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25 and Under...and 23...and 22 I'm trekking southern Australia in the World Nomads Ambassador van with my little brother & his girlfriend. This should be interesting.

Cities and Mountains, oh my

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 25 January 2008 | Views [742]

 Tea time!

Tea time!

Day 14 & 15

“Chop chop ladies, chop chop!” shouted Jayden. Crystal and I raced on.

Let me explain. The remainder of yesterday evening was enhanced greatly by the presence of the five boys camping next door. After the sun set, they (and we) were entertained by their voracious appetite to find every single wombat feeding in the area. We raced around the campground flashlights in hand, trying to find the cute little critters. We succeeded a few times; meanwhile, the animals gave us a look that said, “What? I’m eating.” We left them alone. Ok, well, we left them alone; the five boys kept at it for another hour so.

Much to our dismay, we awoke the next morning to find the skies grey, cloudy and rainy. “Noooooo,” Crystal and I moaned. Oh well, today we’d be arriving in Sydney and nothing — especially not a bit of drizzle — could put a damper on that. I’ve spent more time in Sydney than anywhere else in Australia, so basically, I was going home. We drove through morning, stopping only for a quick look around the Sydney Olympic Park, and before we knew it, we were rolling up to Central Station, van and all.

I’ve stayed all over Sydney during my various time spent there. Potts Point, Surry Hills, the CBD, a couch in North Sydney for a night — I could go on. This time I’d be at the Railway Square YHA with the crew. I’d actually heard a lot about the place from other backpackers and I was excited to check it out. Some of the rooms are even old railway cars!

The staff there was kind enough to put us all in our own room together, and Nomalita got a sweet spot right out front next to the pool. Yes, a pool, in the middle of Railway Square. Insane! Besides, free parking? Can’t beat that.

As soon we were washed up and Internet fixed (hello, the GIANTS and PATRIOTS in the Super Bowl!? WHAT? Go Giants!), we headed down to Paddington, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Sydney. Then, for the first time in two weeks, we went out to dinner. And after that, we went to a pub! You’d think, traveling up the coast, that we’d be indulging, but we really have been roughing it. Making all our own meals, sticking to our goon in the woods (and not even often) and generally steering clear of civilization. It was nice to be back. I had a delicious Greek salad at a little café called Mickey’s, then left my van companions to hang out with a friend who was leaving Australia for Boston the next day. I waved goodbye across the street as they left to see Circular Quay and the Opera House for the first time. That’s another thing about roadtripping — you definitely need breaks!

The next day, refreshed from our hostel stay, we left Sydney once again for the wilderness. I stared longingly out the window as the city disappeared behind us, but today was the day for the Blue Mountains. We’d have to be back by Thursday for Carmen at the Opera House and Friday for Big Day Out, only the summer Aussie music festival. Tonight would be Crystal and Jeff’s last night in the bush.

We arrived in the precious mountain town of Katoomba in mid-afternoon, and immediately ducked into one of the town’s tiny cafes for sammies and caffeine. We’d had a taste of city life — the tuna in the van would have to wait. The thing I love about Katoomba isn’t actually its small-town, boho feel, it’s the fact that it actually feels like a small neighborhood in Sydney. It’s as if they picked up parts of Surry Hills, Glebe and Newtown and plopped them in the mountains. The restaurants are top notch, the coffee is superb and vintage shops and bookstores are in abundance. Not bad for a day of roughing it in the mountains.

After lunch and a quick look in a bookshop, we headed down to Echo Point to view the vast Jamison Valley, and of course, the famous Three Sisters rock formation. The three rocks pierced the stark green valley, and I couldn’t help but look at them as three women trapped. According to Lonely Planet, the story goes that “the Three Sisters were turned to stone by a sorcerer to protect them from the unwanted advances of three young men, but the sorcerer died before he could turn them back to humans.” I guess it beats giving out a wrong phone number, eh?

After an hour or so we headed back into town to shop, then left for the even smaller town of Blackheath to camp at Perry’s Lookdown. Gorgeous views spanned out from either side of the lookout, and suddenly Sydney felt very far away.

Good thing we’d be back tomorrow!

Tags: ambassador van, sightseeing


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