After waking up early in our crappy hostel and finding a way out of the bed without destroying it, I managed to walk to the car rental place, where our shiny red Toyota Vitz awaited us in a car park. And shiny it was, indeed. I've driven a car with the steering wheel on the left before in Japan, but this was the first time driving a manual transmission car and changing gears with my left hand. It took some getting used to, as I found out right away. I managed to get out of the parking lot with a bit of trouble, as I was constantly starting in third gear. I only found out when I tried to switch to second, which was suddenly to the left of the first gear.... Still, I can now drive from a standstill to 50 in one gear, another skill learned :D
Finding back the hostel by car was not hard, navigating all the one-way streets was a bit more complicated, and after a big wide circle around the hostel I managed to park in front of the door. NN was ready with the luggage, and we were on our way to Melbourne! Well, not straight to Melbourne. Our first stop: the blue mountains. These are called the blue mountains because of the many eucalyptus trees, whose oil evaporates and creates a soft blue glow in the distance when the weather is hot.
We didn't have an exact destination in mind, so I just drove to the mountains, after which we found the best lookout point on the GPS. The road itself was great to drive. Wonderfully winding and twisting, and not much traffic at all. A good change from the busy streets of Sydney. Arriving at our destination I managed to find us a parking spot very close to the lookout point. I paid for the parking ticket and we were off for lunch and to look at the blue mountains. I won't bother describing it, just take a look at the pictures :)
Coming back to the car we found an unexpected surprise: a fine!?!?! Crap... Apparently we parked just at the wrong end of a sign that said 'parking allowed from here'... And because it was easter weekend the Australian police surprised us with a 'double demerits' campaign, meaning that every fine is twice as expensive during easter... Come on Australia, how messed up can you get? And thanks a lot, Christianity... I am definitely an atheist now -___-
We made another stop near a famous big waterfall in the blue mountains area. We walked around a bit, and managed to get quite close. Quite an impressive view. And no parking fine this time... Driving back down from the mountains we ended up in a traffic jam. I found out just how much it sucks to drive a manual car in a traffic jam trying to climb a steep hill. The clutch pedal survived, somehow, and we were on our way to our next destination: Canberra.
For that night we drove until I got tired, and then we stopped in the middle of nowhere for the night. We got a good look at the stars, but the moon was so bright that we could see everything quite clearly, except the stars. We managed to wake up a farmer somehow, because we parked next to his farm, and he drove there to investigate what kind of weird people would stop there in the middle of the night o_0 So we drove on a bit before finding a better place to stay the night.
The next day we arrived in Canberra quite early. The weather was appalling. Rain and cloud and drizzle. We were planning to go sightseeing, but the crappy weather (and the lack of things to see in Canberra!) made us change our plan and we decided to go to an art museum instead. There was an exposition of paintings of famous landscape artists, so we spent most of our afternoon there. Late in the afternoon the weather cleared up a tiny bit, but it was already too late to view the sights. We went onwards to Melbourne. More on that later in part 4 :)