Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Weekend in the Blue Mountains

Well, we weren’t technically in the mountains the entire weekend, but we were definitely not in the city, and that’s the whole point! Since I previously wrote about trying to “do” Sydney on a budget, I will include some comparative information for our subsequent three nights outside of the city.

Lodging = $275 vs. $0
To save money on lodging, we stayed with David, whom Greg connected with via couchsurfing.org. David lives in Horsley Park, about 26 miles west of Sydney. True to its name, there is lots of farmland in the area. David’s house is very near to the Sydney Equestrian Park, which was the site of all the equestrian events for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. We slept on a full-size sleeper sofa in the main room of the house which is open to the kitchen and features a wood-burning fireplace, large flat screen tv, and dining area. The one bathroom with a shower was in the rear of the house. It was a cozy arrangement, made even better by David’s hospitality and the friendly farm animals on the property (two horses, a bunch of chickens, and a cat).

Food & Drink = $140 vs. $63
We went to the shopping centre with David shortly after we arrived and chipped in to purchase a bottle of white wine and the chicken for our dinner of homemade chicken schnitzel, sautéed fresh vegetables, and sweet potato fries. The meal was delicious and our conversation covered a wide range of topics including our respective world travels, a rugby (Australian football) tutorial, politics, family, etc. For breakfast on Saturday David cooked a ham, vegetable & egg scramble using eggs from his hens (he gathers about eight a day), served with multigrain toast, fruit juice, and coffee. Greg & I took our leftover pbj supplies to make a picnic lunch while we were in the Blue Mountains, then ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant that evening. On Sunday, we ate our instant oatmeal for breakfast, leftover Chinese food for lunch, and leftover pasta with homemade Bolognese sauce for dinner with the remainder of a 2nd bottle of white wine which we had purchased the day before and beers contributed by David. On Monday we had oatmeal again for breakfast and leftover Chinese food & chicken schnitzel for a snack before we departed for the airport. When we arrived at the airport, I used my Priority Pass membership to enter the Virgin Blue club which had a very nice array of complimentary hot & cold foods and beverages. After eating a quick bowl of pumpkin soup and drinking a beer in the club, I managed to put together a nice sandwich to smuggle out to Greg (who would have had to pay $27 to enter the club) along with some snack mix and a bottle of beer!
Transportation = $17 vs. $173.65
While there is train & bus service to David‘s area as well as the Blue Mountains, it is extremely limited and would not have given us much flexibility in terms of sightseeing. With my Hertz #1 Club Gold membership along with a discount code, I was able to rent a compact car for three days for $142.35 all inclusive with pick up in downtown Sydney and drop off at the airport. We drove almost 350km which consumed about half a tank of gas, which then cost $30.50 (@ $1.19/liter) to refuel. It is very easy to explore the Blue Mountains by car, as the Great Western Highway runs right through the middle of the park. They are widening the road from two lanes to four, so there is significant construction this year. We didn’t encounter heavy traffic, although it was more congested around the towns. On Monday, the most direct route to the airport from David’s house was on the M5 which required a $3.80 toll.

Entertainment = $0 vs. $0
We arrived at David’s house mid-afternoon on Friday. He was already pretty much finished with work for the day and offered to show us around town. We hopped in his car and drove to the Western Sydney Recreation Park near his house, where there is a beautiful view of downtown Sydney from the ridge. We actually bushwalked about 45 minutes round trip to an unobstructed overlook called Devil’s Back. When we returned to the house, Greg & I went for a walk around the property, befriended the two horses and also saw a huge jackrabbit. On Saturday we drove into the mountains and stopped at many beautiful overlooks including Wentworth Falls, Eagle Hawk, and Govett’s Leap. We also walked down to Jelly Bean pool and around Euroka Clearing where we spotted a kookaburra and numerous cockatiels and other birds in the morning, then got lucky and saw our first kangaroo when we returned that evening. Note that there is a $7 fee to enter the National Park but most sites are accessible for free. The only site we entered that had a fee was Glenbrook, but since we weren’t staying long and the booth was unmanned both times we passed through, we didn’t pay. We drove as far as Mount Victoria before heading back down to Horsley Park. We hung out at David’s house on Sunday, watching a couple of movies (Scream 3 & Blade) with his friends while he went to a rugby match.

Miscellaneous = $17 vs. $0
Since David operates his audio/visual business from home, he had excellent wireless service so Greg & I were able to upload pictures, catch up on email, and generally surf the internet much more efficiently than we had at the hostel.

Total = $449 ($225 per person for 4 nights or $56 per day) vs. $237 ($118 per person for 3 nights or $39 per day)
In reality, we didn’t save that much money by venturing outside of the city. Any savings on accommodations & food were offset by the cost of the rental car (only $36/day but with almost $50 in taxes & surcharges added on) and the high cost of gas (approx $4.50/gal). Still, it was definitely worth it for the experience of seeing the mountains at our leisure, hanging out with David, and waking up to roosters crowing.

No comments:

Post a Comment