Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Markets and mountains

The following day dawned still cloudy without the rain. The nice thing about hostels is that it is easy to meet people to travel around the city with. I went out to a café for breakfast (or brekkie as it is sometimes called) with two European girls traveling on holiday. Afterwards I joined them for Paddington and Glebes markets. Glebes was really cool- there were tons of little shops selling everything from picture frames to tea to lockets that open into watches and ipod covers that look like cassette tapes. All the vendors had little tents with all their various wares. I bought a skirt for $2. After Glebes we headed to Paddington which was a nice market and a cool vibe, but more of an art show than a farmers market. The wares were fancier such as knitting, paintings, leather purses, and a delicious chocolate chai that gave out free samples, but most everything was out of my price range. Still, it was fun to see.

I figured that I would be able to see more of the city with a guide, so I took a walking tour of Sydney. The guide was a native to the city who gave the ironic history of the different sights in the town. For example, Governor Macquaries (one of the most influential governors from when Sydney was full of convicts) wanted to build a hospital, but lacked the funding. To afford it he gave three business men the rights to all the rum being sold to the convicts if they in return built him a hospital. This worked successfully, and a large hospital was soon built. Part of it still stands today and has been used as a governmental house. So ironically the government lived in a house paid for by selling rum to criminals.

The tour was great, and afterwards I went on another tour of the Rocks- a historical section of Sydney near the harbor. Then I had beer and chips with one of the other people on the tour. I found it interesting that chips (fries) are served with sour crème and sweet chili. It’s pretty good.

The next day dawned sunny and gorgeous so I went with a tour group to the Blue Mountains. The drive took about an hour in a large van. Our first hike took us to a spectacular lookout that was in sight of several waterfalls.

But wait, it gets better- we walked over to see the falls and on the way passed through rainforest! Most of the Blue Mountains are eucalyptus, but there were some patches left over of ancient rainforest. Sadly there are no kolas in this eucalyptus forest since the trees are in soil with too little nutrients to sustain the critters. The waterfalls were beautiful- clean fresh and cascading down.

Afterwards we drove to a new destination and hiked to peak with another lovely view. A lunch of meat pies followed, with a trip to the famous Three Sisters Peaks after that. The Three Sisters was nice, but it was over flowing with tourists. I wasn’t sad to leave it and drive to the next location.

The final spot was the exact opposite of touristy. The van parked on the side of the road and we took a small path half hidden in the bush. A short hike took us to a secluded rock overlooking a valley composed entirely of trees and mountains. Nothing man-made was anywhere in sight. The only thing disturbing the silence was the calls of bell birds.

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