Thursday, January 10, 2013
Road Trip, Australian Style
We picked up our rental car in Sydney and, good thinking on our part, rented a GPS with it. I was a little nervous about the whole "driving on the left side of the road" thing, especially since we had no idea where we were going! The guy at the car rental place quickly instructed us about how to find the highway and head for the Blue Mountains. I like the way people seem to think they can whip through the directions as if we know what we are doing and we are gonna retain the instructions, right?! So our first adventure came right as we exited the car rental garage on a different side of the building from where we entered and already could not figure out what to do. Rich was trying to pay attention to which lane he was in and I was trying to look for street names. We drove around for maybe 20 minutes before we got on the right road. Oh yeah, did I say that I couldn't get the GPS working at first, either?! Fun times!
With the GPS finally operational, we entered the Great Western Highway and off we went! It is really freaky sitting in the passenger seat on the left side of the car, where you are used to sitting when driving. I was feeling like we were right on top of the rail or the curb on the left. I kept telling Rich, "You're awfully close over here!" I had a little flashback to years ago when I went to Trinidad with an attorney, working on a death penalty case. As she was driving, she got too close to a cement wall with a chain link fence above it and we had a little wreck right off the bat. We weren't hurt but the car was messed up and the rental company had to come rescue us and give us a new vehicle. I was a little concerned that there was gonna be a repeat!
Meanwhile, Rich was saying that it felt very weird driving while sitting on the right. He felt like there should be a lot more room to HIS right, as it is when you are driving in the US. So he didn't want to get too close to the center line, even when I was repeating, "You're awfully close over here!" All in all, he did great and we slowly got more comfortable with the situation. We were laughing because all of the controls are opposite as well, so the windshield wipers and the turn signals are reversed compared to American cars. Rich said, "You can tell the American tourists--they're the ones entering the roundabout with their windshield wipers flapping on a sunny summer Australian day!" I loved some of the Australian signs, including "slippery when frosty,"
Looks freaky, huh?
We learned that "overtaking" means "passing," of course, and doesn't it seem strange to keep to the left unless overtaking? And Australia is on the metric system so we got to go 100....well, 100 kilometers per hour, that is.
Here's Rich looking pretty cool, calm and collected. After he tried parking against the curb on the left a few times and went up on the curb, he understood what I was saying about being TOO CLOSE on that side! And he started practicing "hugging" the center line. Our Aussie friends told us to remember "passenger to the curb" and just "follow the traffic." It did help to get in line behind everyone else! The funniest times came when we approached a road with no traffic on it and had to figure out on our own which lane we needed to get into. My favorite lines were "Keep left, keep left!" and "Give way!" which is Australian for "yield." :0
Roundabout! I was most worried about these because you have to stay left while circumnavigating the circle, and trying to figure out who has right of way and when you can exit. There are LOTS of roundabouts in the little towns we drove through. Luckily, traffic was light and we had it DOWN by the time we were finished with our road trip!
We had pricelined a hotel in the town of Leura in the Blue Mountains. It was decent and had a pay laundromat so I got to do some wash. The internet did not work in the room, of course, so I had to make a few trips to the office. We were really only there to sleep and eat the free breakfast so no biggie. At one point, I wanted to move on and go somewhere else but we couldn't find any better deals and decided to stay put. By the time we got to Leura the first night, it was getting late so we didn't do a lot. We did drive over to the neighboring town of Katoomba for dinner. We walked around a little bit and I loved the sign above, stuck onto a pole on the street.
We ate dinner in a cool little place called the Common Ground Cafe. You can't get a good look at the decor here, but it was built almost like a tree house with various levels, lots of wood, and carved furniture. It appeared to be run by a collective or a religious group. I didn't know anything else about it till I looked it up on the internet. See more here.
We were sitting at the "frog" table. If you look closely, you can see a small green toy frog under the glass.