24.04.2014 - 24.04.2014
A theme we noticed in New Zealand was that every attraction, activity, place, was the something-est in the world/country/universe. This theme has now carried over to Australia, where today we went to something called "Scenic World" (which sounds super generic so you wouldn't think it's the -est of anything), which boasts the steepest passenger train in the world; the highest cable car in Australia; the biggest cable car in Australia (these are two different cable cars, BTW); and the longest elevated boardwalk in Australia.
I'll back up: today we went on an organized tour to the Blue Mountains. Being the super organized travellers that we have proven to be, we decided to book this at 6:30 last night, and did zero research on which tour we wanted to do. So, we ended up on a tour that included: a visit to Echo Point to view the famous Three Sisters and Solitary Mountain; a show at the Waradah Aboriginal Center; entry and rides at Scenic World; lunch in Leura village; visiting with the local wildlife at the Featherdale Wildlife Park; and a river cruise back to Sydney Harbour (plus all transportation). In terms of money, it was a pretty good deal; however, it did not include the things we actually wanted to do in the Blue Mountains, such as hiking/trekking, getting close to nature, etc.
So, our tour guide's name was Stephen, and he essentially told us his entire life story, explained things like speeding cameras, carpooling, toll roads, and other such novel concepts on our two hour drive from Sydney up to the Blue Mountains. He also showed us some lovely videos (a bit disconcerting that he was both the driver and A/V tech at the same time, but ok) and encouraged us to have a nap post-lunch. He also very strictly told us to be BACK ON THE BUS AT FIVE TO EiLEVEN. THAT'S FIVE MINUTES BEFORE ELEVEN O'CLOCK. Then he was very stressed out when there were people not back on the bus at five to eleven (maybe they thought he said five after eleven?). He was less concerned when people were twenty minutes late coming out of Scenic World, and allowed them the "choose your own adventure" option of walking to Leura.
The Echo Point view point was beautiful, and what you will see on every article/brochure/travel site advertising the Blue Mountains. It does not disappoint as the mountains are truly blue (due to Eucalyptus, I am told), the Three Sisters are amazing, and blah blah blah. We oohed and ahhed as appropriate.
The Aboriginal Center show was not quite as inspired as the Maori experience we had in Rotorua, however, I will give points for the awesome emu/kangaroo dance and a very impressive digeridoo performance (apparently the digeridoo has three other names, which he made us repeat three times, but I promptly forgot. You can google it).
Next up: Scenic World. I can't quite put this experience into words, as it was essentially a few different rides that took you up/down/across so that you could walk on the boardwalk through the rainforest in the Blue Mountains. There is also an old mine there which was pretty cool/occasionally quite creepy. The rides were colour-coded, as tourists are regarded as quite stupid in this country (as evidenced by the "look right" notes at every crosswalk), and we were supposed to go yellow-red-green-blue, but since we are are rebels we went yellow-blue-green-red.
Red was the scenic railway, which is at a 52 degree angle and is the steepest railway car in the world. It essentially looks like the drop off from Splash Mountain, only it doesn't go very fast. We wanted to go up and down a few more times, but didn't want to be late for the bus so Stephen wouldn't lose any more hair. This railway thing is pretty cool though; they originally made it as a way to get the coal/workers up and down the mountain, and then people wanted to ride it for fun (crazy 1920s daredevils) so they started charging for it. Eventually they retired the original car, Jessie, and built this new fancy-schmancy high capacity version with safety features. It also goes through a tunnel at some point, so there's that.
After Scenic World, we had our free lunch and then went to the Chocolate shop that was recommended as they have chilli chocolate (which I love), and besides, you can never have enough chocolate. Our supply from the Cadbury tour has finally run out.
At Featherdale Wildlife Park, we got up close and personal with some Australian native animals, such as koalas (I WANT ONE!! CAN WE GET A KOALA, DAD??), kangaroos, wallabies (but a wallaby will never have my heart like Rory, so don't worry Jared and Hannah [Faren or Ari tell Jared and Hannah I mentioned them in the blog, okay?]), dingoes (who were against all odds not eating babies), emus, blue penguins and tasmanian devils. I will now talk about each.
Koalas: I got to pet a koala. And touch it's claws and feet. And I love it and I will absolutely be bringing him home. His name is Cole. We also spent about 20 minutes with the captive audience of 4 zookeepers who were interested in polar bears, our travels, and how cold -40 really is.
Kangaroos: A kangaroo ate out of my hand and it tickled. (Note: you can see a very amazing video of this on Facebook). I liked to pet the kangaroos too and watch them hop. Silly kangaroos.
Blue Penguins: We watched these itty bitty little dudes (and dudettes, I presume) who are only 12" high swallow fish whole. They also waddle and quack and I love them too.
Tasmanian Devils: These things do not stop moving and it turns out they have an animal version of ADHD. I turned it into a game by trying to capture a non-blurry picture of him but it was difficult. I also think he wanted to eat my camera but no such luck, Mr. Devil.
Emus: These are birds. Very large ones. Enough said.
Dingoes: These look very much like dogs, in fact, it may have been my Auntie Gail's dog Genny, I'm not entirely sure.
When we were overhead paged back to the bus, we went on the boat cruise back to Circular Quay. Since it gets dark at approximately 5:30 pm, we didn't see much, and plus, you can't beat the view from the roof of our hostel; but we beat the traffic and who doesn't love a good boat cruise?
Now we are headed to bed, as tomorrow is ANZAC Day (memorial day for Aus/NZ), and we need to get up at 3:30 in the morning (MORNING!!) for the dawn ceremony and then apparently a lot of day drinking. Stay tuned for more on that...
PS: Here is a very important video that we found today: