Robin conquers a really huge rock in the middle of nowhere! This is representative of the view as we walked along the base of the cliff.  The valley is totally covered with eucalyptus forests.
And looking the other way, here is part of the cliffs!  You can see how tiny the trees on top look... I think this face must have been 50 meters high or so. This walkway totally reminded us of the game Myst!  So I had to throw it in here.
We ate lunch at a nice sunny spot where an avalanche had taken down the trees and gave us an incredible view of the valley.  It was totally peaceful, and there were absolutely no signs of human habitation.  We could imagine ourselves as aboriginals, surveying the land as it has been for thousands of years.  Here I am thinking about such things... I drew this sketch of the view from the avalanche.  As always, it is amazing how much more you notice when you go to the trouble of drawing it.
Now that you have seen my representation, here is the panoramic representation!
Now that you have seen my representation, here is the panoramic representation! To get back up the cliff, we gave in and took the steepest passenger railway in the world!  It was like a 5 second roller coaster.  But pretty cool, 60 degrees or so.  In case you're wondering (I was), the cars are pulled by a cord in the back.  Aha!
Here are "the three sisters", a famous rock formation along the trail.  We actually walked right up to it as you will see in the next photo... Hilary looks out over the setting sun from a perch high in the three sisters.  If you remember the previous picture, we are standing in the leftmost "sister".
As you can see, the Blue Mountains really do look blue!  It was around this time that we realized we were still quite a ways from town and the sun was quickly leaving us.  We started hiking back at a fast clip and arrived just before dark.  Spooky... because Australia (unlike NZ) does in fact have various scary poisonous things. We were pretty tired the next morning and headed back to Sydney (this is part of Central Station).  Unlike our previous nights, we stayed in a huge hostel just to see what it was like.  We certainly preferred the smaller "homey" ones.
Later in the day we explored downtown Sydney some more, including an old observatory (now museum) at the top of a hill, where I took this picture of the main bridge across Sydney harbour.  The next morning we got the shuttle to the airport and flew back to New Zealand!  I dropped my luggage off at my flat and headed straight to choir rehearsal... and thus ended my adventures in Australia.