Thursday, March 01, 2007

En route to our hall in the Blue Mountains, we stopped for a couple hours in Katoomba. As always, Brad, Chris, and myself took off, realizing very quickly that this town had some sort of collective deficiency. We walked behind a man who would stop, say something to someone (who was clearly invisible) beside him, and continue on, sometimes shaking his head angrily. More than once he peered into an alley and started screaming into it. We followed from a safe distance. We passed a woman on the street whose eyes were glazed and mumbled something to Chris and then a ‘nevermind’. Another guy on the opposite side of the street was also loudly talking to noone and everyone in particular and turned and shushed Brad. Meanwhile, thunder was cracking in the distance, and we took a wrong turn down an alley, finding ourselves in Soviet Russia, with graffiti and sketchy loosely wired fence and no sign of life aside from a lone cat. And that’s when it started to pour.

We ran back, trying to reach the more populous Katoomba St, but the rain poured harder and we took shelter in a little canopy over a doorway. The rain intensified further and lightning was cracking and booming all around us, lightning and thunder arriving within less than a second of each other. It began to hail and blow all the harder, and I wondered aloud if Australia ever got tornadoes. It was a decent-sized canopy but with the wind, it wasn’t enough, and we all fought laughingly for a spot in the corner. We were getting wet no matter what. The maelstrom continued for about ten minutes before quieting and subsiding. We ventured out and back to the main street where water was cascading down the roadway at an impressive rate. A drought, you say?

We had a hot chocolate/coffee at a cafĂ© and met the others to do our grocery shopping before heading to The Edge. It’s an IMAX style film about the Blue Mountains, and wasn’t too bad actually. Really overdramatic, but still had its interesting pieces. Plus I love time-lapse photography. Right before the show, someone from another group rather rudely stood up and announced “Ladies and Gentlemen” as though addressing everyone in the theatre, then proceeded to ramble on about what his group would be doing for dinner, accommodation, and day-to-day life for the next week. It was somewhat amusing to me and I told Katie she should similarly apprise us of the coming days’ activities. She dared me to, and so when he finished, I got up and essentially gave a similar but abridged speech to our group. I didn’t really want to make fun of the guy, I just thought it would be funny to do it. The other group took it the way it was intended and the theatre burst into applause as I finished.

After a falafel dinner (by which point I was feeling worse than ever) we ventured to our residence. I was feeling a little off at this point, but nothing too serious. We all were set in the same room and I picked out a place near the fire that we never did get to lighting and settled in. We hung around for a while and a few of us watched some Family Guy on my laptop before I went to bed… really early. Bed wasn’t that comfortable, even with my camping mat. My pillow was too hard and so was the floor, but I did get a bit of sleep. The next morning I felt worse still, like I needed to empty my stomach from either end, but instead could do neither. We were supposed to go canyoning, which I’d had my heart set on, but because it had rained the night before, it was felt by our leaders that this was not a good idea. While I disagreed (rain is only dangerous when it starts pouring from nowhere, causing flash floods), I obviously wasn’t the one to call the shots, and anyway, we were still going to walk into another canyon. Which, I didn’t bother to point out, was equally dangerous, but at least it was something. The canyon itself was nice though the water moved pretty slowly and was kind of stagnant and rusty. Still, we had some fun and though my stomach ached a lot on the stairs up and out, it was worth it.

There seemed to be quite a few of us coming down with this stomach bug, so there weren’t many takers for our afternoon walk and ‘train’ through the Blue Mountains, but I did go anyway. That’s what I’m here for, after all. There was a massive and beautiful waterfall and we boys hopped the fence and fooled around in it and also looked out over the edge at a rather large and frightening drop before coming back to the path. We walked along some more and took what they claim (most likely accurately) to be the steepest rail on Earth. It was pulled up by a cable and was definitely a bit scary. We were probably looking down 70 degrees or so in parts, and we went through a crevasse in the mountain coming back up.

At the top, we looked out again at the Blue Mountains, which do look a bit blue, apparently from the vapour the eucalyptus trees give off. And, best of all, we ran into Chirs’ Scottish lass. What the odds are, I’m uncertain, but they were there and reunited in front of the group. We went back to our place and had dinner, which was pretty good. Chicken breasts, and beef/kangaroo mixed burgers. I’d not had lunch of anything as I had only a rumbly tummy and no appetite and wasn’t really hungry, but I managed to eat some fruit salad and chicken and try a couple bites of the burger. It was Dustin’s birthday, so some cake was brought out, but I didn’t have it in me to eat any. I played a bit of a game with Meridith where we would try to create expressions on our faces and take photos. I also finally started reading my book again, for the first time since coming overseas, and I did a few card tricks on Katie and Brad which I was happy to have work. We played a bit of cards too, and I laid around chatting with whoever might be unlucky enough to be in my vicinity before calling it a night. Tomorrow, we’re off camping in the Cascades and I add nausea to my list of symptoms: just in time for a six hour ride. Will Dean make it? Stay tuned…

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