My apologies for a late third and final entry into my Australia trip updates. I’ve been quite swamped with moving moving into my new house in Santa Cruz and starting school. But where I left off I believe was leaving Pittwater. After returning back to Manly, we rested and ate for the majority of the day. The following day, Robby and I headed into Sydney to meet up with Javier at the University of Sydney so that we could sit in on one of his lectures. We took the bus from the Circular Quay ferry building and met with some navigation difficulties, but eventually made it to the made building and quad to meet Javier. I expected UoS to be a modern looking, bright and blue-eyed school, more akin to UCSC than Hogwarts, but boy was I wrong. Aided by an uncharacteristically overcast day the school felt, smelled, and looked like it was in England. The buildings look like medieval castles with ornate stone carvings shielding the tops of the roof. Ever plant was exquisitely manicured and there are a plethora of small, hidden gardens throughout the wings of the school. Even the lawns are perfectly groomed to what seems an exacting cut to each blade of grass.
After finding our way to the main quad, we met with Javier and after a brief tour of the area he escorted us to his lecture hall. We were to sit in on his easier class, for second year students. The class was concerning an introduction to Iranian Archaeology, which was a big deal that it was being offered as a class for lower division students. We sat down in the back but quickly had to stand again as Javier introduced us to the class and told them any questions they had about American could be directed to us. We then sat and listened to Javier give a fantastic lecture on early Elamite architecture vernacular architecture for just over an hour.
Lucky for us, Javier was done for the day and after showing us his office, we decided coffee was in order. By the way, Javier’s office is home to such a collection of both antique and obviously rare old books its astounding. The line the wall from floor to ceiling and are rigorously organized according to subject. We headed out across the grounds of the school, through fields and past fountains until we arrived at Javier’s favorite coffee shop. This coffee shop is just slightly off campus and though the name alludes me right now, the place looked like the type of shop that fashion magazines write pieces about or hold photoshoots at. It was the type of place where the Baristas take their jobs seriously and the coffee is treated as as much of an art form as it is a beverage. After this we were hungry and Javier suggested that if we were in the mood for seafood that he wanted to take us to the famous Sydney Fish Market, so off we went. After carousing the various seafood vendors we settled on one and each ordered a plate. What we didn’t know was that each variety “plate” consisted of a virtual mountain of various sea creatures piled sky high onto a large plastic shell. We dove in amongst the clamor of anxious seagulls waiting for one of us to drop something. We eventually finished and pressed on, past our food comas, and attempted to walk off the feast we had just indulged ourselves in. Javier showed us more parts of Sydney such as an the expensive malls and hidden parts of the Rocks. A pub, tucked away into one of the alcoves of the area. The pub was called The Hero of Waterloo and is supposedly the real oldest pub in Sydney. We then headed in, sitting on the bow of the ferry, through rougher waters than usual.
The next day, Robby and I prepared and packed for our trip to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains while we waited for our 2 o’clock train. We headed to the train station and embarked on our 2.5 hour, inland West train ride. The train was quiet, comfortable and somewhat vintage. Javier later told us they’ve done no upgrades to the trains in 20 years. Upon entering Katoomba, we were a bit confused. Though the town was quaint, the brilliant natural beauty that we had been told of was nowhere to be found. We checked into our hostel and headed out to explore the pubs and eateries of the area but quickly tired of this and found the greasiest chips and pizza place nearby and treated ourselves to a feast. Our hunger quenched, we headed off to explore the local shops and wound up at an amazing place called Mr. Picwics Rare and Antique Books. This venerable and archaic shop was one of those book shops that is almost bursting at the seams with every manner of book, with a quiet old man sitting serenely behind the counter reading, complete with long grey bear and spectacles. After our curiosity had been adequately rendered we headed to the pub for stories and beer followed by a walk to where, according to our map, this wonderful wilderness was supposed to begin.
Upon arrival at our destination, we were not disappointed. At the end of a dull suburban looking street, we reached the precipice of what I can only compare to majestic views of the Grand Canyon. Civilization literally halted and one could only see into eternity and past it through warm oranges and earthy peach light. The oil emitted from the thousands of eucalyptus leaves tinted the entire exalted landscape a light blue. In the morning, during our hike the whole place would be foggy and overcast, destroying the atmosphere for a proper photograph, so sadly my only evidence of this marvel was taken on my iphone.
Sorry for the terrible, terrible quality of this photo.
The night was capped off by reading in a comfy armchair around a picture-perfect fire at the hostel.
In the morning we met and conversed with our roommate, a young German guy who was working in the hostel’s kitchen for free room and board. He quickly left for his job duties though and Robby and I packed up and headed out. We stopped for coffee and breakfast at one of the only early open cafe’s on the main road and enjoyed an English breakfast and coffee. We made out way back to the trail head at the precipice we had encountered the night before and started in. We headed out and within minutes had almost forgotten about the civilization only a few thousand feet behind us. What we entered felt like a wilderness the like of which I had never experienced. The tropical rain forest stretching out before us looked like the type of place you usually only see in the movies, where adventure lurks around every corner and where throngs of wildlife, big and small, looms beneath the dense canopy. We hiked for several miles enjoying the pristine silence. We hiked to rocky overlooks on the cliffs. We hiked 900 steps down to the forest floor on the God’s Staircase, and then we hiked some more past Katoomba Falls and the Three Sisters cliffs. After more miles had passed, we got to the end of our particular trail, where luckily for our knees, we didn’t have to hike 900 steps back up, but got to take a gondola back to the top.
That afternoon we took the train back to Manly. We unpacked and went to the beach and slept. The next and last few days were spent with more exploration of Manly and the beaches. Swimming and eating and relaxing were our highest priorities. Eventually we had to pack and say our goodbyes though. We did this with much thanks to our hosts for making our time here so enjoyable and then headed off for one more ferry and train ride to the airport. On the airplane as we flew higher into the sky I was able to look back at this isolated corner of the world and know that one day I will be back.