This weekend's sailing race didn't count for any points, so Eric and I bailed and drove up to the Blue Mountains Friday after work. We stayed in Blackheath at a cute little guest house with four or five rooms attached to a restaurant, in abundance in the Blue Mountains as they were once the respite of Englishmen escaping the Sydney heat.
Friday night we ate at the local hotel/pub. All of the old hotels are now pubs it seems, although some of them do still rent the rooms upstairs. There's one in every little town, or every few blocks in Sydney, and they're always The Local, where the townspeople gather to drink together. And then generally serve traditional British pub fare, which varies in quality (but not in grease content - always high).
Saturday morning we went into Katoomba (you have the love the place names here -- all are either British or Aboriginee) for breakfast and to see the famous Three Sisters rock formation. Katoomba is the most crowded, touristy area in the Blue Mountains, and it was raining a bit, so we drove on to Lithgow. I've only driven one other time, for about five minutes, so clearly it was best that I give it another shot on the winding mountains in the rain. Horrifying. Worst of all, I was pulled over for a random breathalyzer and couldn't recite my address correctly. I hadn't had anything to drink except coffee, but what is it that makes us instantly feel like we're going to be found guilty?
Later in the afternoon, Eric and I did the Grand Canyon hike back in Blackheath. It was 30 minutes down into a deep valley, 30 minutes trek along a tropical stream with weird crawdads and oversized palms, and then an hour back up to the top. When we arrived back at the top of the moutain, we were in the midst of a cloud. You could only see about 15 feet for the mist. Very cool.
Saturday night we made like Australians and ate at the local Chinese restaurant. Asian food is always the safest bet here.
Sunday we hiked the Wentworth Falls/Valley of the Waters trail, another two-hour trek to the bottom of a valley. However, this time, we walked through a valley littered with scenic waterfalls and then climbed about a jillion metal stairs straight up a rock face to the top of the mountain. It was amazing how what you thought was the entire waterfall from below was really only the bottom part. Every ledge we crested showed more of the falls.
On the way home Sunday, we stopped at Terry and Julie's, the owners of the boat, for coffee. They have quite an estate perched on a ledge in the Blue Mountains. I can see why they decided to settle in Julie's home country instead of Terry's...They told us the horrifying story of when the bush (forest) fire passed right over their house, with huge fireballs coming up the side of the cliff. They assign volunteer firefighters to each house, and they make you stay on the premises. Crazy. Julie says one more fire, and she's moving into the city.
We were really struck all weekend by how lucky we are to live here. There are numerous beaches within 30 minutes of our house, we can drive to the mountains in about 1.5 hours, and the weather is beautiful almost every day. It's nice to hear Eric talk about how much he loves where we're living instead of how much he hates it.