Its a wrap!

Welcome back, friends.  This blog will wrap up Our time in Queensland, and consequently Our time with Our friends.  I’m going to post some random photos from Our time there with captions.  We had such a wonderful time there…aside from being with a lovely lady I love dearly and being just up from the beach, there were things like picking strawberries at the strawberry farm and drinking wine and having expert made coffee right in the kitchen every day.  There was a day of meeting more new folk for brunch and randomly spending the day with them, during which I had my first 2 oysters!  I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed being there.  Luckily, We were there when Mark died and I had a friend to hug me and try to make me smile, but most of all to hug me and try to make me smile even when it was obvious I wasn’t going to.  We had made Our home base in Caloundra from the 22nd of July until the 17 of August and while it was a longish time, it flew right by.  As of today, it has been a week since she drove Us to Brisbane and dropped Us off at the transit center for Us to catch a bus back to Byron-and I miss her tons.  LOVE YOU BALLERINA LADY!!

Cloudy day at the beach.
Uh mah guh. ❤
Beautiful
Chiara and I strawberry picking.
Mmmmm...strawberries!
First oyster ever!!
Down it goes 🙂
Redcliffe beach...so named for obvious reasons.
Redcliffe
More flowers.
Random flowers

part of the Glasshouse Mountains
Glasshouse Mountains
Part of the Glasshouse Mtns trip day

We got on the bus in Brisbane, and got off again in Byron Bay to stay at the Arts Factory again for 10 days before flying to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on the 27 of August.

Stay tuned…

Sushi ME!

Welcome back, friends.  In case the lunch at The Spirit House wasn’t amazing enough, dinner looked to be comparable-if not better.  As I previously mentioned (HERE), We stopped at the markets on the way home from the restaurant.  We got everything I would need to make SUSHI!!  I had watched my lovely friend make it a few times since We arrived and I felt ready.  Around 8, the married folk got to leave on a much needed date to the movies alone and We stayed at the house with the children and made food.  I did everything on my own except mix the rice and it was quite the experience.  I sliced avocado, cucumber, chilis, and cream cheese.  I peeled prawns and cut up the salmon and tuna.  I added mayo, hand rolled them and sliced them beautifully.  I even made a few “hand rolls” (the ones with the fish on the outside) since someone seems to like those.

Let me just say it was good.   Better than good.  It got me thinking about all the different kinds of sushi I want to make in the future, and the different ways to modify them to suit the people I want to make it for. Lauren, Sam, My kitti and others-watch out, I will blow your MIND with my sushi.  That is all.

Stay tuned…

A lovely lunch and a smackdown…

Welcome back, friends.  Our next day in Caloundra brought a lunch date that We had long been anticipating.  A reservation at The Spirit House was made more than a month before!  This place is amazing…We walked through a bamboo garden before getting to the restaurant/cooking school set amidst pagodas for private dining and a few ponds. Some photos to illustrate:

One of the entrance ponds
See the monitor lizard in the water? My toes are pointing at it.
Beautiful surroundings

We were led to Our table next to the water and the dining experience began.

Our table had a beautiful view!

The wait staff was very attentive and We were not kept waiting for anything.  We all talked about the menu options, but in the end the food was ordered by Our hosts and We relaxed with a glass of wine.

First to come out was the

Sweet Potato, Ginger Noodle Balls with Szechwan Pepper Glaze
Crispy Pork Belly with Citrus Caramel Sauce

and

(Cuttlefish Salad)

I forgot to take photos until We had almost eaten it all!  🙂  The cuttlefish salad was so amazing, but so were the other dishes.  I had never eaten any of that before.

The main dishes came out next and were truly a treat.

Yellow Curry of Duck and Roast Waygu Beef with a Red Curry Sauce & Candied Bamboo

and the one that kinda freaked me out even though it was fantastic:

Whole Crispy Fish with Tamarind Chili Sauce
Check out the teeth!!

Yes, that’s a whole fish.

Sometime during the meal, I had to go to the bathroom and this is what I found.  Take a moment to examine the sink/toilet situation…

Eco toilet

You wash your hands in the sink and the water fills the tank and is used to flush the toilet!!  Suh.cool.  I want one (CLICK HERE).  Cool, but not cool enough to keep my attention long with all the yum waiting back on the table.

The food, the wine, and most of all, the company came together to make for an astoundingly lovely experience CLICK HERE for the menu.  The food was delicious and quite the learning experience 🙂 When leaving, We took some more photos ❤  We truly are an attractive bunch.

LOVE
Aaack they have sticks!

Yes folks, those are bamboo canes the Boys have…and Im afraid They know how to use them :/  The lovely lady got away from hers fast enough to get out her camera and catch me resisting.

attack!

Got it away!
Had it...
Going down?
Down.
Never surrender!
Running away!

Like I said, a relaxing lunch 🙂  On the way back to the house, We stopped to pick up the items I would need to make sushi by myself for the very.first.time.

Stay tuned!!

The Sunshine State… and I don’t mean Florida.

Welcome back, friends.  After getting shot up at paintball, We spent the rest of the week at the beach.  Mostly.  Our temporary home was within walking distance of the beach, so We walked down almost everyday.  One great thing about Queensland is that even in winter, it is sunny.  Hence the name… The Sunshine State.  Fun fact, the name is now The Smart State.  Apparently advertising that it is always sunny in a place that has high skin cancer rates and a hole in the ozone isn’t attracting tourists.  It is very appealing to me though!  I loooove the sun.  I am terrified of skin cancer, but I can’t stay away from the lovely warm feeling I get when the sun is kissing me.  Call it a love affair, if you wish 🙂  Cali, on the other hand, detests the sun so the beach time was mostly for me.  He did bring His camera along on the trips and got some awesome shots (VISIT HIS BLOG HERE FOR THOSE PHOTOS) but he stayed covered and therefor sweltering.  When We weren’t at the beach, We were spending time around the house with the loveys.  We cooked, We played, We watched movies We never got around to watching before, We internetted, We blogged…good times.

On Friday the 29, We all piled in the car and drove down to Mooloolaba.  Contrary to the way it looks, it is not pronounced moo-loo-laba, its more of a muh-LOO-lubuh.  Its not the only funny sounding thing around here, but I enjoy that one in particular…and of course, I call it moo loo laba.  There isn’t much in Mooloolaba except more beach and some shops, so beaching and shopping and eating is what We did 🙂 I even colored a mat at the restaurant.

The epitome of beach fashion.

We wanted candy so bad...
Coloring like a good girl waiting for my food.

The weekend was a lazy one, full of more beach time and movies, but starting on Tuesday was no more lazy.  We left on the 2nd for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, which means 3 and a half days of hiking and camping.  I don’t know for sure since We didn’t go from the very beginning of the walk to the end, We just jumped in the middle, but I believe We hiked about 40km which is 24 miles.  The views on this hike are amazing…it kind of goes along a ridge over a valley so ever so often you get to look out and compare where you are to where you were.  By the time We finished on Friday, We had walked down the mountain and could look up to where We were and it was almost unbelievable.

The view from the starting point.

Strangler Fig. The seed starts growing in the top of a tree, and grows down it to the ground and strangles the tree.

View from the end of day 1's hike.
Reading a book in the sun until it went down=awesome
Loved this. Our campsite at sundown.

super rad!!
Not quite done yet!
Sunset on night 2

We were retrieved from the hinterland on Friday the 5th and the mister of the house came home late that night as well…the last time he came home, We were shot at.  How would this weekend turn out?

Stay tuned.

Sushi and shooting or Welcome to Queensland

Welcome back, friends.  When We woke on the morning of Friday July 22nd, We grabbed Our packs and headed to the common area for check out and saying goodbye.  A few of the people who We regularly spoke to at the Arts were also either employees or “work for accommodation” volunteers and were awake and moving around early enough to hug and say farewell.  The lovely Jessie-Rose was barista-ing that morning so We got to see her one more time as well.  We learned that no one was driving the shuttle that morning and We would have to walk to the bus which meant leaving almost right away, but Jess was insistent that she drive Us-which was awesome and thankfully unnecessary as someone else also overheard and volunteered to drive Us in the shuttle anyway.  Nice people, those Byron hippies…We enjoyed the visit greatly and decided We would absolutely have to come back again, but Our time there was over and the very near future held something I’d been waiting for for forever.

The Greyhound took Us to Brisbane (only about a 4 hour ride) and We had about 5 hours to kill before being picked up and taken to Our newest new home in Caloundra.  Longest 5 hours ever.  Well, it certainly seemed like at least double that even though I had already waited a few years and it was now only a few hours away.  I damn near couldn’t control myself.

What was it that had me so excited?  I was finally about to meet in person someone who had become one of my closest friends over the internet.  We “met” a few years ago in an online forum where We both posted and commented on discussions relevant to daily life.  I liked what she said and how she seemed to think (and vice versa), and it seemed We had a lot in common.  We began email type correspondence and moved on to instant messaging and then Facebook and then Skype.  We talked about our kids, our homes, our partners-we talked about everything.  Maybe because I felt safe on the other side of the planet from her, but I also talked to her about things that I didn’t talk to anyone else about.  In time, she became one of my closest confidants and dearest friends and while we had never met, I felt I had known her my whole life.  Today, I would not only meet her in person, but be taken to her home to unpack and get comfortable, meet her husband, her children and her au pair.  They had made their home available for Us to stay at during Our time on the Sunshine Coast and were equally excited to be meeting Us.  Gee, I hope We arent serial killers or something!

We loitered in the area she would be meeting Us at, hoping not to blend in or be overlooked (lol) and suddenly, right in front of me, was this real life beautiful lady who was obviously looking for Us too.  The 2 of us were damn fools for each other right away!  We didn’t have a lot of time to stand around gabbing because her husband was arriving on a plane that night and We needed to pick him up.  He is working about 10 driving hours away from his family to establish a successful practice and be able to move them all out there with him as soon as possible, but until then, they see his handsome face only every few weeks and We intentionally made plans to arrive while he could be there and assess the state of his family’s safety with the weird american visitors during his absence. 🙂  She had previously prepared a curry in the slow cooker and We spent the evening talking excitedly and sharing stories.  There was no catching up to do since we were in contact frequently and it wasn’t like We were new people, so it was a very relaxed and fun evening full of conversation and smiles.  They are both even more lovely in person-even if they do talk funny.

Our first day in Caloundra- more specifically in Moffat Beach- began with a trip just up the road to the beach and a proper meal of fish and chips.  It was my first time having “fish and chips”.  It was not my first time to have a battered fried fish plank and french fries, but this was actually advertised, ordered and sold as “fish and chips” and it wasn’t from Long John Silvers!  There was calamari as well and I enjoyed this meal thoroughly.  We ate on the beach and soaked up the sunshine while also meeting some of their close friends who had come to the beach park with their kids to see the newly returned mister and meet their guests.

Moffat Beach
Invisible Man
I ❤ the ocean
FINALLY!

After eating, We took a walk further down the road before going back to the house to make sushi.  Yes, make  sushi.  I hadn’t ever even considered making sushi at home before, but this is a common occurrence at their house and a frequently requested dish.  Dinner was amazing:

Mmmmm

that girl can SUSHI-after which We watched the movie “Wolf Creek” since it came so highly recommended upon Our arrival in Oz.  For some reason, everyone thought We needed to see a movie about backpackers in central Aus being abducted and killed. :/  it was funny more than anything, but me thinks it might have freaked out the woman with the delicate sensibilities who protested the viewing beforehand. 🙂  At around midnight or so, We went to bed in preparation for the upcoming war.  Paintball at 6am.

There were 7 of Us in the car going to Skirmish.  Six men and me.  It was entirely too early to be awake and excited about being so, but We were going to go shoot things!  Not just things, but people!  The location of these happy fun times is outside Brisbane (hour drive, remember?) so in the name of convenience, We ate McDonald’s for breakfast.  I was actually really excited about getting my favorite fast breakfast of McDs breakfast burrito and coffee, until I noticed there was no such item on the menu.  No breakfast burritos?!?!  Really??  Traumatizing enough to end that part of the story there.

I assume you all know how paintball works:

Without face shields just before beginning
After, obviously alive with orange paint in my hair.

and We were all on the same team (which means I didn’t get to shoot at Cali, darn it).  Without going into details, Our team won all 5 games  and all of Us were shot at least once.  I got one particularly good shot to the top joint of my thumb which was a lucky shot considering my fingerTIPS and the back of my head were the only skin exposed on my body.  That being said, it was so.much.fun.  Can’t wait to do it again.  Photos taken the next day:

OUCH :/
right inner calf
Of course I took one to the bum
inner thigh!

Would We survive the rest of Our time with them?

Stay tuned…

Welcome to Hippieville a.k.a. Byron Bay

Welcome back, friends.  I would like to first openly state that my last travel blog was written in a hurry since I was going out camping for a few days and it was insisted upon that it was finished before I left-which made it the not so much best work I ever did.  Now, where was I…?

We arrived in Byron Bay, NSW Australia on Saturday July 15th at around 10am.  The shuttle bus from The Arts Factory Hostel (the link is worth clicking-this place is rad) was there waiting to pick Us up and We were whisked away to Our new home for the next 6 days.

The welcoming party
One of the walls outside the Arts
Another wall outside

It was quite busy in the receiving area that morning so We put down Our packs, left a passport for collateral and took a self guided tour around “The Arts”.  We had a $4 breakfast of eggs and turkish toast (I only mention the price because in Australia, that’s cheap) and then explored the grounds including the campsite where We intended to stay.  Checkout wasnt until after noon so We had time to look around and decide which accommodations We would prefer.  There really was no question about it-the campground, a.k.a. tent city, was the only option We would be considering.  As We walked the path out to the campground and away from the bustle of the main area, the vibe changed and it felt like We were in a different place than We had been in only a few paces back.  It had its own outdoor kitchen and food storage, its own bathroom and showers, a covered pavilion with several tables to hang out at communally, a no campers under 18 rule and the generally respected rule of keeping the noise to a minimum.  There were tents everywhere.  Not in designated numbered campsites, but on whatever patch of sandy dirt their tent would fit, possibly next to someone they knew and arranged to provide the best interaction (or lack of) with their neighbor.

Neighborhood 🙂
Organized chaos.
A resident of the Arts

The laid back attitude of every single camper made Us feel at home in about 45 seconds.  We chose a spot to build Our house, and it turned out that We had chosen Our neighbor to be the same guy who picked Us up from the bus-Sam.  Our first impression of Sam had been nothing short of great (“and here we are at the arts factory, this is the bar that has happy hour nightly and live music, and here is the cafe.” he had priorities 🙂 ) so from the beginning this little hippie commune of sorts looked to have promise.  We had looked at the weather for days before We got to Byron and knew it was intended to rain for the first 3 days, which was how We ended up choosing to visit Byron in the first place.  It was going to be raining at every Greyhound stop up the coast and the decision had to be made of where to get off and spend time camping in the rain.  We investigated the hostel/campsite options in those areas and came across The Arts Factory.  Sleeping in a teepee sounded fun and the beach was a ten minute walk so when it stopped raining, We would be able to spend time by the ocean in the sun ❤ WIN.  After setting up Our house, We hung out in the common area on the wi-fi (oh yeah, and there is wi-fi) until happy hour at the bar next door, which also happens to be the Byron Bay brewery.  Already We could tell that it was freaking genius to have all these things (including the spa and cinema I havent mentioned yet) all sort of connected by the walking path in front.  And still, the campsite community felt like it was a whole different place!  People stay in the dorm and teepee and cabin parts of the hostel for a short time and they go on, people stay in the campsite, meet other people, enjoy feeling like a family and sometimes don’t leave.  We learned early on that the most common story in Byron Bay, especially from campers and employees, started with the words, “Well, I was only going to stay a week or so, and then…” and end with “so, now I’ve been here for _____ (insert a time period from 3 months to a few years)”.  Wow.

We had seen a few flyers posted that said The Arts was accepting work for accommodation volunteers so, I asked if there was anything I could do.  Around 8pm I was informed I could drive the shuttle bus from the hostel to the greyhound stop from 7am-1pm for the following day and the day after.  For driving the shuttle 16 times total, I would receive 4 free nights of accommodation in the campsite.  Sounds great, there is just one problem- I’ve never driven on the left hand side of the road, from the right hand side of the vehicle.  Actually, I felt weird just being in the vehicles here when other people are driving who do it all the time.  I expressed this to the lady, and I was told I would be fine.

“Ok, then, I’ll do it.” 🙂

The next morning I got up early and went to work.  Weird.  I was given the keys and directions to the pickup/drop off point, and shown the schedule of when I should make my trips.  The first time I got in the driver seat that morning, it was disconcerting to say the least, and by the time I pulled out of the lot I was feeling kinda freaked out.  It didn’t seem natural to be intentionally driving on the wrong side of the road!  I’ve been driving more than 10 years now and driving on the left side of the road only happened on one way streets or on accident.  It only took 2 trips there and  back before my anxiety turned to confidence and since there was only about 1 trip an hour I could read or check Facebook in between and drink coffee.  Plus, that meant I was the first impression for all travelers arriving during my shift.  😀 Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  I drove the shuttle for those 2 days and following the last trip, We finally headed to the beach for some sunshine.

The beach was popular when you first step on it, but it is called Main Beach so We weren’t surprised.  Since it gets substantially colder as it gets later, and it was only an hour or so before sunset, I hadn’t worn my swimsuit and We didn’t stay long.

I so love the ocean.

I love the sun too

We saw some surfers (I love watching surfers), and took a couple of photos before leaving with the promise of returning the next morning.  Return We did…for 3 days in a row 🙂  The beaches in Byron are simply beautiful.  We didn’t venture much further than the beaches walking left from main beach, but We didn’t need to.  Once We got to the next beach, there were hardly any people so We plunked down in the sand for a while to watch surfers, sunbathe, listen to music and read.  Cali took His camera along and got some more amazing shots-here are some and in His blog www.calidbs2011.wordpress.com are many more.  He is quite the photographer 🙂 Some of my pictures, however, were taken with my phone camera 🙂

Finally sunbathing! The way July is supposed to be for this TX girl.

Did I mention it is winter here in Australia?

Those few days We spent hanging out around the Arts and going to the beach, We met a few people who lived at/near the Arts and We could be found hanging out with the “local wanderers” when We weren’t off being alone together.  There were people from many different places around the world that had all found themselves in Byron, usually quite by accident, and hadn’t managed to leave again.  It made for a wonderful experience walking around and hearing all the different languages being spoken and then english being spoken in the many different accents.  There were a few nights We stayed up with the others and had some “goon” (wine from a box that has the box removed and is then just a bag), and passed a few around, and enjoyed Ourselves.  At any given time there was fire spinning, hula-hooping, guitar playing, singing, strap-walking, story telling and random dance breaks.  It was a group with an aspect of “realness” to them that was quite alluring.  Almost hypnotizing.

We met one girl in particular that We even became friends with.  I mean, We had several friendlies and enjoyed the company of the people We hung out with, but this girl We became like Facebook friends and exchanged phone numbers and stuff.  She is a musician and a fantastic singer and she’s pretty, but best of all-she introduced me to a loose leaf chai that she was pretty damn good at making.  There is a shop not far from the Arts that sold “Byron Loose Leaf Chai” and I have to admit…Byron produces awesome shit.  Miss you Jess!!

On Wed the 20th, after Our daily trip to the beach, I went on an informative bush walk at the Arts and learned some pretty useful things-some of which I hope I never need to remember, most of which could save my life.  That same night was “Trivia  Night” which was pretty entertaining to watch.  It was a $2 buy in, 5 people teams, the winning team got to divvy up the entry fees for themselves.  Also, everyone who bought in wrote their name and what they would name the book of their life story on a slip of paper that went into a large pot.  Throughout the competition, names were drawn from that pot and awesome prizes were given away.  Prizes like cruises, pub crawls, day trips, surf lessons, trapeze lessons and skydiving.  We did not buy in, but it was fun to watch.

The next day would be Our last day at the Arts.  We had made a friend who had a tent with an actual bed in it (I told you, most of the campers LIVE there) and said We could pack Our house and use his tent so when We woke in the morning We wouldn’t have to tear down before leaving.  Super cool.  We packed all of Our stuff and at that point realized that sometime during Our stay We had unwillingly picked up a roomie.  A mouse had chewed a hidden hole in Our tent wall to get to the oats in my pack.  Oats and mouse poop galore in my bag and under it.  I didn’t so much mind that there had been a mouse, but I didn’t particularly care for the idea that I was sharing my home with snake food :/  Never did see the rascal, and obviously didn’t die from a snakebite, but learned the “keep all of your food out of your tent if you can help it”  lesson.

We spent Our last evening in Byron hanging out with Jessie-Rose, the girl I told you about a minute ago.  She invited Us to visit her at her house-she used to live at the Arts, but now lives not far from it-and We all hung out talking until it was time for bed.  We were able to have a nice fire in the pit in her yard, which was fun watching her try to start and in the end Cali getting to play with it.  She had asked 2 friends if they wouldn’t mind coming over and spinning fire for Us privately and they agreed!  It was really cool to watch and the sound fire makes when it is spinning is almost as soothing as the ocean.  We enjoyed a few hours of mostly philosophical conversations before saying Our goodbyes and going to sleep.  A wonderful night indeed.

Where would the bus take Us the next day?  Somewhere awesome to see someone awesomer.

Stay tuned…

Goodbye my brother.

Welcome back.  Today, Im having a tough time.  I hope sharing it here will help me accept that I have lost someone dear to me.  Right now, his death has only served to remind me that life is short and fragile and that anyone I know could be gone at any time.  I am floored by my emotions and by the extreme sense of loss I feel.  Today, my brother Mark Wills died.  I will never again hug him, or tell him how much I love him or have those great talks about how stupid the rest of the world who isn’t us is.  Im greatly saddened that I will never again be able to go to him when there is an internal family issue.  I will never again be able to sit with him and know that he loves me for who I am no matter who that is.  He might not be the only one who I can do that with, but never again will I get to do that with him.  There are others who miss him.  There are others who miss him who saw him daily, while I only saw him sometimes.  There are others whos daily lives will be different without him in it, and for those people, I cry more.  Through the worlds circumstances and some crazy shit, I met Mark and immediately loved him.  After a few very emotional times in my life that he was a part of, he became my brother.  He has tattooed me, he has allowed me to tattoo him. He has accepted me as the fucked up person that I am and loved me anyway.  He would have done anything for me, and for Cali and for anyone he knew-and now, he is gone.  I have a tattoo on my wrist that he did that I see every few minutes, every day of my life.  It has always reminded me of him and it always will.  I don’t know how to feel right now.  On one hand, I know that he is better off dead. His sweet soul has been through more than any person should ever experience.  He lost his mother, and can now release the pain of that loss.  He has been strong through it all and I had the pleasure of being his rock from time to time when he had trouble standing on his own.  My heart hurts.  On another hand, I want him back.  I want him back now.  I want to know that he is still there when I need him, and as selfish as it is-I WANT HIM NOW.  I will never again have him.  I will never again hug him.  I will never again hear his musical laugh or see him stumble drunk from the bar.  GD Sprankles is no more.  He was so much more than a friend to me.  He was more family than most of my blood relatives.  I never responded to the last email I got from him…I might never know how he died.  There are so many things I want to know, want to say, want to do…The next person would be my sister, or my best friend, or my mother, my grandmother, my Cali.  It could be anyone.  It could be me.  Nobody knows when.  Nobody knows who.  Nobody knows how.  And right now, I don’t know anything.  I have a lot to think about.  I miss so many people.  Im already grieving for people who aren’t dead because they could be in only minutes.  I know I will get through this.  I know he will be with me as I do, but Im so sad and I feel like something is now missing from my life that I never thought would be gone.  Who do you love  Do they know it?  Can you reach them?  Touch them.  Now.  You might never get to do so again.

 

He let me tattoo him...he tattooed the same on me.
DONKEY PUNCH
I love my brother
Family

How cold is 0 degrees?

Welcome back, friends.  Today, We will discuss camping in zero degree weather.  The only nice thing about it is that in the middle of the night, when you turn on your light, everything is sparkly.  Why is a light necessary in the middle of the night?  Well, because getting out of the tent to pee is necessary…and that is not nice.  At all.

We arrived in the town of Katoomba in the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains  late afternoon on Tuesday and it was already getting cold.  Katoomba is the last stop on the train from Sydney and it took a couple hours to get out there.  Once We got off the train, We had to walk “through town” and down a massive hill to get to the campground and set up Our home.  As We were the only ones camping, We got to choose the site We wanted and get to it.  Wait, We were the only ones camping?  Yes, there were people in campervans, and people who stayed inside cabins…but no other tents.  Wonder why…

I had the hardest time getting to sleep the first night there.  It wasn’t the coldest night We had there, but I just.couldn’t.sleep.  I was up most of the night thinking about my daughters, my family, my friends.  I don’t know what time I finally dozed off, but I do know it wasn’t long before the sun was up and the still-on-school-holiday children were running around using their outside voices.  That was Our cue to get ready to go.  Some coffee and oatmeal and off We went to walk 12-14km (6-8 mi) starting on the nearly 600 ft high clifftop and then down into the valley and back up via the steepest incline railway in the world.  Along the way We viewed the 3 sisters (from eye level and below), Echo Point, Katoomba Falls, Leura Falls, and many other unnamed things that were simply stunning.  A few hours walking along the cliff edge and then hundreds of stairs going down into the valley and We went from cold, windy weather and gray surrounding to nearly tropical growth on the valley floor…

The Blue Mountains
3 Sisters rock formation from Echo Point

Looking down...down...down

The descent
Finally on the floor!
This was called the "Amphitheater"
Looking up.

3 Sisters from the bottom
3 Sisters from below and far away
3 Sisters from the Railway

The “Scenic Railway” is the steepest cable-driven funicular railway in the world, with an incline of 52 degrees over a distance of 415 metres!!  We didn’t get any good photos of/from the ride up because by the time We got there, it was time to go and then it just moved so fast.  The ride was short, but pretty awesome, and it definitely felt like the steepest railway.

That night was ridiculously cold.  The kind of cold where you would…I don’t know, but you would.  We filled Our nalgene water bottles with hot water from the kettle and tucked them away into Our sleeping bags to keep warm.  Our bags might be rated for below freezing temperatures, but that doesnt mean they can’t be warmer 🙂  I mentioned sparkles in the first paragraph…I suppose it could also be called ICE.  It was sparkly inside the tent because the condensation from Our breath was freezing on the inside of Our tent.  We slept in Our hats and gloves and scarves and delayed using the toilet whever possible.  Thank the Lord for Our sleeping pads or I fear We may have given up and arranged to sleep indoors somehow. (darn, right?)  If you know me at all, you know I abhor being cold, and I was mis.ruh.bull. trying to sleep in that bull shit.  Yeah, the hike was pretty, but DAMN.  No thanks.

The next day, We spent the day hanging out in a cute cafe, using their wifi and eating deliciousness.  The chai I had there was the best I’ve EVER had-and it was made by a kid who learned how to make it on youtube!  His parents own the cafe and he works there regularly so he has had some practice.  This is also the cafe where I was served this amazingness:

It is French Toast and Bacon.  I’m not kidding.  I capitalized it because it should be crowned as royalty.  This is the thickest bread I’ve ever seen (nearly an inch), the most perfectly cooked slab of bacon, the most magically mouth watering golden syrup…this, my friends, is worth every penny you would spend to fly to Australia and eat it.  I might never order french toast again for fear that I will never again be satisfied.  This day however, more than satisfied ❤

The time We spent in Katoomba was certainly cold, but one of the most amazing trips Ive been on so far.  I might mention that the Blue Mountains are so named because the gum trees that cover the landscape (basically the same thing as a eucalyptus, which means it smelled amazing) emit an oil that gets into the air and when the sun shines through it, it shades everything blue.  Thats rad if you ask me.

We left the Blue Mountains to head back to Sydney and then on to Byron Bay on another overnight Greyhound.  Further north means warmer weather, right?

Stay tuned…

Another chapter closes…saying goodbye to Sydney.

Welcome back, friends.  Our last few days in Sydney were spent typing blogs, watching Australian movies and trying out a couple new restaurants.  I keep a calendar/day planner type thing in which I write down the things We do everyday…well, almost everyday 🙂  sometimes I forget to write stuff down and when I go back to fill it in I can’t always remember.  I’m sure nobody reads my blog for the minutia of Our day anyway, but it makes for moderately difficult blog writing every now and again.  I mention this because at this moment, I am looking at the calendar and the lack of detail says that either I filled in Our final Sydney days from broken memory, or We actually didn’t do much of ANYTHING.  That illustrates why I have the calendar in the first place-if I don’t write it down, it didn’t happen since I will never again think of it without seeing pictures.  Since not much happened those days, there aren’t many pictures to show :/ Correction, there are NO pictures.

The movies We saw came recommended by some Aussies…one, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, is a movie that apparently everyone, but me, has seen.  I had never even heard of it until it was brought into the house!  How do I love the gays and I’ve never.even.heardofit???  Needless to say, I loved it and it is now one of my faves.  The only thing I still can’t get over is every time I saw the guy from the Matrix (Hugo Weaving) I thought to myself “MISTER Andersonnn”.  Enjoy the trailer for a moment, shall we?

We then watched “The Loved Ones”…it was a pretty awesome, yet totally creepy wtf movie.  I highly suggest watching it.  Now.  Yes, right now.  In case you are in doubt, feast your eyes on this trailer as well 🙂

One morning, Our breakfast was a trip to a chinese seafood restaurant with an interesting way of doing things.  You walk in and sit down and a swarm of asian wait staff comes around carrying dishes showing them to you and asking if you want it.  If you decide to take one, they mark on a sheet of paper that is left with you and somehow ends up being your bill.  There is a lazy susan in the middle of the table so that everyone can reach all the food, and the staff never stops coming.  There must have been 20 of them just making rounds of the restaurant.  Its damn near impossible to stand up or move around once you have chosen your seat and don’t ask questions because they don’t speak english 🙂  it is like christmas in that you don’t really  know what you are about to get unless you are well versed in chinese seafood, and it isn’t always what you wanted or thought it would be.  We were lucky enough to not choose anything that needed to be spat out, and We were in a group of 5 so We all tried quite a few things and ended up only paying around 13$ per person (which is fricking fabulous in Australia, land of expenses).

Another day, We went to Chinatown, which was slightly disappointing…We walked around for about 15 minutes and decided it just wasn’t what We hoped it would be after being to Chinatown in a few other places.  No shop stalls selling textiles and trinkets, just storefront shops and tons of cooked food.  After meandering through “Chineseland”, as Cali says, We saw a sign that said “$3 drinks, all the time” and that caught Our attention!  We climbed the stairs to the Bar Century (the link is purely for the picture, I don’t agree with the review :/) and found a darkish place to sit with large windows overlooking the street and true to the sign, $3 drinks.  Several liquor/mixer choices and all the beers on tap…decisions, decisions.  We hung out there for a while watching the people on the street and then decided to get back on the train and go “home”.

There was a day when Cali decided to head into the city alone to read and explore while I stayed and cleaned up the kitchen in the house…you can take the domesticated chick out of a house to keep, but you can’t keep her from cleaning whatever house she stays at!!  When He came several hours later, He returned bearing gifts!!  The day before when We were out looking for Chinatown, We passed a place called Pie Face that caused me to drool simply by seeing the sign.  He ducked in there to try (another) meat pie and was nice enough to bring me 3 miniature pies.  (Seriously?? Yes.) He brought me a cherry, a pear, and a chocolate and I was in.heaven.  They were delicious!  Well, the pear one, not so much, but the chocolate one especially was divine.

Just above, I mentioned that Cali had gone in to Pie Face to try another meat pie…Since arriving in Australia, We (mostly He) has ventured in to the land of savory pies.  Now, a difference has been discovered between so-called meat pies and steak pies.  “Meat” pies, are gross. “Steak” pies are delicious.  I don’t know what it is about the “meat” pies that makes them so terrible, but they just are.  So bad that there has been major hesitance to try new pies.  Thankfully, We discovered the meat vs steak thing and have been pleasantly surprised by almost every pie from every place since then.  Who are these people who eat those gross pies and LIKE them?  They must be out there…the meat variety are far more common than the steak ones :/  Go out into your supermarket and decide for yourself (if you can find them).

On Tuesday July 12th, We packed up Our things and left the Sydney house for The Blue Mountains and Katoomba camping.  Tent camping.  In zero degree weather.  What.the.hell. were We thinking?

Obviously We didn’t die, but did We temporarily deep freeze?

Stay tuned…

A walk along the beaches SOUTH of the bridge :)

Welcome back friends.  Bella, one of Our flatmates, graciously offered to take Us on a walk from Coogee to Bondi Beach and it was beautiful.  A couple hours walking and then a pub lunch that included some group architecture 🙂  There wasn’t much talking along the way and We didn’t do anything but ooh and ah.  One part of the walk went through the most amazing cemetary Ive ever seen…truly beautiful (for a cemetary).  A nap was needed after and before heading back to the city for a party at an abandoned puppet warehouse.  Yes, I said abandoned puppet warehouse 🙂  complete with a human joke machine, belly dancing and burlesque!  It was a going away party for a flatmates boyfriends friend (whew!) and again, We were graciously invited.  Our flatmates really were awesome.  Very pleasant and accommodating and full of great advice.  Here are the days photos:

Coogee
Swimming pools in the ocean? Yes.

Almost got got!
It was HUGE. Almost a shame that dead people have this view as opposed to the living. Almost.

Bondi Beach
Team effort, GO TEAM!
2 of Our flatmates, Bella and Shane. Sorry Shane 🙂
Think of this as a creepy 8 ball. Drop a ball in its mouth and ask a question and the ball ends up in a lane with a vague answer.
Human joke machine!

This was just creepy...

All in all, another great day.  Our adventures in Sydney would soon be over…

Stay tuned.