The Train, Finally

For the past several days I’ve been trying to get up at 7am so I could catch the Kuranda Scenic Railway to Kuranda and spend the day there. Due to various things I’ve not made it till today. Two hangovers, impossible roommates and laziness conspired against me till now.

The night before last I went out for a beer with my new roommates, who were all very cool, and it turned into 10 beers and I didn’t stumble home till about 2am.

So today I finally got on the train and took the nice ride up to Kuranda. To be honest, if you look at all the pictures in the brochure you’ve basically got it covered, but I won’t say it was a waste of money. It was better than sitting around the hostel 🙂

I bought a return ticket, although I kind of wanted to ride the cable car too, but it was too expensive. Well, once I got up and saw the cable car (Skyrail) all over the place I decided it would be worth it so I traded in my return ticket and got a ticket down via the Skyrail and bus instead.

The Skyrail definitely made it all worth it. It’s a 7.5km long cable car / sky ride thing over the rainforest and down the mountain. It’s absolutely awesome and a little scary. I saw some really cool birds in the forest, and lots of awesome rainforest scenery. There were also two stops where you could get off for a while and look around and they were great. One overlooked the Barron Falls and had signs explaining the hydro electric plant and the other was a little boardwalk through the rainforest.

So that was really sweet. Short day, and kinda expensive but it was great and a fitting end to my Australian adventure. Tomorrow I finally check out of Global Palace, Cairns, get on a plane and land in Tokyo! I am really, really excited about that, and kinda nervous. It’s going to be a big change to go from a place where people (sort of) speak English to a place where I can’t even read the signs. I’m excited for the challenge, and of course, to finally see Japan.

I’ve also decided that I will climb Mt. Fuji, even if it takes me a week instead of of the 4-5 hours it takes most people. Apparently most people start the last part of the climb at midnight so they can be at the summit for sunrise. Crazy.

So that’s all for now! I’ve had a great time in Australia, and met some very fun people but I’m looking forward to moving on. Australia has been just a little too much like America for me to really feel like I am traveling. I’ve seen a lot, but I really didn’t even scratch the surface. It would take months or years to really explore this place, and I would need to be much more mobile. Maybe some day I’ll devote an entire trip just to Australia (and make it to New Zealand!) by car or van and really feel like I got the Aussie experience.
Tomorrow I’ll be staying at the Juyoh Hotel ($24 tiny, private rooms!) in Tokyo where they are supposed to have free Wifi. I’m pretty excited about both of those things. I’m getting used to dorm life, but there is nothing like having your own place to chill out now and then and free Wifi means I can download some more Battlestar Galactica episodes while I sleep 🙂 So, till then, check out the lovely pictures from Kuranda and wish me luck in finding my bed in Tokyo!

New Digs…

Well, after listening to one of my roommates have sex 4 feet away from me for most of last night and then her, her friend and the other guy staying up till 6am talking about their dreams of being James Bond I decided it was time to move. I got a new room in the same hostel and it’s much better. Two guys and a girl and they are all really friendly. Should make my last few days here be much better.

Looks like the sun might peak out a bit today, so I am off to do some swimming and tanning. I’ve been practicing my Japanese for my big move to Tokyo and I’m getting really good. If you need me to identify a: boy, girl, man, woman, plane, dog, table, ball, horse, cat or car I’m your man. I can also clarify if any of those things are on, or under any other one. I should have no problem ordering in restaurants now!

It’s Still Raining

Title says it all, so I’ll talk about something else.

Ford is huge in Australia. Every car is a Ford Falcon. You may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never even heard of a Ford Falcon! Jason must be enjoying too much Victoria Bitter!”, and one one point you’d be right. I’ve had too much Victoria Bitter. On another point you are stupid. The Ford Falcon is the most popular car in the world. Or at least Australia. Which was my entire point to begin with.

Every once in a while you might glance over at a car and say “Ha! That’s not a Ford Falcon!” but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. It’s a Ford Falcon that has been pimped out with wheels and possibly a new back end. It’s still a Ford Falcon though.

Get this, I went to see __28 Weeks Later__ yesterday and there was an advertisement before the movie. It was for a Ford Falcon. I’m kidding, it was actually for a Ford Falcon.

Anyway, they closed with “European styling, something or other something else and made in Australia.”

European Styling.

I had to think about it for a while, but I finally got it. They are talking about communist Germany. In 1921. When cars were made of cardboard. They would have to be, cause I’ve been to present day Europe, or at least last year’s Europe and there were no damn Ford Falcons to be seen. Lots of BMWs and Mercedeseses but not a single half El Camino half wood panel station wagon half shopping carts to be seen.

I checked.

So that’s about all for today. Tomorrow morning I am getting up early and going down to the train station to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway up to Kuranda and maybe do some rainforesty stuff up there. Even if it’s raining. I’ve got to do something, cause I am running out of books.

Dorm Life

Well, it’s now been raining for three days straight in Cairns. And I mean raining. For an hour here and there it will just spit but generally it pours. I’ve blown the last three days just playing on the net, wandering around in the rain and reading books. I also mastered cooking steamed rice on the stove. So that was cool.

Today I didn’t feel like just laying around listening to my roommates babble about who tried to kiss them last night (again), “Ohhhh myyyyyy gahhhhhhd. Did Ryan try to kiiiiiiss you? You were sooooooooooo drunk!”, so I decided to wander down to the movie theater and blow some time there. I just finished watching __28 Weeks Later__ which was about as good as you might expect it to be. Not very. Worth the money though and it looks like I managed to miss 2 hours of the sky pissing down, so that was cool.

Since there’s been nothing good to take pictures of since the dive trip (because of the rain) I took two pictures of the room I am staying in. The two go together. I call it “Theirs, and mine”. I hope they convey my message. The room is a complete wreck. There is food, underwear, used up deodorant, wrappers for everything and anything else you can imagine scattered everywhere. And then there’s my little corner where I try to maintain a little bit of decency. I’m not sure it’s worth it 🙂

I probably shouldn’t complain. It’s still cheap!

Anyway, that’s it for now. I am going to try to get a tour into Daintree tomorrow, or Karunda (might have spelled that wrong) and see some stuff but it’s all outdoors stuff so it will need to rain a little less for that to happen. For tonight, I think I am going to wander down to the harbor and see if the storm is at least producing cool waves. Then it’s off to read a little more and maybe watch some Scrubs. Ahh, the life of an international wanderer! 🙂

One Month, and Indecision!

Well, today marks one month of being away from home! Unfortunately it is marked by two days straight of rain in Cairns. Yesterday I didn’t really do crap. Read my books and spent some time catching up on the Internets. I also spent some time trying to figure out the next leg of my trip. My time in Australia is coming to a close. While there is still a ton of stuff I could do, I am ready to move on to less comfortable places. It’s too easy here. Everyone speaks my language 🙂

My plan all along was to go from Australia to New Zealand, buy a crappy car and spend a month exploring those lovely islands. After that I intended to go to Japan. Unfortunately, to get into NZ I have to have a ticket out. They won’t let me in otherwise. So I would need to buy my ticket to Tokyo now, and fly from New Zealand, or fly back to Australia and then on to Japan. Either way it will cost me $500US+ just in airfare. Add on to that that it’s winter in New Zealand which will really restrict my outdoor activities and it starts to look like I should go right to Japan.

The only problem with that is that I was hoping to delay going to Japan until their autumn started so I wasn’t miserable the whole time, but I just checked the weather in Tokyo and it’s not too bad.

So, I am undecided. Do I spent quite a bit of money to visit New Zealand, or perhaps save it for next time? Do I go on to Japan even though I didn’t want to go there this early? Or do I do something completely different? Perhaps fly to Thailand, or Singapore or Hong Kong?

I ask you, dear reader, for your suggestions.

Update! The people (you!) have spoken and New Zealand is out. I’m going to head off to Japan next Thursday! That gives me just under a week to hopefully get a tan in Cairns, and maybe spend some time in the rainforest. I also need to find me a croc or two! Thanks for the suggestions!

Final Update! And I have a ticket to Tokyo! Holy crap I’m excited. I leave Thursday at noon and arrive at 6:45pm. Supposedly Tokyo is expensive, but so far everything I am finding seems really reasonable, if not better than usual. I can get a private room for around $25 US with free wifi and all kinds of other crap. Wooooo!

Diving The Great Barrier Reef (Part 2)

So! I have some catching up to do! I was going to finish this post yesterday but I never made it out of bed. Needless to say, the welcome back / goodbye party went off with a bang and my hangover was legendary.

So let’s see, back on Saturday I went back to the training center for my second day of dive school. Things went much better right from the start. I found a larger wet suit, larger BCD and larger weight belt. So I was much more comfortable getting into my gear and I didn’t have to keep messing with my weights every 10 seconds.

My comfort lasted into the first time we went to the bottom of the pool. While everyone was doing skills I started to get panicy again and finally surfaced because of it. The dive master came up with me while everyone else stayed down to practice and he talked me down. It was something about just sitting there waiting for my turn that just got to me and I felt like my lungs were closing up. He consoled me and said he had similar problems when he started and we just chatted for a few minutes. A bit later the instructor came up and asked me if I was ready to try again and from there out everything went just fine. I completed all my skill checks and then we had some free time to swim around and practice anything we liked.

I found that once I was on my own and able to just chill out and relax I did great. I went to the bottom and sat there for 10 minutes just working on slowing my breathing and it was all great.

And that was it for the pool training! We went and had lunch, stopped by the pharmacy to get seasick pills, which the instructor recommended everyone get, then went to the dive store to get the hard sell on dive gear. No one really bought into it but it was temping to at least get my own mask and snorkel. I figured that I had already spent enough money on diving though, and I also didn’t want to add something else to my already stuffed backpack.

Then it was back to the training center for our last book lessons and instructions for Sunday, the first day on the boat!

I got picked up for the boat at 6:15am to go to the dive store and get ready to leave. In theory. What actually happened was that I was told I would be picked up at 6:15am and the bus never came.  At about 6:45 the instructor came walking over to the bus stop and said everyone was waiting for us at the dive store and what the hell were we doing? His impression was that he had told us we should walk over to the dive store at 6:15am but me and the other 4 people staying at my hostel remembered differently. Anyway, it all worked out. We walked over, dropped off some luggage and headed out to the boat!

The boat was really, really nice. We met the crew, learned the rules and settled in for the 3 hour ride to the reef. We were headed for the outer reef which was about 40km out to sea. It was really neat. First time I’ve ever been out of sight of land and I really enjoyed it.

Boat life was very nice, but anything but relaxed. The schedule each day was basically get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier), immediately dive (like within 15 minutes of waking up), breakfast, dive, morning tea, dive, lunch, dive, afternoon tea, dive, dinner, night dive. We newbies didn’t get to do each of those dives but the people on the trip who were already certified did. I did 2 dives on the first day, then 4 on the second day and 3 on the third day.  My first 4 dives (day one and two) were my open water training dives needed to complete my certification. The fourth one was really cool. We didn’t have much left to do in the way of skills so we did them and then Jay (our instructor) wrote “Congratulations! CERTIFIED!” on his slate and showed it to us. We all cheered and congratulated each other, as much as you can under 16 meters of water and then he let us loose for the last 15 minutes of the dive to explore on our own.

The rest of the dives were our own. All you did was find your buddy (you always dive with a partner), get suited up and get in the water. You determined your path, time under and everything else, although Tanya (the dive supervisor) gave suggestions for seeing the coolest stuff.

And there was cool stuff aplenty! Throughout my 9 total dives I: saw sharks, turtles, stingrays, a puffer fish, every kind of tropical fish imaginable, I found Nemo (everyone wants to find Nemo),  picked up a giant sea cucumber and a pineapple sea cucumber, touched a weird sea anenome that stuck to my hands and nearly drowned myself mugging for a camera shot with my regulator out. All the dives went really well with no problems at all. I sucked a little more air than Dave (my buddy) so I usually forced us to the surface earlier than he would have had to, but not by much. We averaged around 40 minutes per dive so all told I was under for a good 5 or 6 hours during the trip.

The entire experience was completely wonderful! I had the best time diving, met a ton of great people, really enjoyed the boat and just had a blast. The food on the boat was awesome, and there was tons of it. Diving is pretty strenuous, even though it doesn’t feel like it, and you have to keep your energy up. Eva, the ship’s cook, had something great to eat ready after every single dive and when she wasn’t cooking the next meal she was baking cakes to snack on. There was unlimited coffee, tea, water, bikkies (biscuits, or cookies to us) and as much of each meal you could stuff in.

And that was my diving trip on The Great Barrier Reef! I’ll never forget it, or the hangover I had yesterday after our welcome back / goodbye party.

At 7:30pm yesterday we were supposed to meet at Rattle and Hum to party it up with everyone from the boat. I strolled over, got myself a pitcher of Victoria Bitter and settled in for about the longest night of drinking of my life. One pitcher turned into three, shots were ordered, pints were drunk and everyone got along great. Eventually Rattle and Hum closed so the serious drinkers (myself included) headed to P.J. O’Briens to keep going. By that time everyone was buying everyone else drinks and we were all just drowning in it. There was Coyote Girls (I have no idea why they are called that, but they danced on the bar), and dancing and pictures and idiocy. Eventually that place closed so me and about 5 others continued on to The Woolshed. My memory gave out a little bit before that, so I am not sure on the details but I think we were denied entry for being too drunk and we all stood around in the square acting like idiots until we wandered off.

Yesterday I had the worst hangover of my life. I only have a few memories from the morning. One is waking up to see the cleaning girls cleaning my room around me. I was wearing nothing but boxers and laying on top of the covers, so that was awesome. The next was at 1:30pm when I woke up and tried to get moving. I had to meet Dave downstairs at 2:00pm to get the results of our film pictures that he had got developed and then we went and tried to get some lunch down. We were both seriously hurting. Then it was back to bed till 9:30pm when I went out to find some dinner and upload pictures and then back to bed until 7am this morning.

I’m feeling mostly better, but my left ear hurts. I think I have some water stuck in there or something. So now I am catching up on the Internets and I need to do a bit of shopping. It was raining when I came in the Internet cafe, but knowing the weather here it’s probably gorgeous and sunny now. Or possibly there’s a cyclone.

So that’s it! I almost done with my time in Australia. I’ve had a heap of fun here and I’m about ready to move on. I am planning on stay on in Cairns for at least another week to just chill out and work on my tan and then I’ll be moving on to Christchurch, New Zealand! Dave is headed that way himself today so we may try to meet up in a few weeks and maybe even do some diving.

So, goodbye for now. I am off to find some Advil and a lock for my backpack and then maybe go chill at the lagoon for a few hours. Make sure you check out the new pictures from the dive. I just added more. There’s a lot, but man they are cool 🙂

Diving The Great Barrier Reef

I just got back from my three day diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef! It was the most incredible thing ever, but I am far too tired to talk about it right now. Highlights included getting certified (obviously!), diving with sharks, diving at night (creeeeeeeeeeepy) and life at sea. The company I went with was Pro Dive, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They, and the trip was everything I could have hoped for. I have a goodbye party with everyone tonight at 7:30pm (one hour from now), then I am going to get a really good night’s sleep and then I’ll have more to say. Till then you can check out the first few batches of photos from the trip. There is more to come!

Cairns and Mad Skillz

I can breath under water.

So, I arrived in Cairns, which is (one of) the tropical paradise part(s) of Australia.  To go back a bit, right after I wrote last I went to sleep, got up super early, caught a train back to Sydney and then hopped a flight to Cairns. As we came in to land I could tell I was going to like it here right off. The mountains come right down to the stunning beaches and you can see right to the bottom of the ocean the water is so clear. It’s wonderful.

I picked a hostel out of the LP (Lonely Planet), gave them a ring and set up a room. I stuck to my word and got a dorm at $25/night for 3 nights with a 4th night free. Much more affordable, and I would need affordable for my next trick.

One of the main reasons, and probably really the only reason, I came to Cairns was to learn to scuba dive. They have this little thing called the Great Barrier Reef that I had heard good stuff about so I thought I’d like to check it out.

After I checked into my hostel (Global Palace, highly recommended) I went down to the travel desk and started looking into diving courses. I was offered three options, from extravagant to budget. I’m sure you can guess which one sounded good to me. I’ve never been much for budget. I went with a company called Pro Dive which is a PADI 5 Star certified instruction school and I went with their best course. It offers me 2 days in the classroom and pool, and then 3 days and 2 nights living aboard a 30 meter boat on the Great Barrier Reef, at sea.

I’m getting ahead of myself a bit, let me go back just a few hours. The day I arrived the hostel told me they were having a huge party the next night and that sounded like a good way to meet people so I picked up a ticket for $10. All you can eat and drink for $10 sounded solid to me. So I had a pretty early night that night although I did go wander around town a bit and checked out The Lagoon which is a giant saltwater public swimming area right on the main strip.

I guess there is not a lot of swimming in the sea in Cairns because of all the dangerous critters, so this was built to keep everyone cool. Nice place too. The next day I donned my awesome tropical swim trunks and headed down there. I wanted to pick up some sun so that I wouldn’t be the great white whale from beyond when I started my dive course, so I picked a spot, hit the water for a bit and then settled in to crisp. I also walked past three stunningly gorgeous girls sunbathing nude. Twice. I walked past twice.

Now then, back to diving. I headed back to the travel desk and got things rolling, then I wandered down to the 24 hour public health clinic to get my diving exam. Apparently you have to be in decent health for scuba. Lucky for me I had a spare $100 in my pocket and passed with flying colors!

I kid, I kid. I passed with my own actual health, although it was a bit dicey. The doctor wasn’t crazy about my slightly high blood pressure, my weight and my shortness of breath at high altitudes. I can’t blame him. Neither am I. My lung and ear test were both just fine, with no worries. So I passed, and I assume he wouldn’t pass me if I was going to flop over dead in the water, although after today I wonder if he was perhaps drunk.

So! I finally got it booked. They had an opening to get started today (tomorrow, the next day from the day I was just typing about, also known as Friday)  so I took it and got ready for the big, big party.

The party was cool, but not really my thing. It was very frat party and I guess I’m just not very frat. The beer and hot dogs were good, but after like 15 minutes they started in on the games to get people in the spirit. The first was beer bong championships. The second was this deal where five guys had to line up and then four girls (randomly) had to get on their knees in front of them. The guys put their hands behind their heads (like that commercial we’ve all seen) and the girl had to work a piece of wrapped bubbled gum from the guy’s ankle area out his waist. In his pants. Shame I was wearing shorts, cause that looked pretty awesome. The final part was that the girl had to unwrap the gum and blow a bubble. Whoever blew first (heh!) won.

Soon after it started to piss down (as they say) so I decided I had enough and went in to call it a night. I had an early morning coming up! After I had settled in and was reading to go to sleep I heard a key scratching around in the door and a moment later I had my first roommate! Matt moved in, and surprisingly he’s an American. He’s from California but has been living here for about 6 months. We chatted for a few minutes about some interesting Aussie styles and flavors and then both settled in. He was doing an intro dive the next day and had to be up even earlier than me.

So now it’s today. The big day when I earn my gills and fins and breath like the fishes for the first time. I got picked up at my hostel at 8:25am and met the rest of my friends for the next 5 days and we headed to the training center. Nice place. We settled in for about four hours of classroom time and lame videos (where many shots were taken at the Americans who made the videos) and then hit the pool.

The first thing we had to do was to prove we knew how to swim. I figured this would be quite easy! I swim all the time. I love to swim!

I guess I don’t usually swim 200 meters at a time. 🙁

We had to do 16 laps of the fairly small pool and honestly, I barely made it. I day dreamed the entire time of my walk of shame when I gave up after 15 laps, gathered my things and went home. I finally made it, and I wasn’t the last person in, but it was really hard for me. My cardio vascular health just sucks. It always has. That’s what comes of sitting on your ass for 15 years, I guess.

We then had to tread water for 10 minutes and tell the dive master a bunch of personal details like where we were from, favorite food and so on. I wasn’t sure if that was to pass the time faster or for them to see how out of breath we were. Either way, I had no problem with that at all. It’s easy to float when you are fat.

So I passed the test, although I wonder if I should be sticking with it. I guess the upside is that once I am certified I can go at my own pace and not be under a “training” regimen, but on the other hand I wonder what will happen if a rip pulls me out to sea.

Actually, I know full well what will happen. I will die and the sharks will eat (extremely) well that night.

The rest of the day was hard, but very fun and rewarding. We quickly learned about the gear, how to set it up, get it on and get in the water. We learned how to find your regulator if you lose it and a few other things and then we put our heads under water and breeeeeeeeeeaaathhhhed! THAT was a weird feeling. I got used to it really fast, but I felt like I was breathing too hard and too fast all day. Turned out I wasn’t doing any worse than anyone else. I talked to some of the guys after and they all felt the same way, and I ended up with the same amount of air leftover as everyone else, so that’s good.

We practiced a lot of the basic skills you need to dive: Clearing your regulator, clearing your mask, adjusting your buoyancy, constantly hiking your weight belt back up cause it just barely fits (that one was me only), swimming with flippers and loads of other stuff. Not a lot later we went to the deep side, which is 4 meters deep and hit the bottom!

One of the things I had the hardest time with was wanting to constantly surface to breath. We’d be sitting on the bottom practicing skills and while the other guys were working on stuff I would find myself holding my breath and thinking “Hurry up, so I can go up and breath!” and then I would think “That’s what this giant pacifier in my mouth is for” and I’d remember I can breath under the damn water! Crazy! I got well used to it by the end of the day and was perfectly happy sitting around on the floor of the pool being awesome.

And that was about that for day one! I have homework tonight (really!) and then tomorrow it’s right back in the pool. After we wrapped up I spent a few minutes chatting with the dive master (who was different from the instructor) about some of the struggles I had and he said not to worry. He said he went through the same things and they would help me some tomorrow to get me better outfitted. He’s a big guy too. The biggest problem I had was keeping my weight belt up (it was just too short for my fat gut) and keeping enough weight on me to get me to sink. That was pretty embarrassing. I had like twice the weight of everyone else on my belt and in my pockets to keep me down. Instructor said “You must have huge lungs” but what he meant was “Cheeseburgers float well”

And that’s all for now! I am utterly exhausted. I had a quick dinner at the Night Market (which I’ll tell you more about later) and now I’m catching up online before I start my homework. I am gonna some serious sleeping tonight, I know that.

Oh, last thing. I was the only one there with facial hair, and I noted to the instructor early on that my mask kept filling with water every time I breathed out. I had a pretty good idea why, and he confirmed. It has to go. The hairs on my upper lip make it impossible to get a good seal on the mask. So tonight, I will shave again for only the second time in like 3 years. Fear!

No pictures just yet, and probably not any till after I am back from my dive trip. Although, I can guarantee it will be worth the wait 🙂

Echo Point and Beyond

Well, Sunday I had a leisurely morning around the hostel and eventually headed downtown for some brekkie. That’s right, brekkie. They really do cutesy everything up over here. You got your blueies and your salties and brekkie and Tassie and mozzies and so on. Why say something normal when you can make it sound so endearing?

Anyway, brekkie was an expensive affair of a cup of coffee and two slices of french toast. I don’t understand how people eat out over here. Perhaps they only do it on special occasions cause there is no way you could do it every day, every meal like many people in the US do. That meal I described came to around $17 AUD. I decided right then it was time to embrace the backpacker and start making my own food. More on that later.

With a (utterly not) full belly I started walking towards Echo Point, which is kind of the jumping off point for many of the walks and activities for the area. It turned out to be a longer walk than I expected so my muscles got nice and warmed up for the torturous day to come!

I spent some time gawking at the incredible view at Echo Point and taking a bunch of pictures that completely failed to capture it. I keep seeing all these places where the landscape (or mountain-scape in this case) is just breathtaking and it just doesn’t fit on a camera. Oh well. Let me tell you, it’s gorgeous. I actually gasped when I came around the corner and saw the mountains spread out in front of me. Go there.

I was feeling good and even though I hadn’t come prepped for a long walk I wandered over to the information stand to ask about some of the walks from this area. I had read about some of them in the LP (Lonely Planet) and in some of the stuff I had picked up when I arrived and I was interested in a few hour walk. The Giant Stairway sounded cool, but everything I had read made it sound too hard for my level of fitness, which can best be described as “mostly dead”. The information guy didn’t make it sound so bad so I decided to give it a try.

As I walked down to the start of the Stairway I met two girls traveling from Jersey (the English one) and London and chatted with them for a few minutes. We walked and talked until the first set of steps which is where they gave up and turned back. I pushed on! Like a fool!

As I climbed slowly down the nine hundred and something steps my thighs started to complain and I noticed just after the half way point that whenever I stopped for a second my legs were shaking. Not good. I eventually made it down to the last set of stairs where a woman and I guess her daughter were slowly going down… backwards. I have no idea why, but I assume it made it easier.

Eventually I made the bottom and found a sign saying “Scenic Railway 2.5km —–>” and that’s where I was headed. Now it was time to see if I could make it that much further with my legs already complaining.

I’ll cut this short a bit; I just noticed I am actually starting to bore myself.

Anyway, I made it just fine, with a few much needed breaks. I entered Scenic World at the bottom of the valley and took the Sceniscender back up. It’s a cable car that goes at an angle right up the cliff face and it was really sweet. There is also the Railway and the Skyway, which I decided to save for later. I had a lunch of yellow curry and rice ($18!!) at the top and then starting to try to figure out how to get back home. Unfortunately I had not planned well and ended up without a good way to get back to my hostel, which was now about another 3km away. Poor little legs.

After limping back home and taking a shower I went grocery shopping for the first time; intent on not spending another $17 on a light meal. With french toast on the brain I picked up a loaf of bread, eggs, milk, syrup, peanut butter and jelly. All for about $12! When I got back I had lovely french toast with free hostel coffee. I figure it ran me about $1.50. Much better!
So, that was Sunday. Monday I woke up and my legs were extremely pissed off. I took it easy all day. French toast for breakfast and then a little shopping. I found a used bookstore and picked up a few new (old) books for cheap and then had a lovely lunch of steamed rice and soy sauce (Mmmm!) for just $2.50. I was starting to get the hang of this budget thing.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the day Dan sent me a link for Desktop Tower Defense and completely ruined my entire trip. All I’ve done since then is play it! I’m addicted! I see creeps in my sleeps! You can see all my scores here if you’d like. Courtney was giving me some shit about playing a Flash game when I was in a foreign country and had spent a lot of money to get there, but it’s okay. I’m enjoying myself. I just can’t imagine sightseeing every day for 6 months (or even a week) and these days where I sit around doing nothing are great. I don’t consider this to be a vacation. It’s too long for that. I consider this living somewhere else for 6 months and I’m still a computer geek 🙂

Anyway, today I did a lot of the same with a few notable exceptions. First stopped by a travel agent and booked a ticket for what I believe will be my last stop in Oz; Cairns! Cairns of the Great Barrier Reef and diving and beaches and tropical weather and all that. I have to get back to Sydney in the morning by train and then hop my flight up to Cairns where I will finally have to wear something besides jeans.

After I booked my flight I headed back to Scenic World (taking a much shorter path) so that I could ride the Skyway, which is a cable car ride straight across the gorge and the Railway which is a miners coal rail converted for people fun. Both were spectacular and the Skyway even featured an LCD floor which was opaque when we started but turned clear half way into the ride. Over the gorge. Very, very scary and cool. A miserable, all up hill walk back to the hostel and some bad Chinese food later and I’m settled in for the night for an early morning. I walked up to the cinema earlier to see if there was anything good playing to waste the evening on, but it was Spiderman 3 (only) and I was two hours early.

So that is my trip to the Blue Mountains of New South Wales! It may sound a little boring, but I’ve had a wonderful time. I really like it here. The town is very laid back, people are friendly, the scenery is amazing and the weather is nice. If I wasn’t so out of shape I’d like to have walked more in the mountains, but I’ll have to save it for next time. Tomorrow I am off to Queensland, sun, beaches and finally… dorm living. That’s right, I’m going to give up the last vestige of privacy and start living in the dorms. It’s either that or come back months early. I am spending too much every night just to sleep.

So, see you in Cairns! Till then, check out the pictures!

And To The Mountains…

In the book Snow Crash, the narrator notes that there are only three things America is still good at: pizza, movies and software although I think he uses cooler words than that. I mentioned in Seattle about software, and as of movies there’s no question. Australia has finally shown me that it’s true about pizza too. What the HELL is with the pizza here? It’s awful! It’s like someone told them “Well, you put down some dough and then put a bunch of shit on it with some cheese and cook it till it cries.” except they didn’t bother to tell them the right kind of shit you put on it so they put stuff like eggs and chicken and BBQ sauce on it.


Anyway, I finally took a little time to wander around Sydney and see some of the sights, but I have to admit I was feeling a little down about wandering around another city and looking at it’s buildings.

The area I was staying in, Kings Cross, is apparently the “evil” capitol of Sydney. That’s where you go for your hookers, your drugs, your booze and your crazy people. I never liked the vibe there at all. Once I finally found my way around a bit I headed down to the harbor by train and checked out the Opera House area by night. It’s really very beautiful and I don’t think my pictures captured it very well. Sydney got their harbor spot on. The whole place is gorgeous.

The next day I headed back, wandered around a bit more and then took the ferry to Manly, which is about 45 minutes away. I read in the Lonely Planet guide I am carrying that it’s a cheap way to get a nice harbor tour and it definitely was. The whole way there is very pretty, and you even pass the inlet (I think that’s the right word) where you get some actual ocean waves. That’s actually the first time I have been in a large boat on ocean water and the swells moved it around quite a bit. A little scary, but I got into it pretty quick. My love for the sea grows. I think it’s this eye patch. It’s very fetching.

Manly was your standard surfer town, and as I didn’t have a wet suit I only got to look at the water, not touch. I only stayed long enough to have a slice of awful pizza and headed back.

I’m a little sad to say that’s about all I did in Sydney. I just wasn’t into it. I did have a run in with the craziest person in the world this morning while eating breakfast and it scared the hell out of me and the rest of the patrons of Joe’s Cafe. So that sucked.

That cemented my idea to head out of city and go to the Blue Mountains, which was the main reason I wanted to come to Sydney at all. I mean, the Opera House is lovely, but I wasn’t there to take in an opera so it was of limited use to me.

This morning I had a nice, if somewhat terrifying breakfast, did some laundry (I have been sweating like a pig and my shirts were awful), booked a room in Katoomba and bought a train ticket to same. The train ride was awesome. I’d love to see it from the ground we traveled over as the cliffs along the edge of the tracks sometimes seemed to be inches away.

Now I am settled in to The Katoomba Mountain Lodge, which is very clean and nice and I’m thinking about some dinner. Tomorrow I’ll either do some hiking or try to book a tour to the nearby caves for some caving. Till then, I give my warm thanks to Mr. “NETGEAR” who is a wide open wireless access point. The first of this trip. Hooray!