We arrived in Australia on Monday evening, and were treated to a spectacle sunset as we drove our (Upgraded! Score!) rental car towards the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. The sky in Australia seems a lot livelier than at home. The blue is bluer, the clouds are fluffier, and the sunsets last so long you start to think the earth might have slowed down its spin.

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When we walked into our motor court motel room in Katoomba, Calla looked around suspiciously. “I’ve heard things about motels,” she said. Now this was not a luxury destination, by any means, but compared to some of the places we’ve stayed on this trip, even in the past week, this was pretty nice. Ensuite bathroom with unlimited hot water on demand (no coins required!), sheets, towels, blankets, AC, even TV. But she’s never stayed in a motel.

Interestingly, we learn the next day that the term “hotel” does not mean what we thought it meant. After passing several “hotels” that appeared not to have any rooms for rent, we finally asked someone about it. Apparently the only places that can sell beer for home consumption are bottle shops (liquor stores) and hotels, which look a lot like bars.

Our first morning in Australia we awoke to a very loud screech. Or squawk. We opened the door to find a pair of very large white cockatiels battling for control of the parking lot. Our first critter-spotting in Australia!

We set out for a short hike in the Blue Mountains National Park. We started out by the Three Sisters rock formations, which just made me miss my two sisters. 🙁 The landscape was pretty stunning, but we had perhaps overdosed on stunning landscapes in New Zealand. We were ready to move on.

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We hadn’t planned to go into Sydney at all, but Calla seemed really sad to miss seeing the Opera House, so we headed back into the city. After many, many wrong turns trying to get to a good spot to view it from afar, we accidentally pulled up right next to it.

From there, having seen quite a bit of the city by accident, we decided to head for the beach. Bondi Beach was a gorgeous stretch of the softest sand I’ve ever seen, loaded with the most attractive beach bodies I’ve ever seen. But then again, I’m usually at the Jersey Shore. Badumbum. I kid! I love the Jersey Shore! And there are not nearly as many deadly sharks and jellyfish there.

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Leaving the beach just as rush hour began, we started the long drive south towards Melbourne. We spent the night in the nondescript beach town of Wollongong, whose name is the coolest thing about it. I hear the surfing’s good, though, but we were on the road again first thing in the morning.

The road south slowed through several cute small towns, which all seemed to have three bakeries and a cheese shop. We stopped in one called Milton for a great lunch, and were thrilled to find they had a two-for-one deal that day. Chicken pie!

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Have I mentioned that Australia is extremely expensive? We’d gotten used to the fact that we’d be tripling our daily budget when we were in New Zealand, but we hoped it would be better here. It’s not. And the Aussie dollar is stronger than the kiwi one. Blah. So again, we just pretend it’s Monopoly money we’re paying with and move ahead. It will all balance out in South East Asia.

We arrived in Batemans Bay on the early side for us, giving us time for a nap, a walk, a load of laundry, and some schoolwork before making dinner in our sweet little cabin at the Big4 Batemans Bay at East Riverside Holiday Park (really rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?). It felt good to just chill for a bit. We might have stayed another night, but we figured it will take another 8 hours of driving to Melbourne, and we don’t want to do it all in one day. So we’re off again in the morning.