Sunday, 19 August 2012

Garfield and Friends!

August 6 – Wicked Garfield
We got ourselves all packed up, breakfasted and checked out by 9:30 then hopped a train to the van rental place. We had to walk about a block our so from the train station to the Wicked Van agency but it was pretty easy to find. There we found ourselves face to face with Garfield. Our van had Garfield graffiti on it, better than a lot of the other vans they have. There was a bunch of free stuff available so we grabbed some food and extra blankets before hitting the road. We opted to not pay for an extra driver so I was to be the chauffeur this time. We stopped for gas and groceries then navigated our way to the highway. Our first stop was in Penrith for a bathroom break and some information. We also got lunch and Harry's Cafe de Wheels. After driving a bit more we reached Katoomba and found the Three Sisters. These formations are the iconic image of the Blue Mountians. The Blue Mountains have a very Grand Canyon type feel and look but have a lot more trees (according to Beau). We went for a short walk but didn't feel up to any of the longer hikes since it was pretty windy and chilly out. We had to make a stop at K-Mart to pick up fuel for the stove then drove onwards to Blackheath. We made a few lookout stops but did stay out of the van for very long. We made our way down into the Megalong Valley for our free camp for the night. Once there we explored the van a bit then made dinner. Garfield isn't nearly as comfortable as Dotti but is a much smoother ride. We bundled ourselves up for the chilly night ahead.
Our "Wicked" Van

The Three Sisters

Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters

August 7 – Hiking the Blue Mountains
It was freaking cold last night and we didn't want to get out of our blanket cocoons. We eventually did and made some egg wraps for breakfast. I refused to have oatmeal. We chatted with our neighbours for a bit before heading back to the highway. We stopped at a supposed lookout but it didn't have a good view. We went a bit further till we got to hike that we wanted to do. Our hike took us down a hill/mountain/cliff side with a million switch backs along the way, the path was called Zig Zag, go figure. We checked out a cool cave on the way down. We then went through a rainforesty section that was quite cool temperature-wise. Then it was back up the cliff. Our hike took about an hour and a half and we chilled out at the end on a big rock over looking the valley. It was a beautiful sunny day but the air was still a little crisp. We drove on to Lithgow where we stopped into Red Rooster for lunch, think Swiss Chalet. We also popped into the visitors center for an idea about where to stay tonight. We were heading back down towards Sydney then on to the Huntervalley. We got back on the highway and drove about 10km before my trusty navigator and I realized we were going the wrong way. We did an about face and got back on the right track with a left turn in Lithgow. We made it into Richmond about an hour later. We checked out one hotel which was out of our budget and another one which was sketchy. We decided to regroup at McDonald's to use their wifi. We found a place called Wanderrest which was run by the Richmond Club i.e. Casino. I am now a proud member of the Richmond Club for $4 and can stay for free. The camp area was pretty much a parking lot but it was free and had showers. We decided to treat ourselves and went to see the new Batman, it was also cheap night Tuesday. The movie was awesome!! Afterwards we went back to the Richmond Club and got a beer while we waited for 10pm to roll around so Beau could have his Bombardier interview. He talked to the head of Flight Test and it went really well. Tomorrow the head of Ground Test is going to call as well so apparently they really want him!! We discussed his interview for a but before hitting the sack. Fortunately we are at a much lower elevation so it's much warmer out tonight.
From the cave on our walk

August 8 – On to the Hunter Valley
Beau and I enjoyed a nice hot shower this morning after breakfast. We chatted with a girl from a neighbouring van before heading out. We stopped for gas and a cheap coffee at 7-Eleven then headed towards the Hunter Valley. It was a two hour drive and we arrived in the little town of Broke around noon. We stopped at the free campsite, which will be our home base, and made some lunch. After a baked bean on bread lunch we headed into the main wine region. We stopped into several wineries and did some nice tastings. The first few were Moorea Park Wines, Tower Estate Winery, and Kevin Sobels Wines. Our next winery, Lambloch Estate, had us try their Muscato which is a sparkling wine. It was very nice and little a little like a sparkling pink lemonade only alcoholic. Our last winery was Ballabourneen Wine Co, we had been here on our last visit and they also had olive oil and vinegar tasting. We ended up buying a bottle of wine from them and tasted all the lovely olive oils, vinegars and dukkahs there available to taste from Pukara Estates. We contemplated buying some of these to take home but we'll mull it over for the next few days. We headed onwards to Potters Brewery where we had some of their delicious beer, I got ginger beer again, and a yummy Indian pizza. We headed back to our campground and Beau had a second Bombardier interview but with the head of Ground Test this time. Beau would prefer ground test and he made that very clear in his interview. The GT manager said he would should expect an offer some time next week. It's nice to know that one of us will have a job when we go home. It's also a very good job and an awesome opportunity for Beau, especially since he turned down the same job last year to go traveling!

August 9 – Some more wine tasting
We slept in a bit this morning and had eggs again for breakfast. The day started off a little cloudy but brightened up by the time we started driving. We chose a different direction to go in today and headed north. Our first winery was Vinden Estate Wines. We were seated on an enclosed patio and had a lovely one on one tasting with the winery manager. It's a small family run wine winery and our presenter was very chatting person but we enjoyed our tasting immensely. We bought a bottle of their clean skin which just means it has no label. We got a few suggestions on other wineries to finish. We jumped across the road to Scarborough Wine Co. We had a nice tasting with some cheese and dried fruit. Although they didn't specify how to pair the wines. We were pretty hungry by now so we headed over to the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. We got to try all sorts of cheese and found we both really like blue cheeses now. We bought some Netherby Blue cheese, crackers and stuffed olives for lunch and enjoyed them on the patio on the sunshine. It was scrumptious. After lunch we continued wine tasting but headed south. We stopped into Tamburlaine Wines which turned out to be an organic winery. We had an amazing tasting and experience here. The gentleman behind the bar explained all the ins and outs of an organic winery to us. We ended up buying a delicious raspberry liqueur called Framboise. We almost bought their Muscat but we decided to stick with just the one. Our next winery was Tulloch Wines. The wines were nice but the tasting bar was a little busy so we didn't find much out about the winery or the wines we tasted. Our last winery of the day was McLeish Estate. Their 2007 Semillon had just won best Semillon in the world this year, Hunter is known for Semillon. They had nice wines but we didn't need any more wine. We were finished tasting wine for the day but not ready to head back to the campsite so we we went into the Hunter Valley Gardens Village. We wandered the shops and checked out a cool store selling different kinds of liquor in funky bottles. After our wander we headed back to the campground snacked on a granola bar then had a little nap. After our nap we made dinner and finished off our rogan josh sauce. The night finished with some reading and discussing our move to Montreal.

August 10 – Back to Sydney
We had to repack our bags this morning and sort out what was coming out of the van and what was staying, again. We started our drive back towards Sydney and stopped off at Pukara Estates. We bought some dukkah and olive oil to send Monique and Ingo as well as some to bring home. We drove onwards to Cessnock where we stopped for gas and McDonald's wifi. We were hoping to find a 7-Eleven for one dollar coffee but we were unsuccessful. After driving for a bit we stopped at a service center to finish off our cheese and crackers for lunch. We also got soft ice cream cones. We drove back to Sydney and I made it back to the depot without incident. We returned the van and hoped a train back to Kings Cross. We decided to go back to Backpacker's HQ hostel since it was pretty nice and have breakfast and wifi. We got settled into our old room but had different room mates. Fortunately the dude with smelly feet was no longer there. We decided to go two doors down for dinner at and Indian Resturant. The food was pretty good and we ended up stuffed by the end of it. Back at the hostel we just chilled out before bed.

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