Hottest day ever (almost)

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Sunday, January 1, 2006

I started off the New Year very well, phoning Shelly back at home (since she was having a New Years party and almost all my rowing friends were going to be there). It was so strange to think we were in different years (they hadnt reached midnight yet) but it was great to talk to everyone.

We'd only had about 6 hours sleep, so when we dragged ourselves downstairs for our coach to take us to the blue mountains, and found it wasnt there, we werent very amused! Even less so when the receptionist phoned them up and they said they didnt have a booking under the name of Cobbold... oops. Fortunately another tour company was just about to pickup some people at the hotel next to us, so we sidled over and asked if we could join in- and ended up on this different tour instead! They took us down to the bus station to pay, and then we drove up to Circular Quay to get the ferry really far into the harbour. It took about 30, 40 minutes to get there, and I'm sure it was very nice outside, but I just stayed inside and slept. Mum said the wind was like having a hairdryer blown in your face though- it was going to be a very hot day.

We drove up to Featherdale Wildlife Park, which all the tour companies stop at. Its basically a chance to see all the wildlife you associate with Australia (most of whom are nocturnal) in a fairly natural surrounding. It was certainly better than a zoo, but they werent really in the wild and there were still some cages here and there. However we got to see lots of koalas and kangeroos so its all OK! The wombats are really cute too- they just laze around all day, and the wallabies look like tiny kangaroos! Apparently koalas sleep 18hours a day- easy life! They were all really tame and I looked a kookabura dead in the eye (singing in my head 'kookabura sits on an electric wire, jumping up and down with his pants on fire...')

We kept driving up to the Blue Mountains, with plenty of photostops to try and capture the landscape. It did kind of remind me of the Grand Canyon- it looked entirely different and the scale was incomparable, but the whole tourist national park thing was quite similar, and the views were really nice. There is a blue haze over the horizon (hence the name) which is formed from the eucalyptus oil evaporating and mixing with the dust and stuff in the atmosphere (I think). It wasnt as hot as Sydney, but it was still getting to about 38 degrees- we found out later that today was the 2nd hottest day ever recorded in Sydney, and the hottest day in January ever! (It reached 45 degrees at about 4pm- so we were glad we werent in the city centre!)

At our main stop we were able to get a train down into the forest- years and years ago hikers used to hike down into the forest and then beg the coalmine workers to let them ride back up in the cart- now they let you ride down, and it is the steepest train track in the world, which I can well believe! At one point, you couldnt even see where you were going it was so steep, and I was proud of mum for keeping her eyes open the whole time- it was like a really slow, controlled rollercoaster! 56 degree angle I think they said. Unfortunately they played Indiana Jones music as we went down, but it wasnt too bad. They had kindly built a couple of boardwalks at the bottom ('to protect the forest from us') so mum and I had about an hours walk through the forest, looking at all the eucalyptus trees and fauna of the forest. It was getting a bit hotter now, and we had to walk back up to the giant gondola that would transport us back up to the top of the hill. It held about 40 people, standing in this big glass gondola, which swung over the rainforest, with great views.

I was meant to have my last drink with mum before she left tomorrow but we didnt have enough time before the minibus had to leave. We drove back via a little village, where they had a great sweet shop with sweets from all over the world (yipee) and a little market selling cheap fruit and books. I slept most of the way back. Starting to feel a bit like a koala.

When we stepped out of the a/c minibus, it felt like a hairdryer was blowing permanently in our face it was so hot. It kinda made your eyes hurt! I think it was about 40 degrees by then, since it was 6pm in the evening...

We'd booked to go the Sydney Observatory to watch the stars that evening, so left an hour later to walk up there. We wanted to go for dinner first, but having been seated, and noticing how almost everyone was waiting for food, we scarpered and got to the observatory about 15 minutes before it was due to open. We waited in the heat, watching the sun set over Sydney (luckily it was on a hill), and dreamed of water. We'd forgotten to bring any water with us, and the walk up here somewhat took it out of us! We could see the clouds coming too. Perfect.

They had an interesting exhibition about telling the time from the stars, and what all the different constellations were, before we were taken up to the first observatory. We could only see Mars however (which we could see with the naked eye anyway) and which didnt really seem that different when you looked at it through a telescope. The others were either obscured by the light pollution or the clouds. It got quite hot in there since the roof was made of metal, so we stepped outside to see if we could see anything just by looking up ourselves. The astronomer (who was definitely an astronomer not a tour guide) tried to point out a couple of things, but we really couldnt see that much, and that didnt change when we went in the other observatory either. We ended up standing for about 1 1/2 hours listening to this guy drone on. You could tell he was enthusiastic about his work, but it was really hot and we were exhasted! Finally we went into the theatre to watch some 3D footage of Mars, but the a/c had broken with the heat. So it was quite hot and stuffy in there too, but the video was quite cool to watch, and see more images of Mars. Not quite as impressive as the Imax though.

We stopped early (as a general consensus) and went outside to walk home- and guess what? The skies had totally cleared up, and you could see hundreds of stars! Typical! We were too tired and hot to go back and ask him to talk anymore though, so we went back to the restaurant we were at before for pizza- and we informed that the pizza oven had conked out with the heat of making 600 pizzas that evening. We spent the next half hour or so looking for another pizzaria, but we did finally find one that was really nice.

We tried to hail a cab back home afterwards but it seemed everyone else had the same idea, so we ended up walking back- and then had to start packing! It was a long long day...
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