And then we found...

Trip Start Sep 25, 2013
Trip End Feb 02, 2014

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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, January 25, 2014

Another magical day. We have decided that planning trips can only lead to disaster.  Today was another example of this.  We decided, last minute, that we would rent a car and drive to the Blue Mountains after landing in Sydney.  So, we packed up, boarded our plan and landed in Sydney at 3pm.  By 4pm, we were tucked into our spring-green tiny little car and driving out of the city.  First stop… information center to find a map and determine what there was to see in this area.  Nate had been here back when he studied abroad in Australia, and remembered that the Blue Mountains National Park was "nice", but he wasn't sure exactly where to go.  Luckily, we found an information center that had free maps and brochures, and we found some great suggestions of things to see. 

I also tried my hand at driving.   It really wasn’t as different as I had feared.  The gas and brake pedals are the same orientation as in a car in the US, and as long as you remember to keep LEFT, you’re pretty much all set.  The reversal of the turn signals and the windshield wipers, however, did make for a very clean windshield 

Our first stop was the Wentworth Falls.  Australia has done a great job making their parks and forests very accessible for everyone, so there are paved paths from the parking lot to anywhere that can possibly be paved.  Once the paving is gone, there are still well-marked and well-maintained paths that lead to a variety of places.  Wentworth Falls is part of the Blue Mountains National Park, and this particular path was designed and made in the 1800s.  Apparently, many of the rural towns would compete with each other to have the "most exciting" or "most beautiful" hiking trails.  Don't you wish this were still the case?  So, four men with pick axes spent 2 years hacking away into cliff faces of rock walls that look like the Grand Canyon.  And their legacy is still valuable and important.  We walked down the path, and instantly felt like we had traveled back in time.  We saw an incredibly colored, massive bird on the path, and proceeded onward and downward into a world of cascading waterfalls, cool pools, lush green plants and rugged stone.  There were even massive birds that completed the dinosaur era feel... my father's latest novel could be set here!  We played around on the rocks, and marveled at the lobster-sized crawfish hiding out under rocks in the pools.  Clearly, not enough platypuses (platypode?) live here to eat them up.  From one spot on the trail, we could look up and see a giant waterfall coming down on us, and from another we could look out and down at an entire mountain range.  The trees were full of white cockatoos that flew in spurts from gumtree to gumtree.  It was enchanting.

Our tour also included a few other walks and waterfalls, each of which was breathtaking and pristine.  We were very impressed with the national park service in general- everywhere was spotless, well maintained, well signed and easily accessible.  We were not the only ones visiting, and we were not only surrounded by tourists!  Locals also found their way to the sights, which was very encouraging.  Especially since we just took a free tourist map from the welcome center, and made up our itinerary as we went, we felt really lucky to have seen so many beautiful places in one day!!!  

The day ended at a delicious Italian restaurant, and then in our sweet little family-run hotel.  The man had stayed awake for us to check in, which meant a lot to us.  We fell asleep after watching IceAge 2 snuggled warm in our bed.
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