Blue Mountains (which are kind of more like hills), are a mountainous region near Sydney. It’s considered to be a must-see in the Sydney area, so Amanda booked us a tour with Oz Trails. They picked us up at our hotel, and we met our bus driver/tour guide Dave, who grew up in the Blue Mountains area. On the way out of town, we made a brief stop at the Sydney Olympic Park, which was cool to see. Apparently they deliberately built the park with very little parking to encourage people to use public transportation, which is why there was a lot less congestion there than other Olympic sites. After that stop and another quick stop at the Nepean River to pay, we were off. Dave gave us a pretty good summary of the history of the ‘discovery’ of Australia (most of which I promptly forgot), and then we entered a camping area that is known to have wild kangaroos that don’t have a lot of fear of humans. We were driving slowly around, when Dave suddenly stopped in a parking lot and pointed out to a grassy area where there was a small group (‘mob’) of kangaroos! There were a few adult kangaroos lounging around, but the highlight was a little joey and his mother. They let us get surprisingly close (probably < 50 feet), which is unusual for kangaroos, but the ones in this park are used to being around campers, so they don't have a lot of fear of humans. Earlier in the day I was debating whether I needed to bring my bazooka lens (the 70-200), but being able to take closeup pics of the joey convinced me it was the right decision to bring it.
Three Sisters, rock formation. Dave told us the Dreamtime story of the Three Sisters (three daughters of a shaman who turns them into stone to prevent Bad Things from happening to them), but according to Wikipedia, the story was actually invented in the 1920s, so who knows. I mean, if I read it on the Internet, it must be true, right? From there we visited the terribly-named Scenic World, where we took a cable car down into the valley and took a walk through the rainforest. Dave told us to keep an eye out for the lyre bird, which you see sometimes. While we were walking, Amanda and I hung back and I spotted one scratching at the forest floor, and pointed it out to Amanda. About a minute later, one of the other kids in the group saw it, and called out to Dave, who doled out congratulations for spotting it. I’m still bitter about that one. We also learned about the mining history of the valley, and Dave told us a very cute story about how his parents once got trapped in the valley and had to climb out using the slats of the railway tracks. To get out of the valley, we used that very railway, which was really steep, and a lot scarier than I was expecting. I didn’t take any pictures while we were on it because 1) I was afraid I’d drop my camera, and 2) Amanda had my arm in a death grip while repeating, “I don’t like this…” Fortunately, we made it to the top in one piece, where we were greeted by some beautiful parrots and cockatoos. Dave got us bird seed to feed them, and twice, a particularly enthusiastic parrot landed on my head. (No pictures, unfortunately.)
Our last stop of the day was to see an Aboriginal kangaroo carving. It was kind of odd because it was basically in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Dave told us he initially had some doubts about the authenticity of the carving (when he was a kid, he and his friends made fake ‘convict graves’ in their neighborhood, which later got reported on the news as authentic), but based on the relatively accurate anatomy of the kangaroo, he’s now convinced it’s real. After this, Dave dropped us off at the Sydney Olympic Park ferry stop, where we took one of the Sydney ferries down the Parramatta River back to Circular Quay. On the way home we passed by some of the Vivid Sydney light exhibits, but decided to come back the next night because we were freezing. Next day: Taronga Zoo!