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Sydney to the Blue Mountains
I travelled by train, and during the brief journey watched as the city gave way to bushland. It wasn’t only the houses and factory units that dwindled from sight, but also the clouds, which seem to disperse with every gentle curve of the rail track.
My destination was the town of Katoomba, the largest settlement within the national park. It is home to the Three Sisters, a triple-peaked sandstone formation over 900 metres high, which towers over the nearby valley. As soon as I disembarked, the lethargy and loneliness that I’d felt in Sydney ebbed away, replaced by a surge of enthusiasm.
The town had the look and feel of a quirky backwater, but also the vibrancy and intimacy of a place where nature lovers coexist alongside artisans, musicians and the sporty. Trekkers marched happily along the café-lined high street, mingling with window shoppers and photographers, in a scene reminiscent of the Lake District in England.
A magical moment in Zanzibar
Stone Town moves at a different pace to most of the Western world. Ambling slowly, we came across intricate doorways carved with meticulous care, now fading with age. Houses and apartments were alive with laughter, as the zesty aroma of spices drifted in the balmy night air. Our aim was to exit this maze at the quayside, where each evening the locals come to enjoy freshly cooked seafood and spicy delights.
After many dead ends, we spotted an unlit alleyway and tried our luck. A few steps later, we emerged into a bustling night market, next to the water’s edge. Anchored dhows clinked gently in the harbour, waiting patiently for dawn. Kerosene lamps were being lit by the vendors, casting a soft glow across the ancient harbour walls. We shared our meal of succulent king prawns, grilled kingfish and chapati with an inquisitive cat. With each portion, he moved nearer, until we could reach out and stroke his soft black coat.