I woke up at 7am rather easily on Day 5 of my trip, realizing that I had spent the night at my pen pal’s apartment. Yes, you read right. A pen pal. Since last year I have made a few pen pals from all around the world purely because of my love for writing and a curiosity for learning about other cultures. I had been corresponding with my pen pal in Sydney since January of this year. Upon hearing about my visit, we decided to meet up and made a plan to have a sleepover at her place so she could drive me to wine country the very next day. Meeting a pen pal in person is probably one of the most unique and pleasant experiences I have had while traveling.
At 8 am we started driving, munching on “lollies” (in terms of the British/Australian word for candy) along the way. Hunter Valley, the region filled with vineyards and famous for its wine, was a 2.5-hour car ride away from Sydney and enough time to get to know the person next to me 🙂
Our first stop was a small old-timey town called Kurri Kurri, whic9h was a town famously known for its murals. The small town contained 55 murals mostly designed by town locals and painted on shop, restaurant, bathroom, etc. walls. My phone camera was working nonstop to take pictures because each and every mural was amazing to look at. The array of colors painted and the illustrated scenes and people were truly unique to the town of Kurri Kurri. One of my personal favorites included one of a 1970’s drive-in theater (which still exists/works today) with old cars and Elvis Presley on screen. Another favorite was a contrast between schoolgirls at Kurri Kurri’s public school in 1904 and schoolgirls in 2004, showing many differences between the two eras.
Lunch was served at the Visitor Center’s Angel’s Cafe where I had a teapot full of one of the best teas ever: Rose Grey. The owner even gave me some tea leaves of her own when I asked about the tea and where she managed to obtain such fragrant tea leaves 🙂 Wine tasting was next on the list with nothing short of beautiful views (despite the cloudy weather.) The wine tastings were all free (the best part!) Most people would buy a bottle from the wine they tried and liked so it was great knowing that you were paying for something you actually liked rather than for just a small taste of it. Hunter Valley was also full of precious little shops full of tea leaves, antique souvenirs, more wine and beer, chocolates, and coffee: all shops that we had the opportunity to explore. After the visit to the wineries and cute shops, the icing on the top was seeing kangaroos in the wild, crossing over a winery that was right across from us. We managed to get quite close! I learned that kangaroos in Australia are seen as often as deer in the United States.
Not only did I officially gain a new friend in another part of the world but I also had the chance to explore a beautiful region full of gourmet foods and wine. What an amazing day…