Thursday, May 30, 2013

mountain air

katrina & i arrived in sydney on thursday evening after a quick 2.5 hour plane ride south. finding out way to our hostel was easy and we were instantly impressed by sydney's efficient (and clean!) city rail system. however, we were not as impressed by our hostel, located in eastern sydney in an area called king's cross. while we had been warned that king's cross was a notoriously sketchy area, the only crimes i witnessed were the club-goer's trashy outfits. the streets were mainly filled with hostels, clubs & restaurants - backpacker central. 

our roomy 8-person room. 90% sure the dude sleeping below me was semi-permanently moved in. we quickly escaped and met up with our friend andrew to grab dinner. 

after eating st. mark's sad attempt at pad thai too many times, we were desperate to find some real thai food. luckily we wandered by three different thai restaurants within two blocks and took our pick!

SO GOOD. i can't wait to get back to LA and get back to eating thai food regularly (and chinese and japanese and vietnamese and really anything but the food served at st. marks)..

after a delicious dinner, we were pretty exhausted (katrina maybe more so after pulling an all nighter to finish a paper the night before) and attempted to get to sleep early. easier said than done.. for some reason the guy in the bunk below me thought it was acceptable to return at 3am  with friends. that's what you get when you stay in a hostel! 

friday morning we woke up super early to pick up our rental car and drive out west to the blue mountains. after getting mildly lost in the city thanks to my lack of navigational skills, we reached the open road of the great western highway - and katrina was finally able to breathe after a stressful first time driving on the opposite side of the road.

our sweet ride

first stop: leura

we stopped off in the town of leura first to grab a coffee. it truly felt like autumn here, and the small town reminded me of classic new england. we would've loved to stay a while longer and walk around, but we had a pre-determined strict schedule of hiking to stick to!

after perusing the internet and my guidebook (which would later prove to be invaluable) we chose the prince henry cliff walk as our first hike. the blue mountains are named aptly- a blue haze floats above the tree line, caused by sunlight reflecting off the oil released by the vast amount of eucalyptus trees. i was mesmerized by the broad cliffs and valleys carved out by an ancient sea. the hike took around two hours, winding us along the edges of cliffs and offering the most gorgeous views on the way from leura to katoomba.

felt so good to breathe in the crisp mountain air - it was a perfect cool day for hiking. i hadn't realized until then that i had been missing fall weather.

we truly felt like we were in another world

bridal veil falls

so many ferns, felt like we were in jurassic park waiting for the dinosaurs to appear

at the end of the cliff walk we made it to the three sisters, an iconic rock formation i had been eager to see through my own eyes.

so beautiful! 

the three sisters overlooking jamison valley

necessary tourist pic of katrina & i

we had made it to the end of the hike, but now we had a dilemma - the trail back would take another few hours and we needed to get back to the car soon so that we would have enough time for our next hike. naturally, we hitchhiked! i used my american charm and ended up just confusing a friendly australian dad and his daughter into thinking we were lost - luckily he agreed to give us a lift back to the car park in leura. 

next stop: blackheath, a town just a short drive north of katoomba

here we stopped at evan's lookout, overlooking grose river valley and the start point for the grand canyon hike. very unlike the grand canyon of the USA, this trail took us deep down to the mossy valley floor. 

view from evan's lookout

descending into the canyon

felt like we must have walked down millions of stairs. going down was easy - ascending was not so fun...

as we hiked through the canyon, we heard running water all around. every so often we would come across a waterfall.

we walked under and around towering rocks and over creeks

view of a narrow slot canyon, presumably extremely deep

the further we descended, the darker it got

at one point we got to walk through a dark tunnel

katrina doing her best cave face

sunlight eventually returned to us as we made our way back out of the canyon. going up was brutal, but the epic experience was so worth it. 

unfortunately we only had our car for a day, and thus had to get back to sydney that night. there is just never enough time.. we spent the rest of the evening watching a beautiful sunset over the mountains and attempting to find an abandoned railroad tunnel that is now home to cave glow worms. glow worms are possibly the coolest thing EVER, so we were really invested in finding this magical place. however, we ended up just driving around in circles through this town called lithgow that we now had a deep hatred for. 

it was an easy drive back to sydney, but once we got back into the city it was pretty intense navigating around the hordes of people and cars. at one point we went through a police check point and i got breathalyzed for the first time, exciting stuff!!! walking back to our hostel we witnessed more of the class of king's cross as a rat was literally kicked out of a club onto the sidewalk. 

sunday : exploring sydney (to come in the next post)

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