Stage 5: Sydney and The Blue Mountains
Our first impressions of Sydney were quite nightmarish. We rented a car from the airport and began the three hour drive to the Blue Mountains, where we were to spend the night. Our route took us through some very ugly neighborhoods and suburbia seemed to stretch forever. The roads seemed very congested after weeks of driving on almost empty roads through open country, and I wasn't comfortable in a car with manual transmission that seemed prone to stalling in the middle of the heavy traffic. More about Sydney later...
Initially , we weren't very impressed by the Blue Mountains since what we found was a high plateau with wide canyons, rather than mountains. And it was more built-up than we had expected (inevitable, perhaps, given the proximity to Sydney). Also, the mountains didn't have their blue color which is actually due to chemicals released into the air by the trees... in the summer. Once we had accepted the plateau-nature of the park we were able to enjoy our time there - we found a nice cabin with a big hot tub and a roaring log fire - much appreciated at this high altitude with the correspondingly cold nights.
Here's Catherine overlooking one of the deep gorges in the park.
A bushy tailed possum visited our cabin at night more than once, and we saw a greater abundance of wild exotic birds (mainly crimson rosellas and king parrots) at Jemby-Rinjah Lodge than we have ever seen anywhere.
We visited the Jenolan Caves just west of the park, and were suitable impressed...
We took a different route back to Sydney to try to avoid some of the stress of driving on the busy freeways, then we got rid of our car as soon as we could and set about exploring the city on foot. The city center is actually very nice and there's lots to do, such as shopping the Victoria Center (watched over by the old dame herself)...
The Sydney aquarium is certainly worth a visit - one of the highlights was to walk through these underwater tubes while huge manta rays and sharks drift silently by overhead.
The Sydney Opera House actually showcases several performance arts, not just opera, but we saw a version of the opera "Julius Caesar" by Handel. It was the best opera I ever saw (the other one, in San Francisco, was a bit tacky...)
And here's the proof that I really did go to Australia - I'm sure you recognize the background as the steps of the Opera House.
Didn't you just KNOW that I was going to end this page with a photo of the Sydney Opera House at night?