I'm back in Sydney and have almost completed my great loop of eastern Australia. It's been a fantastic trip so far and I'm looking forward to the rest of it. I haven't quite gone all the way around seeing as I'm just outside of Central Sydney at Bondi Beach. I'm curious to get back to Manly and downtown Sydney to see what it's like. I've been to a couple places on the trip more than once but this will be the longest time in between visits for any of those places. I spent the first week of my trip in a backpackers in Manly and while I'm definitely not going back to that hostel, I'd like to visit Manly and see how it feels to come back to something familiar.Already I've hit the oceanside paths for a good run in the breeze. The first point I came to heaps of people were snapping off shots of something in the water. Curious, I thought, there's nothing there. Just then 2 whales breached right in the bay. They aren't the first whales I've seen on the trip but definitely the closest. They came to the surface 2 more times before dropping out of sight.After only climbing up and down a million stairs the day before I figured I'd be in fine form for a good long run. I managed 11k before the lead weights at the end of my legs slowed to a crawl and I knew it was time to call it quits for the day.Enjoying a relaxing day near the beach was in order for the next day, perusing through a New Zealand guide book picked up at the hostel book exchange. Note for traveller's frequenting hostels, check out the book exchanges for guide books and interesting things to read. A lot of the time it's some German romantic novels but you might get lucky.The next day I headed out for another run aiming only to do small trip around the close headlands. Apparently small now means 20k. I made it all the way out to South Head and could see North Head and right into Sydney. It was fun to see North Head from the other side. When I first got the car back in May, North Head was the first place I went to get a good view of the city. It was windy as all hell that day for the walk around the cliffs. The weather was a little nicer this time.[gmap]
It was freezing in the mountains. The sun was still shining when I rolled in but it sure wasn't that warm. I quickly got out the pants and jacket and made the most of the heat from the sun. I strolled around town, taking a look into some of the shops and grabbing some groceries and then it was back to the hostel to shave. I had yet this trip and my beard was getting to be a fair length, the longest I've ever had it. I originally had a goal of letting it go all trip just to see how long it would get but it was more annoying that I thought so the time has come. I'll post photos soon.Outside later my face felt cold, I had gotten used to an extra layer of warmth. It would be nice to have it gone for running though, it was just too warm most of the time. Later I checked out the Edge film at the theatre there. This particular video plays on an oversized cinema a few times a day. It's not quite Imax sized but it's considerably larger than a regular movie screen. The movie was about the Blue Moutains, everything you can do in and on them, and how unique they are. It starts with the recent discovery of a type of tree deep in the mountains that has survived since the age of dinosaurs and is found no where else on the planet. The theme and feel of the movie definitely tugged on a thread that made me want to protect places like these for our children to see. Most of them are dissappearing all too quickly.I came to Katoomba to see these Blue Mountains so the second day I was there I headed out to Echo Point. You could be in Katoomba for days and not know that it hangs on the edge of a cliff that drops into the valleys of the Blue Mountains and offers stunning views off the cliffs and mountains on the opposite side. Due to my lack of time here, I elected to just do one of the basic trails that starts at Echo Point, follows the cliffs over to Katoomba Falls and then descends trail and stair to the valley floor then across towards the Three Sisters. The trail and waterfalls were incredible and I was off in my own little world until I hit the Giant Stairway.It was over 300m up to the pathways along the top of the cliffs and I was at the bottom. Thankfully someone decided to put a huge set of more than 800 stairs straight up the cliff so I could get to where I wanted to go. Bless their heart. Mine sure felt like it was going to explode on the way up. As usual, I was trying to keep up the pace all the way up the metal and stone stairs that was more like a ladder in some places. Most people I passed were going down and while they were having a great time commenting on how steep it was, I could only grunt in response and try to smear the stinging sweat somewhere other than my eyes. I survived the great climb and took in the awesome sight of the Three Sisters at the top.[gmap]
Newcastle was much like Port Macquarie in that I didn't spend much time there but had a fantastic run. The drive wasn't long to get here so I had most of the day to wander and see what the place was like. The hostel was fantastic. A restored heritage building, it had high ceilings, big open fireplaces and lots of plush leather furniture. Although the fireplaces were gas it gave a nice cozy feel. The rooms were spacious and ours had an opening onto a deck with a fabulous view into the other side of the building through the courtyard. The only strange thing was the kitchen in the basement had an underground feel to it.After a little orientation and parking the car where it wouldn't get towed, I got out the running gear and hit the pavement. I'm not a huge fan of running around in cities but sometimes a few blocks are required to get to the pretty spots. At last I hit the seawall and cruised along to the point of the harbour in front of Fort Scratchley. I continued around the coast to the ocean baths and another old war bunker. In that same park I could help but laugh at the kids as they tumbled down the hill when their cardboard sleds stopped dead in it's tracks.The day was warm and being the genius I am was around running during the hottest time. There were a few fountains along the paths I found but not nearly enough. By the time I got back to the hostel I could drink a lake but could only find the smallest cup in existence. I threw back numerous glasses of that so I could breathe properly and hit the showers.Not really wanting to cook and curious about the local bars, I signed up for a free sausage dinner through the hostel. Free doesn't get you much these days. We had to play Bingo for a bit before we got into our 5 course meal of sausages and pieces of white bread. I won an hour of free internet! Everyone did though.[gmap]
I wasn't in Port Macquarie for long but I had a good time there, mainly because of the run I did soon after I rolled in. I always like to see what's around the corner on a run, walk or hike and being in a brand new city makes it even more interesting. I headed down to the beach aiming to do an 8 or 10k run but there were just so many interesting corners and little paths to take. I landed back at the hostel after pounding the pavement for 16 kilometers and spent the rest of the evening reading and recovering. Although interrupted by the odd strange comment from an annoying Aussie fellow, the night was relaxing and uneventful.The morning I left I overheard the Aussie guy commenting on how loud one of the girls snored. I couldn't believe he said that straight to her face and expected some sort of decent conversation to follow. She just gave him a withering glare and left the room. The owner of the hostel explained to me afterwards that there had been trouble with the guy at another hostel and she put me into his room to make sure nothing went wrong. Thanks for letting me know.
Lennox head is a little surf town 10 meters away from the water 20 minutes south of Byron Bay. I stayed at a friends here, which is the only reason I had heard of the place. It's known for little else than the good surf and another place to stay that's close to Byron.It sits right on 7 mile beach which is a gorgeous pile of sand. At the south end is a headland which frequently launches hang-gliders over the water, floating around for 25 minutes or more in the warm air. Gromfest was on while I was there so we watched a bit of the surfing. Groms or Grommets are little surfers so the competition was all kids under 18.I had the pleasure of running a few kilometers across the wet sand while the sun was going down and there is no better place to relax and catch your breath.[gmap]
Surfers is a beautiful city from the outside but I've heard unless you want to drink or shop there isn't much to do. There is of course the incredible beach to sit on. A lot of the beach has been washed into the water recently though with the storms that came through. The water now buts up against a small sand cliff for most of the beach during high tide and is not the gentle slope from the streets that it once was. My fondest memories of the city are actually the views from further down the coast looking north at the skyscrapers in the afternoon sun. I didn't spend too much time there but it was very pretty while I was![gmap]
Initially I went past Brisbane and Surfers to get down to Lennox Head for a friends birthday but I made it back up to spend a couple days there and wander around. I had been told that it's the least interesting of the big cities in Australia sorely lacking in things to do and see. I didn't see much while I was there but there was certainly enough to fill a few days of sightseeing and running around.I have a fascination for cities that are on rivers. The paths and tracks along the rivers are beautiful places to run and walk and also give a good reference point to find your way around. The lights of the city reflecting off the water at night makes for nice photos as well. Brisbane is no exception. Running along the paths and bridges that criss cross the river, I got to take in some good sights and get a solid run in as well. I've been doing more running lately and I've been having a great time cruising down the streets and paths, gps in one hand and camera in the other. I do get some odd looks but I must say I've never seen anyone running around the outdoor malls whilst taking pictures. Sometimes I feel like the group from the movie Yes Man.I have to admit I was more interested in the hostel in Brisbane than any of the sights in particular. Reading about the Brisbane City YHA and all it's new hightech features got me excited to go there. After staying a few days I'd have to say it's just a new hostel. It doesn't different too much from all the other decent hostels out there. I did get free parking because the gate was broken!During my run I crossed underneath the story bridge which is apparently Brisbane's reply to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have yet to spend much time in Sydney but I'd have to say the Story Bridge wasn't that impressive. Perhaps it's much more interesting when you're standing on top of one of the towers.Most river paths I've been on are beside the river and have some sort of grassy bank that separates the path from the river. Brisbane seems to pack everything in a little tighter and some of the pathways were actually over the river. Some of the roadways were propped up over the river as well.[gmap]
Hervey Bay is a cute little town near the water, south of the Town of 1770 and Bundaberg. The main town is a long strip and the houses continue down to the water from there. The hostel I stayed at was about 10 minutes away from all the shops, only a couple blocks away from the water.Most backpackers on come here to go to Fraser Island before continuing on up or down the coast. Aside from the shops I couldn't find too much else to do or see. Down by the water though, there is a 14km path that runs parallel to it and is very pretty.You can take the path which has little viewpoints over the beach and entrances to a few piers, the Urangan Pier being the biggest at almost 1km long. Or you can cruise along the beach the entire way and take in the sounds and smells of the ocean. The sun was setting as I was returning from one of the runs so I snapped a few shots.
On my way down from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay I decided to stop in Rockhampton for a day just so I wouldn't have to do too much driving back to back.There isn't much there but a bunch of cows. I only spent a day wandering around taking a look but nothing really jumped out at me. The river is nice and there is a pathway along it on both sides. I was amazed that many things were closed as it was a sunday but most towns I've been into lately still operate at some level on sundays![gmap]
My first impression of Airlie Beach wasn't great. I thought it was just a wierd little town on the water that didn't have much to do or see. That was after driving 5 out of 6 long long days. I spent a night in Airlie Beach on my way up to Cairns and then came back down to do some sailing.My second impression was quite different though. Have spending a few days in Cairns recuperating and thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and water I felt very refreshed and ready to see something new.I booked the sailing in the Whitsundays while I was in Cairns and I think I may have booked it a couple days too soon. After diving the Saturday, I took my free trip to Green Island on the Sunday and then drove the 6 hours down to Airlie Beach on the Monday. I'm not a huge fan of organizing things to the hilt and then running around trying to complete everything so these few days felt rushed. I had to get to Airlie Beach before 6 on the Monday to check in at the sailing office and then be ready to go at 8 the next morning to get on the boat.Airlie Beach is basically a tiny little town that is made up of one main street and then a few streets up the hill to get to the houses there. The main strip is made up of hostels, bars, a couple of restaurants and a few places to shop.There is a bit of a beach but most of the coast is made up of a rocky shoreline. You can swim at a large lagoon they have near the water that's patrolled by lifeguards every day.Aside from that there isn't much to Airlie Beach. Cannonvale is just up the road from Airlie for major shopping and the Marina is just around the corner as well, which is the launching point for most peoples adventures in Airlie Beach, Sailing!!![gmap]