Oz, Final Day: The Blue Mountains

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July 21, 2010 by 8junebugs

Let’s try something different:

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On our last day, we took the train to meet Sportik and Kristie for a day in the Blue Mountains. This was probably the one thing on Graham’s must-do list for Australia, as he likes really old rocks. As old rocks go, we weren’t really on the right side of the country for a full tour…so we’ll just have to go back.

It was a gorgeous, crisp fall day requiring several layers of clothing. We spent a while up by the Three Sisters, where we found little information about the Three Sisters in general — the tourist stuff just said they were “important to Aborigines.” What Wikipedia says:

The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.[1]

However, Dr Martin Thomas, in his work “The artificial horizon: imagining the Blue Mountains”[2], clearly shows that the “aboriginal” legend is a fabrication created by a non-Aboriginal local Katoomba identity, Mel Ward, presumably to add interest to a local landmark. The story originated in the late 1920s or early 1930s and is unknown prior to that date.

The Aboriginal traditional owners, the Gundungurra, have a legend that includes the Sisters rock formation. They are currently developing a website which will include these traditional stories.

They’re stunning, that’s for sure. I definitely want to hear the real legends, though… I was gripped by the bit of Bill Bryson’s book that covered, sort of, relations between Aborigines and everyone else. It’s on my list of “Things I want to know more about.”

After a stroll around the lookout and a picnic on a giant square bench, we checked out Katoomba proper. The ladies took us to a cute little chocolate shop, and we grabbed a drink at the Carrington Hotel, which is a drastic contrast to the mountain town it sits in. Katoomba reminded me a little of Vermont with its eclectic little shops and cafes and relaxed atmosphere. Carrington Hotel is of elegant, old-fashioned British design. The juxtaposition is jarring and reminded me that Australia remains connected to the British monarchy, even though it has full independence and governs itself.

While in Katoomba, I bought a copy of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which had not yet been released in the States. It was a difference of MAYBE a week, but I did it. Because I could.

Kristie’s sister lives not far from Katoomba, and she and her kids graciously hosted us for the afternoon, complete with cake and coffee. Her oldest, Tim, told us about the kinds of spiders and birds and other critters they typically find in their yard. While we were there, the skies finally opened up and we watched hail bounce off the deck. This, we learned, was Sportik’s fault. It always storms when she goes to the mountains. This time, it was just more conveniently scheduled.

After a stop back at Kristie and Sportik’s we headedback  into the city for a delicious dinner at a pub MUCH more hip than the one we’d been hitting by our hotel. The food was delicious, which no longer surprised me. We learned later what a small town Sydney really is — Kate, another American friend we’d met at the wedding and hung out with at the barbecue, was there at the same time, and we had no idea! But there was sport on the TV, so there was a lot of noise and distraction.

It was tough saying goodbye after dinner. The thing is, Sportik’s one of those friends that you don’t have to see every week to love. You don’t have to, but…you kind of want to. And it turns out she married another person with the same quality. That’s what hit me as we hugged her and Kristie — these are women you want to have around for a dinner party or a quick drink after work, and we had (and still have) no idea when we’ll see them again. It’ll be a couple of years, at least. That’s just…logic. They’re on the other side of the world, after all.

Boo. Thank god for Facebook and Skype, I guess.

Once back at the hotel, we began packing up so we wouldn’t have to race around in the morning. We had barely enough energy left to drink the wine we’d picked up in Katoomba, but we managed it.

(Next up: Duty-freeeeeee, Hawaii, and little Jack Tipton. A travel day doesn’t normally deserve a post of its own, but this one does.)

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