Centrality is one of the key advantages of studying abroad in Sydney. It’s easy to take advantage of the $2.80 travel cap on Sundays to do cheap day-trips. This includes all modes of transportation: trains, buses, and ferries.
The International House decided to plan a day-trip with 20 residents to the Blue Mountains - one of the few rural attractions that are accessible from Sydney by train. In recent months, the 2020 Australia wildfires devoured around 80% of the region. The coming wet season has quelled this catastrophe but affected our excursion. Fog limited our range of vision to 10 feet in the morning. Light rain muddied the terrain. On the bright side, we won’t need sunscreen and bug repellant!
Our journey begins with a 2-hour train ride from Sydney to Katoomba, followed by a bus ride to Echo Point. This is where we begin our 3-hour hike called the Three Sisters trail.
The trail begins with the Giant Staircase, a staircase that plummets the cliffside. Containing about 900 steps, it took us an hour to reach the bottom. With every 100-foot descent, the visibility of the forest improved. Fauna revealed itself below the clouds, immersing us within the valley.
At the bottom, we begin a muddy trek to the largest waterfall in the mountain range. We dodge sludge, vines, and slippery rocks and arrived at the falls an hour later. We stood only feet from its base to get some adventurist group pictures.
By 1 pm, visibility improved substantially. We took in a breathtaking view of the entire valley. From above, we saw the exposed rock layers in the mountains, which made them appear like a green Grand Canyon. At a distance, we saw the Three Sisters, three large rocks jutting out the top of the mountaintop. Two days of shoe cleaning will have been worth it.
We finished the hike at 3:00, in which we decided to return to the Echo Point to take after-fog pictures. On our way to the train station, we stopped at a chocolate shop, which sold bars, truffles, drinks, and coffee. I got a “real hot chocolate” to warm myself up after the hike. We hurried to catch a bus back to the train station and rested on the train in our wet clothing and tired demeanor.
Looking back at this day, the fog was special in a comical way. We made jokes about drawing in mountains in the pristine white background. We used our imagination and bizarre amusement to please our hunger for adventure. The fog made the day memorable - its blankness gave us comic relief for poor weather conditions.
Not all study-abroad excursions give us Instagram-able photos. They don't have to. Instead, we can discover mundane things to which we attribute charm and fascination.