For the first weekend of student orientation I had booked myself onto a trip (mostly for us eager internationals) with Shawnee to visit the Blue Mountains. The whole weekend started hideously wrong, I hadn’t checked the timetables for the buses from campus East that early in the morning and realized quickly they wouldn’t get me close for on time for the departure of the trip. Luckily another girl from Campus East had made the same mistake and so we booked a taxi to pick us up and take us to the drop off in time. We got there in time, but then, what do you know, the bus that would have picked us up anyway turned up 5 minutes later, although it said it wasn’t supposed to get here for another 20 minutes. Great. There’s 7 dollars I’ll never see again! The trip was organized by Colourful trips and we were about 20 ish students from UOW from all over the world, excited to discover Australia. There were a large proportion of friendly Americans, but also some Italians, Canadians and Dutch, as well as two lovely Norwegian girls I had met and talked to at orientation! And of course, Shawnee and I represented the UK 😛 . The tour guide, Gavin, recapped the itinerary for the day, and then we set off!
First stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we had a quick hour to look around and take photos. The park was quite small and family friendly, and all the animals were native to Australia, which I thought was pretty cool! The best part was how open it was, not all the cages and bars which is so commonly associated with zoos and parks. We first entered the koala sanctuary, after passing some adorable red-necked pademelons (tiny things, related to kangaroos and wallabies) and a snoozing wombat. The koalas were set up like a circular stable, with some sharing stalls, and others enjoying some alone time, all munching away at the eucalyptus, or having a snooze. Not a surprising sight, as they sleep 20 hours a day because of the eucalyptus oil which makes them sleepy as their digestive systems have to work so hard to convert it to non-poisonous substances. Shawnee and I also queued in line to meet a koala which you could stroke and take a photo with. Our little koala was called Macey, and had just woken up and was ready for some breakkie. She was such a little diva, the zoo keeper kept having to try different types of eucalyptus tree (there are lots of different species) before she was finally happy, signalling by the fact that she didn’t drop it after sniffing it. Quite amusing to watch! She was incredibly soft, like a woolly lamb, big scruffy ears, and her teeth were like a rabbit’s!
After getting a photo with Macey we were met by the sight of two adorable dingo puppies. Kept an eye on closely by a zookeeper, these little rascals, brother and sister, were getting their first taste of the public and they seemed to love it! The sister was running around and loving all the attention, and the brother was trying to get some sleep. By the looks of it, his sisters favourite game was to walk all over him to wake him up, which was cute! The little sister gave up eventually and turned to us for excitement, approaching Shawnee and I for a little sniff and a lick! I have received kisses from a dingo puppy, whaaaahhh!
Afterwards we trotted along the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure, where you could get up and close with these docile friendly creatures and feed them! A kangaroo selfie was attempted! Afterwards we walked around and saw lots of other wildlife, and kangaroo and wallaby species, I was shocked over how many types of species there are!
Back on the bus again, we headed towards the Blue mountains! Our first lookout point was a quiet spot, where we had the whole place to ourselves. Apart from a couple of hikers and a few other tourists, this place was definitely the most secluded spot of the trip were we first saw the magnificent view of the blue mountains. As far as the eye could see, eucalyptus forests and blue shimmer carpeted the vast landscape. The pictures still don’t really put it into scale, but the view was so breathtaking. Where we were standing we could see we were on the edge of the cliff with a shear drop down to the bottom, making you feel the adrenalin rise as you peered down.
The next and final stop for the first day was the famous 3 sisters! Here the viewing platforms were a bit safer, with bars to hold onto for safety. Have you heard how the three sisters were formed? One of the legends says this:
“Three sisters, Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo had a father who was a witch doctor. His name was Tyawan. Long ago there was a Bunyip who lived in a deep hole who was feared by all. Passing the hole was considered very dangerous, therefore whenever Tyawan had to pass the hole in search for food, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff behind a rocky wall. One fateful day, Tyawan waved goodbye to his daughters and descended down the cliff steps into the valley. Meanwhile at the top of the cliff, Meenhi was frightened by a large centipede which suddenly appeared before her. Meenhi took a stone and threw it at the centipede. The stone continued on its journey and rolled over the cliff, crashing into the valley below which angered the Bunyip. The rocky wall behind Meenhi, Wimlah and Gunnedoo then began to split open and the three sisters were left stranded on a thin ledge at the top of the cliff. All the birds, animals and fairies stopped still as the Bunyip emerged to see the terrified girls. As the Bunyip began to approach the girls, to protect them from harm, their father Tyawan used his magic bone to turn them into stone. Angered by this, the Bunyip then began to chase Tyawan. Becoming trapped, in order to flee from the Bunyip, Tyawan changed into a magnificent Lyre Bird, yet in the process dropped his magic bone. Tyawan and his three daughters were now safe from the Bunyip. Once the Bunyip had disappeared, Tyawan returned in search of his magic bone, yet this was never to be found. The Lyre Bird has been searching for this magic bone ever since. Remaining in rock formation, The Three Sisters stand silently overlooking the valley hoping that one day he’ll find the bone and turn them back to former selves. When visiting The Three Sisters, if you listen carefully you may be able to hear the Lyre Bird, Tyawan, as he continues his quest for his lost magic bone.”
After having a spot of lunch with that view we started on our hike towards the three sisters. We even crossed over towards the first one by bridge, before turning back and descending down stairs and stairs and stairs, towards the rainforests in the valley. My legs were shaking by the end, as the staircase was so steep and so long! At the bottom we continued round on a nice path towards the train that would take us up again to the top. This ride was the most insane thing I have ever ridden, beating all the amusement parks and rollercosters I have ever been on. This thing looked like it was climbing up the edge at a 80 degree angle, and it felt like it too! Shawnee, Kristin and myself sat in the same row and decided to go for the “cliffhanger” seat option, and it felt like we were going to fall off and land on the people below. Literally cackling with laughter, we managed to cling on whilst screaming.
After the three sisters, we headed to the youth hostel in Katoomba where we had pizza for dinner, board games and then a little casual pre-drinks before going out to the Irish Bar down the street. Australians do nights out really early, and we actually got back around 12 for bed, after being in the bar for several hours, so none of us were feeling a groggy hangover the next morning when we had to get up at 7.30! Also discovered that a vodka sunrise is the most perfect drink in the world, thanks to one of the Norwegian girls! “Healthier” than a vodka and coke, vodka and orange juice is literally one of those things where I want to slap myself in the head for not thinking of this genius drink earlier.