Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eating Like There's No Tomorrow

Scallops, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

November 29th, 2009

After returning the car in the nick of time, we agreed to meet for dinner in a few hours. I went back to my hotel to take a shower and put on something more presentable before we met up at St. James Station. We both had sore feet from hiking all weekend so we took the train to Circular Quay and walked to Peter Doyle at the Quay - a restaurant that is becoming a tradition for me - this was the first place I had dinner when I came to Sydney in 1997.

We ordered scallops and oysters for our appetizers.

I had the lamb chops, Matt had fish and chips.

And amazing dessert!

After a fantastic dinner, we hopped on the train back to St James Station. I thanked Matt for joining me in Sydney for a great week. He said, "It was awesome!" and I concur... it was totally awesome.

Fitzroy Falls Revisited

Fitzroy Falls, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

November 29th, 2009

We only had a few more hours before the rental car place in Sydney closed and we'd be charged for another day on the car. We were at least an hour away from the city, but I wanted to see Fitzroy Falls again. We were going to be driving past anyway, so we stopped and took a little hike. Things looked pretty much the same as the first time I visited.

After passing the first lookout, we heard some scratching in the bush. When I looked to see what was there, I saw a spiky little ball crashing through the brush. An echidna, about the size of a football, was digging for food. When it noticed us, it curled its head under its body to hide. I got a few pictures, but they only show its spiky backside.

This was my last hike into the wilderness before heading back home. It was bittersweet to feel the warm air of summer and know that in a few days I would be back in the sub-arctic climate of Chicago. While swatting off the flies I tried to focus on the moment and not the flight home. My photos and my journal don't record the musty camphor smell of eucalyptus in the hot air, the buzzing of insects, the foreign bird calls and rustling leaves. For those things, I have to close my eyes and remember.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kangaroo Valley

Kangaroo Valley, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

After a quick cup of coffee in Kiama, we programmed the GPS for Kangaroo Valley. We found some signs that indicated a "tourist route" so we followed them into the highlands.

My photos don't really adequately demonstrate the "windiness" of the road or the steepness of the cliffs... but this drive had me tightening my sphincter on several occasions. Each time we got out of the car to take some photos, we were swarmed by the most tenacious flies on the planet.

At the bottom of the valley was the Kangaroo River and the Hampden Suspension Bridge, opened in 1898. The bridge wore its age quite well and appeared to have at least another century of service to provide. After taking some pictures of the bridge and the river, we hightailed it out of there leaving a stream of flies in our wake.

Sydney to Kiama

Kiama Lighthouse, originally uploaded by zuctronic.

Sunday, 29th November 2009

This would be the last full day of my trip to Australia. We decided on a road trip that would take us to Kiama on the coast and then across the Southern Highlands through Kangaroo Valley to Fitzroy Falls and from there back to Sydney. The first part of this trip was fairly uneventful. We stopped at a scenic lookout called Sublime Point and took some pictures. Then we continued on to Kiama where we saw the Kiama Blow Hole and had some coffee.

Friday, March 5, 2010

St. Andrew's Day Dinner

November 28th, 2009

While we were hiking around in Jamison Valley our phones had no reception. On our way back into civilization, my phone alerted me to the fact that I had missed a call from Cheryl. I called her back and she invited us to dinner with some friends in the city. "I'm told there will be a haggis there," she said. That sealed the deal.

This traditional Scottish dish is a type of sausage of savory pudding made by mincing the "pluck" of a sheep (heart, lungs, liver) with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt ... then stuffing it all into the sheep's stomach. This preparation is then boiled in stock for a few hours and then served. In our case it was served with mashed potato, mashed turnip, and white pudding -- another savory pudding made with suet, oatmeal, salt, and spices.

I was the only one at the table who cleaned my plate. This was interesting because I am a notoriously picky eater. Well first of all I was really hungry... I also liked the haggis, but it was a little dry. Ian (our host) said it was overcooked, but I wouldn't have known the difference. I will definitely try it again if I come across it, but I won't go searching for it.

Thank you Ian for a great meal! Thank you Cheryl for introducing me to new friends! This made two non-Australian holidays I had celebrated in Australia in less than a week!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Katoomba and Scenic World

November 28th, 2009 - Katoomba

After breakfast at the Sydney Fish Market we headed west on the highway toward Katoomba, the so-called "Gateway" to the Blue Mountains. The drive there was a good way to get accustomed to driving on the left since it was mostly highway driving and pretty easy. The road started to get a little bit curvey once we got up into the hills, but nothing too challenging. When we reached Katoomba, we parked in a pay spot and started walking. Our first stop was the Queen Elizabeth lookout. This is the spot where Queen Elizabeth II first viewed the Jamison Valley in 1954.

We walked down to the lookout and saw the Three Sisters, Mount Solitary, and the expansive Jamison Valley. The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters fell in love with three men from a neighboring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is falsely claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend. (

Regardless of the authenticity of the legend, the view is geniunely fantastic. Hopefully some of my pictures will give you an idea of what makes this place so majestic.

We decided to start hiking toward Katoomba Falls, as a sign directed us. We had paid for an hour of parking and had to keep in mind the time as we took in the views. I needed to stop every couple minutes to take another photo... a rock formation, another flower, some insects, a vista across the valley - everything was amazing! We accidentally stumbled into the terminus of the Scenic Skyway, a cable gondola over the valley floor past Katoomba Falls to Scenic World. From Scenic World, we could take the Scenic Railway or Scenic Cableway to or from the Scenic Walkway around the valley floor. We decided to take the Scenic Skyway to Scenic World and back, then walk back to the car and drive back to Scenic World.

Once back at Scenic World, we took the Scenic Railway to the valley floor. The Scenic Railway is actually the world's steepest funicular. This one was originally used by coal miners but is now an attraction for locals and tourists. From wikipedia:

"The Scenic Railway is said to be the steepest cable-driven funicular railway in the world, with an incline of 52 degrees over a distance of 415 metres. It was originally constructed for a coal and oil shale mining operation in the Jamison Valley in the 1880s, in order to haul shale from the valley floor up to the escarpment above. It was converted for use as a tourist attraction prior to World War II."

When we got to the bottom of the valley it seemed dark under the shade of the trees. We walked toward the north for a long time before deciding we needed to head back. Once we got back to the walkway, we walked around on the boardwalk for a while. The boardwalk takes hikers past some coal mining artifacts and a freshwater spring. There are also explanatory signs placed along the walk.

We made our way to the Scenic Cableway which takes people back up to the stop of the cliff and parking area. By now Matt and I were both pretty tired out from walking so much and the heat was starting to wear us down. We bought some water in the shop at Scenic World and got back in the car. I had missed a call from Cheryl, so I called back and she invited us to a friends' house for St. Andrews Day dinner. We punched the address into our GPS and headed back into the city.