Katoomba, New South Wales, Australia

Happy New Year! New Year reached us about 37 minutes ago. We celebrated with a bottle of French bubbly (Oyster Bay’s and Sundries finest–“You can get a whole bunch of Mumm’s”). We are in the Blue Mountains about 2 hours outside of Sydney. We had a lovely dinner of Chinese food and are now getting ready to go to bed as we have another overnight bus ride to Port Macqauarie, a resort town about 8 hours north of Sydney in NSW. Unfortunately we arrive at 4.30 AM. Ouch.

Yesterday we had quite an odyssey trying to get a flight out of Indonesia. Our dilemna: since both the US and Australian government have issued their most serious travel warnings to Indonesia (defer all non-essential travel), and we have a one-way ticket to Bali, how do we get to Malaysia/Thailand/Singapore? We visited STA Travel, Travel Centre, and about a dozen other travel agents to get a reasonable ticket, but they were all about $1000 US. Finally, we went to Malaysia Airlines office in Sydney to try to exchange our Medan->Penang tickets for cash when the agent suggested that we could buy a ticket from Bali to Kuala Lumpur for only $150US. So that’s the plan: Brisbane to Bali (1/11/02) and then Bali to KL (1/12/02). From there we can take a quick train ride to Singapore or Bangkok. There are not even any severe travel warnings for any of the places we want to go! And we can exchange the unused portion of our tickets!

We felt a little like we were on the show “Amazing Race” going from airline office to airline office. We finally found a cool agent who was willing to “bend the rules” and issue us a ticket that was supposed to be for long-haul travellers. After finally getting our reeasonably priced tickets, we felt like rubbing it in some competitors’ faces, but there was none to be found.

Katoomba is a quiet one-horse town, with antique shops and used book shops for day-trippers from Sydney. It is a little too far to be a commuter suburb and depends on tourism for its main attractions: the Three Sisters rock formations, the Blue Mountains, and other natural features. Unfortunately, the town is still a little raw, and I would be a liar if I said that we loved it here (we are looking forward to moving on!). Tomorrow we head to Port Macquarie and the beautiful NSW coast and beaches! Pray we don’t meet up with any box jellyfish or other nasties.