First stop: in the Blue Mtns to see kangaroos! Found 2 Eastern Grey "happy hoppers" & watched them graze. Couldn't get too close bc, according to our guide Smokey, they are deadly. They can support their whole weight on their tails & then either deliver a rib-cracking kick with their back feet or reach out their front claws to punch you in the head (they actually do punch, right & left & even uppercut) or to literally gut you. Yikes. But they sure are cute to look at! Also, interesting fact: female kangaroos can be constantly pregnant - one in the womb, one in the pouch, and one around the neck! Let's be thankful we're not kangas, ladies!
Second stop: 2 hour hike to Wentworth Falls. THE steepest stairs I've ever walked. On the way down, I knew the way back up would kill... And it did. I'm gonna have some solid thighs & calves after all this hiking! :) But the falls were beautiful so it was worth it. We saw a blue-tongue lizard, white & yellow cockatoos (I didn't know they lived here!!) and a flock of black yellow-tailed cockatoos, which Smokey said are VERY rarely spotted. He also scared us with descriptions of the oh-so-many deadly aussie snakes & spiders. I'm now terrified to get near holes in the ground or in trees. *shudder* and just so you know, you should NOT suck the venom out of a snake bite; instead, wrap the whole appendage with pressure gauze & sit still til help arrives if possible. Not that any of us will ever have to use that info. :)
By the way, Smokey is the stereotype of an Aussie bloke - sinewy with long curly blond hair under a safari hat decorated with croc skin & teeth. Seriously. (pictured) But appearances aside, he's a great storyteller & very knowledgeable; I've learned a lot of interesting Oz history on this trip.
Then a nice lunch break where I talked to an English couple & two girls from Ireland. Both countries have been affected by the recession more than I thought - the Brits are on a 6 month "career break" (instead of layoffs, people are given the option to just take some unpaid time off - such a great idea!) and the Irish girls said that lines for jobs at mcdonalds are around the block, unemployment has gotten so bad. I had no idea. Count your blessings.
Third stop: 40 min hike through rainforest - not as tropical as I'd pictured - down to Katoomba falls & the Three Sisters (no not the Checkhov play, you nerds, its a rock formation). On the way we passed Witches Leap (leap meaning falls) but I think it looks more like a monkey (pictured). This is the land of monkey rocks! And we paused to enjoy a fantastic echo - Kooo-EEE!!
We were looking also for a liarbird but didn't find one :( so Smokey showed us a video of its mating call. This bird imitates all other bird calls AND the sound of frogs, chainsaws, nails into wood, cameras clicking and car alarms - all eerily accurate. Its a little sad which human sounds are in its repetoire, but its really cool to hear. I wish we'd seen one live. Oh well it was still a good hike.
Then, once we got to the bottom there, we rode the steepest incline railway in the world back up to the summit. Its actually an old mine cart they put seats in & it IS super steep. No seat belts, doors or safety bars (tho you are sort of caged in), and you go up the hill backwards, so you're staring at the ground as it drops away. I found it fun, not scary, but the girls next to me were screaming prayers in Celtic. It cracked me up.
Now I'm back on the bus heading to the city. As long as I can make it in time, I'm going on a Sydney Harbour Cruise with the hostel and my new roommate, a very nice (and super-speed chatty cathy) Canadian. So stay tuned...
Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ my physical fitness
~ new sights, sounds & knowledge
~ other cultural perspectives on life & travel