Thursday, December 7, 2006

From China to the Blue Mountains and back again (takes approx. a day)

I've moved again! And yes, I am staying at Xinni's place at the moment. I've got the spare bedroom with a very comfy bed and I definitely made the place my own, because my stuff is basically everywhere. Normally I'm quite orderly, but for these last few days I just can't be bothered. It will be good to have my own bed and my own room back in Adelaide!

Xinni's place is very homely and it has all sorts of little Chinese touches like arranged flowers, bamboo mats here and there and it has a very Asian smell as well. Each house has the fragrance of its owner and here there is a hint of the strong Eastern flavours they use for their food, like fish and oyster sauce. The last but really not least peculiarity is the fact that they keep hermit crabs in their bath!! I had never even seen an actual hermit crab, but in Australia you can keep them as pet animals, they are very low maintenance and eat almost everything. Who would have thought that...

LOOK! A hermit crab in my hand, isn't he cute!

Xinni and John are both very kind to me and it's continuous fun to talk about all the cultural differences. For instance tonight we went to a Chinese restaurant. I'm quite good at eating with chopsticks, but sometimes I've got trouble to get a good flexible grip on them, so at those occasions, I place the tips of my chopsticks in my mouth to keep them even and then adjust my hands. After I did that, Xinni politely but clearly said that I should not do that, it was very impolite for Chinese people.. oops! And after that incident they elaborated a lot more Chinese etiquette: always eat from your side of the plate, because everyone eats from the same plate and is supposed to get an even portion. Men never prepare or give each other food if they are of equal or higher standing (I thought I was very polite to make John a rice pancake with duck, since Xinni had been making them for John and me before, but no.. wrong move!).
You should try not to touch your chopsticks with your mouth, only the food you hold on your chopsticks. And so on.. I felt like a barbarian hahaha! Oh and in case you were wondering.. the story of Chinese people burping to express their appreciation of the food: ancient custom, never ever do that!

But that was tonight, the day itself was also great! Xinni and John had to go to work early and since there is no spare key, I had to leave as well. Which was good, cause I decided to go to the Blue Mountains! The big national park 2 hours away from Sydney by train. The trainride was already spectacular, but it was nothing compared to actually walking on the cliffs and down in the valley. I bought tickets for the "Scenic Ride" but those were pretty boring, so most of the day I have been walking from one splendid lookout point to the next, soaking up the views and the scenery.

First lookout point, in the distance you can see the Three Sisters, three big cliffs which were formed by erosion over the course of thousands of years.

I also encountered some wildlife! After I had walked 5 minutes along the cliff I was so amazed at the enormous view of the valley, that I didn't look where I was placing my feet and suddenly I heard something brushing in the bush and one second later a HUUUGGGEE skink was running over my feet!! AAAHHH!! I really screamed, I was wearing my thongs and now I had that huge reptile crawling over my feet!! It was over in seconds, but still it was pretty shocking and I was too petrified to think of making a picture.

After that encounter I was pretty anxious about what more I would get to experience, but besides a beautiful green tree python along the cliff and some small lizards here and there, I was fine.

The big skink's little brother :)

My other pictures were too blurred, but this was the green tree python, I think it was about 1,5 metres long, very beautiful! When I discovered it in the foliage I really felt like I was the new Steve Irwine ;D

I also walked "The Furber Steps" - a 1000 steps up from the valley to the top. It was quite a walk (I should've worn closed shoes!) but very well worth it. The biggest part of the Blue Mountains is overgrown with eucalyptus trees which ooze a special oil that evaporates and causes the blue haze over the region. The part where I was however, had several waterfalls and rivers running through it and that made it into a rain forest area, which means that there was a lot to see! Here some more photos:

The Three Sisters up close

The Orphaned Child, another rock which has been separated from the rest of the cliffs by erosion.

The Katoomba Cascades.

This is the top of the waterfall which was also on the previous picture, this was the most impressive point. The water was streaming at my feet and right behind me was the cliff...

...which falls 200 metres down to the bottom of the valley!

The Witches Leap, with a little imagination the formation does indeed look like a grumpy old hag!

Today has been great, it was good that I went alone. Along the tracks there was almost nobody else, so every time I rounded a cliff and found another new wonder of nature, the sensation of being there alone made me feel like I was an explorer finding unknown treasures (or to put it in more modern terms: like I was in Tomb Raider!)

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Sydney and I want to use it yet again to see something I haven't seen yet: Bondi Beach - the beach everybody talks about! It's supposed to be really warm tomorrow, so a dip in the ocean will do me good. And now off to bed with me!

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