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The Australian Adventures: Week One
We arrived in Sydney on Friday evening after flying all day. We flew with Qantas from Los Angeles to Sydney, and they tried very hard to make the fourteen hour flight pass quickly. I ended up watching two full movies and many television shows on their "in-flight entertainment system" and enjoyed the numerous snacks and meals they provided. Despite these attempts at distraction, we were still very glad to get off the plane. After an anti-climatic pass through immigrations and customs, Jesse (the girl who is my age), Lucy (one year older than Kirsten), and Polly (their mother) greeted us enthusiastically, and we drove to their home in a northern suburb of Sydney. The first immediate cultural difference was that everyone here drives on the left side of the road. Also, although it is winter here, the trees are all in full leaf, and we passed by numerous tropical plants like palm trees.
The next day, after a nice snooze and tour of the house, we all went shopping, as Jesse needed a birthday present for her friend. The shopping center (or "centre") was, surprise!, very much like any other mall in America. I got a taste of Australian winter weather, though, which was blustery and somewhat chilly. From our driving that day I got a feel for the suburbs- the houses are all almost uniformly stone or brick with tile roofs, and there are designated "bush" preserves were eucalyptus trees and other Australian flora and fauna are allowed to grow naturally. The Andresen's house actually sits right by one of these preserves. That evening I went with Jesse to her friend's birthday party, and was introduced to a lot of her friends there. It was very odd being the only American and the only one with a different accent, but they were all nice people and we ended up staying the night.
The next day was spent very tired from the sleepover and still jetlagged, but, nonetheless, Jesse and I took the train to downtown Sydney to attend a high tea at a fancy Swiss hotel put on by the Darcy Society, a Jane Austen enthusiasts group Jesse belongs to at her university. We had lots of fancy food, and I met a few more of Jesse's friends. We took the train back home that evening, had dinner with Jesse's boyfriend Hamish, and slept for a very long time.
On Monday Jesse had to work, so I went with Kirsten, Lucy, Polly, Harry (younger brother), and David (father) to the seashore, about an hour's drive to the northeast. It was low tide, so we explored lots of tide pools and rocky formations left uncovered by the ocean's retreat. There were lots of beautiful shells, and I even managed to find one for Choo-Choo (my hermit crab). At the end we went into the very cold ocean and I enjoyed the largest waves of my life, and was even "dunked" by one, meaning it managed to flip me over and press my face into the sand as I struggled to regain my footing. We had fish and chips after going in the ocean and drove back home.
On Tuesday we drove to the Blue Mountains, a range of mountains (more like large hills, actually) to the west of Sydney. We passed by small villages and drove deeper into the wilderness, eventually driving down into a steep valley and onto a snaking gravel road to reach a small cabin owned by family friends. The cabin was heated by a wooden oven and powered by solar energy during the day. The sun was setting by the time we got there, so we stayed in that night, cooking dinner and playing card games.
The next morning, after the rain cleared, we went on a day-long hike to a glow worm tunnel in a national forest preserve a few minute's drive from the cabin. The hike went up one of the hills/mountains and led us to an old railroad tunnel covered in glow worms. The view from the top was spectacular, and looked down on the cow pastures, eucalyptus forests, hills, and beautiful sandstone cliffs that make up the Blue Mountains.
Our last day in the mountains, yesterday, it rained the whole time, so we stayed inside and played many rounds of Set and Boggle. We left yesterday afternoon through the mud and arrived safely back in Sydney last night. Today we are going to go sight-seeing in the city and this evening I'm going to a concert by Kate Miller-Heidke, an Australian singer, with Jesse.