Pro tip: After sleeping only a couple of hours on a red eye flight, when diligently giving your Land Rover the once over, ensure to firmly and completely tighten the expansion tank cap after checking the coolant level.
We have been a bit temporally discombobulated over the last fortnight, so this is another late one, but regular Sunday blog programming should resume next week.
Also, Canberra is pretty rad. Read on.
After being reunited with Gary, we headed west into the Blue Mountains National Park, Katoomba, fog, rain, fog, some more fog and a couple of clear spells. Gary lost his left headlight globe somewhere between Jurien Bay and Sydney (which, given the amount of corrugated roads we have driven and that we always drive with the lights on for safety and visibility, ain't so bad), so a quick stop for a pair of replacements, lunch in a park out Lidcombe way somewhere and a few steep hill ascents, decanting five litres of engine coolant (remember that expansion tank cap thing?), Adam getting paranoid for an hour (remember, sleep deprivation and the subsequent delirium is a form of torture) about engine temperatures and head gaskets (but Gary is okay) we rolled into misty drizzly Katoomba and set up in the rain for the night. Welcome back to the adventure. Slept for eleven hours, had breakfast, then slept another two.
The next day Gary decided that locking his doors wasn't something he was interested in. In fact, he would much rather beep his horn, lock no doors and receive a day worth of care and mechanical attention. New light globes in, a process of central locking malfunction diagnosis and elimination, drivers door trim skin off, fiddling with linking rods and ordering of a new door lock mechanism (yet to be installed) and viola! Gary approved us to have an afternoon walk during a break in the weather.
We wandered past Katoomba falls, along a clifftop with stunning late afternoon vistas of the sprawling Blue Mountains valley floor, over to the Three Sisters. In the fading light we enjoyed a couple of beverages in the sparsely populated pub down the road before wandering back to camp just before the rain started up again.
Wednesday morning bought more fog and rain, with an afternoon window of semi-sunshine that let us wander into the town centre to take in some street art and unsuccessfully hunt for some vegan friendly cafe food, although it was late afternoon and lots of places were closed.
Thursday we packed up our wet camp and hit the road for the Jenolan Caves. A gift from cousins Joel, Alexander, Sara and Talon, we deliberately avoided doing too much preliminary research to not spoil the surprise...
A very fun (narrow and twisty-turny) road in leads to A GIANT CAVE ARCH YOU DRIVE UNDER TO GET THE THE PLACE. WOAH!!!!
Like something out of a James Bond Film, the vaguely European-meets-Art-Deco lodge and outbuildings make you feel like you are in another time and place.
The caves themselves are epic. The largest (discovered) and oldest (discovered) limestone karst caves on Planet Earth. We explored caves, chambers, caverns and grottos. We saw Stalactites, Stalagmites, Columns, Shawls, Myriad Rock Formations, Sparkly Crystals and and Underground River. What a spellbinding, awe inspiring and magical place. Thanks Cousins!
From the caves we turned south to Canberra to visit Adams Labrador cousins Yuki and Kula (White Snow and The Golden One), their trained human companions, Uncle Ewen and Aunty Dee, and explore the national capital.
On Friday morning we got to enjoy Ewen and Dee's wedding gift - a dawn hot air balloon flight across Canberra. We took off from a park east of the city centre and flew across Manuka Oval, Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin and the National Arboretum as the sun crested the horizon. What a magical morning.
After landing, packing up the balloon and returning to our departure point we met up with Ruths cousin Danielle and her partner Alex for brunch, which almost turned into hanging around for lunch as well. We are pretty lucky to have welcoming, generous and nice-to-be-around family to visit all over the country.
Our balloon pilot Kim let us know there would be a big balloon launch on Saturday morning as part of the Canberra Day weekend / annual hot air ballooning festival celebrations. We awoke early again and hitched a ride with Ewen and Dee to the northern shores of Lake Burley Griffin for optimal viewing at Rond Terrace. Over 30 balloons of different shapes, sizes and colours launched from the lawn in front of Old Parliament House, with more joining the fun from other launch sites around the city. We left the terrace and drove to the top of Mount Ainslie for a broader view of the city and the balloons.
You can really see the urban planning skill of the Burley-Griffins from up there. Geometric shapes in harmony with the landscape, easy flow of traffic and people, sensible provision of extra open space for people to be in (and for future densification). What a great city. A final view from Mount Pleasant after driving around RMC Duntroon and we headed to check out the Saturday farmers market at EPIC and stock up on chocolate, mushrooms and coffee beans. Then it was back to base for Adam to spend the rest of the day giving Gary a service (of which there will be another bonus blog soon). Ruth worked on a special project, which you might see soon.
That evening we headed back into town for some of the Enlighten Festival festivities and to check out the (sadly, not very vegan friendly) Night Noodle Markets with Ewen, Dee, Danielle and Alex. We ended up enjoying some beverages on the lawn in front of Old Parliament House, watched the light shows on the various buildings and enjoyed the musical stylings of a very excellent nine piece funk-horns band. Then we went straight to where Alex and Danielle remembered they parked their car by the shortest possible route and didn't have to search any other (four) carparks at all (Thanks for the lift home guys).