Posted by: Rebecca | March 30, 2012

Last day in Sydney: koalas or mountains? With a rail network like this, will I get anywhere at all?!

This is a quandary. I really want to see more koalas, I loved them last week, and know I’ll see some if I go to Taronga Zoo. But I had intended to get up into the mountains and see the three sisters today. So do I go with my heart (and see cuddly things and a few birds, reptiles etc) or do I see the scenery? I decide that the animals could, possibly, be seen elsewhere, whereas the mountains won’t be anywhere else. They’re meant to be pretty spectacular and, when I’ve told people who’ve been to Oz that I’m planning to go to the Blue Mountains, they’ve all gone “wow!” so I head for Katoomba.

Now, from my hotel, I must get to Central Station. How do I get there? Light Rail. OK, where’s the light rail station? End of the street. OK, so I walk to the end of the street and there’s a tram station across the road, or a mono rail station up some stairs. No sign of a light rail station. Eeny meeny miney mo. I opt for the mono rail. ‘Sorry luvie, you want the tram over the road, we don’t go to Central Station.’ Hang on, doesn’t everything go to Central Station? Apparently not. The mono rail only runs one route (around Haymarket and Chinatown) but doesn’t go anywhere else. OK, so I head over the street and jump on the tram. The tram does go to Central (yay) but not really anywhere else. Clearly these two lines were built for the Olympics as they seem to run in that part of town. But Sydney seems not to have made up its mind which transport network it wants! It dabbles in all sorts, the train, busses, mono rail, light rail (which is actually a tram), but none is comprehensive. This causes all kinds of confusion to newcomers, all of whom are reliant on maps and guidebooks to get around. I, however, disregard this as too much effort, and opt to use my most effective form of communication – speech. Using this medium, I generally do OK and today is no exception.

So I arrive at Central Station, buy a ticket, board a double-decker train and head off into the countryside expecting some pretty amazing scenery on the way. Unfortunately, the sight of people’s back yards gets a bit boring after an hour or so, and I’m not seeing any mountains. Did I make the wrong decision? Is Kenny’s cousin Clive pining for me back in Taronga? I hope not…

I alight at Katoomba, 2 hours from Sydney and it’s a sleepy little mining town which has suddenly been consumed by ‘Hop-on-hop-off’ Explorer buses and tourists. It doesn’t feel like I’m in the mountains though? Where are the forests, cliffs and ‘Australia’s answer to the Grand Canyon’ then? I can see the return train ride coming sooner than expected. But surely they wouldn’t invest in Explorer buses out here, if it wasn’t worth seeing, right? So I buy a ticket, hop on board and suddenly feel like my parents! I’m on a tour bus! Oh Jesus, this is it. It’s all downhill from here. There was so much I wanted to do before I got old…. Wow – there’s the mountains! Blimey, when did we climb up so high? I’m not great (actually I’m rubbish) with heights, and I can’t see the bottom of the canyon *gulp* does it go on forever?

The Blue Mountains look blue in all the photos and they do in real life too. Apparently, this is because of the eucalyptus coming from the trees, and the way the light refracts off it, creating a blue hue. (Dad will probably read this and tell me that doesn’t make sense, I was never any good at Science at school! But it’s something like that.) The views are pretty awesome. The mix of colours in the sky, rock, foliage, trees etc and the sheer scale of it all is beautiful. That said, it does just look like it does in the photos! So I don’t feel especially blown away by it, if I’m honest. However, rather than just stand at the top and go oooooh aaaaaaah snap snap snap, I want to wander down into the undergrowth. So I take a few walks down the paths and suddenly I’m loving the fresh air, the smell of eucalyptus and the peace and quiet in the forest. That’s almost more relaxing that the views, to me. So I wander around for a few hours, then hop back on the bus and complete the tour.

Here’s a question – why do Japanese tourists wear such huge sunglasses? Are they trying to protect their eyes or is it because it makes their heads/faces look really small? Sanity or vanity? I don’t know, but they all seem to be at it. Unless I’m just unfashionable in my aviators? Who cares, my train’s here…

ttfn /Boxy xx

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