The next morning I was inexplicable awake at 0440, and tossed and turned until around 0730 when Tashka texted me and asked if we could meet up and do a day trip out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains area runs north and west of Sydney in a series of rolling hills that are a mixture of sandstone and eucalyptus and jungle and little towns along the railway. It was something we had both been considering as a day trip, her with her dad, me with a group trip the hostel can organize, but when her dad's schedule for Friday went to hell and confined him to the city, she decided to see if we could do a bit of the adventure together.
We arrived a few minutes late and missed the first train, so we wandered through Sydney's picturesque downtown and made small talk, telling stories about our backgrounds and the places we'd lived and loved. An hour later, we caught the next train to Katoomba, a small town with some of the best views of the mountains.
The trip took about two hours, and we made discoveries as we went, figuring out that the hop-on-hop-off bus was frivolous and we could walk through town to Echo Point, where we took a few photos and had a look around. The scenery surreal and beautiful, and afterwards we hiked around to a viewpoint that should have given us a nice view of one of the cascades, but by then it was dark and the cascades weren't too amazing from several hundred meters up. I did get a nice picture of a Cockatoo though. He's caught in the sunlight and it makes him look rather surreal, I think.
Along the way we played on the cliffs and took a picture or two. Tashka told me about what it was like growing up in South Africa, attending an overbearing Christian American school, and wandering in the mountains a few hours from her house every chance they had. The mountains there, it seems, were actually very similar to these, with foliage and half-caves that reminded her of 'home' at every turn.
After we'd finished our hike, we wandered back into town and checked for a train home so she wouldn't get back too late. We settled on a train running at 1724, so we had about an hour and a half to get lunch/dinner and then make it back to catch the train.
We settled on a Turkish place that served Kebabs and Pide. Pide are the curious Turkish Calzones I'd discovered in Fremantle a few days before, and we had a really wonderful meal of Doner Kebab and Pide that ran relatively cheaply and left us both pleasantly overfull. While there she modeled the Australian coke bottle for me, which is inexplicably marked with "Buddy." It was about the only way I could convince her to let me take her picture.
Unfortunately for our stomachs and waistlines, we'd seen a cake and pie shop on the way to the Kebab place, so on the way back we stopped in there and neither of us could resist getting two things. Each. She got Chocolate custard and I got crème brûlée (they made it with a Graham cracker crust, which was surprisingly better than I expected) and we each bought a slice of their chocolate cake, which looked astounding. We headed back to the train and ate our first desserts en route back to Sydney, but found ourselves so stuffed by the first that we had to save the cake for later. I'll probably have it for breakfast tomorrow.
We parted ways at the train station that evening, and I headed back to the Hostel.