Australia. Australia. Sydney to Katoomba

Tuesday, February 21st, 2009 - Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Jenny and I "tour-ised" Sydney quite thoroughly:
  • Opera House
    • NOTES:
      • - one local compared it to a pair of turtles mating.. wierd
  • Sydney Harbour
  • Sydney Botanical Gardens
    • NOTES:
      • home to a colony of bats
        • bat facts:
          • unlike vampires, bats can come out during the day
          • unlike Batman, bats are quite social
          • bats are annoying
        • misc phrases for groups of creatures:
          • a Thought of Barons
          • a Knot of Toads
          • a Raffle of Turkeys
          • a Decent of Woodpeckers
          • a Conspiracy of Ravens
          • a Smack of Jellyfish
          • a Murder of Crows
          • a Kettle of Hawks
      • for fellow travelers, the 10am free walking tour is worth checking out
  • Aquarium
    • NOTES:
      • sharks actually do exist and are not fictious creatures created by the Aussies to keep us away from their beaches -- big mouth, big teeth, small eyes..
      • Jenny wants a platypus..
  • Bondi Beach
    • NOTES:
      • against all common sense, this is actually pronounced "bond-eye beach"
      • riptides are more fun, than dangerous
      • (to Mr. B. Williams) topless beaches are everything you dreamed of and more
      • may have to exchange dreams of surfing for dreams of body-boarding -- Jenny will kill me if I die..
After approximately 4 days at Sydney's Backpacker Headquarters Hostel, we decided to try trading up to Sydney's Cooee Hostel. Not only did it match the Headquarters' free breakfast and guest kitchen, but it also advertised cheap double rooms, air conditioning and free internet. This lead to the first harsh lesson of trip: meat theft. Little bits of stir-fry beef in a sweet Cantonese ginger sauce.. GONE. The only suspect: the clerk from hostel's front desk (he was eating "his" dinner when we discovered our loss). He had this sort of pathetic / sympathetic smile, that was endearing before the the theft, but absolutely infuriating after (I swear I saw little bits of stringy, dark meat stuck between his teeth!) Anyways, no proof, no foul -- must move on.

Beyond theft, the Cooee also suffered some minor maintenance issues. There were two bathrooms on our floor. Someone (intentionally?) managed to clog the urinals in both of them. I am ashamed to say that I panicked and fled the facilities the first time that the yellow water started to spill over the rim (don't worry, I had some hand sanitizer in my backpack).

On February 25th, took the train to Katoomba in the Blue mountain region. Small town. Many cafes. Many tourists. Free internet at the library. Impressive scenery (cliffs, waterfalls, trees, wildlife, etc.).

Bought a camping stove (I have fire!)

Stayed at the Katoomba Falls Caravan Park. Facilities well priced and clean.The tent and sleeping functioned perfectly.

Attempted 4 hour hike to the Red Hand cave in Glenbrook -- success (the hands painted on the cave were indeed red).
  • NOTES:
    • got lost one time (1/2 hour confusion)
    • many birds
    • many bugs
    • no snakes.

Attempted 2 day hike to Chinaman's Gully, via Mt. Solitary Summit -- success (!).
  • NOTES:
    • got lost four times (1 3/4 hours of confusion)
    • many birds
    • two snakes (who puts a snake in the water)
    • one leech (Jesus Christ -- they drop from trees!)
    • something that bounced
    • for fellow travelers:
      • a bit of (lots of?) mild (extreme?) climbing is required
      • the signs aren't lying when the claim the path is not well marked
      • there is no "chinaman"

Tyler and Jenny

P.S. The previously mentioned showers-with-tinted-glass-divider actually turned out to be the showers-with-one-way-mirror-divider. This discovery came at a terrible price -- it involved me making several very strange faces on the mirror side, while some unknown naked man may (or may not) have been watching on the see-through side. I think it likely that an unknown naked man was watching because a certain gentleman started giving me cautionary-eyes whenever he saw me around the hostel..

Australia. Australia. Sydney: Arrival review

Tues, February 17th, 2009 - Friday, February 20th, 2009

So to recap:
  • departed from Toronto, Canada (Pearson airport) at ~9pm
  • arrived in London, England (Heathrow airport) at ~9am local time (~6 hours of travel, 0 hours of sleep)
    • NOTES:
      • showered successfully
      • bought sandwiches.. and chocolate
  • departed Heathrow at ~9pm (12 hours of waiting, 2 hour of sleep)
  • arrived in Bangkok, Thailand (? airport) at ~? (~? hours travel, 1 hour of sleep)
    • NOTES:
      • very warm -- an unsettling precursor to Australian weather..
      • security officers are "friskier" than those in Canada or London -- was pleased to learn that my groin was not armed
  • departed Bangkok when the sun was near the horizon -- unsure whether it was rising or setting (1 hour of waiting)
  • arrived in Sydney, Australia (? airport)
    • NOTES:
      • forgot aluminum water bottle on plane; attempted to get Baggage Services to retrieve it; failure
      • despite warnings about the severity of Sydney Customs officers they are found to be amiable
      • telephoned Backpackers Headquarters Hostel to make use of their offer for free airport pickup; failure -- no answer on their end; waited 30mins, then redialed -- failure -- no answer; waited 5mins, then redialed -- failure -- no answer; waited 0mins, then redialed -- failure -- no answer; waited 0mins, then redialed -- success (!)
  • departed Sydney airport when the taxi arrived
    • NOTES:
      • Australian accents can be mixed with any other accent to create unimagined hybrids (i.e., aussie-indian, aussie-polish, etc.)
  • arrived at hostel
    • NOTES:
      • reception: pleasant and helpful
      • dorm-mates: nocturnal (i.e., sleep during the day)
      • beds: ~clean
      • showers: separated by tinted glass (first noticed this while trying to determine if I was the unknown naked man in the mirror -- there was no mirror -- I was not the unknown naked man)
After the above, we walked around, felt tired, went back to the hostel, went to sleep while the sun was still high and awoke around 4am.