Rachel Down Under!

To the races!

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on September 28, 2010

And we’re off! Following a full week of paper-reading mixed with thesis celebrations, partying South Americans, and an international Mexican night, I awoke early on Saturday morning for a classy day at the Randwick Royal horse races. Little did I know that my mom was simultaneously preparing for a trip to the World Equestrian Games in good ole’ Lexington, Kentucky; like mother, like daughter, I guess!

While the competition at Randwick may not have rivaled the horsemanship at the present World Games, it was Ladies Day in Randwick, and fashionable ladies were out in full force. If only I had known in advance that “fashion spotters” would be “roam[ing] the course looking for the Best Dressed Female on the track” maybe I would have had a shot at the $25,000 Thailand Spa Retreat holiday grand prize for the best-dressed lady. Good prize, huh? I tried to take pictures of some of the most outrageous dresses, but my efforts to get the perfect shot became a bit too creepy, even for me. Here are some pictures from the race- the track looks just like Kentucky!

And here’s the huge party taking place next to the track…did I mention that Ladies Day was sponsored by Yellowglen, a vineyard that specializes in sparkling wine ? Also, that’s my university on the hill in the background!

Here I am at the races- can you believe that none of us won the fashion contest?

So here’s the horse I bet on…I can’t resist those gray horses.

And how did my horse fare, you ask? Well, you tell me…

WINNER. That’s right. (sorry if the sound isn’t working on this video; just imagine me cheering loudly!)

My day at the races was followed by a birthday celebration at an 80s club with my lab. Can you see why I love my job? Photo credit to my labmate, Lera.

But the biggest adventure of the weekend was still to come- a trip to the Blue Mountains with some new international friends!

An early start to the day (as you can see below) and we were out of Sydney and into the Blue Mountains in a snap!

And again, Australia delivered another scenic and beautiful day. With perfect weather (sunny, light breeze, warm), we enjoyed a lovely day of hiking, and my legs are definitely still feeling it. Here are some pictures from a wonderful day in the mountains:

First glimpse of the mountains!

The famous Three Sisters. Legend has it that three sisters of the Katoomba tribe were turned to stone by a witch doctor who had hoped to protect the sisters from the trauma of a tribal war (3 suitors from a neighboring tribe wanted to marry the sisters and you know that Katoombas wouldn’t have any of that). The poor witchdoctor died in battle before he was able to change the sisters back to life, and so they remain frozen as rocks here today.

Can you see the tiny bridge that connects the first sister on the left to the mountain? Well pretend you are standing right there, and this is what you would see- the first of the three sisters is on your left!

Wow! From this point, we began our hike with a descent down the Giant Stairway, an extremely steep set of 900 stairs cut into the side of the mountain that leads down into the beautiful Jamison Valley. The only bad thing about going down, is that you have to go back up to get back to where you started:

Luckily, the rest of the hike was so incredibly beautiful that it overwhelmed the pain of climbing up and down hundreds of stairs. The path wove in and out of countless waterfalls, caves, ferns, and cliffsides. I just couldn’t get enough of it!

Now, in a cave!

First waterfall! Can you tell I was excited?

But the waterfalls kept coming…

And coming…

I’ll leave you with my favorite view from the day. It’s actually the view from the top of the waterfall in the above picture. Looking forward to the next adventure!

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