I got up early and was picked up for the first tour I had arranged. We started by driving to a place called Echo Point, which is a lookout spot to see the Blue Mountains. On the way, the tour guide talked about all kinds of things to keep the group occupied during the long drive...but most of the people in the bus just fell asleep. I listened, though. It was interesting to hear the kinds of things that are told to Japanese tourists. For example, the tour guide pointed out how cheap it was to drive on the Australian highway. (Japanese highways charge such high tolls that it can be cheaper to take a train unless there are bunches of people in the car.) She explained that the Australians didn't spend much money on the highway...there were hardly any lights along the road (cars had to <gasp> look for the reflectors along the sides and middle of the road), and there were no soundproof walls to keep the noise of the highway from reaching those that might live near the road. ...In other words, it's just like any American highway.
We arrived at Echo Point, where I promptly started snapping pictures...of the mailbox.
Well, okay, the view of the Blue Mountains was spectacular too, particularly the Three Sisters. The tour guide said that the mountains got their name due to the eucalyptus forests that cover them. On hot days, the oil from the eucalyptus leaves evaporates and rises into the air, causing a blue haze. (The high oil content also makes the forests extremely susceptible to fire.) We were told that we were lucky the weather was so nice and clear, because in general two-thirds of the year it is cloudy and rainy.
We continued on to a place were we could see the forest close-up. We were supposed to ride down into the valley on what we were told is the world's steepest train, but it was shut down for repairs. Instead, we rode down on the same device we would use to ride back out, the world's steepest cableway. Just imagine my joy.
Apparently the owner of the facility is planning to release yet another ride--a roller coaster. It's just waiting for some of the safety bugs to be worked out...
Anyway, when we were walking around in the rainforest, I remembered the bug bites I had gotten at the crocodile park. Who knows what bugs might be lurking in the rainforest! I slathered on some of the lemon-scented bug repellant that I picked up at a gift shop somewhere. ...For the rest of the afternoon, people around me were sniffing the air and asking, "What is that smell? Is that eucalyptus?"
But hey! I didn't get any bug bites that day.
The tour had been great up until that point. When we climbed on the bus to drive back to Sydney, though, the tour guide used the time as her own personal infomercial to hawk jojoba oil. She claimed that it was the number one souvenir that Japanese people brought back from Australia. (Yeah, right...we ALL know the number one souvenir is really chocolate.) She talked on and on about how wonderful it was to prevent wrinkles and cure hair loss and who knows what else. I wouldn't have minded if she had just, say, passed out a flyer about it, or talked for maybe a couple minutes, but she was definitely taking advantage of having a captive audience, and I found that annoying.
We finally arrived at the harbor, where we were to have a light lunch at a sandwich shop. To my consternation, all the sandwiches they had pre-ordered were ham and cheese. I told the shopkeeper that I was vegetarian, but they didn't have any vegetarian sandwiches in the entire shop. I asked if they could make one with just cheese...but they claimed they had run out of bread. So about the only thing I could do was pick the ham off the pre-ordered sandwich.
The tour broke up there, each participant receiving a ticket good for either the Wildlife World or the Aquarium. I decided to go to the Wildlife World. The first thing I did was stop to use the restroom, which I discovered had a custom paint job. I walked through the facility, which had all kinds of Australian animals, including koalas and lizards and emu (oh my!). It even had kissing kangaroos.
After leaving the Wildlife World, I walked back in the direction of my hotel. This took me through Sydney's Chinatown, starting with a Chinese garden. (I didn't go inside, because I didn't want to pay the entry fee to see what I can see here anytime.) I was not very impressed with Chinatown, to be honest. It consisted of a single street, about two blocks long, with a number of Chinese restaurants along it. After shopping in Yokohama's Chinatown, it seemed pretty small. Heck, even Toronto's Chinatown had more of a Chinese atmosphere about it.
Still, after walking through that area I did come upon a nice mall where I had some great Indian food and picked up some doughnuts to eat in the morning before my second tour.