Friday, April 27, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Part 3)

14/5/2012 Updated with own photos
The trees and shrubs in the valley below

The serene valley of the Blue Mountains 

Such a refreshing change from the city skyscape

Endless stretch of valleys, mountains and blue skies

All set for the hair-raising ride

View from the top

The original train for the coal miners

Ventilation furnace in the coal mine

Another view of the furnace

The coal miner's tools

Ceramic blue and orange flowers on the forest floor

Art in the Forest showcased fascinating art works

This is my favourite - the twin Bat Women in the Wilds 

A red 'fish trap' among the trees

A plaster head on a mossy rock

A piece of art that blends in with the setting

A gap in the tree trunk

A palm-like tree in the forest

Rainbow-coloured sticks on the ground

The Three Sisters forlornly gaze at the beauty of
the Blue Mountains 

Photo of the Manly Ferry approaching Many Wharf
'Seven miles from Sydney, a thousand miles from care',
a catchphrase coined by the early Port Jackson  and
Manly Steamship Co, captures the carefree spirit of this seaside town..

Sand, Sea 'n Surf

I was about to explore the museums in the city when two sweet ladies from the Free Walking Tour asked if I'd like to take the ferry to Manly with them.  
    I jumped at the invitation, dragged  my sore feet to Wharf No 3, paid AUD5.60 for Adult Single ticket, boarded the sleek single-tier ferry and slunk into an upholstered seat opposite them at a table for four.  
    We sipped our complimentary coffees and took in the late afternoon sunshine on the dark blue waves and frothy white foams. 
    It took about 30 minutes to reach Manly Wharf, where we were approached by friendly Asian faces trying to lure us into the food court and the open massage parlour with chairs and couches facing the convenience store. As soon as we stepped on the streets outside, we were greeted by two-storey wooden shops with nicely decorated windows which could have been lifted straight from Quincy Market at Boston Harbour. 
    We decided to take a right to the sandy strip on the cove, which looked out to sail boats on the water and picture perfect properties on the cliffs. About five minutes further down the road, we encountered a surf beach swarmed with sun bathers, swimmers, children taking surfing lessons and a lone para sailor.  We sat on the cement steps to enjoy the cool sea breeze.
   Walking along the other rows of shops and eateries, we stumbled upon a Malay/Indonesian restaurant, Malacca Straits Satay Restaurant, at the corner of Sydney Rd. We were invited in to study the menu but one of the ladies couldn't stomach spicy food. So we walked over to the wharf where the lady with the sensitive bowels had a sandwich while the other lady and I ordered noodles from Chat Thai. After we've consumed our dinner, we caught the view of the harbour against the setting sun on our ferry ride back to Circular Quay.

Blue Mountain High 

   I found that you didn't have to feel lonely even though you're travelling alone. Provided you're not shy to break the ice and start conversations with room mates or fellow travellers. Hence, I almost did a somersault when my blonde, blue-eyed, (seemed like) six footer German dorm mate, Marietje Chen, asked me if I'd like to take the train to the Blue Mountains with her the next morning.
    So, there we were - bright and early, with coffee cups and muffin bags - waiting for the 8:27am CityRail train destined for Katoomba at the nearby Central Station. It was a two hour ride on the double-decker ultra-modern train from Sydney and, on the way, we passed by small towns and suburbs with Anglo and Abo names such as Strathfield, Parramatta and Penrith.
Leura Mall with its pretty and quaint shops
    We breathed in the fresh mountain air as soon as we stepped on to the platform at Katoomba Station. The tickets for Scenic World double decker bus, Cableway, Skyway, Railway and Walkway package was just next to the station, where cheerful old ladies served us over the postbox red counter. The ambience reminded me of Cameron Highlands when it used to be cool and refreshing. A red double decker bus took us to the tourist attractions in the area.
The Skyway which boasts the world's first Electro-Sceniglass floor 

Right off the bus, we were ushered into the Skyway cabin where we were taken on a 720 metre journey, 270 metre above jaw dropping ravines and heart-stopping waterfalls. We were simply bowled over by the ancient rainforests in the surrounding mountains and valleys below. The Skyway gives us a 360 degree spectacular bird's eye view of the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, Mount Solitary and the never ending expanse of the Jamison Valley.

The Three Sisters

The Three Sisters, doomed to be eternal sentinels
According to the Aboriginal dream-time legend, there were three sisters - Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo - who lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, but tribal law forbade them to marry. The brothers were unhappy about their situation and decided to abduct the three sisters. Their action caused a fierce tribal battle. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe turned them into stones to protect them from harm. When the battle ended, the shaman was killed before he could reverse the spell. As only he could undo the magic to return the ladies to their former selves, the sisters remained as magnificent rock formations which served as a reminder to subsequent generations of this historic battle.
The stroll along the cool, temperate rainforest was such a pleasant experience compared to hot and humid tropical ones.
I promise to post some 'Art in the Rainforest' pieces
once I've located my usb cable!

Hang on for the steepest Railway ride!

Katoomba Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains, Australia
Without the lush vegetation,
the railway's steepness is 
obvious in this c1900 pic.

Katoomba Scenic Railway, Blue Mountains, Australia
Woosh, and down the slope we go!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Part 2)

Update (with own photos)

Yes, I finally upload my own pictures!

First stop on Free Walking Tour: Circular Quay,
with a view of the Sydney Opera House 

A medium close-up against the railings at the Quay
An early white settler's dwelling on a hillock by the Quay
Another white settler's house on the heritage list

The tour guide at a site where a convict was punished 
No match to KL Twin Towers

Where the caged birds sing
A monument to honour fallen soldiers
The fountain where a scene from the Matrix was shot
Entrance to Channel 7 Building,
where candid shots of 'man on the street'
are taken for the morning show
The Sydney Tower
The plague at the centre of Hyde Park

Hey, hey, hey, it's bright sunny day

A museum which I didn't get to visit

Another heritage building

"You've gotta grab the porcine by its b***s"
The National Library with a statue of James Cook
The music conservatory

White parrots at the Botanic Garden

The library

Posing at the edge of the Botanic Garden,
after the Free Walking Tour

View from the ferry to Manky

The cove by the Manly Wharf


No 'duckies' in Sydney

Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour
You can't miss the fire engine red Hop On, Hop Off bus 
Now I remember that I had taken the train from Kingsford to Central, where I disembarked to catch the red, double decker Hop On Hop Off. It was a good deal at AUD35 (if you take it early in the morning) since it made 34 stops throughout Sydney and Bondi. On my first introductory round of the city, I climbed to the upper deck to get a better view of the sights and sounds. 
Photo of Sydney Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour The Rocks area
The swanky shops 'n pubs along The Rocks
However, after stopping at King's Cross and walking up and down looking for the B&B, I just flopped on to the front seat closest to the driver of the second bus to avoid missing my stop. Unfortunately, as soon as the Asian driver saw my 'hijab', he assumed that I must be from the Stone Age. He started to raise his voice and displayed his annoyance at my question about the stop nearest to the Central YHA.
Customs House
The Customs House next to the Town Hall,
where tourists can board the free bus
if they're tired of walking.

  Photo of Sydney Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour Sydney
The esplanade around Circular Quay
   My Sydney contact had suggested that I check into the YHA on Randall St since it's centrally located, within walking distance from train and bus stations. In the four share, I quickly made friends with room mates from Iceland, Germany and Korea. After breakfast at a cafe on Surry Hills, I walked down George St to Circular Quay, where I discovered that there's a free bus service.
   I found out that there's a free walking tour too which starts at 10:30am next to the Anchor in the Town Hall Square on George St. It was quite a big group of tourists from the USA, the UK, Canada and Japan mainly which gathered for the scheduled three hour, easy-walking tour. The tour guide was a young chap who liked to poke fun at the early White Settlers and their despicable treatment of the  oppressed convicts, who usually served as their servants.       
Anzac War Memorial
Anzac War Memorial: Many from Oz & Kiwi have lost
their lives and limbs tduring WWII and Konfrontasi  
    We trudged uphill to acquaint ourselves with other historical spots - all with interesting tales to tell. Half way through the tour, we were given a 20 minutes' break at Hyde Park, an obviously favourite hang-out for corporate 'powerless' lunches.   
sPhoto of Sydney Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour Royal Botanical Gardens
The entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens
The fountain in the centre of Hyde Park
Photo of Sydney Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour P1080302
The walking tour ended at the border
of the Botanical Gardens and the 'Sea Shells'

Next change: Ferry to Manly, Blue Mountains, 
Conggrah, Canberra

Photo of Sydney Sydney and Bondi Hop-on Hop-off Tour P1080301
The 'Coat Hanger' on a glorious sunny day.