Friday, October 24, 2014

Australia Days 8, 9 & 10 (Katoomba/Sydney)

 Though we hated to leave our warm, cozy cottage with its fireplace, electric blankets and spa like was time to explore a little more of Katoomba. We got up bright and early and headed over to Scenic World, which offers a one-day pass allowing you unlimited rides down into the base of the mountains, where you can explore the forest, waterfall, fauna and an old coal mine below...all connected via a boardwalk. It sounded a bit suspiciously cheesy/touristy to me (and to an extent, it was), but the rides were all phenomenal, uniquely different experiences overlooking a very picturesque area. My mom was worried about getting motion sickness, Rich needed to set up shop in the cafe to access the wifi and map out the rest of our day, so I volunteered to be the chief photographer so I could capture my dad and Ryan having fun together.

First up? The steepest train incline in the world at 52 degrees! Obviously not with the original train cars (for coal mining), but still extremely steep.

I asked my dad to pretend to be hysterical with fear at the moment of descent. He did very well. Ryan tried valiantly to pull his jacket lapels and demanded that he keep it together. :-)
The view from Scenic World and all three rides included the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters
Next up? The tramway that goes down, down, down to the base of the mountain as well...

This is the view of them descending from a great distance away...kinda creepy.
And last but not least...the skyway tram...this one did not go down, but across over Katoomba Falls.

There they go!
The Katoomba Falls were more like a Katoomba Trickle of Water
Floating mid-air...pretty darn cool.
After the excitement of Scenic World, we still wanted to hike down to Katoomba Trickle. It was very, very anticlimactic, but finding this van in the parking lot upon on return made things much, much better.
From the falls, we drove down to Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary to check out the kangaroos and koalas. Though there are a variety of options to see them at zoos/private parks/etc, we picked Featherdale partly because its a sanctuary, partly because its a bit outside of the city/crowds and seemed less commercialized than the ones in Sydney. A friend also recommended it to us and boy were we ever glad we went there. It was mind blowing and a definite highlight of our travels to be able to hand feed a kangaroo for the first time and cuddle a koala (carrying one in New South Wales is illegal, which we can understand and support).

He's not feeding the mama and her joey (can you see her peeking out) an ice cream cone. ;-) Silly. That's not very appropriate. (He's feeding them a cone filled with jellybeans!) Just kidding, the cones were filled with dried grasses.
That's my arm feeding two little 'roos while their baby watches.
At times we would get mobbed by 'roos hungry to eat. I think we bought about 4-5 cones in 15 minutes.
This is the 'roo my brother Joey was named after...cause he's being lazy and yet, still finding the strength to eat. :-)
Being happily mobbed in the back of the park where these 'roos are less seen/fed.

Another highlight was getting to pet a few koalas...who couldn't care less about the people. All they seemed to care about getting a replenished supply of fresh eucalyptus.

This frightening large bird appears to be part ostrich, part turkey, part dinosaur. Which is a nice way of saying- she is uuuugly. And for whatever reason, these birds were all over the park. I shrieked inside every time I saw one.
I think he was more determined to hold this owlish-looking bird than any other animal in the park.
This large lizard wasn't his first pick to hold, but he scored in that the lizard had pooped a second before on the person before him. ;-)
That dangling foot kills me.
This little guy (wallaby I think?) looks depressed.

On our last day in Sydney I didn't take any pictures because we spent the day just revisiting some of our favorite shops/restaurants. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in North Ryde that night and because our shoes got dusty that day, my mom kept trying to wipe everyone's shoes off. I wouldn't let her do mine, but Rich let her. Which looked wonderful...the little old Asian lady cleaning the white man's shoes by hand. Disgusting! So I snapped a pic of the abuse. (JK. Well, not really. It did happen as described, I just asked Rich to fake yell at her for not doing it good enough...only it appears Ryan wasn't in on the joke for a second!)

We scored an extra seat on our flight on the way home so someone got to stretch out. He slept 8.5 of the 9.5 hour flight (a red-eye) home. The prefect traveler!
Then hopped into the car when Uncle Joey came to pick us up and crashed again. ;-) 

All in all..despite the rocky start- this was a great trip and one for the books. We got to see our dear friends, feed kangaroos and cuddle with koalas. Can't complain! :-) But you're not off the hook yet, I'm sure I'll post my usual trip out takes tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Australia Day 7 (Katoomba)

Our second day in Katoomba, we had a short road trip planned over to the Jenolan Caves (also within the Blue Mountains). It was tough leaving our lovely cottage, especially after the slightly more rustic apartment we had in Sydney. The cottage was the perfect combination of old and new, immaculate/well kept, generously well appointed (it had every necessity you could imagine) and just charming beyond words. You could tell the owner poured his love into the place.

Ryan and I bunked in this bedroom so Rich could enjoy two nights of a kick-free slumber.
I had to wait until I was 40 to chop firewood for the first time...Ryan beat me by a few years.
This proud little boy restocked the fireplace everyday with Grandpa.
One of the many historic touches in the house- the original door knobs on all the doors. I'm not sure why 'back then' door knobs were always so high.  Maybe this is why my Asian ancestors chose to have sliding doors.
These were the original light switches (which still worked). Unaesthetic? Yes. But as Rich commented repeatedly, it was like staying in a historic home, and we loved it.
We ate like kings there for each meal. We always take turns cooking meals with my parents. :-)
On our 90 minute drive out to the caves, we quickly spotted (thanks to Ryan) our first kangaroo in the wild. I think we saw a total of four on the way out there- three that was more or less roadside jerky.

If you haven't been to the Jenolan Caves, they are probably one of the more fascinating places on Earth.  I had thought we might be a little less than excited since we've done a few extensive cave tours,

They're really not up for mingling, these guys.
We were greeted at the cave parking lot by a friendly (wild) parrot that Ry was able to hand feed. :-)
I have never, ever driven into a park through a cave. It was awesome!!! (The only thing not so much? How the light managed to make me look like I have a little old man receding hairline! Ba ha ha ha! The Jenolan Caves kinda put the Carlsbad Caverns to shame.
Waiting for our 90-minute tour through the Lucas Cave).
The Grand Arch
The Blue Lake outside the caves...the bright blue color is surprisingly natural, someting to do with the natural limestone underneath. It's also home to three platypus. Platypusses? Platypussi? I'm not sure. Anyhow, we saw only their bubbles, and a giant lizard (too quick for a photo) that I swear, was a definitely 1-billion year old dinosaur.
A wallaby, just hanging out...watching us watch him.
You can see 7 steps in this picture...but the Lucas Cave had 903 more! The height and depth of the cave chambers was stunning at times.
NO matter how many times I'm taught about various cave formations...I struggle to understand the diversity of them in such a small area. I'm fall into the category of a 'visual person who would only comprehend the process if a time lapse video (of hundreds of thousands of years) were sped up so I can see how each type of formation occurred. (Yes, this = not very bright person.)
The original ladders/entry ways from the initial discovery/exploration of the cave (from a little over 100 years ago) are still firmly rooted into place. This one was well over a 100+ feet tall.

After our day at the caves, we rushed back to Katoomba in hopes of making one of the last aboriginal dance performances of the day at the Waradah Aboriginal Center near our cottage.

Baaad lighting obviously, but the friendliest group, ever.
The obligatory boomerang photo
The obligatory didgeridoo photo 
I don't think most of these people, but especially the guy on the right is a native aboriginal. Just a gut feeling.