Sydney (23rd March – 3rd April)
We were very lucky on the trains from Melbourne to Sydney, both times we managed to get four seats, meaning we could turn them into beds for a more comfortable sleep. We arrived at Central Station Sydney around 10am Sunday morning, Lucy’s uncle Jim & Muriel were there to greet us. (Having not seen my uncle for at least 15 years it was amusing walking up the station smiling at the person I thought could be him but not 100% sure waiting for a smile of recognition from them – Lucy)
Jim & Muriel wanted to take us out for lunch and find out all about our trip so far. Jim is a member of the Navy Base HMS Watson, the view from the bar was amazing, we watched Sydney Harbour whilst we had lunch.
Monday we headed straight for the City, Lucy’s cousin Fiona dropped us off at the local train station (Beecroft), to catch a train in. We’d never seen double-decker trains before! (Plus trains where you can flip the top over to change the direction you are sitting – Lucy)
Now that we’re experienced travellers we headed straight for the City’s Visitors Centre… after an hour of walking around we eventually found it. We were a little disappointed, as it doesn’t compare well to Melbourne’s Visitors Centre. (It didn’t really cater for backpackers – Lucy) Nevertheless we got all the info we needed and started to explore Darling Harbour. (A fantastic place in the heart of the city – Lucy)
First stop was the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a very relaxing and thoughtful place, strangely located in the centre of the city. The garden was very scenic, beautifully sculpted and managed. We sampled chinese green tea then dressed up as Emperor & Princess to wander the gardens (yes we even have photos).
We found a Northern Territory Outback Centre, which doubled-up as a travel agency and sovenier shop. Every couple of hours they would host a free Outback Exploration Show, an aboriginal man told us about his culture, the outback and how to play the digeridoo. (This was very amusing as it involved audience participation – Lucy)
Tuesday was time for a better view of the city at Sydney Tower in Centrepoint. You really do get a good feel for the city when you are 250 metres above the ground, puts it all into perspective. After the observation deck we headed across to the Sydney Skytours, a virtual adventure through Australia… it was quite an interesting experience.
Having spent the day in the house relaxing and starting the mamoth up date, Wednesday evening we went out for an Indian Meal with Fiona & family. My first encounter with a full-on BYO (Bring Your Own booze).
Thursday Jim took the day off work to take us around the Blue Mountains. The views from up there are fantastic. We got to see the Three Sisters and experience the steepness of the mountain (52 degree incline). We got a train down the mountain (The train uses the old mine shaft route, when you get in the train at the top you are stilling up right but when you get to the bottom and the train is on the level you are lying on your back – Lucy), then we got a cable car back up.
Lucy Reporting – Whilst Lee was boogie-boarding at the beach!
After another day finishing the mammoth update we had our first night out in Sydney. We caught the River Cat into the City with Fiona and some friends (Dean was left at home baby sitting, he wasn’t too impressed). The trip on the river cat was amasing especially when we turned a corner and there was the city lit up with the bridge and Opera House in the middle. Once I recovered from my Sea-Legs and got my balance back we walked down to the Opera House and sat at the Harbour with a beer or two with fantastic scenery.
All feeling a tad hungry we went for pasta at the Intercontiental Hotel. You had three choices to make at the restaurant – how hungry are you (Peckish, Hungry or Famished)? What type of pasta you want? and what sauce to have it with? Having made these three choices they then cooked the pasta and sauce in front of you and it was ready in minutes. So simple and no waiting.
Fiona’s friends decided to show us the best night in Sydney, we went in the monorail for a whole circuit and a couple of stops. Boy did they know how to have fun!!! We were going to experince a real Aussie bar but to calm down after the monorail trip we went for ice cream instead.
Saturday morning Fiona came round with the kids to pick us up and go to the Koala Park. Penny (my other cousin) came round with her and it was the first time I’d seen Penny since she was in England 17 years ago. She’s changed just a little.
The Koala park was cool we were able to feed and stoke Kangaroos which Liam loved. We got some cool photos, even one with us cuddling a Koala. We also watched a sheep shearing show (Yippee – Lee).
In the evening we went to watch a Rugby Union game (NSW Vs QLD), Jim had managed to get us tickets for (Big Cheers as it was the first professional Rugby Union match either of us had watched live).
Having spoilt us all week we thought the least we could do was treat Jim and Muriel to lunch. But before that Lee and Jim went to a local computer market to see if they could find a bargain laptop. When they eventually returned we headed off to the coast. Muriel had a nice restaurant in mind at a place called Whale Beach. Having found the beach the restaurant had gone very up market and out of our price range so we headed off to Palm Beach (aka Home-and-Away’s Summers Bay).
After lunch we went for a walk along the beach past Alf’s Boat-Shed. We watched 4 or 5 Kite Surfers (Dudes on surf-boards with parasails. We saw one guy jump a wave and fly through the air for at least 30 seconds, it was incredible – Lee).
On the way back to the car I wanted to be a sad tourist and visit the Surf-Club. Lee wouldn’t come with me, so Muriel came and we had a lovely chat with the lady at the kiosk. Who told me that it was the same surf-club that they used in the filming of Home-and-Away. She also told me we wouldn’t be able to see the Caravan Park as it was burnt down in the fires over Christmas (Doh!).
Leaving Summer Bay (Don’t you mean Palm Beach Lucy? – Lee), we headed back to Sydney via Manly for an ice cream then up to North Head. North Head was once a Army training ground but now a National Park with views out to sea and also up the river to Sydney city. As we drove into the Park Jim told us we had to be out by 5pm as they lock the gates and there is a $50 fee to have them opened. I checked the clock in the car which said 4:40 so thought we would have a quick look and then get going. When Jim started off along the cliff-top walk I was therefore a little confused until Muriel quized Jim about getting back to the car, having the same thought as me.
Jim wondered what the rush was, as it was only 3:55, the clocks had gone back but Jim hadn’t changed the one in the car yet (Oppsie). We followed the cliff-top walk and at one point I thought it was starting to rain until we realised the water was coming up not down. We were getting wet from the sea spray being caught in the uplift. We made it out of North Head before 5pm and headed home, stopping for Pizza first.
We had a great week staying with Jim and Muriel. We were really spoilt with breakfasts of fresh fruit, juice, tea and toast on the table every morning waiting for us. Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and we had to leave. But not a problem as we didn’t go far, Fiona and Dean said we could stay with them.
So Monday morning we said bye to Muriel and moved our bags to Fiona’s before heading in to the City to explore some more. We had our first day of real rain and we had forgotten how wet you can get. We thought we’d to go to the IMAX to get out of the rain but there was nothing worth seeing for a couple of hours. So went for food and got soaked in the process though I didn’t feel cold until we got inside with the air conditioning. After some food and window shopping we went back to the IMAX to watch SOS Planet. It was a 3D-movie, I kept trying to catch objects as they floated past the screen. In the evening we went out for Dean’s mum’s birthday.
Tuesday was a quiet day once we dropped Bridget off at school. We met John and Heather in Circular Quay and went for coffee by the Opera House (the same place where we went for beers with Fiona). We walked as far round the Opera House as we could, then went into the shop. On the way out we heard a siren go off then an anouncement saying they are practising an evacuation and we were to ignore it. Funnily enough we walked a little quicker away, heading over to The Rocks for some lunch. We later went for ice cream and I think Heather tasted every flavour before choosing, then typically picked the one she first tasted.
We decided that two nights was enough to disturb Fiona & Dean as we were sleeping on the sofa bed in the living-room/kitchen. Wednesday morning after dropping Bridget at school we cleared up our things and headed into the city to find a hostel. Oh Boy did we choose a dodgy one (Lesson #23 – DO NOT rely on a Lonely Planet, especially if its 3-years out of date). Our double-room turn out to be a 4-bed dorm with 2 bunk-beds. (Never, ever, ever stay at Downtown City Backpackers, excuse my french, but its the biggest shithole we’ve stayed in yet! – Lee)
We dumped our bags in the room and headed down to the Brigde. Today was the day we were going to do THE CLIMB. It was a little overcast but looking on the bright side at least we weren’t going to roast in the sexy grey overalls they gave us to we blend in with the bridge. We signed the disclaimer and had a breath test. There was no going back now. Next was the lovely overalls, we had to take off anything that may come loose and fall down to the road below. Now dressed ready we met our guide who was going to climb with us. We got into our harness, hooked on a cap, slip and hanky on our wrists and attached an waterproof jack-in-a-pack to our belts they were not letting us take anything on the bridge that would drop off. Next came the climb simulation, yep we had to practice climbing some ladders. Finally we had the radios attached and we were off.
The climb itself wasn’t as difficult as we expected, very relaxed pace. The views from the bridge are amazing. The guide told us all sorts of stories about how the bridge was contstructed and its purpose. At the top we had the typical photographs taken of us and the Opera House. Overall its a great experience, but we found it a tad bit overpriced.
After we got back to the bottom, we bought all the souvenirs, then met up with John for some food and drinks. We found a lovely Italian resturant down some back-alley.
Thursday we decided that we wanted an adrenaline rush… Oz Jet Boating! A high-speed boat trip around the Sydney Harbour, guaranteed to get you soaking wet! Having got back into bartering mode, we managed to get the price down from $36 to $35 (easy tiger – Lee). We we’re given two options, sit and the front to feel the jumps, or at the back to get soaked! We dived in the front… (jeezus was it bumpy – Lee). Every so often the driver would warn us that he was going to do a ‘spin’, we all counted down from three, then flew around in a circle, (Stomach churning stuff – Lee).
After the ride we walked down to The Bridge Pylon to see more amazing sights of Sydney, but this time we could take piccies. Once back on the ground we kept taking about how much we loved the jet-boating, that we decided to do it again, this time on the back seats! It was so funny watching John get drenched, as he was on the edge (it was even funnier than the time Bullet fell up the stairs in Amsterdam – Lee).
In the evening we met up with Kimberley (another friend of Petra’s) for drinks. The plan was to go to ANA Hotel for views and cocktails. However Lee was wearing trainer-type shoes, so we couldn’t go in. (Typical – Lee). So we headed for “Jackson’s on George” – apparently a famous bar in Sydney. An interest part of the evening was when we got approached by a ‘3-Minute Angel’ offering a 5-minute shoulder massage right there in the bar.
Friday morning was an early start (We couldn’t get out of the hostel fast enough! – Lee), headed across town to meet our tour bus on the trip to Byron Bay. We got there early, John did not. The bus arrived on time, still no John (I hope he didn’t get lost? – Lee). Our tour guide, Ivan, told us to phone his hostel… The bloody bugger hadn’t checked out yet! It seems he slept straight through his alarm. Luckily Ivan was pretty relaxed about it, so we waited for John.
We’ll tell you all about Ivan’s Tour and Byron Bay (and Surfer’s Paradise) in our next posting… until then you can take a look at the photos of us on Ivan’s Website