Aussie Adventure – Day 7 & Day 8

February 15, 2009 at 6:56 am (Uncategorized)

Friday was family outing day – we left the Normans really early and headed about two hours north-west of Sydney into the Hunter Valley wine region (http://www.hunterweb.com.au/).  I love winery tours, so to partake in one with family members who looooove wine just as much as I do was so much fun.  Here are a few shots to show you the landscape:

hunter-valley

hunter-valley-2

The area was a lot more….hmm….rugged?  Lush?  Exotic?  I can’t quite find the right word, but it was like Niagara-on-the-Lake but on a much grander scale.  What a beautiful place to have dozens upon dozens of wineries!  We stopped in at the tourist information centre to pick up an area map before plotting our course for the day.

Stop one was Tulloch Wines & Cellar Door (http://www.tulloch.com.au/) where we enjoyed our first tastings of the day.  We all had specific goals in mind:  Julia was on the look out for blush wines, Tony was searching for the perfect port, Dan tasted all the reds, and Dave and I were just happy to drink some great wine that didn’t cost an arm and a leg!  Since Cheryl was the designated driver for the day, it was her job to enjoy the many hilarious quips that Tony uttered throughout the tours.  Just a few from later points in the day included “I can’t feel my legs”, and “The lines of demarcation have been drawn”.  Needless to say, Tony enjoyed himself quite a bit 🙂

Stop two was the Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard(http://www.audreywilkinson.com.au/), which offered fantastic views of the entire valley.  I particularly enjoyed the wines here, so we picked up a bottle for the road. 

They had a beautiful hilltop where you could look down into the valley below, so we took a few shots (sorry, they’re of people, not the valley….)

lisa-at-audrey-wilkinson

Yes, I am wearing clothes…

dan-and-julia-at-audrey-wilkinson

Dan and Julia

Next we drove over to Lindemans winery (http://www.lindemans.com.au/), which is one of the larger vineyards in the area.  They had a fantastic tasting area, plus Dave found a great selection of sauces and chilis made with different wines. 

By this point we’d all had quite a few samples, and it was high time for lunch.  We stopped in at Potters Hotel & Brewery (http://www.pottersbrewery.com.au/) for baked brie and beer fondue, cajun chicken pizza and a fantastic chicken salad.  All this plus beer tasting panels for the boys, and more wine for the girls.  Lots and lots of wine and cheese – aaaah – I was in heaven 🙂  This is the kind of life I could get used to!

Next we sipped some bubbly at the Peterson Champagne House (http://www.restaurantcuvee.com.au/) and stopped in at The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company (http://www.hvchocolate.com.au/) where we bought some delicious honeycomb chocolate.  This was a day of indulgence, if there ever was one.  One of the best finds was the Small Winemakers Centre, (http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~dddil/winemakers.htm) which features smaller boutique wineries that aren’t large enough to open their own shops.  They had a beautiful pond behind the building where we relaxed for a few minutes and took in the scenery.  The last stop on the booze cruise was the Bluetongue Brewery (http://www.bluetongue.com.au/).  By that point Julia and I had had more than our fill of wines, so the boys enjoyed one last sample of beer before we called it a day.  The cars had been filled with bottles from most of the wineries we’d visited, plus sauces, chilis, chocolates, and other delectable goodies.  We fell fast asleep for the whole trip home, and then spent the evening relaxing with the family.  It was a fantastic day. 

Although we’d prolonged it as much as any human can delay the passage of time, day eight had finally come – the end of our Aussie Adventure already!  We definitely ended with a bang, though – Julia and Dan graciously volunteered to wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 to drive Dave and I into the Blue Mountains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Mountains_(Australia) for our day of canyoning fun.  We booked a tour of the rainforest canyons through a group called High N Wild (http://www.high-n-wild.com.au/) and chose a full-day adventure called “Twister & Rocky Creek”. 

We arrived just before 7 and met up with our tour leaders, Paddy and Ian.  We were given a brief overview of the day’s plan, then were told to pick out a wetsuit.  Oh, and by “pick out a wetsuit”, they actually meant try one on.  To get a full account of the difficulties of putting on a wetsuit, please refer to the earlier post when we went scuba diving.  Needless to say, I was not impressed that I had to squish my body into a dry rubber suit at 7 in the morning.  We also got helmets, harnesses and water bottles, then headed out in an extremely rickety 10-seater van.  Soon we left the comfort of paved roads and headed deep into Wollemi National Park where the “roads” were more potholes than anything else.  On the way to our launch spot we actually saw a couple of kangaroos hopping around in the distance! 

After about an hour’s drive into the wilderness, we dropped off the van and got suited up.  Our motley crew included two American girls and their Aussie-born father, three British guys travelling around the country, and a guy from Vancouver who was in Australia to surf.  Wetsuits on for the second time during the day, we trekked down a steep slope to the bottom of the valley where we walked along the floor for about 20 minutes. 

Our first stop was Twister Canyon, and there was no easing into this one – within five minutes we were jumping off three meter high cliffs into icy cold natural pools.  For someone who’s afraid of heights like I am, this was pretty huge – I couldn’t believe I could actually will  my body to jump off a cliff!  We swam through huge caverns and slid down rock waterslides – it was so, so fun.  We got to the biggest jump of the day – about 6 meters high – but it was a little too high for me.  I slid down the waterslide and watched Dave take the plunge – it took him about two to three seconds to hit the water and boy, did he yell on the way down! 

There were quite a few tricky bits where the water wasn’t ver deep but the rocks were incredibly slippery and we had to either scramble up or down steep slopes.  At one point they actually clipped us into a harness and we had to abseil down a small cliff….for me it was more like hang on to the rocks for dear life while inching my way down the sheer rock face.  Shortly thereafter we stopped for lunch at the top of Rocky Creek and we were starving!  Our adrenaline had been pumping all morning, and it was quite a workout to walk through the cold water over such uneven ground.  The guides brought a fantastic spread for lunch – fresh rolls with tuna or ham, plus all the fixings including tons of avocado and cheese.  Have I mentioned how much I love cheese?  It was delicious!

All our time standing and swimming in cold water, plus our extended stop for lunch brought on some serious shivering and teeth chattering on my part, so one of our guides had me put on a thick thermal shirt under my wetsuit, plus a warm woollen hat to keep me warm.  Eventhough they quickly became soaking wet once we wer back in the water I found myself much warmer thanks to the extra layers. 

Rocky Creek also started off with a bang – directly beside our lunch stop was a large drop into a huge pool, but we were told that jumping in would more than likely break a leg or two since there was a large boulder just below the water’s surface.  Instead we made our way down through a slippery rock tunnel and then it was back into the frigid water.  We laid on our backs and just gazed up at the sheer rock walls on either side that were covered in ancient moss and vegetation.  It was truly a beautiful sight.  We were then joined by a rather large water dragon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_water_dragon), who swam with us for a while.  Very cool 🙂

The canyoning adventure ended all too soon, and then it was time for the grueling hike back up to the van….and by grueling I mean excruciatingly painful, since my legs were like Jell-o and I didn’t have an ounce of energy left.  I literally crawled up the last little bit, and had to stop every few feet for water.  I’ve never felt so out of shape in my life!  Back in the van we were all exhausted but so ridiculously happy for having completed the adventure – it was by far one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. 

What a great way to end a fantastic week in Australia – I wouldn’t have changed a single moment of our time down under, and hope to go back there again soon!  We are so grateful to Dave’s Uncle Tony, Aunt Cheryl, Julia and Victoria for welcoming us with open arms into their home for a week, and for some of the best memories I’ve had while travelling abroad.

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