Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blue Mountains Mini-break part 2

In a valley, what goes down, must come up and our mode of choice was this cable car. Crammed in like sardines we listened to our overly enthusiastic tour guide.

His pommy-turned- strained Aussie accent was almost as bad as his ranger hat and boots- so did not work next to his sallow, pasty skin. His banter was not remotely witty and seemed to be appreciated only by the non-English speakers on the ride...

Fortunately the magnificant views were enough of a distraction so keep me happy for most of the five minute ride to the top.

After such a big day in the mountains it was wonderful to retire to Lu's Nana's house... a cozy cottage-like home with plenty of blankets and a cute little pup to cuddle! The air was so fresh, I couldn't breathe deeply enough to satisfy my lungs' thirst for it. Upon our arrival we were greeted warmly and ushered into the dining room for dinner- a yummy homemade chicken casserole. Living the student life sure makes me appreciate a home-cooked meal! We had tea and homemade ginger biscuits for dessert and then cozied up in the barcaloungers to watch a bit of tv before bed.

The next day we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before setting out for the Jenolan Caves. The trip was especially meaningful because my friend's parents had first met there when her dad was working as a tour guide and her mom was a visitor (from Canada!)...awwwww!

The caves were magnificent!!

This park seem to also have their own fashion-challenged members of the ranger-team. I thought the thongs were quite ambitious given the temperature was only about 14 degrees. Also, who wears short shorts? This guy!!

Lastly we took a lovely walk around a place known as the "Blue Lake" due to the limestone deposits in the water. No trick photography- the water is really that colour. Stunning!

All in all a spectacular trip. Thanks Lu!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Blue Mountains Mini-break Part 1

A few weeks ago before departing for her big adventure in the states ("overseas" as they call it here... overseas being short for "anywhere other than Australia") my friend invited me to spend the weekend with her and her Nana in a beautiful area west of Sydney where the famous Blue Mountains are located. We stayed in her Nana's lovely home in the city of Bathurst for two nights. The crisp fresh winter air was just what my lungs had ordered! I was thrilled to be able to escape the city for the first time since last March and I thoroughly enjoyed every last moment of the trip.

Upon leaving the Sydney traffic in our dust, we set out on the open road for Katoomba, eagerly anticipating a visit to the Three Sisters, a famous rock formation at a place called Echo Point. The Aboriginal dream-time legend of the Three Sisters is rather interesting. According to the legend there were three sisters who had fallen in love with three brothers from a different tribe but under tribal law they were forbidden to marry. Upset, the brothers conspired to capture the sisters from their tribe. This gave rise to a major tribal battle and placed the girls in grave danger. A witchdoctor from the sisters' tribe sought to protect the sisters by turning them into stone, with a view to reversing the spell upon the conclusion of the battle. Unfortunately the doctor was killed in the battle and as the only one capable of undoing the spell, the girls were fated to remain in their magnificent rock formation forever!

Not only did we see the Three Sisters, but we also hiked in and around the beautiful subtropical rain forest in the area. Among other things, it is particularly famous for being the location of discovery of the thought-to-be-extinct Wollemi Pine tree. As one of the oldest and rarest species its 200 million year old plant family dates back to the beginning of the Jurassic period aka the age of the dinosaurs! The tree's discovery by a bushwalker in 1994 was of international significance and has been called the botanical find of the century. Its unique and unusual history is the reason for the fuss and for the fact that, unless you are one of a select group of scientists, do not expect to get to see one of these 1000 yr old trees in the wild: their location is as closely guarded a secret as the Coca Cola recipe!!
King Billy: the largest Wollemi Pine
This one here, the largest in the wild and known as "Bill," has roots that are thought to date back to the Roman Empire. Now that is one old tree!
We also learned about coal mining in the area and even took a ride on a coal-train- turned- tourist -train down the side of a cliff. We elected for the front row seat with looks great in the movies but is actually pretty scary!

Luckily we managed to regain our composure for a happy snap at the end....
There's lots more to say so stay tuned for my next post where I will share the details of the rest of the trip!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

One of those days...

You know when you have just had one of those days? Well multiply that by a week and you have how I feel. Somehow I feel this picture of Bailey encapsulates my sentiments exactly. Between work, school, volunteering, social engagements and housework/ cooking/ shopping - trying to keep all the balls in the air is so overwhelming sometimes I feel like curling up into a ball and staying in bed! But the show must go on. At least we've been blessed with some gorgeous weather over the last few days. I took full advantage of the sun's fabric-drying ability and laundered ALL of my bedding. "So what" you say? Well just to re-cap, Australians have little need of a dryer most of the year which for most, including my housemates, translates into not owning one at all. This makes drying sheets in the winter time an aggravating week-long process which is tricky if you only own one set of sheets. Not to even mention duvet covers or doona covers, as the Aussies call them.... Yay for the sweet smell of fresh breeze wafting that is now throughout my room (a nice break from stuffy, musty dampness). Almost makes me forget about all the reading I need to catch up on. Almost, but not quite.

.... Has it really come to this- where clean laundry is the highlight of my week?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Royally Great Weekend :)

Table of Spanish tapas and wines
A couple of weeks ago I was treated to simply the most daahhling weekend. One of the best I've had in what seems like forever! The sun was shining, I didn't have work or uni and best of all I had amazing company (wink!) Nick and I went to this beautiful tapas restaurant in Kings Cross, an area of Sydney known for its "ladies of the evening" as well as the vast array of restaurants and nightlife. We ordered a selection of yummy tapas... a spicy egg and chorizo dish, a tangy anchovy and crusty bread number (I was an anchovy-virgin but I actually liked it!), a delectable lamb skewer and some yummy prawns. Of course it wasn't all meat... we had some veggies too (which I haven't managed to imitate just yet but I'll keep trying; who knew broccoli could taste so good?) In fact the whole meal was delicious and I loved how each time we'd finish the waiter would materialize with the next divine morsel. I also liked how each dish was just the right size to get a satisfactory taste of each thing while leaving room for the next plate!

The next day Nick and I took full advantage of the first glorious sunny day in two weeks and hiked around Royal National Park. Just half an hour south of Sydney, it's the world's second oldest national park, next to Yellowstone in the USA and was established in 1879.
The foliage was beautiful, even in the "winter" but true to Aussie- form, a bit dangerous! I was reminded of this as I attempted to employ a branch to regain my balance after sidestepping a muddy puddle and was given a painful stab in the fingers; the soft looking leaves were anything but! I'm sure those sharp prickles served an ancient evolutionary purpose but at the time it was a reminder of the fact that everything still in existence in Australia has had to overcome a such a harsh climate and myriad of predators that it's either poisonous, sharp, or hungry (or all three).
At one stage we decided to pause and look out into the ocean. To our delight and my utter and complete surprise we saw whales!! There was a pod not too far away breaching and swimming around and we got to watch the whole thing. It was soooo cool. I loved when they blew the water out of their blowholes- the noise was so loud!
It was heaps funny trying to get just the right happy snap. How did we do?

We bumped into a man who was out for his post-hip replacement hike. I tell ya- Aussies have the best attitude to life... "she'll be right" they say and off they go. 

One of my favourite parts of the hike was crossing this beautiful little creek.

... and then walking along the rocks at the ocean's edge to go back to our starting point. The fossils and rock erosion are so interesting to look at. At the end we mountaineered up the rock face (with the help of a strap attached to the rock)...

and next, headed to a tiny nearby town for a bite to eat. 

The sun was setting as we devoured our fish n chips from a cardboard box sitting on a wharf, watching boats sail past. 

Ahhhh..... blissful peace. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I baked!

I Have no idea how I found time to do this but I actually baked something! It was great to once again get to use my wonderful birthday presents given to me by my wonderful new friends here in Sydney. 

As usual the trusty Martha didn't let me down! I baked this yummy orange tart from a recipe from 

I cheated a bit and used store-bought puff pastry but that's only because I don't have the right tools to make pastry from scratch.