The escape from Sydney to the Blue Mountains was a welcome break. Though, being from Canada, I do feel it is a bit of a stretch to call these “mountains.” They are beautiful, regardless. Thickly forested, the hills and valleys stretch for miles. I traversed well-developed hiking trails and heard about well-hidden climbing spots from my new, more ambitious, British friend. In keeping with the trend thus far, I got a slow start into the mountains. The night before I was to leave, I had a lovely night out with a crew from the hostel I was staying at. We turned up where you would imagine large groups from hostels generally turn up, but the numerous dance floors and excellent group of Welsh girls I had stumbled upon at the hostel made it quite a fun night. It also made waking up bright and early a little more difficult than anticipated, so by the time I finished up the two-hour train journey to the mountains, it was around 1 p.m. I dropped my gear off and headed to the hills for what turned into a slightly overly ambitious hike. Going down was fine. It always is. I am not entirely sure why, even when you are fully aware that what goes down must come back up, it is hard to realistically envision how hard it will be. Perhaps because hiking in Canada generally involves going up first and then coming back down — this makes more sense. At the bottom was a cable car that would take you back up the mountain, but was priced at an exorbitant $11.00 / ride. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be walking back up the several hundred steps that I had just traversed down, and then realized that I was cutting it quite short to catch the last bus home. This basically resulted in me half-running for about an hour uphill (in what soon became pouring rain) to avoid having to walk another several kilometers back to the hostel. Ah, nature. I think I was in bed around 10 p.m. that night. Another couple of days of approximately one-third exertion and two-thirds relaxation and I was headed back to Sydney.
Thank-you, Steve Jobs. And all other visionaries that made it possible for me to hold, in my palm, all that I need to successfully travel around this country. I had purchased a train ticket to Lewisham, where I had set up a couch to stay on for the night. About an hour into my train journey, I got a message from said host saying that my arrival time actually wouldn’t work, and she wouldn’t be able to host me for the evening. What ensued was a fast and furious smartphone hunt for a place to lay my hat for the night. Apparently hostels in Sydney get quite booked up on the weekends, as this Friday night was showing me only three options, nothing below about $40. Luckily, a last-minute reply to my days-old couch surfing request offered me a fantastic place to stay for the evening, very close to Darling Harbour. I did have to buy a new train ticket once I got to Central Station, though this was a small price to pay. What was meant to be a one-night stay actually turned into several, and my host did an excellent job of showing me and a handful of other couchsurfers a fabulous time in Sydney. Fun activities included slackline walking in the park (exceptionally difficult), visiting a prohibition-style whiskey bar (much less difficult), and learning how to skateboard (much more fun than expected, despite running straight into an Aussie woman near the Opera House). I’ve learnt many things from my time in Oz so far, but perhaps the most important lesson is this: If you learn how to go, make sure you learn how to stop.
On Sunday, November 11th, I set out to find a Remembrance Day Service. Remembrance Day is not a public holiday in Australia, though Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Day is. The Remembrance Day service was quite a lot smaller than I would have expected, but I would guess services on Anzac Day draw a much larger crowd. Regardless, it was very good to attend, as continuing conflicts sadly keep both military and civilian losses fresh on our minds.