Friday, January 08, 2010

Blue Mountains

PCV Trent left for a month-long Australian holiday back in late October. Many of us were appalled he would miss our Halloween celebration, but I was also happy because his trip allowed me a voyeuristic dry run for my trip to Australia. Among the many nuggets of advice he brought back—applying for my visa in person, lending me his Aussie cell phone, etc.—his biggest suggestion was that I check out the Blue Mountains.

Located roughly an hour and a half west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a big tourist draw because you can leave the city, spend the day in the “wilderness,” and be back in town for Happy Hour. A number of bus companies offer daytrips that pick you up from your hotel, drive you out to the Blue Mountains, and provide a two-course lunch. Though this package sounds enticing, the price tags for most of these was out of our budget. But then we ran into a British ex-pat Thursday night, who explained how we could get there by rail for a much more affordable price. So we headed out this morning.

Trent was right. The Blue Mountains are an incredible site to see, and the lunch we haphazardly stumbled into at the Solitary Restaurant proved to be the best meal Luisa and I have had in Australia. Although I will point out the scenery was not what I expected.

I admit, even after being here for 2 weeks, I still had this naïve view that Australia consists of only 2 things:
  • Big cities that make use of fancy architecture; and
  • Sandy plains with tumbleweeds and kangaroos.
So I was expecting the latter. As it turns out, the place was leafy and green, and reminded me of a midsummer hike in Niles Canyon back home. There are a bunch of rivers and waterfalls, and the forest floor is covered in dry leaves and damp dirt.

We picked up a map with charts of different hiking paths, and we made sure to stop off at the headlining rock formation, the 3 sisters. From there we descended the “Giant Staircase,” which was constructed along the rock face in the 1890s (It could use some renovation.). The Staircase boasts over 1,000 steps, and upon reaching the bottom, the muscles in my knees were strained to the point they wobbled involuntarily. So we chose to not go back up immediately.

Instead we headed along the “Dardanelle Path,” which meanders along the valley floor. Luisa noticed the path was far less traveled than the other places we had gone, and I agreed, and that’s when I heard the rustling.

At first it sounded far away, and I assumed it was another group of hikers approaching us. I kept walking, looking for the source of the intermittent crunching sound. My ears suddenly placed the sound a lot closer; my eyes desperately scanned the leave of the forest floor. And there it was. A huge lizard. At least a meter in length. Easily the largest lizard I’ve ever seen in the wild. It was tromping along perhaps 5 meters from the path where I stood. My eyes lit up. Luisa gasped. The lizard, for its part, didn’t seem too worried about our presence, but seemed to shrug and calmly turn and walk away.

It was worth the trip. Good call, Trent.

I hope you’re well. Pictures below.

This is the only snapshot I could get of the lizard before it trapsed away. Looking at Wikipedia tonight, it would appear this is a Lace Monitor.

Luisa in front of the waterfall. This waterfall looked a lot like the Sliding Rocks in Apia.

This is a look over the edge of the cliff. You can see the waterfall and vegetation.

The Swiss Family Robinson was also hiking this afternoon.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Looks beautiful! I am still wondering what you two ate for the best meal in Australia.