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Merry Christmas – enjoy the holidays!

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Hi all,

 

We’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year… and what a year it’s been!

 

We started 2015 in Cairns, where we stayed until May, working and biding our time until we had to fly home for two weddings.

 

Australia Day 2015 Cairns

 

Once we were on the road again, our task was fairly simple – explore the east coast of Australia.  After a magical visit at Paronella Park, we passed through Townsville and Mackay before heading inland to the beautiful Lake Elphinstone.

 

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We cruised through the Central Highlands before returning to the coast. We ate beef in Rockhampton, drank rum in Bundaberg, then caught a ferry to Fraser Island. We gave the Troopy a 4WD workout at Landcruiser Mountain Park and watched the rain clouds come in on the Sunshine Coast.

 

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We spent about three weeks in Brisbane because Dave needed some medical attention, but it was great to spend time with friends in that beautiful city.  As we approached the Gold Coast, the dark clouds returned and by the time we got to the Best Of All Lookouts, we couldn’t see a thing!

 

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We crossed the border into New South Wales and bee-lined straight to Byron Bay for a few days in the easternmost town of Australia. We were lucky to get a few days of sun but the drizzle returned as we made our way to Coffs Harbour.  Finally, with some sun, we got to enjoy the beautiful coastline from Port Macquarie to Newcastle.

 

 

We enjoyed a tipple in the Hunter Valley before spending a week on the Central Coast, helping out a family with their household duties while Juz scored some work with a school holiday program in Gosford.

 

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Arriving in Sydney was a little surreal. It’s the biggest city in Australia and we spent a lot of time walking around the city getting exhausted. We also have a few friends in Sydney so it was great to catch up and spend time with them.

 

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We headed inland to the Blue Mountains and Central West just in time for a freakish cold front to sweep through the area. We had the pleasure of experiencing subzero temperatures and snow, as well as seeing the Dish in Parkes and exotic animals at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.

 

 

With a few more friendly visits in Kiama and Milton, and a stop at the Big Merino in Goulburn, we finally visited our country’s capital. We called in at the War Memorial and National Mint and even saw our old travel buddies Tom and Bella.

 

 

Once we returned to the coast, the wet weather reappeared and we reached the Victorian border within a day or two. From then on, there was no point stuffing around – we were 4 hours from home.  On Sunday the 2nd of August, we rolled in unannounced and enjoyed a hot shower and warm bed.

 

Since our return to Melbourne, we’ve been busy.  We got jobs, reconnected with friends, and started making plans for the future.

 

We’re going to take a few weeks off to enjoy the silly season and spend time with our family and friends. We’ll see you all in the new year with more posts about the last leg of our lap around Australia, as well as our run down of Tassie later in the year.

 

Thanks for all your support,

 

Dave & Juz

 

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Explore : The Blue Mountains

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The Blue Mountains are about 50km west of Sydney and form a part of the Great Dividing Range. They get their name from a blue haze caused by the sunlight mixing with tiny droplets of oil that are released by the eucalyptus trees.  The highest elevation is 1,189m, so it can get pretty cold in the wintertime.  Regardless, it’s a beautiful part of the world, with plenty of lookouts so you can enjoy the view.

 

Towns of the Blue Mountains

Katoomba

This is the main town of the Blue Mountains, located just over a kilometre above sea level.  Because tourism is the town’s main industry, it accommodates guests with tonnes of hotels and guest houses, the most well known being the Carrington Hotel, which was established in 1882.  It sits on the highest point in Katoomba and even though we weren’t staying there, we still stuck our heads in for a sticky beak.

 

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While Katoomba has a lot of regular and mundane shops and streetscapes, it also has a few special things, like the Street Art Walk, tucked away in an alley behind the main street shops.  It is an incredible display of street art, where any surface becomes a canvas.

 

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At the end of the main road is Echo Point, the best place to see the famous Three Sisters.  Be prepared to drown in tourists and get whacked with their selfie sticks.  If you want to get a little closer to the Three Sisters, take the walk to Honeymoon Bridge.  Other great lookouts nearby include Princes Rock Lookout at Wentworth Falls and the incredible Sublime Point Lookout with fantastic 360° views and wind speeds just short of a hurricane.

 

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If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Blue Mountains, book yourself in at the Blue Mountains YHA.  The big, historic building has a great story to tell, there is lots of space and warmth, and it’s right in the heart of Katoomba.

 

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Blackheath        

A 20 minute drive inland and a little more elevation brings you to Blackhead, another cute and colourful town in the mountains.  If you’re passing through with an empty stomach, make sure you pop in to the Bakehouse on Wentworth and smash one of their fine pies.  We had the beef, bacon and cheese pie, and the lamb, rosemary and garlic pie.  Both scored A++ for flavour, with the only sin being a poor base with little structural integrity – definitely a knife and fork job.

 

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In true Blue Mountains fashion, there are some ripper lookouts around, such as Govetts Leap Lookout and Mount Piddington at Mount Victoria.  It was here that we saw snow for the first time – people had stopped on side of road to play.

 

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Blue Mountains YHA

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One of our favourite YHA hostels in Australia, the Blue Mountains YHA is within a restored National Trust building with a beautiful art deco interior.  It was built in 1918 as a guesthouse called Homesdale, but during the 1920s and 1930s, it underwent a series of extensions, including a huge ballroom.  The building then became home to the Wentworth Cabaret, a popular club for music and dancing.

 

In the 1960s, tourism slowed down in the Blue Mountains and the building was sold to Illawarra Bible College.  Eight years later, it changed hands again to the Assemblies of God and the ballroom was used as a chapel.  YHA purchased the building in 2000 and a year later, the Blue Mountains YHA was opened.

 

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Facilities

The Blue Mountains YHA is huge and is perfect for groups and families.  It sleeps 200 people and has a variety of room options.  We were in the Blue Mountains during winter so it was fairly quiet.  We had a 6 share dorm all to ourselves.  All the rooms have heaters that become your best friend in winter, and plenty of lockable cupboard space per guest.

 

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The common areas are bright and spacious.  The old ballroom has been decked out with gas fire heaters and lounges, and the side rooms include a quiet reading room, a games room and a checker floor kitchen with gas cooking.  Outside is a giant chess board and a few sun chairs for when the weather is warmer.  There is also free Wifi available in the common areas.

 

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Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • Café – less than 100 metres from the hostel is a cosy little café called the Yellow Deli.
  • Supermarket – there’s a discount supermarket just around the corner only two minutes away, but if you’re looking for a major supermarket, you’re going to have to walk an extra 400m up the road.
  • Street Art Walk – a collaboration with local graffiti artists, the Street Art Walk is 150m from the hostel and exhibits some fantastic works of art.
  • Bottle shop – less than 200m up the street is a bottle shop.
  • Katoomba Station – if you need to catch the train in or out of Katoomba, the railway station is only 800m up the road.

Surrounding Attractions

  • Echo Point and the Three Sisters – only 1.7km down the road, this is the most iconic landmark of the Blue Mountains.
  • Sublime Point Lookout – one of our favourite lookouts in the Blue Mountains is only 6.6km from the hostel.
  • Bakehouse on Wentworth – Enjoy pie? This bakery does some ripper savoury pies and they’re only 11km away in Blackheath.
  • Sydney – the largest city in Australia is only 130km away.

 

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The Essentials

The Blue Mountains YHA is located at 270 Katoomba Street in Katoomba and is open all year. Reception is available from 7:30am to 8pm daily, but they stay open for an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. Breakfast is available for $6.50 per person.

 

To enquire about accommodation, phone 02 4782 1416, email bluemountains@yha.com.au or go to the website.