Aud vs. Australia: Driving to the Blue Mountains

SO. In my last post, I talked about how I confronted my fear of driving on the high ways here in Sydney by taking a professional driving lesson. I was hella scared and nervous, not because I was already scared about driving, but because on Friday, I made the mistake of telling my friend Josien about my upcoming lesson and how I planned to drive a little bit every weekend until I wasn’t scared anymore. Josien has this really irritating habit of forcing me to do things I’m afraid of and of holding me accountable for my goals, so I have to be careful what I tell her or else she’ll actually make me do it (i.e. I really should tell her everything I want to do with my life). And after I told her about my plans, without skipping a beat, she said “Ok, so where are we going on Sunday?”

Damnit, Josien.

I tried to talk my way out of it, but she wasn’t hearing it. It really was the perfect circumstances for a road trip: we’ve both been in a bit of a slump and it need of distraction, it was a long weekend, I had a car, and I needed road practice. And since Josien was my co-pilot on the very first time on the Australian roads, I figured she knew what she was getting herself in for. So, when I sat down for my lesson, I was actually twice as nervous: nervous to be there in the first place, and nervous that if this didn’t go well, tomorrow was going to be awful.

HOWEVER. My lesson was amazing. And by the end of the day Saturday, Josien and I had plans to visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah, about an hour and 40 mins away from Sydney. We were going to leave at 8AM, walk around the gardens, eat lunch on the porch of their restaurant, and head home. PLANS!

Well, Josien showed up and we got to work cleaning off my car. I hadn’t touched my car or even looked at it for 4 weeks when my instructor and I walked up to it. Of course, I could barely recognise the car because it was covered in bird shit and dust and pine needles and leaves, and the side mirrors were pine needles and cob webs (shudder). So I quickly brushed the needles off for my lesson, promising to give it a proper clean before our big road trip. For 20 minutes, we scrubbed the windows with Windex wipes and brushed all the debris off with a hand broom. And then, armed with a GPS and snacks, we were ready to get on the open road.

30 seconds into our drive, I knew something wasn’t right. The car sounded rough. Like there were rocks in the engine. I turned on to the main road and felt like I couldn’t get the car to speed up. And it still sounded strange. Very strange, considering it was driving perfect yesterday. At this point, about 2 minutes into our journey, it dawned on me that I might have a flat tyre (yes that’s how I spell it now). So I pulled off to the side of the road to investigate.

And oh, boy!

Best start to a road trip!

Ah, shit. I hate flat tyres. I hate them because I know exactly how to change a flat tyre, but I’m not strong enough. It’s my T-Rex arms syndrome. And I hate that when I call roadside assistance and the guy (always a guy) shows up and I’m like, “Hi my tyre is flat,” I get that “It’s ok, little lady, let me just take care of this for ya” and he’s done in 4 minutes and I’ve paid $400 and I hate myself and pledge to work out to get Schwarzenegger arms. But also this time, I didn’t have a jack. And that’s absolutely paramount to the whole tyre changing scenario, or so I’m told.

Also it cost $400 because I had to sign up for membership + lodge emergency service because we were parked in a metro two hour zone. I thought I had signed up for roadside assistance but Joel reminded me that we said we’d get it later because “we probably won’t need it right away.” because that’s exactly how I operate in life. At this point, Karma decided to help me drive over that screw that punctured the hell out of my tyre. But, I got a bonus year of coverage for free, so it’s not all that bad.

So, around 9:45, our tyre was changed and we were ready to go. Except I was a bit defeated, feeling nervous, like this was all a bad idea, and I was ready to call it a day. I was half-heartedly trying to convince Josien that we should just go see a movie and save the road trip for another day, but then she said, “You know if you don’t go out today, you’ll never get back in your car again.” And I hated her because she was right. We had a full tank of gas, a full sized spare, and we still had heaps of day left. And so, I pushed on, against my will, by my friend who won’t let me bail on myself.

After a shakey start (I was literally shakey), we made it to the main road, then the highways, and more highways, and a wrong turn, and then more accidental highways, side winding back roads going up the mountain, and finally, we made it to our destination.

Intrepid traveler — note the white knuckles and stress veins in my IRONG GRIP on the steering wheel. And this was after I relaxed. ha
Waratahs, the NSW state flower. It’s a protected species, and it’s illegal to pick them if they’re growing wild.
Jurassic Garden. yes, I was thrilled.


Most plants in Australia look like they were drawn by Dr. Seuss
Black, like my soul
Pretty, v.2
I don’t have a view finder on my camera, and the sun was so bright I couldn’t make out the image on my display screen and thus I couldn’t tell what I was taking photos of. I’m so psyched this came out, in focus.


Flower Eats Local Neuroscientist
Pretty, v3
“Clever Girl”


Hello, flowers
Hello, different flowers
It’s like autumn (almost)



this one reminded me of the sun


It’s believed that this Eucalyptus tree has been around for hundreds of years, possibly before the Europeans arrived.


We decided to take this unmarked trail
And it was gorgeous
And it had a very creepy, zombie proof gate at the end – odd.
But, after we went through the zombie gate, we got to the entrance of the Lady (Nancy) Fairfax Jungle Walk. So yes, we explored the Lady Nancy Jungle. Or the jungle in Lady Nancy. Either way, it was damp and musty.
But also reeeally pretty
welcome to the Jungle! Gonna bring you to your sha-na-na-na-na kneeeeees


GIANT tree stump
GIANT nerd stump (this is me, being a tree) (totes authentic)


These trees all grow in a circle in the jungle, no one is sure why. The tree experts are… stumped #thankyou
mountains! You can see an itty bitty city outline in the verrrrry back. I think it’s Sydney. Joel disagrees.


leeezard, v2


Gorgeous view from lunch!
Adorable vines

We ate an amazing lunch (I couldn’t take pictures because I was so hungry that I immediately inhaled the thiny sliced salmon, perfectly friend potato cake with sour cream and fennel, and spring salad. I wish I were still eating it), with a gorgeous view, and made our way back to Sydney. I had pumped myself up to spend hours finding a parking spot, especially when my FAVOURITE spot was taken (the nerve of some people), but we found one in minutes that I only kinda needed to parallel park into.

All in all, what a fantastic little adventure. Josien and I used to work together, but she’s a doctor now with her own business so we don’t get to hang out 3-4 days a week anymore (once again, the nerve of some people). So it was great to spend the day with her, being huge nerds, laughing, having heart to hearts, scaring people with our show tunes, and listening to Mitch Hedburg and Eddie Izzard. I don’t remember the names of any of the new flowers I saw, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the day. I’m happy to have people like her in my life, who push me out of my sweatpants shell when they know it’s best for me.

Also, I’m still running off my driver’s high from having driven so far. Even if my ass and shoulders hurt the next day from being so stiff in the driver’s seat. But it’s such a good feeling to know that I’m not bound to public transport or someone else driving when I want to go somewhere. Feels good, man.

Onward to the next adventure!



50 Shades of Sydney (or, hey it was foggy this morning)

It was a damp, grey, murky morning when we woke up.

Such fog
Such fog

And since we were up and dressed extra early to hit the grocery store for breakfast (guess who went to the store three times this week and forgot eggs, bread, and milk each time? I need to start making a list), we decided to take a short walk down to the park to get pictures of the fog.

Fog Quest 2014!

Apparently, this is Mel Gibson's favorite bar when he's in Sydney. The actual Mel Gibson. I'm going to stop in there one day to check out all the shrines dedicated to Braveheart. And maybe hear a psychotic rant or two.
Apparently, this is Mel Gibson’s favorite bar when he’s in Sydney. The actual Mel Gibson. I’m going to stop in there one day to check out all the shrines dedicated to Braveheart. And maybe hear a psychotic rant or two (whatever happened to Mel Gibson, anyway?).

We decided to go past the park, and headed down to Mort Bay. I love Mort Bay. It’s not very exciting compared to other water areas of Sydney, but it holds some good memories for me. When I first came to Sydney in 2012 to visit my friend, Odie, he and Joel took me to Mort Bay with a couple of $5 bottles of wine and we just carried on. Nothing terribly crazy happened, but it was the night that I first got to know Joel, and I got a chance to re-bond with one of my best friends.  Just one of those nights where everyone drinks a bit too much and everyone dies from laughing. It’s one of my most treasured memories.

Two of my favorite filthy animals.
2012: Two of my favorite filthy animals.

It was nice to walk down there again and feel the good feelings. Even if the weather was getting super humid. (i.e. I was slowly becoming a ball of sweat)

The only other people out were excited dog walkers.
The grounds of Mort Bay. The only other people out were excited dog walkers.
Magpie! These birds will attack you if they think you're threatening their nest. I give everyone I see a wide berth.
Magpie! These birds will attack you if they think you’re threatening their nest. I give everyone I see a wide berth.
We watched a ferry come in
We watched a ferry come in. We were tempted to hop on the ferry because seriously–how cool would riding a ferry be in the fog? But, lack of foresight (buying tickets) stopped us. Next time, foggy day.
This scene is just begging for brisk, cold weather and for me to be wearing a Shetland sweater as my exposed fingers numbed around the camera. Alas, it was very humid and the camera was slipping out of my sweaty paws.
This scene is just begging for brisk, cold weather and for me to be wearing a Shetland sweater as my exposed fingers numb around the camera. Alas, it was very humid and the camera was slipping out of my sweaty paws.
Some fancy pants live here.
Some fancy pants live here.
Hello Ferry! *toot toot*
Hello Ferry! *toot toot*
so still. and a little spooky.
It was so still and quiet. So perfect.
walking down to the Colgate Building
We continued walking, down to the Colgate Building
I want to live near a flower wall.
I want to live near a flower wall.
This building was converted from a historic factory into Far Too Expensive Apartments. sigh.
This building was converted from a historic factory into Far Too Expensive Apartments. sigh.

I dressed for a short walk, which meant flip flops. And now the bottoms of my feet are blistered. Awesome. But, the blisters were worth it. By 10 AM this morning, Joel and I had a) gone on an adventure, b) finished the grocery shopping, c) did our exercise, d) made and eaten a pancake breakfast, and e) gathered a blog post for me. Since then, we did dishes and made left over tacos and did dishes again. And now I’m blogging. And I might get up to make brownies. PRODUCTIVITY. FAT AND PRODUCTIVITY.

Oh, speaking of fat and productivity–I know where I’ll be on Friday night.

I feel like I'd be betraying my Kentucky/Ohio ancestry by not going to a meat raffle.
I feel like I’d be betraying my Kentucky/Ohio ancestry by not going to a meat raffle.

On that note, time for brownies.