Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 7 (September 25th) - The Blue Mountains

The seventh day would be my last effective day in Sydney. As planned, the day was filled with a day tour. The tour guide speaks in Chinese, but it was rather okay since I can understand quite a bit of Chinese. At around 7am, my cousin took me to the place where the tour bus will pick me up, which is just across the street of Paddy's Market. There wasn't many people in the group, so there aren't a lot of waiting around involved in the day's trip. The first place we visited was the Featherdale Wildlife Park, located not far further than the suburb of Parramatta.

(The park entrance)
The park itself is not so big, but it packed quite a complete collection of Australian wildlife. The koalas are located near the entrance, along with some other species that I don't remember. Most of the koalas I saw there were sleeping, uniquely hugging the tree as they do. A quick check on Wikipedia tells me why most of them are sleeping: it's because koalas normally sleep 16 to 18 hours a day due to the slow metabolism rates.

(A koala sleeping on a tree)

(Each koala was given a name and its birth date noted)

Right after the koala area were the kangaroos (or rather, wallabies, because they're small with less than 1 meter in height). Tourists are allowed to feed them with the given food, which makes a good photo opportunity. However, the kangaroos look bored and sleepy, and some looks rather skinny as well. Well, maybe their lifes there are not that happy afterall.

(Me, feeding the kangaroo)

There are several other interesting animals there. One of them are the wombats, which like to live in tunnels in the rocks (and got pockets too!). Although it's not a polar region, penguins are also there.

(The wombat)

(The penguins)

(A beautiful bird, dunno what it is actually)

(A porcupine)

(I think this bird comes from Indonesia, the Peacock)

Done with the wildlife park, our journey continued towards the Blue Mountains. It was a nice highway headed to the mountains, which, unfortunately, have several segments under partial renovation as we passed by. The bus stopped for a while in the Fairmont resort (yes, Sydney got a Fairmont too!), while I took several photos on the way.

(In the highway)

(A peaceful residential area)

Being nearly an hour away from Sydney city, the area was not crowded, with many trees and a peaceful atmosphere. Maybe I would consider living here after retirement, a few decades later :D . Going further uphill, we arrived at the Scenic World, where we will be able to view the famous site, the three sisters.

(Wide view from the gondola)

(The Three Sisters, on the left)

We started there by riding a gondola which takes us through the valley, to the other hill across. The view during the ride was amazing, although not perfect due to the intense midday sunlight. I imagine coming here later in the afternoon would be a better opportunity to take photos.

(A bird, enjoying the scenic view too :P)

A ride downhill on a train follows after that, on what they claim to be the world's steepest railway. Quite true, on the steepest part, the slope is as steep as some 45 to 60 degrees.

(As it gets later in the afternoon, the sky gets better)

(The place was called the Katoomba Coal Mine)

(These signs along the trail explains about several things)

The next part of the scenic tour is not that interesting, as we follow a walk on a trail which seems to be part of a very old mining site. The ride back uphill is on a gondola, which is quite crowded, making it difficult to take photos. I had lunch in there before the journey continues.

(The main entrance to the Scenic World)

 The next, and last site to be visited for the day was the Jenolan Caves, which is located quite far away, further into the Blue Mountains area. It's basically a series of caves naturally formed due to water erosion on the limestone mountains. The experience is quite similar to the view inside the Wieliczka saltmine in Warsaw (which is, of course, made of salt crystals instead of limestones). In my opinion, the caves in Wieliczka looks better, as it has been modified with some arts, even have it's own so-called world's largest underground chapel. This is in contrast to the Jenolan caves, in which the condition inside is preserved to be in it's natural shape. Nonetheless, it has a great view inside.

(The ticket office)

(The signs in the caves' entrance)

We went into one of the cave accompanied by a guide provided. He told us that there are actually several caves in the area, and the one we entered is just one of them. In some part of the cave, the formation of stalagmite and stalactite is still ongoing, therefore we are told not to touch anything inside. There was a concrete walking trail built inside the cave to ensure the safety of the visitors. Lighting are also available, but photography inside is still difficult.

(A mild flash is needed to complement the available light)

(Some part have colored lighting)

(Railings keeps the visitors and the cave safe)

Although my Nikkor 50mm f1.8 lens is supposed to help with the dim lighting, it was not useful since the caves have quite limited room such that a wide angle lens is needed. For the whole cave experience, I used the Tokina 12-24mm lens. The wide angle helps in minimizing the camera shake (remember the 1/zoom shutter rule? :P), while packing most of the thing into the frame.

(A tiny stalagmite)

(Without flash, it's rather hard to shoot inside)

(Some of the stones form some interesting shapes)

(This one looks like a dinosaur's head)

(The ceiling, with a lot of stalactite)

(Some of the ceilings are narrow cracks in the rocks)

(There are some tiny caves too)

After around an hour inside, finally the tour ended in another end of the cave. It's nice to finally have some fresh air after a long time inside.

(The entrance area is quite unique too)

(The way out)

The journey back to Sydney is rather long at around 3 hours. On the way I took some more photos of the countryside, some of them turned out to be great.

(A farmhouse, I guess)

(Another quiet view)

The day tour ended as I hop off the bus in Strathfield, where my uncle, auntie, and cousin picked me up. Quite a memorable day of travel, I think.

Continue to Day 8

-Andrian Kurniady

(All photos are copyrighted, please ask for permission before reproducing)