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Jen and Dan
Roadtrip Through Oz

Bushfires, Shiraz, and Harry Potter

Tuesday - 3 Dec 2002
Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains - Australia


On Tuesday Dec 3 we left Byron Bay early in the morning and headed to Hunter Valley, the wine capital of New South Whales. The drive was long and uneventful. We arrived in Hunter Valley around 6pm and got a room in a nice motel right in the centre of town. We found this peaceful restaurant right in the centre of the wineries area and had an excellent dinner (and of course some home grown wine).


The next morning we went to the visitor centre to get information about the wineries and to find out about the Blue Mountains. We found out about a B&B that had a good special on during the week and we decided to try it for a night. We checked out of the motel and headed to Soverign Hill, which was a B&B on the top of a small hill, overlooking a vinyard. A really sweet couple owned the B&B and the vinyard below. The place was amazing. It had a really great room, a pool and a tennis court. We checked in, dropped off our stuff and then headed into town to try the best of the Australian wines. Our first stop was a wine & cheese company and we managed to get a small tour of the cheese factory (and of course some samples). Afterwards we drove around to a few of the wineries, including Lindemans and Hardy's. We met two guys from the UK (Jonathan & Joseph) who happened to be doing the same thing as us, so we ended up spending the day together.


While the touring was great, there was a big concern in town because of the many bushfires that were burning out of control around the area. Early in the afternoon the power in most places went down and we had to sample wine under emmergency lighting. Smoke could be seen throughout the town all day. While no one seemed to be too concerned, it was scary to see the smoke (and fire) that close. Eventually we headed back to our place only to find out that the power (and water) were out. The owners politely suggested that we would be more comfortable somewhere else, since the fire was extremely close and had already burnt through the back fence and 100 acres of their neighbour's place. We took their suggestion and found another B&B not far away. It turned out to be a great place (a huge luxury cabin all to ourselves) but it lacked some of the charm of the other place. We cooked ourselves a steak dinner and sadly watched the fires burn from the livingroom window. We nervously slept that night, waking up a few times to check on the progress of the fires.


The next morning we packed up and checked out. It turned out that the owners of Soverign Hill had spent the whole night helping to put out fires with their neighbours. Luckily their place had not been damaged. We headed to the Blue Mountains by an eastern highway, since our first choice route had been overtaken by fire during the night. We had thought that the Blue Mountains had escaped the fires, but it turned out that the dry ground and high winds had led to the fires also reaching that area. As a result all the hiking trails were closed until further notice. We were disappointed but decided to stay in the city of Katoomba anyway and see what we could. We checked into a small hostel and headed out to see the Jamison Valley and the magnificent Three Sisters rock formation. We climbed down the Grand Stairway into the Jamison Valley (600 stairs) and went for a 2.5km hike to the bottom of the cliff. Luckily this path was not closed. We eventually reached the bottom of the scenic railway and, since we were exhausted we took the railcar up to the top. The railcar is the steepest in the world and climbs backwards at a 45 degree angle. It was a neat experience and worth the trip. From the top we headed back to our car (2.5km) and stopped along the way at a few lookout points to take in the view of the valley. We went back to our place and met up with Jonathan and Joseph from Hunter Valley. Jen and I made ourselves dinner and sat and talked with our new friends. At around 7pm the power went out across the town. We went out to the balcony and could see the smoke clouds coming from the West. We all kept each other company and decided to play Monopoly by candlelight. Dan and Joseph got right into the game and stayed up until 2:30am passing go and collecting $200 (sadly Dan lost).


When we woke up the next morning the power was still out. Since the hiking trails were still closed, we headed out to the Jenolan Caves, which are about 90 minutes from Katoomba. We took a fellow Canadian, Angus, who was from Dundas and had gone to the same high school as Jen. While the drive was fine, we did see the remnants of the fire along the road that had passed through the area the day before. We purchased tickets to see 2 caves, the Orient and the Chifley and both turned out to be spectacular. The stalagtite, stalagmite, and crystal took millions of years to form and were really impressive to see. A guide took us through the caves and helped to point out the interesting facts. At 4:30pm we headed back to our place and luckily the power had come back on. We enjoyed a simple dinner (noodle soup in a can) and decided to treat ourselves with a night at the movies, along with 6 other people from the hostel. We caught the 9pm showing of Harry Potter and enjoyed our first movie theatre showing in over 3 months.


The next day we got up early and headed back to Sydney. We checked into a hostel near the bus station and sadly, returned our car. We had clocked just over 5000km of driving in 3 weeks. Afterwards we walked around the King's Cross area and then headed to the bus station to buy our bus tickets for the following evening. Later we went to see the Sydney Aquarium which was really well done. There were a number of large, underwater tanks that held fish from all over Australia. We ended our visit to the aquarium by sitting for 30 minutes and watching the fish go by (see the picture) while classical music was played in the background. We spent our last evening in Sydney eating pizza and watching some tv. The next day we dropped our bags off at the bus station and did some e-mail. We made our way down to the circular quay and caught a ferry to Manly Beach, which is in Northern Sydney. Manly beach was fun, but very, very busy. It was hard to find a spot on the beach, but eventually we managed and ended up spending an hour in the sand, reading our books. We caught the 5pm ferry back to Sydney harbour and made our way to the bus station. At 7pm we said goodbye to Sydney and took the overnight bus to Melbourne.

Jen joins the Byron Bay circus
The Preston Resort in Melbourne
  Jen and Dan - Bio and Journals
  Roadtrip Through Oz - Intro Average Rating of 13 Viewers
Chapters of Roadtrip Through Oz
  A view from Sydney
  The Koalas of Yeppoon
  Below the Ocean in the Great Barrier Reef
  Off Roading On Fraser Island
  Bushwalking through the Rainforest
  Jen joins the Byron Bay circus
  Bushfires, Shiraz, and Harry Potter
  The Preston Resort in Melbourne

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