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Goodbye New Jersey. Hello World! A record of my journey as I give up my job, my possessions, and life as I know it to go off and see the world!

Finding My Center in the Blue Mountains of Australia

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 25 November 2010 | Views [2081]

“Whinging” is an expression used in Australia for complaining.  It’s my understanding that the expression is used mostly if you complain a lot.  I guess in “Jersey-speak” we would call it “bitching and moaning”.  I’m sorry to say I’ve been doing a fair bit of this in Australia and I apoligize.  I think it’s due to my belief that something “magical” would happen to me here and my future would unfold accordingly.  What can I say - I can be a bit romantic at heart sometimes.  Well, I feel like my weekend in the Blue Mountains has helped bring me back to peace again. 

If you go to Sydney you really need to get yourself to the Blue Mountains.  Really, it’s only a few hours away by train.  But don’t give in to the ease of booking a tour from the city.  You could spend 3 nights in Katoomba for the same price as a daytrip tour from the city.  Or you could even spend less and couch surf like I did (see “Dumpster Diving in Katoomba” post).  The scenery here is absolutely breathtaking.  It reminds me quite a bit of the Shenandoah mountains in Virginia.  There are many small towns you can visit on the Blue Mountain train route.  The few I visited (Leura and Blackheath) were all quaint and had view points and hikes to be enjoyed by all.  The main city to visit is Katoomba.  This is because it is easy access to three popular rocks called “The Three Sisters” and a cable car that takes you over the cliffs.  The town itself is quite lovely as well.  There are several secondhand shops with clothes and books and not a single McDonalds in sight.  I was told that McDonalds tried to open there and the town protested so much that it was denied.  There are more cafes than the eye can see, but each one has its own funky or quaint atmosphere.  My favorite was a café called Common Ground which on the inside felt like you were dining in a tree house.  Everyone is relaxed here and the people are friendly.  The only thing that disturbs the peace is the occasional massive tour bus that barrels through town on its way to the Three Sisters.  It doesn’t take that long of a walk before you catch gorgeous views of the Blue Mountains.  They’re blue, by the way, because of the massive amounts of eucalyptus trees that cover the area.  The mountains are in the distance and large canyons are directly in front of you. 

I actually got there a day early because a nice man and his son offered to drive me there free from Coff’s Harbour.  I couldn’t say no, otherwise it would have meant a 9 and a half overnight Greyhound bus to Sydney, followed by a 2 hour train ride.  As we got closer and closer to the mountains I felt my excitement growing.  This place was gorgeous!  I had a very ignorant opinion of Australia before I left home and assumed it would be just desert and beach.  I had no idea of just how gorgeous the land could be.  I was going to couch surf over the weekend but because I got there a day early I spent a night in a hostel.  There I met some lovely people including a really nice guy named Mike who was from Manchester but was continuing to extend his time in Australia via working visas.  He took me into town, showed me around, took me out for a drink and I immediately felt like home.  This is the first time I have felt this way since I embarked on this journey.  I sat around a fire later that night as I felt the crisp air blow through my hair.  It actually reminded me of November weather that you would get back in Jersey.  I talked with a guy from Canada who was leaving the next day after spending 6 months working Katoomba.  I asked him why this was the place he stayed and he got this look in his eye as he looked into the distance and expressed how he just fell in love with the area as soon as he arrived.  I could totally relate.  Already I was picturing myself working and living here. 

I hiked every day while in Katoomba.  Each day I did it on my own and loved every second of it.  Once you get away from the popular areas it becomes so quiet.  You can hear the “tropical” birds in the distance echoing through the hills. One of the things I love about Australia are the beautiful birds.  The parrots and the cockatoos and the kookaburras all look like animals that you would find in zoos and pet shops at home.  Here they just fly around free (although some of their calls can be quite obnoxious when they wake you up bright and early in the morning). Australia also has beautiful plants and trees that I have never seen before, including these vibrantly purple flowering jacaranda trees that really pop against the crystal clear blue skies.  As you walk through the woods you occasionally catch a waft of the sweetest smells coming from the flowering trees.  Lizards will cross your path occasionally as well. 

But the views….such views are what brought me back to myself.  I’ve always been into nature and hiking and mountains my whole life and it had been too long since I was in a place like this.  I have always had such romantic feelings towards grand views and mountains.  To this day one of my favorite holidays was when I did a hiking and camping tour of some of the national parks in the southwest U.S. (Green Tortoise tour - best tour company and experience ever!).  Standing on a cliff, looking out into the distance, I feel so free and like I can do anything.  At the beginning of my first hike in Katoomba I found myself at a quiet lookout.  I was so awed by the beauty of what I was seeing I actually got a bit choked up on the inside.  I felt this great happiness from within - a feeling I hadn’t had in quite some time.  I took a moment and thanked that greater power that I believe in (although I am still not quite sure what it is) for allowing me to feel this way.  And then I said a prayer.  A prayer in which I asked for guidance, and for strength to get me to continue this trip and find a job and place to live that I am happy with.  It was very similar to a moment I had 3 and a half years ago in which I sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon on my own and asked for help with the issues that I was having with my ex.  I know someone or thing listened to me that day.  I really hope that they were listening on this one.  My whole life I have wanted to live in the mountains.  It struck me on this day that this could be my chance and I was free to make that decision.  What power I have over my future! 

It wasn’t just the hiking and the quaint town and nice people that brought me back to my center.  It was also the act of feeling at home, almost as if I wasn’t traveling anymore at all.  The evening of my first day of hiking I came home exhausted.  I had my couch surfing host’s house to myself because he was at a wedding for the evening.  I poured myself a cider, laid on the couch and covered myself with a blanket.  I turned on the television and watched a movie.  Such a simple act that I hadn’t done in 5 months.  I felt so warm and comforted and at ease….and I fell asleep in front of the TV.  And it was a Saturday night. And I was asleep by 9:30.  If I was doing this a year ago I would have called myself lame for staying in on a Saturday night.  Now I think it’s one of the best nights I’ve had in ages.    

My second night I also had another cozy feeling like I was at home.  My host Andrew and I cooked dinner together.  We made peppers (or capsicums as the Aussies call them) stuffed with rice, salmon, celery and carrots, seasoned with herbs from Andrew’s garden.  The best part was that the entire meal (with the exception of the salmon) came from our dumpster dive excursion from a few nights before.  The act of cooking next to someone, of creating a meal together and then enjoying it over good conversation and a shared bottle of beer brought such happiness to me.  It’s amazing how the simple things in life, the things that would seem so ordinary at home are now so enjoyable to me.  The meal was delicious and I went to bed feeling healthy from my hike and dinner and happy that I could get enjoyment from such simple tasks. 

I could have stayed in Katoomba much longer, but it was time to move on and visit my friend Amanda in Woy Woy and eventually my sister in Sydney.  But I feel good now.  The batteries are recharged and I am staring to see Australia in a new light.  In the beginning I think I really struggled here because it doesn’t have the same busy, go go go atmosphere as Asia and I had a rough time adjusting.  But it truly is beautiful here and, when I am ready, I reckon I am going to thoroughly enjoy wherever it is I decide to settle and live for a while.  I cannot wait to have a home to go to, a couch to fall asleep on, and meals to cook (oh and wouldn‘t it be nice to find someone to cook those meals with!).  But the best part is that I am in this beautiful country with nice people and the sun is shining. 

So now I keep on trekking….for a bit longer.  But I know I will be back to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains.  I just know it. 

Tags: australia, blue mountains, katoomba

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