22 August 2009

I've Got the Zig Zag Blues!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Okay, so we didn't leave by our appointed hour of 8 AM (guess who held up the works…) but by 8:30 we were off, straight into rush hour Sydney traffic.  Today our travels would take us to the Blue Mountains of Australia, just a bit west of Sydney.  On our agenda – stops at Leure for breakfast at the gourmet deli where Jenny's son, Peter, is a chef; at Katoomba to see the famous Three Sisters; at Blackheath for pies (aka pasties for some of you, the rest of you I have no idea what to call them!); and at Lithgow to ride the ZigZag train with facebook friend and digital diva Amy Taylor.   We also planned to rendezvous with Janene Waldrop and Carolyn Roots along the way.  All this in a day!

The Blue Mountains remind me of the Blue Ridge Mountains – gently sloping mountains covered in green trees, and often covered by a blue haze or blanketed in fog.  True to form (for us, anyway), it was another perfect day!  The little towns reminded me of our wonderful time in Asheville – lots of artists, craftsmen, and good places to eat and shop, all a world away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.  We got to Leure around 10:45 and quickly found the Gourmet Deli (if it has another name, I'm not sure what it is)  This is a fantastic restaurant and takeaway (to go) place perched on the side of a hill overlooking the valley below (though you wouldn't know that from entering from the street!).  Sadly, Peter wasn't working today, but the chefs who were did a fine job!  I had a baby spinach, mushroom, and feta omelet with bacon, Rex had scrambled eggs and bacon, and Shelley had the vegetarian breakfast.  Rex also had fresh squeezed (pressed?) apple juice and Shelley and I had hot chocolate with chili and cinnamon.  Man, was it tasty!!  We saw lots of 'slices' available for takeaway, but we restrained ourselves.  Oh, and I have to say that the tomahto 'sauce' (not ketchup, almost more like a barbeque sauce) they served with our eggs was to die for.  I may have to find a way to get some.  Jenny, do you have any at your house???  A quick trip to the Candy Shop rounded out our stop (we didn't get anything there, either, but it was fun to look!) at Leure.

By noon, we were at Honeymoon Overlook, seeing what's called the Grand Canyon of Australia.  Not quite THE Grand Canyon, but it beats the Grand Canyons of both PA and VT.  At Katoomba, Shelley made us promise not to look at the Three Sisters until we were all the way out to the overlook.  Rex cheated.  According to the Aboriginal dream-time legend, the three sisters were beautiful women who had fallen in love with three brothers from a tribe that they were forbidden to marry into.  The brothers decided to use force to capture the sisters, so a witch doctor turned them to stone to protect them.  Although he intended to reverse the spell after the battle, the witch doctor was killed.  The three sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation to remind future generations of the battle.  And so there you have it!

From the overlook, we went up to Scenic World, where we took the steepest incline railway in the world down the mountain to the site of the old Katoomba mining (coal) company.  There was a great boardwalk with entertaining and educational displays lining it.  The scenery was unbelievable!  Tall, tall trees and lots of ferns – it was so calm and green down there.  We rode the cable car back up the hill, and then from there we were off to Blackheath and our meat pies, even though we were not even hungry!  As it happened, Carolyn was not able to meet us and we were running so late (we had a train to catch!) that we didn't get to see Janene, either.  According to Shelley, the best meat pies in the mountains are made in the pub at the Ivanhoe Hotel, so we were there.  The special young man at the counter took our order for three beef pies and then let us know there was only one left after our order.  Lucky us!  Oops, spoke to soon.  There was only ONE beef pie left.  Other choices – chicken and mushroom or steak and kidney.  I was praying that the chicken had been a slow seller!  We were in luck, and quick as a wink, we left the pub with one beef and two chicken & mushroom pies, hot, hot, hot, which we would eat at some point when we got hungry.

Next stop, Lithgow and the Zig Zag railroad, where we would meet Amy and her three adorable children.  We only got a little lost, and we got there in plenty of time to catch the train.  The Zig Zag train is a coal burning steam locomotive that makes the trip from the Clarence station to Top Points to Bottom Points and back to Clarence.  It goes through two tunnels (one really long and VERY dark one) and over three viaducts.  It is called Zig Zag because it goes down for a while in one direction, then the engine switches from one end of the train to the other and it goes down some more in the other direction, and then it does that again.  Amy's boys were so knowledgeable about the train – it was fun to have them to educate us!  And Miss V is every bit as precious in real life as she is in photos – never a peep of protest out of her!  The highlight of the trip, other than meeting Amy and kids, was that we got to ride in the engine on one of its switches.  That was so much fun and we felt so special!

All too soon our ride was over, and it was time to drive back to Sydney.  I'm not sure how Shelley did it – I was dozing off and on all the way home, worn out!  We stopped at a McDonald's somewhere along the way and Rex and I got a frozen Coke (next best thing to ice…) and Shelley got a coffee.  Oh, and we ate our still warm pies on the train – they were beyond good!  By the time we got home, we were all beat, but since we didn't have a place to stay in Cairns or in the Whitsundays, Rex and Shelley got online and made some arrangements, then Rex wisely packed and went to bed.  I stayed up and played with my photos. 

It will be sad to say farewell to Shelley and Keith for a few weeks, but we are excited to be flying north to Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest.  Even though I knew 6 AM would come early, I didn't roll into bed until one and I still hadn't packed.  Imagine my surprise when my phone rang at 2 something - I thought it was my alarm and I got up to get ready, then the phone rang again.  It was someone from Paducah who wanted to talk to me about Mom's house.  Go figure – no bites since we put it on the market in March, and someone calls me in Australia!  Then a couple of hours later, Rex's alarm (which should have been set for the next afternoon, but oddly enough was still on Eastern time…) went off to remind him to call someone about our rainforest tour.  Needless to say, it was not a restful night!  But planes are for sleeping, right?

Singing the Blues,


No comments: