With our passports surrendered to the Indian Consulate awaiting visa approval we were confined to land travel. This hardly limited us as we hired a car to visit Deus Ex Machina’s House of Earthly Delights en route to the Blue Mountains.

We scored a well-equipped Airbnb in Katoomba atop the best espresso in town. The town’s main drag, aptly named Katoomba street, is a 15 minute walk from one end to the other, yet there’s still three supermarkets in town. The first three days brought rain, hail, and even a foot of snow nearby – one of the worst storms they’d experienced in decades. A year ago to the day the area was battling the worst bushfire they’d seen in just as long. Stormy days kept us indoors. We found wifi and partook in pleasure reading – an activity foreign to us in our former daily lives.

As cabin fever took its grip the skies finally cleared and we spent three days exploring the sandstone cliffs and acclimating to the Aussie climbing nuances. Before leaving Sydney we managed to pick up a guidebook for rock climbing in the “Blueys.” We were almost out the door before the clerk said, “Oh, by the way, you ought to have a set of bolt plates for the carrots.” This was foreign speak to us until we discovered the naked looking hex-bolts protruding from the rock that require a bolt plate and full-size non-wiregate carabiner to hold it in place. Our ultra-light travel rack consisted of mostly compact wire-gates making things extra interesting. Left to our own devices it took some time figuring out that the bolt plates are carried in your chalk bag… this was just bizarre.

Nonetheless, the climbing was great and the weather held. As chance would have it, the Blue Mountain Climbing Festival was scheduled for the weekend. But rather than spending the day schmoozing and talking about climbing, we opted to get outside and do it instead.

Station bar served adequate pizza and local craft brews. There was good Indian food in town and on our way home we stumbled upon an assembly of 40+ Gaelic musicians jamming together overflowing from the covered patio of a nearby hotel. A single flute or fiddle would start a riff until the whole chorus of accordions, guitars, and percussionists joined in. Players kept showing up until there was no more room on the first floor and we left for our loft down the street.

On our way home we stopped at the only building in town with lights on after 9pm. Across from our rented home was a veterans club that hosted a Chinese buffet, liquor store, and small casino. Slots, or “Pokeys” as they call them, accompanied keno and a small sports book. It felt as close to Las Vegas as we have been in 8 weeks but neither of us felt homesick for it.

We did reflect on what we missed from home. We missed our family and our cat, Zoe. We reminisced about our beautiful wedding as we celebrated one-month being married. We both wished we could relive our wedding day, and if that weekend had never ended we wouldn’t mind.

As our week in the Blue Mountains came to an end the karmic forces of the universe smiled upon us and we received word that our Indian visas were ready. We subdued our excitement and prepared for disappointment as we headed back to Sydney, however, to our surprise, our passports were returned with visas in tow. We’re going to India! And just as important, we don’t have to alter our itinerary.

With a huge weight off our chests, we headed North along the pacific coast highway. Although unable to comfortably accommodate us overnight, our rental car did contain considerable upgrades from Kirby, the campervan. The auxiliary cord input changes a car trip when radio is as lame in Australia as it was in New Zealand. This was all the more important as the landscape from the motorway in Australia pales in comparison to the beautiful green hills of New Zealand.

We stopped for the evening in Port Macquerie – a surf-ready holiday town that was surprisingly busy with most hotels mysteriously without vacancy midweek. We found delicious Thai food for dinner and the solid standard brekkie we’ve come to expect in the morning.

Familiar with the California coast, we didn’t miss a beat getting comfortable amongst the bohemian surf culture that grew in the town of Byron Bay. We had some banging Mexican food and spent the night drinking local beer and cider at a street-side cafe listening to singer-songwriter Florence Pardoe. Her music went down as smooth as the drinks, and she even received accompaniment from the local pop-and-lock squad.

The next day marked the start of the World Series, although it took a little searching in this hippie-hometown to find an establishment airing the game. After the Giants had it, “In the bag,” we hit the road for Brisbane.

On our way we stopped at Byron’s Koala hospital – a small but well-equipped facility housing both short- and long-term residents receiving treatment for burns, dog bites, and constant war against the koala chlamydia epidemic.