Australia is a far more beautiful than I ever gave it credit for, or at least the coastal area of New South Whales is (but I’m told the rest is equally gorgeous). There are clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, striking sand stone formations, and the lush forests of the Blue Mountains framed by the massive cliffs of the Australian Grand Canyon. On top of this the summer weather is idyllic. I always thought Australia would be more like the United States: expansive stretches of blasé landscape and marshy or rocky coastline, punctuated occasionally by magnificent features, like our Grand Canyon, the Sierras, or the white sand beaches of western Florida. But if there is an area in Australia with nothing to see, we haven’t been there.
Thanks to our gracious hosts and friends here, we’ve been able to survey a wide variety of the landscape. Simon drove us to the Blue Mountains about 2 hours drive west of Sydney. We visited the town of Katoomba which sits perched atop a significant cliff, below which lush green foliage, reminiscent of that of the Olympic Peninsula, stretches to the foothills of distant ridges and mountain ranges. If one were to venture beyond the visitors center, massive staircases cut into the cliff, and well marked trails, to which we confined ourselves, they would find miles of pristine wilderness. After riding the breathtakingly steep cable car back to the top, we made our way to the North, just short of the town of Blackheath. There, at the end of a long, rough dirt road, we enjoyed a view of the expansive Australian Grand Canyon. The canyon is 600 meters from rim to floor, with a sheer cliff at its rim reaching 250 meters at its most extreme. It not a little resembles the American canyon of the same name, with it’s colorful sand stone faces, just save the arid slopes that line the base. We’ve resolved to return the region fully equipped for a multiday backcountry hike the next time we make our way to Sydney.
The following week, our "cousins" Shaun and Deborah drove us north of Sydney to do some beach driving and surfing at a remote beach called Birubi. The beach was nearly deserted, and the break completely devoid of other surfers. The waves were okay at best, but we definitely got some good rides. I saw Jen get one of the best rides of the day on a seemingly endless left hander, which she deftly caught backside. Unfortunately we missed the photo op. After an hour or two of surfing we continued North to Nelson’s Bay, a pristine boating spot, lined with beautiful beaches sporting warm clear blue water, but little in terms of surfing waves, although apparently on big swells the region features some of the better spots thanks to its sheltered nature. We had BBQ for lunch before making our way to one of the ocean side beaches where I did some body surfing while Jen took a long walk looking for shells.
And lest my meager descriptions here fail to persuade, let me say that throughout all of our drives through the skipped over and unexplored landscape we have been repeatedly stunned by its beauty. What we’ve seen is merely a smattering of places within a short distance from Sydney. There is so much to see here, that surely one could spend a lifetime exploring this continent and not begin to scratch the surface, nor cease to be in awe of it. If you don’t believe me, I guess you just have to visit yourself. Just remember, you can’t allot too much time to explore and experience Oz.