Dunedin and Taieri Gorge Railway

For Merry’s South Island Adventure Take 3, I started my adventure again in Dunedin.

I realized I had time after my flight to catch the Taieri Gorge Railway before I went to dinner with NZ Fulbrighter Simon and his family, so I booked the journey and headed to the Railway station – it is a gorgeous old building.

The journey through the Taieri Gorge was beautiful – It was a sunny, perfect day, and the ever changing landscape of the Otago region was highlighted in an amazing fashion along the gorge.

I got off the train at Wingatui, where I was met by Simon, and went to have a lovely dinner with he and his wife Sylvia, and their lovely girls. It was such an enjoyable evening.

The next day I went with Philipa and enjoyed hanging with her students and getting to experiment in her lab.

That evening, Philipa and Rachel and I had a lovely dinner at Emerson’s, then they gave me a tour of Dunedin by night – check out these views:

Friday, I spent the day with Rachel at school – it was so neat to spend the day with her (and I have no comment on the fire alarm) ūüôā – and her very awesome students.

After school, Rachel took me to pick up my rental car, which is the beginning of my next adventure, driving on the left and exploring the Catlins.

Beautiful Monday in the Blue Mountains

Monday was an adventure packed day, to say the least – we packed so much into a day – and that was thanks to Anderson’s Tours, and my awesome tour guide: Scott (I think – I should have written down his name) he was superb and added things to the day that weren’t on the itinerary because the group wanted them. The group was 20 people – 2 of use were solo female travelers, there were several older couples who were doing this trip before boarding their cruise ships headed to NZ and other cities in Australia, a mother daughter pair, and a few other couples just vacationing in Sydney. It was a fun group – with Americans, Kiwis, Aussies, Canadians, Germans, Brits and South Koreans all represented – so we were a multicultural, quite fun group.

The day started at 7:30 at Circular Quay – I walked from the hostel (3k). We loaded up on our bus, and set out to the Blue Mountains.

After about a 2 hour drive, we arrived in the Blue Mountains, and were greeting with fantastic vistas. Much like the reason the Blue Ridge Mountains back home are “blue”, the Blue Mountains in Australia are¬†¬†so named because, from Sydney, they look blue. The¬†eucalypts (gum trees), which in the hot sun discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves. This mist refracts light, which makes the haze look blue at a distance.

Our first order of business was to explore Scenic World a “theme park” with some cool scenic rides. Ride #1 was the Funicular Railway – the steepest incline railway in the world. It has a 128% incline – or 52 degrees. I captured a video going down:

The mountain you see is Serenity Mountain. You will see in the pictures below that I was REALLY happy they updated the cars – the original ones were freaky scary!

After we go off the railway, our guide took us on a little bush walk – talking about the cool flora and fauna we were seeing. There were also remnants and information from the coal mining roots of the village.

After our little walk, we boarded the Cableway back up – the car was crowded, so I don’t have the best pictures, but trust me, the views were amazing!

The next stop was the glass bottom Skyway, which gave us more vistas, a look down at the gorge and a small waterfall.

Next we got back in the mini-bus, and headed to Echo Point, where we looked at the overlook to the 3 Sisters rock formations. There are several legends about the 3 sisters, and most relate to the Pleiades star cluster – I encourage you to Bing or Google and check some out. The¬†Gundungurra and Darug tribes of Australia’s Aboriginal people are a few of many tribes that hold this area sacred. It was tourist-palooza – but an amazing sight to see.

Our next stop – I told y’all it was a fun-filled day – we aren’t even to lunch yet! – was the Waradah Aboriginal Center and show – I learned so much about Aboriginal cultures, and really enjoyed the history of the Didgeridoo and the other stories they shared with us! I have a few videos as well as some pictures.

Once the show was over, we thought we were headed to lunch, but our AMAZING guide had a bit of a surprise in store for us. If we were willing to miss a little lunch time, we could actually take the hike back to the bus, since several folks wanted to walk the trail. Most of us agreed – and a few were shuttled back, and we did the trail. It was totally worth the amazing views – I mean – I am so glad he took us on this journey – because I would have missed these amazing views!

After our hike, we did go have lunch, at an Australian Country Club Рlunch was fine Рbut I was so glad that we traded the hike for the longer lunch Рafter all РI am a teacher РI can eat in 10 mins Рno problem!

But my friends, this day still wasn’t done – our next stop (we thought) was the Wildlife Park – where we knew we would see some of Australia’s most famous creatures, but our guide had another surprise for us – I mean – seriously – this guy was amazing – there were 2 other tours operated by the same company that day – and I think my bus definitely got the best deal and bang for our buck. ¬†He took us to Lennox Bridge – which is the oldest stone arch bridge on the Australian Mainland – cool, right?

We then headed to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, a conservation and animal rescue. . .I got to touch a koala – and I have pictures to prove it! ūüôā

I also saw wombats, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, blue penguins, kookaburras, pelicans, the most venomous snake in the world and all sorts of amazing animals – it was definitely a bucket list experience. I will let the pictures speak for themselves though!

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We left the park, and headed to our final adventure – cruise on the Parramatta River to the Sydney Harbor – at sunset. It was the perfect way to end a fantastic day.

I disembarked at Darling Harbor, and went to an Irish Pub with WiFi to have dinner, a nice stout, and work on my blog. It was a fantastic, amazing, unbelievable day! One more day in Sydney (no plans, so we will see what I get up to), before heading to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!