7. The View From the Afternoon

I’ve always hated the news at home, where they say ‘Good Evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t, usually involving one of death, war or Piers Morgan. Here, its a little different;

Screenshot 2016-03-22 16.28.30The news here really is out of this world; on our first day the headline story in the Manly Daily was that a man had been charged for doing naked press ups in the high street. The headline?

“MUST HAVE BEEN A FULL MOON”

I rest my case. For those of you who are still not convinced a few days later the local newspaper dedicated its front page to the mayhem caused by rogue shopping trolleys.

The job search has continued to be impressively unsuccessful, though with better results recently which hopefully will mean the next blog has a positive result! Job searches have involved a lot of bus travel around Sydney to various meetings which has led me to a conclusion which, in my mind, makes perfect sense. Surfing is massive here and loads of Australians are brilliant at it. Some say its the weather, some say the culture, I say its the buses. I’m not crazy. The balance you must develop after a lifetime of bus journeys when standing up can’t help but contribute to surfing prowess, in my mind.

The first time I got on a rush hour bus I immediately fell into a businessman and had to endure the rest of the ride with him undecided as to whether I was a pickpocket or a fondler, neither of which endeared me to him. As we’ve gone on I’ve got better and feel like in a few months time, I too will be a world class surfer. Its still taking some getting used to, though, when the bus drivers brake like the Roadrunner at the edge of a cliff:

 

Incidentally this is also how I braked the first time I drove an automatic car here in Sydney. Because my left foot had nothing to do (no clutch!) it decided it would try its hand (or its foot as it were) at the brake pedal. This led to a number of emergency stops and several heart attacks from everyone in the car. I did work it out, however, in time to drive Katie and myself to the Blue Mountains, which are about 2 hours drive west of Sydney, and I’m glad to say we are alive.

The Blue Mountains was our first experience of a hostel in Australia and when we arrived, we were asked if we had stayed in hostels before. Now, my last (and only) experience of a hostel was in 2011 on a rugby tour in Belfast, when 11 of us were in one room with one poor Irish lad called Mark who looked nonplussed. I can imagine these places are basic at the best of times, and with 25 teenage rugby players it didn’t improve it much. The last hostels Katie stayed in were in Thailand and the less said about some of those the better. (Katie would like to add at this point that a number of them were very pleasant.)

So it was a nice surprise that our beds were reasonably clean and comfortable. Unfortunately, you can have the cleanest beds you want, you can’t control how weird the people that stay there are. On our first night, after I bought the finest bottle of $5 wine (£2.50’s worth) available in the shop next door, we sat down and were accosted by a man who would later go on to describe his profession as ‘door knocker trainer’ (apparently he was very good at it). In fairness the wine was much better than expected, while the door knocker trainer was as weird as expected. We also met more normal people, Zac and Random Kiwi Bloke helped keep us sane and I thank them should they ever read this, but they were overshadowed by nutter door knocker man, who’s name we never found out.

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‘Yes, I’ll have the ‘End of Bin’ vintage please waiter’

Anyway after a bottle of $5 wine and the somewhat inevitable hangover this led to, we set off the next day to explore. We were staying in Katoomba which is the biggest town in the Blue Mountains area and home to the Three Sisters as well as a few drunks and a man in a chippy with a lawnmower fan magazine. Say what you want but its a diverse place.

Our first stop on what became an impromptu walking tour was the Three Sisters. Aboriginal legend has it that these were 3 actual sisters turned to stone by their father for either hacking off their tribe for marrying 3 men from another tribe, or annoying a Bunyip (no, me neither), depending on which story you believe. Thus teaching all Aboriginal kids in days to come to bloody behave, or else. Anyway, they have a nice view in their eternal resting place at least. (For the full story click here)

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The Three Sisters

So starting from Echo Point, which is where this picture was taken, we set off in a vague direction and eventually decided we wanted to head to a waterfall, inventively named Katoomba Falls. After lots of steps downhill we found them and they were pretty impressive;

However by this point we had descended quite a long way from our starting point (approximately two hours). Now I was confident that there was a train at the bottom which would take us back up as I was convinced I’d been on it before. However, Katie was slightly less confident and this led to some very nervous moments as we continued to descend into a rainforest with no way out other than a lot of steps leading me to a very large doghouse.

Luckily, we happened upon the train more by luck than planning and caught that back up to the top. It’s billed as the steepest train in the world and to be fair to them it’s pretty damned steep. The seats started off so you were effectively lay on your back and halfway up we were almost falling on to the people infront of us. Hopefully this video shows it, though it really doesn’t do the stomach churning angle justice;

Later on we headed for a curry at an Indian place, which despite its billing as the best rated in Katoomba on TripAdvisor did appear to be someone’s front room. We then headed back to the hostel to what would become a very disturbed night for Katie. These disturbances came from two residents, whom she aptly nicknamed Snory and Shitty. One was a tiny Chinese girl while the other was a frail 60 year old woman. I will leave the rest to your imaginations; but the less said the better. Incidentally I slept brilliantly, which you can imagine went down well…

The next morning we left the hostel quickly, mainly because the door knocker trainer was lurking again, and headed to the Jenolan Caves which are around 90 minutes from Katoomba. This took us down two roads, the second of which was a fantastic curving descent through the middle of nowhere with great views which a picture can’t do justice, but I’m going to post one anyway;

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The drive was very narrow and bendy, meaning I loved driving it in the giant go kart that is an automatic car, and the caves were equally impressive. iPhone cameras aren’t exactly built for dark cave shoots so our photos didn’t emphasise the brilliance of the caves but again, you’re getting the photos anyway;

As we came out of the caves we decided it was time to head for home. We did encounter one last surprise at the side of the road; our first wild kangaroo. I will leave you with the video, so until next time: We have named him skippy and he shall be our skippy;

 

Alex Odlin would like to inform everyone that, on balance, the hangover from $5 wine is worth it. He would also remind you all never to annoy a Bunyip. You can read his advice and adventure from the beginning at blog post number 1, The Masterplan

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