On Friday, most of the group got up early and jumped on the train to, ultimately, Katoomba. I say ultimately because our world-class guide (me), not only forgot and told everyone the wrong town to get off the train on, but also slept through the Katoomba stop!
So, when we came to, we were in the quaint little town of Blackheath. The train personnel looked a little perplexed as to why 11 people were getting off the train there, and we soon understood why..
The stationmaster told us we fortunately could catch a bus back to Katoomba and pointed up to the stop. This is a VERY rural area! When we arrived, there were several local people waiting for the train. We chatted with them a bit and one elder gentleman commented that the bus driver was going to be shocked to have more than his usual 4 riders!
After a short 20 minute bus ride, we finally arrived in Katoomba and purchased our hop-on-hop-off tour bus tickets. The air was cool and crisp. 50 degree air outside seemed a distant memory after the scorching temperatures in Bangkok and Singapore the past week, and the temperature in Sydney had been in the high 70's and low 80's. This was a nice break!
We had about a half hour before the bus would begin tours so we found little diners and grabbed some breakfast before beginning our adventure. Before we knew it, we were off to our first tour stop. The drivers on these buses are local people who know the are well and can tell you the best stops, best treks to take and avoid and the like.
Try as one will, you simply cannot express the expanse of this area. While magnificent and beautiful, it also inspires a very humbling feeling of just how minuscule we or our problems really are in the greater scheme of things. If you are a religious person, this is a place where one might truly feel close to their God.
The views and vistas are truly breathtaking.
Being on the trips and spending most of your waking time with the students can begin to wear on you and they can get under your skin... Mike Ferrari - shown below - was one of those students who really was a bother - but fortunately he has good grip strength and was able to scale and climb his way back up from the sheer rock face Professor MacKinnon pushed him over... I guess determination counts for something!
On a serious note, we didn't really push Mike off the cliff and he was many things, annoying was not at all on that list - none of the students were! The picture of Mike above looks harrowing - had I thought quicker, I would have posed on top of the rock it looks like Mike is scaling and made myself look like a real hero and help hoist him to safety... In reality, mike was about 1 foot off a fenced in walkway... but the opportunity to look like we were climbing a sheer rock wall was irresistible!
And then there is Wenrong (or Lumen as she goes by)... The rock vistas really give you a chance to "ham it up"! We had a lot of fun with this group...
From the vistas above, if you look across the valley you can see Katoomba Falls (shown below). Just amazing views...
We managed to wrangle two engineers who were assessing the area for new fencing and walkways to take a picture of the group that were travelling around the mountain stops with us.
After a short walk, we came across a small waterfall cascade.
Alot of walking... but....
These areas are always a great opportunity to snap a picture!
This is a little out-cove cave we came across when we walked to the next waterfall cascade..
And yet another photo op.....
In all, we had a great, albeit tiring day in the Blue Mountains. On Saturday (tomorrow) we head home. While we seemed to see a lot in Sydney, we didn't even begin to scratch the surface of what this city, let alone this "Sunburned Country" has to offer. Every time I leave Australia, I feel melancholy.. It is an odd feeling - this is a very endearing country with very kind people... like a second home for myself. I will be back in May with a group of undergrad students though... so stay tuned for more of our adventures! Also stay tuned for some further posts written during our week in Sydney direct from the students. Till next time!!!!!