Hello! We’re still alive and well, just now finally getting back to some updates for the blog. Despite what the posts might indicate we have been quite a few places in the last 5 months and are actually back in Australia – but more on that later. In this weekly post we are wrapping up our time in Queensland before heading to Sydney!
Day 36 – It was both our first chances to sleep in since boarding the boat so we set the alarms for 8:30! Brayden had to get back to Cairns to visit with his aunt and uncle so we quickly packed our things and headed out to Flagstaff Hill lookout for a great view of Port Douglas and the bay before heading on our way. They dropped us off at our Airbnb and being the amazing kiwis we’d come to know, they invited us to stay with them while we were exploring Sydney. They even offered to pick us up from the airport – yup, they’re that great! Once inside we quickly settled and began to take advantage that we had a good internet connection. The Airbnb host, who we never ended up meeting, is a self proclaimed nerd which was awesome for us as it meant we could make calls to family and update our blog. For dinner we went and bought food to make our own nachos, too dis-enchanted with our track record of finding decent Mexican food, but with a twist… kangaroo meat. They turned out surprisingly well for how gamey tasting Kangaroo is, but in the flip side it’s also very lean and high in protein – we were told a lot of people eat it to bulk up after working out, whatever that is…
Day 37– We had most of the day free before our flight left so we booked a tour to Kuranda, a small hippy town in the jungle not far from Cairns. The tour included transportation to the Kuranda scenic railway which was originally built when they were mining the cliffs in the jungle, back in 1905 and later used to ferry troops and supplies back and forth during WWII. To get back from Kuranda we were given tickets for the SkyTram which is, as you guessed, a tram riding along the canopy of the rainforest below – definitely a cool view of the jungle! We had 3 hours to explore Kuranda before needing to catch the SkyTram back down which would give us just enough time to make it to town to grab and Uber to the airport. We started with a “trek” around the town and along the river, it was easy but at the same time I feared at any moment we would see a crocodile, poisonous spider, or worse a snake. Fortunately, and oddly enough to Malcolm’s disappointment, we only saw a few birds and geckos. We then explored the hippy markets that make Kuranda so interesting before sitting down for really tasty brats and German beer. As we arrived to the entrance for the SkyTram we could tell something was wrong as there was a large queue of people and no one boarding. This wasn’t great for us as we had a pretty specific and tight schedule to keep to in order to make our flight on time. Fortunately the electromagnetic thunderstorm passed relatively quickly and before we knew it we were on our way and snapping lots of pictures of the jungle canopy from the tram. We made it into town and grabbed an Uber right away making it to the airport with 30 minutes to spare! After a slow boarding process, definitely the worst we had experienced up till that point (passengers, not flight crew), we were on our way with beautiful sunset views as we left Cairns. Brayden and Tess picked us up from the airport and we drove through torrential downpour to their place in Manly, a suburb just North of Sydney and home to the famous Manly Beach, and headed straight to sleep!
Day 38 – Being Friday both Tess and Brayden had to work so we headed into downtown Sydney for the day to explore. We of course hit up the Sydney Opera House and took pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from afar. We then meandered the cobbled streets of the Rock neighborhood which is just across from the Opera House. There happened to be a small outdoor street market with several food vendors so we grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and sat down to eat with the Opera House right in front of us. The terrible weather Sydney was having, which we were trying to escape, caught up with us again and forced us to find shelter which ended up being a great café simply called The Good Food Store. Jess got another famed white bean latte and Malcolm had their cold brew which was served with some fresh herbs and an orange slices – definitely something new. We then took the ferry from downtown Sydney to Manly Beach which gave us a great view of the city and neighborhoods on its way through the many bays that make up Sydney Harbor. After walking back to Tess and Brayden’s place, a great way to see the Manly Vale area, we began contemplating where to eat for dinner. Brayden was feeling under the weather, probably something he caught something on the plane, so we deferred to Tess and headed out to grab some Japanese from one of her favorite spots, Tamagawa Japanese Restaurant. It had great reviews and was obviously popular due to the number of people coming through for takeaway or dining in, but not everyone’s experience can be great. We must have caught them on a bad night because we waited 75 minutes for a simple to-go order while we watched several tables, enjoying full dinner’s, come and go around us. When we asked about our order, 60min after placing it, they waited 10min to come back and tell us that it would be up shortly and offered no explanation or apology – a big fail on the customer service part but to make things even worse, the food wasn’t even that great. Suppose you can’t win em all. At least Brayden had a fridge stocked full of unique beers from the brewery he works at and thus we were able to get through dinner!
Day 39 – Malcolm needed to continue his Comrades training so woke up and went on a run out along Manly Beach. Jess turned around at mile 3 to get in a solid 6 miles and Malcolm continued to run along the bays and through the neighborhoods before circling back for a total of 17.5 miles though he was planning on 20. The combination of a hilly route with minimal trail markings, rough terrain, and a beating sun in high humidity made it the toughest run since his marathon in NZ. After we were all showered and Malcolm rehydrated, we headed to Brayden’s brewery, Nomad, to enjoy some post run beers and chicken wings from a food truck they were hosting. Part of our order wasn’t able to be fulfilled so they gave us an ice cream sandwich in return. Tess had NEVER experienced this delicious American contribution to the world of must have deserts so we made her eat most of it! Brayden, still not feeling well, ended up heading home while the 3 of us stayed behind and closed the brewery down. On the way home, Brayden kindly brought us to KFC, at our request – it was our first big chain fast food in a long time and it was delicious.
Day 40 – Needing to sleep in a bit we got a slow start out to Hunter Valley, which both Brayden and Tess had raved about, for some cheese and wine tasting. Due to our late start and the unexpected 2.5 hour drive to get there we only had time for a rush through 3 wineries and one cheese tasting but it was a beautiful drive and we were happy to explore a new region. Once back home Brayden had made a delicious dinner of pulled pork and couscous which we devoured with the bread, cheese, and wine we had acquired earlier that day.
Day 41 – Brayden, still under the weather, called in sick and Tess had to study so we decided to spend a nice day at the beach, but not before another humid, sunny run! Jess ran another 6 miles and Malcolm ran 11.5 miles around a nearby watershed/dam – again on rough terrain with no real trail markings, all while having to keep an eye out for spider webs spanning nearly 30ft in some areas and still keeping eyes on the ground for brown snakes and rock hazards. Once home we quickly showered and headed for Freshwater Beach by Uber – it was 80 degrees and clear clear blue skies – a perfect beach day. It also happened to be our first real beach day which was a bit odd as Australia is famous for beaches and we had already been in the country for several weeks. We enjoyed playing in the surf break, catching big waves and body surfing in before relaxing with some more Nomad beers It was really fun, the waves were pretty big and the water got deep fast so we had some great runs. After several hours at the beach we headed back to their place to clean up for dinner. We wanted to repay our host and friend’s immense kindness so we finally found a time where everyone was healthy and free to go out to a nice dinner. We went to Mia’s, a different and this time delicious, Japanese place that they recommended to enjoy a great meal and time together.
Day 42 – We had heard from quite a few people that we must not leave Sydney without a visit to the Blue Mountains. So, with one full day left, we woke up early and caught a 7:20a bus to downtown Sydney and then a 2 hour train to the town of Katoomba, the main base for exploring the Blue Mountains. On our way there we watched with sad faces as a very thick fog rolled in, fog that absolutely was not in the weather forecast. We were hoping it would soon dissipate under the strong Australian sun but sadly, even after a glimpse of a few hopeful sun rays, it did not. While trying to wait out the fog we grabbed an early lunch/late breakfast of fresh deli sandwiches from Hominy Bakery and coffee from Elephant Bean Café, both of which were excellent. Determined to make the most of the day we proceeded to get trolley tickets which would take us around to see the sights. We made our first stop at Echo Point which is one of the main viewing platforms for enjoying the scale and depth of the Blue Mountains, which get their name from the eucalyptus mist rising from the trees. However, with the thick fog everywhere around us, we couldn’t see a single thing. Again, not wanting to waste the day and travel time, we stuck to our plan and proceeded to walk the valley trek from Echo Point to Scenic World. The trek went down hundreds of stairs, called the Great Staircase, built in 1904, before flattening out around the forest edge at the base of the massive rock cliffs we just walked down from. It was a short walk, 5km of beautiful waterfalls, large rock overhangs, and expansive rainforest views (we were now mostly below the dense fog from above). After climbing a bunch of stairs carved into the rock wall just beneath Scenic World, we jumped back on the trolley and cruised around the town listening to the history of everything from our very entertaining trolley driver. We realized we didn’t have enough time to get off at the stops because the bus only looped back around every hour and the train schedule was hourly as well and had another dinner reservation. to get back to. It worked out fine as the fog remained and there wasn’t much to see that weren’t shops or tourist traps. We hopped on the train back to Sydney and met up with Tess and Brayden for an all-you-can-eat spaetzle dinner at Das Brewhaus. It was delicious and we definitely got our monies worth. On our way we stopped by Nomad Brewery, this time with Brayden, to get a quick tour of the place and what he does on a weekly basis. The man absolutely knows his stuff.