Day 39

We left on an eight-hour excursion to the Blue Mountains, a wonderful opportunity to see the beauty of the countryside outside Sydney. We were following the trail of some early Australian explorers, the guide provided colorful backgrounds and highlights of these characters, many of which were resettled there as convicts.

Before this excursion we had to pass through the Australian immigration authorities. Last night, we got our passports back from Regent with a questionnaire to complete for immigration. We had already completed our visa application before we left home. Now there was more paperwork and a mandatory “face-to-face” interview with immigration when were to depart the ship. On our last visit 10 years ago, we had none of this. Appears that they have become very serious about who enters their country and why. We passed without incident.

The bus ride to the Blue Mountains was two hours long. Our guide, Derek, spoke about the history by whom and how the inner territories were first explored. We passed through some quaint vacation villages as we approached the mountainous areas. Arriving at the lookout, we saw the famous rock formation, the Three Sisters, and took in the panoramic views of the Jamieson Valley, Mount Solitary, the Ruined Castle and Burraborang Valley. I hope my photographs can do it justice. The tour continued down into the valley by way of a cable car, at a steep slope.

At the bottom, we walked on a boardwalk through the rainforest growth marveling at the dense growth and spotting a poisonous red-bellied black snake at a safe nearby distance. Further on, we noticed an abandoned Katoomba Coal Mine, a symbol of the bustling economy of a hundred years ago.

Our return trip to the top was in the world’s steepest railway, with a 52% incline. The wooden seats were reclining when we entered our row, making it awkwardly difficult to get comfortable; but when it started to ascend the slope, the seat design made sense as we became vertical. Back at the top, we had a short time to purchase some souvenirs for the grandkids.

The bus took us to a nearby town, Leura, for an hour to grab some lunch and shop the little main street. Pat and I shared my favorite local dish, fish and chips. We got some bottles of Semillon wine and some chocolate and snacks for the ship. On the return trip, the guide talked most of the way about the history and interesting stories dotted with local humor. In Sydney, the bus made a brief site-seeing swing through downtown, under the bridge and into some historic areas. There is much new construction throughout downtown. This is one significant change we noticed since our last visit 10 years ago.

Back at the pier, we got pulled aside by security, after our packages were x-rayed. Security opened our gift shopping bag and confiscated our souvenir boomerangs we bought at the Blue Mountains gift shop. It appears these small wooden instruments are considered “lethal weapons.” We got pulled aside and our names and room number were written on a report and attached to the weapons, which would be given to Regent Security for safekeeping until we leave the ship 100 days from now. Everyone with boomerangs suffered the same fate.

We returned to the ship after 5PM and set sail at 6. We finally got some good pictures of the Sydney Bridge and Opera House. We stayed on deck for about an hour until we passed the cliffs at the entrance to the harbor.

After changing for dinner, we were joined at our table by Rosemary and Harry from California and Dr. George, our marine biologist. It was a very enlightening dinner.

Nick Nicholas returned tonight for another show. He did some magic, juggling and comedy.

Tomorrow is a sea day on our way to Geelong on Saturday.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac