04 October 2008


I never go to small mountain towns. In fact, every single vacation I've been on (excepting that road trip back in '88 with my parents, sister, and grandparents) has been to a city. Barcelona, London, Dublin, Puebla, San Francisco, New York, Chicago–I've just never thought about going to the mountains for a vacation. Too much of a city girl. Hiking, the starry night sky, fresh air...these things have never interested me.

But the Blue Mountains are only two hours away by train, so we gave it a shot. This past week, Craig and I took a highly undeserved vacation and went up to the Blue Mountains. We stayed at the YHA Hostel in the small town of Katoomba. It was a really wonderful and weird week. We did quite a bit of "bushwalking," which is Australian for "walking on trails."

On our first night, we decided to see the Three Sisters rock formation, which is about a fifteen minute walk from Katoomba. It's a very important landmark in Aboriginal Dreaming. It used to be Seven Sisters, but four of them have eroded. It was a very misty mountain night; we thought it would be sort of romantic and foggy. The Three Sisters are in the Jamison Valley, and every night, they're lit up by this giant orange light.

It was like looking at the end of the world. The fog filled the valley, blended into the sky, and just shone an eerie orange glow back at us. We knew there was a valley and we were on the edge of it, yet all we could see was mist. Just a wall of neverending fog. Spooky.

The next day, the mist cleared up, and we took a 2 hour hike through the park; this time, we could actually see the valley and what was in it--

Our hikes weren't all so rewarding, though. We tried to go to Euroka clearing on Wednesday; we had been told it was a 3 hour return walk and that you were guaranteed to see some wild kangaroos. Awesome. Just try to stop me.

What they didn't tell us was that you had to add on a 1.5 hour train ride each way, a .5 hour walk to the front of the park, and then it was actually about a 4 hour walk each way. Of course. Oh, and the kangaroos are only around in the late afternoon. Naturally. And by the way, the "trail" is an ugly road with cars careening at all speeds and the park of course closes at 6pm. Right. My mistake, so sorry.

About two hours into the walk, we realized we'd never make it to the clearing and then back out of the park before dark, when the maniac Australian nocturnal creatures come out and act all...bitey. I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to make it out of the park at all, because most of our walk into the park was down hills so steep it hurt to walk down them. I couldn't quite imagine getting back up out of the place. Yes, I'm ridiculously weak, but this is neither the time nor the place, friends. It was almost 3pm, we were pretty sure we were lost, we hadn't seen any kangaroos, and we were getting discouraged. Hot, tired, cranky, and disappointed, I naturally decided to pick a fight with Craig. I have got some seriously excellent timing.

We got lucky, and a friendly Aussie offered to drive us down to the clearing, and drive us back out of the park. We rode up, up, and up steeper and steepest hills, until we finally saw the clearing. A 20 foot grassy patch one might easily mistake for your backyard. No kangaroos. At least we got out of the place before any of those creatures got a chunk.

However, I was not to be entirely disappointed; that evening we went to a cafe where we proceeded to fall asleep on the food that we were also eating during what might be called the Choking Hazard of the Century. When I woke up and went to the bathroom to wipe the salsa out of my hair, I found the most Australian hand-dryer in the world.

Yes. That's right. That is a hand-dryer, made by the CHE corporation. Clearly the Aussies love Che at least as much as they love ABBA. And, OMG, do they love ABBA. More to the point, the logo of the CHE corporation is, as you can see, a kangaroo drying his hands under a CHE hand-dryer while an emu watches, somewhat suspiciously. Now, I was not only unaware of the kangaroo's fastidious hygiene practices, but I also had no idea emus were so wildly untrustful. I mean, that kangaroo is clearly just drying his hands. Why does the emu need to watch so carefully? The politics in this outback, I swear.

Slightly daunted, but nonetheless willing to give the old Aussie bushwalk another go, we headed out to the Bridal Veil Falls. A beautiful walk; unfortunately, Australia's so dry and drought-ridden that the Bridal Veil actually seemed a bit more like a Bridal Ribbon, you know, like those annoying hippie veils made of ribbons. A Bridal Rivulet, if you will. We didn't even get lost. Miraculous.

We saw our first wattle bush! This here's the wattle, the emblem of our land, you can stick in a bottle, you can hold it in your hand. Amen! What would bloggers do without the mighty Pythons to reference?

When I was reading Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country," I learned that the fellow who started the American craze of building giant roadside objects as tourist traps had actually ended up moving to Australia and lighting the same fire on this country's dry and desolate roadside. Apparently, American and Australian highways are similarly punctuated with giant buildings shaped like ducks, peaches, etc. I guess we can blame this bizarre sight on that fellow as well...

You see, Olive Oyl is inexplicably standing in a white picket fence, but the fellow in the matching white picket fence is decidedly not Pop-Eye. I guess what Olive does on the other side of the world is her own business, and who am I to judge, but I do think that any guy who's willing to down entire cans of spinach swill for you deserves a little loyalty. I can't say I understand the logic behind putting these two frightening sculptures at what would otherwise be a beautiful lookout, but I can only assume it's to keep children from getting too close to the edge.

Then, on the last evening of our completely undeserved vacation, we went out to Cahill's Lookout to watch the sun set over the valley.

Oh! and congratulations go to Lem! I'm glad to know that was a Brown Huntsman Spider.


  1. "About two hours into the walk, we realized we'd never make it to the clearing and then back out of the park before dark, when the maniac Australian nocturnal creatures come out and act all...bitey."


  2. You are completely a graphic designer Nija! No one else would critique a logo like the CHE 2400 turbo's outside of absolutely being forced to. I still haven't stopped laughing at the fact that the kangaroo is drying his hands while the emu is sitting there with no hands to dry, hilarious, apparently no one else in illustration thinks that is funny or relevant to the meaning of why the emu is in there. I think the CHE corporation is playing favorites and the kangaroo wins this one. Well glad to know that you and Craig are a real couple and actually fight and then promptly fall asleep on your food.Well i must get back to working. Oh Nija, i must email you and tell you the long story of how horrible some of the people in my classes are, they actually talk back to the teacher! I know i know it's like i enrolled in pre-school again, well i didn't do that myself, i believe my mother did but what ever. Ciao!

  3. I think it's clear what's going on here. The CHE corporation is calling for the emus to take political power in a violent outback putsch. Then the kangaroos would be an oppressed race, and the emus' notorious obsession with hygiene would translate into a program of supervised paw-washing and drying. I'm just surprised the illustrator who came up with the logo didn't put that emu in his full officer's uniform, with all the regalia, but I guess such an obvious depiction might have put off potential 'roo users. For now, the emus must bide their time.