Into the Mountains

Sydney grows on you. Beautiful it may not be, but it is full of life and fun. Also, the people here are really, really nice. When previous visitors to Australia were telling me how nice Australians were, I used to smirk – why did it matter? But when they are that nice, it does matter! A bus driver let us on his bus for free when we didn’t have money, another bus driver told us to forget about change when paying for our tickets, people came up to us on the street offering help with directions when we seemed lost or volunteered to direct us to the right train when they saw us looking at the map, in other words, people went out of their way to help and were sincerely warm. In all of my travels I have never met such nice people like that, and en masse.
This morning we woke up bright and early, which is not hard considering the still lingering jet lag and the lovely view we wake up to, got out of the hotel in the wee hours of dawn, onto the deserted quay, and took a train to the Blue Mountains. This train was more like a slow boat to China, huffing-n-puffing to the main Blue Mountains’ hub, Katoomba. Sounds exotic, but it is not. Katoomba is a town that time forgot about 60 years ago. It left it with sad outdated shops and eateries, which would not even qualify to be called “restaurants.”
But we didn’t come here for the town, but for the nature. We took a rickety trolley to the sky ride over the valley. The view was very nice, and we were lucky because the day was bright and sunny after three months of nonstop rain. Then we walked in the lovely australian bush amidst gnarled vines and mossy boulders. It was very enjoyable, except I am not sure it was worth the trip to the other end of the earth. But the really cool thing was a temporary art exhibit set right there, in the woods. Sculptures were positioned by different artists along the path in the forest. Some of them were whimsical, like gigantic price tags advertising various pieces of furniture offered at discount prices, others were artsy – like a giant chandelier hanging off a tree or a spread of bright plastic flowers strategically scattered on the ground between the trees.
After the walk, we took a look at the most famous rock formation, the Three Sisters, and decided to take a two-hour hike to the next town. As I had said, it had been raining nonstop the previous three months, so the trail was flooded and muddy. We were promised good views, but hardly saw any, tracking through the mud with our sneakers slowly changing color from white to grey and getting heavier by the minute from the dirty water slushing in our socks.
That was not the highlight of our Australian experience.
Took the train back and tried to sleep despite the background noises of two very chatty and very loud German girls.
I must say that public transportation is outstanding here! The trains and buses are clean and efficient.
For dinner, we went to a neighborhood pancake place, in the Rocks. We were just about the only non-Asians there. Sydney, overall, has a huge Asian population – beating even San Francisco. At least every third person on the street is Asian.
Back to the hotel, to the glorious night view of the harbor and the opera house.

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