Where I might be living, visiting, and going back to – these are my potential travel destinations for 2018!
It’s my favorite time of the year! And no, I’m not talking about the holidays, although to be sure November and December can be some of my favorite months, especially when I’m surrounded by loved ones.
I even used to say that winter was my favorite season, but really I think that’s because I grew up in California and it gave me an excuse to play the Mariah Carey Christmas CD as much as I wanted.
Spoiler alert, fall and spring are now my favorite seasons, because they’re usually perfect for travel without the crowds, and I love that feeling of the changing of seasons, of new beginnings.
Solo Female Travel – it’s a term that has garnered backlash in the travel industry in recent years, one that people think is unnecessary and overused.
Everyone and their mom has become a “solo female traveler” with the rise of personal travel blogs. It’s old news, nothing special. Just as soon as the term became popular, there was an outcry for females to stop using it…mostly by fellow females.
Why should we have to label ourselves as solo female travelers, when guys just say they’re travelers? By putting a label on it we’re just encouraging the sexism and division in how females and males are perceived around the world, is what some women argued.
The Royal National Park was next on my list for a day trip from Sydney life. Established in 1879, making it the second oldest national park in the world (After Yellowstone in the US), the Royal National Park is a monster of a park at 16,000 hectares. You can tackle whatever outdoorsy activity suits your fancy, whether that be camping, bushwalking, or simply exploring the local fauna and wildlife.
I have to admit, I didn’t do much planning before jumping on a train down to the National Royal Park – I’ll call it Nasho from now on – and it quickly made me realize how stupid that can be when you’re bushwalking by yourself.
I’ve hiked around the world, most times on my own, so I don’t think too much about it and usually just go for it. Australia is a different animal all together, and I mean that literally because there are so many animals that can kill you, and the land and weather themselves are deadly.
I took a ferry from Cronulla and walked through the little town of Bundeena until I arrived at the entrance of the park, what looked like someone’s backyard. I started into the wilderness, and soon came across one of the only signs I would see all day for the Coast Track. I made my way through the track, all the way down to the deserted Big Marley Heads Beach, and from there cut across a fire trail to get back to the main highway.
I had to walk along the side of the highway until I made my way back to Bundeena. I’m sure there were better ways to go about hiking the park, but it worked out well enough for not planning much of anything beforehand.
I decided to start from Bundeena because it looked like the most direct and easiest way to get to the Coast Track via public transit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see even 1/4 of the National Park, so I wanted to see the part I thought would have the most drastic views and varied scenery. The Coast Track is the most popular track in the park for a reason, but if you want to complete it fully it takes about two days. I told you it was a big park.
I figured I would just backtrack once it started getting too late, but I was having too much fun along the track and decided to keep going a bit further until it was too late to turn around and make it back before dark. My bad.
I luckily found the fire trail that cut back to the main highway that would eventually lead to the Bundeena wharf, but I realized too late that Google Maps doesn’t really work at such a dinosaur of a place as Nasho. I had to hope for the best, and thankfully the fire trail did get me back in time for the last ferry.
I also didn’t bring any extra food and water with me in case of an emergency, and not that my phone worked well out in the bush anyway, but I didn’t charge it all the way before I left, so it died towards the end of my hike. Note: These are all the ways you shouldn’t bushwalk!
I think at this point I was just used to heavily populated trails that always had people on them and visitor centers, neither of which were found at Nasho. The lack of people I think surprised me the most. At first I found it refreshing, like I was on a true bushwalking experience. But as the day went on and I still hadn’t come across anyone, and I became a bit lost, it was more worrying.
I should’ve known with the size of the park that it was a big place to tackle on my own, but I’m a very stubborn person and I wanted to explore the park independently.
In the duration of my hike I came across what must’ve been every type of terrain in Australia, from red dirt to cliff views, to forests, to untouched beaches, to complete and utter desert. I came across a wild kangaroo and desert mice, I was almost attacked by 3 local birds, and I saw remnants of snakes along the trail.
I’m glad I made it back to Bundeena for the last ferry, but it was also the uneasiest I’ve felt while hiking on my own, something that could’ve easily been avoided with a little more planning. Lesson learned.
Even with the unpleasant feeling that I was going to be lost in the park for good, I had an incredible day in Aussie nature, and it was a feat I was proud of accomplishing on my own.
The Nasho is the most overgrown and wild park I hiked in Australia, and the lack of people only added to the complete desolate feeling you have while hiking it. The lack of signs made me wonder if I was going the right way at all for most of my journey. In a word, it was most definitely an adventure.
Have you ever been to the Royal National Park? Have you ever found yourself lost while bushwalking?
I heard about the Blue Mountains when I was still in Melbourne, the areas surrounding the iconic bushland were in the news for the major wildfires that hit New South Wales in 2013. Luckily, the wildfires didn’t make it as far as the famous Three Sisters lookout, a fact which I was thankful for when I found myself looking out over the scenic landscape a few months later.
Without a doubt, hiking around the Blue Mountains was one of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring experiences I had while in New South Wales. I was planning on taking a day trip to the Blue Mountains at some point during my residence in Sydney, and I found the perfect opportunity when a couple of my friends from San Diego crashed at my place in Double Bay for a few nights.
I gave them ideas for what to do around Sydney, and met them for drinks at Opera Bar when I got off work for the ultimate classy Sydney tourist experience. I brought up my idea of visiting the Blue Mountains, and they were immediately intrigued and willing to go on an adventure with me, even though the only day that worked with our schedules was the day they were leaving the country.
Dave, Brandon, and I woke up at a ridiculously early time (still dark!) and jumped on a train down to Central Station, only to hop on a connecting inner-city train to Katoomba.
The Blue Mountains span a great many country towns, but I chose to start in Katoomba because it seemed like where the main hub of tourist activity began and where the main visitor center is located.
The train ride only took just over two hours, and for some reason we were blessed with a train that had just traveled from the 70’s – I’m talking orange and brown accents and antique yet surprisingly comfy seats. A nice change from the sleek trains I rode most days in Sydney, this one definitely had some character.
I spent the ride listening to music, nodding off into dreamland from being awake at an ungodly time for a bartender, and catching up with Dave. We arrived at Katoomba Station, jumped out and contemplated doing one of the hop-on hop-off Blue Mountain Explorer buses.
Although not my preferred mode of transportation, it was tempting due to the guys’ lack of time. However, the next bus wouldn’t be there for another 30 minutes anyway, so we decided to save on cash and steal their detailed maps for the journey instead. The walk from the station to the Three Sisters Plaza (the main attraction) was about 20 minutes, and we had a lovely glimpse into the life of mountain suburbia on the way.
When we arrived at the plaza, it was swarming with tourists, and for good reason. The view was breathtaking, glorious, magnificent, insert your favorite word here. It was a perfectly blue sky day, and the mountains were at their finest, giving off their famous blue hue that blended nicely into the horizon and went off into the distance for miles to see. Forests spanned the great depth that went down into the gorge surrounding the platform. It was beautiful.
The Three Sisters stood proudly, the center of attention for everyone around. At over 3,000 feet above sea level, the Aboriginal legend behind the landmark is that there was once 3 beautiful sisters from the Katoomba tribe who were in love with 3 warriors from the enemy Nepean tribe. The men decided to try and capture the sisters anyway, which caused a tribal war to break out.
When the sisters found themselves in grave danger, a witchdoctor turned them into stone to protect them until the fighting ended. However, his plan backfired when the witchdoctor himself was killed in the battle, forever leaving the sisters in their stoney appearance.
They stand as a testament to how drop dead gorgeous Australia proves itself to be time and time again.
I was surprised that the mountains were actually blue, I think I’ve been fooled too many times by poorly picked place names. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked out over the very blue horizon. The secret to their blue tint is in the mass forests of Eucalyptus trees. The trees give off oil to the atmosphere, which interacts with water vapor and dust particles to reflect back the blue haze that seems to emanate from the mountains. Science is pretty cool, eh?
There’s a lot to see, and a lot to hike in the Blue Mountain range, and I would recommend making it at least a two day trip if you have the means. Unfortunately, I only had a day, and only a few hours with the guys before they had to rush back to the Sydney airport.
Now there’s a pretty chill cable car that goes across the canyon. Even though it looked like it gave a great view over the immense canyon, the price and the length of the ride didn’t seem to add up, so we decided to walk around the canyon and get in a bit of hiking instead. The trails were well laid out with complete signage, and a lot of people to interact with on the way. We even met our own Mr. Miyagi and climbed some cascades on our journey.
Starting at Echo Point, where the Three Sisters are located, we walked along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk – which is as cool as it sounds – and saw the Katoomba Cascades along the way, eventually finding our way to the Cliff View Lookout over the Katoomba Falls. Epic view.
By this time, the guys needed to think about heading back into the city, so we hopped on a bus. I said my goodbyes to them and got off at Echo Point again, my hiking shoes were made for walking, and I had just begun.
From Echo Point, I walked along the Three Sisters Track and came across the Giant Stairway, where you can actually get up close and personal with the sisters and touch them. The full trail was blocked off because there had recently been a major landslide, which was a promising fact to think about when I was making my way down into the canyon.
Literally there are hundreds of steps that go almost straight down into the canyon, a very strenuous hike if you’ve been drinking craft beer and indulging in a Tim Tams heavy diet. The way back up was even more fun, but at least my calves probably grew by about an inch that day.
Once I had finished my detour to the Three Sisters, I found myself on the main trail again, on the other side of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. I managed to bushwalk all the way to the next town, Leura, and took a selfie in defiance at the Honeymoon Lookout spot. I think I scared a few couples away.
I ended at the Leura Falls, and found my way back into town. I grabbed a delicious meat pie on my way to the station to further prove my Aussie status and celebrate a successful day hiking around a beautiful spot.
I’d definitely recommend the Blue Mountains as a day trip from Sydney, even if you only have a few days in the city, it’s a worthwhile detour, and a once in a lifetime experience to hike around Australian bushland that has so much Aboriginal history and natural beauty.
Have you ever been to the Blue Mountains? What are you favorite places in Australia?
When I stepped off the plane in Dublin, I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into? Traveling to Ireland all by my lonesome, not knowing anyone, and staying in a hostel by myself for the first time. These were the thoughts of impending doom swirling around in my head as I made my way closer and closer to the city, imagining my roommates were going to be some sort of coke addict junkies.
When I arrived at the hostel, the door was locked. Apparently it was a buzz system, so the guy at the front desk had to buzz you in. He buzzed, I pulled. Nothing. He buzzed, I pushed, a little too late. Nothing. Finally, he buzzed a third time and I stumbled into the hostel. The gruff Irishman at the front desk barely looked up or acknowledged me; and I was a sight to see, with my glasses, volleyball sweatshirt, and hair matted down and frizzy from the plane ride.
He had already marked me off as an annoying American, who clearly had no idea how to travel. I made my way to the desk, struggling with the suitcase, which I realized had become way too heavy in the last couple months of traveling through Europe, and somehow managed to trip over it and almost fall flat on my face. I caught myself, smiled, and told him my reservation. With what dignity I had left, I made my way to my room on the third floor, only to realize that the stairs were my only option after the elevator made it clear it wasn’t coming. I struggled with all the energy I had left to get my massive suitcase up the stairs and into my room. I looked around and sighed, knowing from the belongings splayed out on the bed, I would be living with guys.
Even with my instinctive initial prejudice, I lucked out with Aussie Tony. He was my roommate for the week, and he was an awesome guy to room with. We connected immediately with our love of music, he introduced me to the friends he had made in the hostel so far, and we all went out for an epic night of barhopping and live music our first night in Dublin.
One of my favorite experiences in Ireland was when Tony invited me to come with him on a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, or the edge of the world as it’s fondly called. And believe it or not, it really does feel like the edge of the world. It was so windy when we jumped off the bus, but the beauty of where we found ourselves overcompensated for any discomfort from the piercing cold wind.
We wondered around the cliffs, making sure to get to the best view on the other side of the “Do Not Go Beyond This Point” sign. Let’s be real, the best views are always where you’re not supposed to be.
The edge of the world is definitely something to see and experience for yourself, I don’t think the pictures quite do it justice.