In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 26 – Sydney – Blue Mountains
Alex didn’t give any of us a wake-up call despite another early start to the day. Our coach left just after 8.00 and made the long journey out of Sydney and on to the Blue Mountains. Along the way we witnessed this marvellous city in daylight for the first time. As with Melbourne, it was on a grand scale.
It was quite a long drive into the Blue Mountains and out first stop was in the village of Leura. It didn’t take long to walk around but there was one memorable thing – a candy shop. Alex had mentioned it the other day and I couldn’t resist a look. I felt like a child again as I saw hundreds of jars filled with sweets I hadn’t seen in years. It would have been easy to go nuts spending a fortune on sweets but I curbed my finances to limit myself to just two bags of sweets and a chocolate bar. Seldom has there been a better display of willpower.
Before leaving Leura I got chatting with Valerie, not one of my adopted grandmothers but another Valerie, who had, unbeknownst to her, built up a reputation as a serial complainer. Every hotel she had been in thus far had had something she wasn’t happy with. Yesterday her room at the Travelodge wasn’t good enough because it was on the 19th floor. She was moved to another on the 5th floor with a great view of the city and that appeased her somewhat.
When I spoke to Valerie in Leura the first thing she said was, “Well, it’s not been very inspirational so far, has it?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely common sense would tell her that a name like the Blue Mountains suggests a longish drive if we began in the centre of a city. She seemed to be a Jekyll and Hyde sort because all of a sudden she praised the tour and said what great value it had been. That’s at least one thing we agreed on.
After Leura, the beauty of the Blue Mountains hit home when we stopped off at a lookout spot – Echo Point. From here we saw the mountains with large coverings of forest and in the gaps beneath the peaks and below our eye-line hung a thick layer of mist that made the view simply spectacular. Over to the left was a famous rock formation – the Three Sisters. Two stories explain the origin of this curious formation. The Aussie version/explanation is erosion! The Aborigines’ story is much better.
According to the Aborigines three brothers were out walking one day when they spotted three beautiful women who just happened to be sisters. These things happen! Desiring the sisters as their wives, the three brothers followed them to their village and found they were from a rival tribe. Marriage between opposing tribes was forbidden but the brothers were willing to break the rules. A war broke out between the tribes. To protect the three sisters, the elder of their tribe cast a spell sealing them in rock for their own safety. After the war he intended to release them with his magic but was unfortunately killed in the conflict. The three sisters have therefore remained in their rock prison to this day. Far-fetched the story may be but it had more appeal than the Aussie version.
Next up was our main stop – Scenic World. This was a series of rides you could partake of throughout the Blue Mountains, including a railway and cable car. I ended up going on none of the rides as I chose to use this opportunity and my money to buy my Australian souvenirs. I’d been putting this off because it seemed pointless carrying the extra weight in my backpack on the many flights throughout Australia. The prices were good in the gift shop so I completed my shopping spree in one swoop. That was one less thing to worry about.
After Scenic World we headed back towards Sydney. We stopped off at another lookout point on the way. The mist was now gone but the view it left behind was still worth a few photos. The best of the tour, however, was still to come.
Before reaching Sydney we stopped off at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. Two men greeted us – one gave us our tickets, the other was cradling a baby wallaby that seemed a bit timid, but to be fair everyone was poking their cameras in his face so it was understandable. After that they turned us loose in the park.
Featherdale is easily the best of the wildlife sanctuaries I’ve seen. A lot of the animals were endangered so it made sense to have them in enclosures. Each one offered plenty of room and had recreated their natural habitat so you didn’t feel they were at a disadvantage here compared to in the wild. Indeed, a verse had been written from the perspective of a kangaroo reminding us there were no dangers for them in the park, whereas in the wild they were vulnerable to many threats.
Featherdale allowed us to get close to an assortment of animals. Kangaroos, wallabies, peacocks and other birds wandered amongst you, so much so you were almost tripping over them. Koalas were in abundance and gave us ample opportunities to get great photos. The highlight was a sleeping koala you were allowed to stroke. I took the chance and would have stolen the koala had one of the staff not been keeping a close eye.
Featherdale had snakes, owls, scorpions, lizards and even a giant crocodile on show. The most comical animal had to be the Tasmanian devil. When I approached its enclosure it started running. At first I thought it was dashing out of sight but then it came back and proceeded to run in circles. It still hadn’t stopped running when I finally moved on and my efforts to get a decent photo were understandably a failure.
I don’t think any of our group wanted to leave Featherdale but leave we did. We got back to Sydney around 6.00 and saw the Harbour Bridge lit up from a distance. We’d get a better view tomorrow on the harbour cruise. Tomorrow was also a half-day tour, including the Opera House. I’d have the afternoon to wander the city as well. The day after we were off to Thailand. The tour was drawing ever closer to an end!