I took a tour of the blue mountains through a company called Barefoot Down under. I chose them specifically because the flier claimed that only a “moderate” level of fitness was required (while other tours said the hiking was “hard” or “difficult.”)
As a cancer survivor with a heart condition, I struggle. I mean, I am not unfit. I run three times a week at the gym and I swim nearly every day. I can and have hiked all day. In fact, just last year I did the 888 stairs to the top of Ulsan-Bawi in Seoraksan.
That said, I can’t go at break-neck speeds. I can’t run up and down trails. I do need to hike slowly. And that is why I chose the tour group that said the difficulty was only moderate.
Unfortunately, the tour group leader decided that running was the only way to hike.
Honestly, it would have been fine if we got to Wenworth Falls recreation area, and then he pointed out the easy trail to me to get to the falls. It was short, and I saw children and old people on it. After all, I had disclosed that I had a heart condition, and if he was planning on running wildly down the trails, then he should have let me do my own thing and given me a time to meet back up with the group.
However, he didn’t.
He took me into the jungle and then told me the path he was taking to the falls would be “too hard for me” and to “just sit at the trail fork.” I sat. And sat. And sat. He never came back for me and the group did not return. I ended up deciding to hike back out on my own, and I sure am lucky I did! The tour guide had decided to take everyone out going a different way, and I would have missed them all and got left in the forest by myself.
To add insult to injury, he had his wife e-mail me to say “You have wondered off. Please return to the tour or you will be left behind.” When I got back to the city and had wifi, I checked it and when I saw that i was livid. He told me to stay behind, and then planned to say I wandered off and it was my own fault.
Luckily, I decided to hike out on my own.
However, I couldn’t very well yell at him in front of everyone when I re-joined the group (and boy did he look surprised to see me.) After all, one of the other girls on the tour told me that he had pretended to try to come and find me (which I know he didn’t, because I did not move.) Ergo, he played it up for them so that he could make sure it looked like my fault.
I took the high road and tried to act cheerful for the rest of the day. We went to a restaurant with overpriced kangaroo burgers, a street full of graffiti, and an overlook to take pictures. However, the whole time I was thinking about how the guide had tried to leave me in the woods because I confessed to having a heart condition and he wanted to run all day.
The thing that gets me is this: He could have just said “This hike is rated difficult” on the flier. If he had done so, I never would have gone on the tour. I wouldn’t have paid a bunch of money to see Wentworth Falls (which I never got to see.) I would have looked for another tour, or taken a bus up to the park and hiked at my own pace like my friends did when they went to the Blue Mountains.
So basically, the tour flier is misleading. It is not “moderate” in difficulty. It is “hard.” That is something they should change immediately. I have no idea how Wenworth Falls looks, and I spent about an hour in the woods reading my book instead of finding out because the tour guide told me that I was “breathing too hard” as he was literally running up a hill and I tried to follow, and so he told me that I should “wait here until the group returns.” I was pretty disappointed.
On the upside, we did come across Chris Darwin (the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin) completely by chance. So, I got to meet him. At least that was something.
The first place I stayed was the YHA Hostel in Bondi Beach. It’s a little out-of-the-way (as in, not on the main strip in front of the beach.) However, I actually enjoyed that a lot because we could hear the ocean instead of the people partying late into the night. It’s a run-down sort of hostel where everyone is on beach time (as in, not in a hurry,) but I like that as well.
It was a short walk down to Bondi Beach if you went one way, and a short walk down to Bronte Beach if you went the other. Both are beautiful, but Bondi Beach is certainly the more crowded of the two.
The best part was taking the coastal walk along the cliff-sides and seeing all the fabulous views. You can walk through Waverly Cemetery as part of the coastal walk as well, and that is a beautiful place full of old gravestones from early colonial days.
I walked all the way to Clovelly Bay, since I planned to snorkel there. It is a significant distance and there is a lot of up and down-hill, so I recommend a moderate fitness level or a bus pass so you don’t have to get back the same way if it’s too much for you.
Still, you can’t beat the views of the coast in the Sydney area! The sandstone cliffs are striking, and the little beaches inside coves are full of cheerful families and surfers. It’s really a delightful walk.
As you know, I recently visited Australia. I already posted pictures of my snorkel adventures on the Great Barrier Reef, but I also snorkeled in Clovelly Bay, Sydney.
It was freezing cold (to someone who lives on Guam) but I saw my first groupers outside of an aquarium, and that was magical.
I highly recommend that anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps and snorkel any of the Sydney stops from Manly Beach to Clovelly Bay to get a wet suit. I should have, but it was the middle of the summer in Australia and I thought it would be really hot.
Turns out, that is not how Australia works. Water coming up from South America is cold year round. Now I know.
At any rate, it was my first time snorkeling or diving outside a tropical environment since childhood. Instead of coral, there are plants and something that looks an awful lot like moss.
That was quite different. Most of the fish were less colorful, which I expected. However, some were surprising colorful for living in cold water.
I hadn’t snorkeled in a cold environment since my trip to Catalina Bay in Middle School. I remember the huge kelp forests, and how the little orange Garibaldi fish and bright purple star fish really stuck out in the sea of greens. This felt very similar to that.
This is me at the top of Mt. Lam Lam. There are not a lot of mountains to climb, so I just climb the same one over and over. Island life, huh?
This is the “desert” side of the island down South. There are a lot of trails to valleys with waterfalls and pools to swim in. I like the tall grass and the red dirt. They contrast well with the blue sky and the fluffy clouds.
This is me with the first waterfalls that you come to on the Tarzan Falls hike. They are smaller than the main waterfall, but still pretty.
This is Tumon Bay, where we live. It is the most beautiful view I have ever had, and I know we’ll never have such a beautiful view out of our windows again.
These are wildflowers out on the trail. Usually you just see types of ground orchids, but these pretty lacy flowers are new to me.
Rich and I at Hamamoto Fruit World. It is basically just a really big orchard for tropical fruit trees, but I really liked it because I love plants.
This is the view from Two Lover’s Point. You are looking down at Tumon Bay, and one of the short little buildings in the middle is our condo building.
This is my favorite flower. It is called a Passion Flower. They come in different colors. When I was a little girl, my aunt had some that were orange and purple. I loved them. The ones here are mostly white, but they are still pretty.
I am getting sort of frustrated with a few things I see on the island, and I wanted to talk about them. First and foremost, I want to say that I am horrified when people don’t stay two meters away from endangered animals, as is required by federal law.
Fish Eye is a problem. I know it. You know it. Everyone on Guam knows it. They feed the marine life by dumping chum in the water, and it can cause all kinds of bad situations like the semi-domestic barracuda that lives there and has injured people, or the turtle that learned the dangerous and unfortunate lesson that people equal food, and paid for that lesson with his life.
While we can all look around and see that other people are doing things wrong, let us please also remember that others’ mistakes do not give us the right now also break laws and behave badly. Do not touch or get within two meters of endangered animals. This includes the native birds, coconut crabs, sea turtles, and anything else you might encounter that is rare and in need of protection.
Please, don’t pet or feed the animals.
Next up: the coral is alive. Coral is a living colony of organism called polyps. and they get crushed when you stand on them.
I see people all the time at Gun Beach, Fish Eye, Gab Gab, and Tanguisson just standing on the coral like it’s not big deal. And FYI: it’s not better if you are barefoot. I don’t care what you stand on a polyp with. It is a tiny animal and you will kill it by standing on it.
Some coral can appear to be dead, but still have living sections on new corals trying to grow on top of the old. Just because it doesn’t look alive to you, doesn’t mean that it is not alive. So don’t stand on anything at all unless it is sand. If you can’t float well enough to adjust your mask or whatever in the water, then get out of the water to do it if you can’t find sand. Just don’t stand on the coral.
And finally: Every time I go out I find trash. Every single time. Last time I went out I was at Gab Gab and I found a Planters Peanut bag. In Tumon Bay and at Tanguisson I usually find beer cans and flip flops. At Fish Eye I found umbrellas, sun glasses, hats, and all kinds of other garbage.
The point is this: The ocean is not your landfill. Stop dumping your trash in the ocean like it doesn’t matter. It matters a lot.
I guess what I really want you to do it be responsible and kind. Oh, and recently someone stole my flip flops off the rocks by the ocean while I was swimming. So although it should go without saying: Don’t steal people’s things while they are in the water!
Just be cool, folks. Be cool.
Sorry to sound harsh. I know this comes off as bitchy. But, I care deeply about nature, and I hate to see people hurting it.
I hope you’ll spread the word to others on the islands, and to anyone you know who is visiting an island soon.