|We are in Australia. Our flight over here was uneventful. We landed at around 4 on Sunday Jan 16 and headed into the terminal sure we were going to be waiting for ages to get through customs. Actually, we were the only plain in the entire international teminal. It was incredible. I've never seen an airport so empty. The security guards were so not busy that they chatted us up and helped us figure out the best way to get to Tim's house. So we headed out to the cab stand and told a guy where we were going, and got a completely blamk stare. He had no idea where Hurstville was (that's where Tim lives). But, being a guy, he decided not to look it up, but to try to find it as we drove. He spent half the drive looking down at the map on his lap, and he still had to pull over twice to figure out where he was. In the end I had to take the map from him and figure out where we were. And when we finally got there, he charged us for the extra "getting lost" time. Oh well.
So, we got to Tim's house and showered, and headed out to meet him and his friends at the pub for his birthday. It was really good to see him again. He's still the same old Tim. And we met his girlfriend, Sarah. For those of you who were wondering about her, she is awesome. She's so nice, and although she looks nothing like I expected her to look, they are perfect together. We had a lot of fun together. At about 11, the pub closed and we headed home.
Tim had Monday off, and when we woke up we decided that we were going to do things. First we went to the beach with his brother Phil. They surfed (I didn't...I'm suddenly really scared of it...) and we watched. The water here is so much warmer than in NZ. I don't think you wouldn need a wetsuit if you went in in the sun, but it was cloudy and rainy that day, so they covered up. After about an hour they got out and we headed home. We changed, got lunch, and climbed in the truck to drive to the Blue Mountains to find some kangaroos. We drove into the mountains and to this little National Park. Tim had his eyes open the whole time looking for kangaroos, and at the end of the road we drove into this little field and they were everywhere, just lounging around. We parked and walked up some stairs into another field filled with roos. It was crazy. Melissa and I were completely awestruck. We just stood and stared. The kangaroos just sit there and eat, or they're lying down resting. You can walk right up to them. Close enough to touch them. If we had had food, they would have eaten out of our hands. And they just look at you. They don't even care that you're there. Actually, the males care, but you just stay away from them. There was only one male in the field we were in, so we steered clear of him.
The field was surrounded by huge trees and bush. In the trees were all these birds. Some were parrots, others were magpies, and there were a few cockateels. They are huge white birds with yellow feathers on their heads. And they're so loud. I wish I could have recorded the sounds while we were standing there. It sounded like the jungle, with all these birds screeching in the trees around us. We just walked around, almost in a trance because it was such a strange, new experience. Melissa and I kept looking at each other and saying "We standing in a field with wild kangaroos...this is insane!". It was so cool. Eventually, though, we had to move on. As we drove through the first field, Tim looked out the window, and there was a mother and her joey, right there in the field. It was incredible. He was feeding, and she was just standing there grooming him while all these tourists stopped to take pictures. I thought for sure she would panic when we got too close, but she just stayed where she was as we walked slowly up to her. Melissa and I were probably 6 feet away from here when we decided it was close enough. There were a bunch of other people there, too, taking pictures. It was amazing. I never thought in my life that I would be that close to a kangaroo family. Unbelievable.
Eventually, though, we had to move on from there. We took a fork in the road and Tim found a little hike through the bush to a look out. It took about 5 minutes, and when we got there we were on this sandstone cliff that looked out over a gorge. It was beautiful. The sounds, again, were incredible. To our right we found a little tunnel made from worn away sandstone. We played in that and tok some pictures, and just enjoyed and appreciated what we were doing. Finally, we decided there were more things to do, so we left.
Tim drove us deeper into the mountains to a town near a canyon that has a rock formation called the Three Sisters. We went to the information center, but it was such think fog that we couldn't really even see the road in front of us. So, instead of seeing that, Tim asked the ranger about some 4WD tracks, and we headed out to see Mt Hay. The ride there was on this little dirt road that was 15 km long. It took us about an hour to get there, but it was so fun. The road was all full of pot holes, and we tossed and turned the whole way there. About half way we cam across this huge rock formation overhanging the road. It towered high over the road, and in the rock were all these mineral deposits that gave it different designs. There were iron deposits that had rusted and looked like drawings on the cliff side. There were different layers of rock that looked like the pancake rocks in NZ. There were more tunnels and caves. It was awesome. At the end of the road we came out into a clearing. I'm sure we would have seen a huge canyon in front of us, but it was too foggy to see much other than the hills in front of us. The sign there said that if you climbed down it was a Grade 10 rock climb back up, so we decided to just check out the clearing. Tim went over to the edge and suddenly motioned for us to come over to him. Way down in a clearing, almost impossible to see, was a wallabee. They are really shy, I guess, and this one was hiding behind some trees, ust peeking out to look at us. IT took a little while to find him, but we finally saw him and watched him until he suddenly turned and hopped out of sight. They are really loud when they jump, and we heard him crashing through the forest after he disappeared. Tim said we were lucky. A lot of people never see a wild wallabee. We felt pretty lucky about the whole day. Who would have thought we'd do and see all those things in one day? I can't really think of another way to describe it other than it was awesome.
After a while, we hopped back in the truck and headed back to the main road. What a great day. When we got home we had dinner with the family. They are really great. They set us up with coupons to places in Sydney and helped us figure out where to go and how to get there. They gave us maps and discount cards, and told us the best places to go. We have really lucked out with the people we've stayed with.
So, yesterday we went to Sydney. We walked around a lot, starting in the middle of the city and walking all the way to the Opera House, and then to a place called Circular Quay (pronounced Key) and The Rocks. The Opera House in awesome. It was cloudy yesterday and it is covered with reflective panels, so it didn't look as white as we thought it would, but it was still massive and impressive. It took about 10 minutes to walk all the way around it. They were setting up all these little outdoor stages for Australia Day, Jan 26. It would be fun to see a show, but there wasn't much listed that we were interested in, plus, I'm sure it's not cheap to see a show in the opera house. After the walk around, we headed to Circular Quay, which is just a little shopping and eating area right on the harbour. Right across from the Quay was the Saphire Princess, the biggest cruise ship to ever come into Australian waters. It is enormous. It took up most of the entire length of the wharf. I think I counted 14 stories, but that's just a guess. It's huge. On the other side of the ship was an area called the Rocks. It's the oldest part of Sydney, and all the buildings are really old. The whole city reminds me a lot of Boston, but especially The Rocks. Melissa found this great little book store called Ariel, and I'm sure we'll be back to buy some reading for our flights to Europe. After that we found some lunch and headed back to Town Center. We had walked for 4 hours and we were tired.
So, those are the first 2 days in Australia. Today is Wed, and I'm not sure what the plan is. I think I'm going to try to get a haircut, and this afternoon I think Tim is taking us to the beach. So, I hope all is well with all of you. We miss you lots and are thinking of you as we do all of these new things. We can't wait to hear from you all. Lots of love from this side of the world.
Love, Abby and Melissa