Published: January 24th 2006January 4th 2006
The Opera House
Big.. isn't it!
Arrived in Sydney and walked out of the airport terminal into a hairdryer! 32 degrees and it was half past five in the afternoon! Our first hostel/hotel was the Sydney Central on Wentworth, a budget hotel which despite having a fridge and tv in the room lacked the one essential... air con!
Still it was fairly close to Darling Harbour and the city centre and we had a pleasant walk around getting used to the fact that we were now in Australia.. a strange feeling when the flight was only a few hours to get there but you're still thousands of miles away from home.
We had an impressive tour of the Sydney Opera House. I'd never realised that the Opera House and adjoining concert hall were actually buildings inside buildings! To maximise the accoustics the inner buildings are made of wood, and the famous outer shell is totally separate. The organ in the concert hall has 10,000 pipes, but funnily enough the biggest audience they've ever had was for a Billy Connolly comedy show.
Changing accomodation on the third day, we checked in at the Carlton Crest hotel just 5 minutes walk from Darling Harbour and our first
real luxury since staying at the Hilton courtesy of British Airways. It had a roof top pool and our lovely room had a balcony from which you could see the harbour if you leaned out far enough!
From here we rushed down to the harbour for a ride on the Sydney Jet boat. It was slightly bigger than the Shotover jets from NZ but more powerful. Lin and I nabbed the two corner seats in the back row to maximise the experience and ensure we got really soaked. It really was excellent fun with lots of fishtailing and spins and crashing over the wakes of other boats around the harbour, and we were totally drenched by the end of the one hour trip.
Having dried off in the sun, we caught a City rail train, then a bus to the famous Bondi Beach. It was heaving with bodies, and the water was filled with swimmers and surfers doing battle for the best waves. Had a great time and luckily didn't get burnt for once!
New Years eve was effectively an all day event for us. After a dip in the hotel pool for the morning, got some supplies and
... is over!!
headed over towards the opera house. Unfortunately B.Y.O alcohol was banned so we quickly buried my beer and Lins bottle of Malibu under a hedge..crazy I know.. then walk around the botanical gardens to Mrs Macquaries point. From here we had a great view over the bay to the Opera House and the Harbour bridge behind.
Sitting on a bank it was a slightly uncomfortable wait for the fireworks in the blazing sun, but well worth it. There was a display at 9pm for the kiddies then the main event at midnight.
Also , lots of large pleasure cruisers were motoring to and fro in the harbour with light displays on their rigging. At the count down to midnight, cupid sent a flaming arrow from one end of the bridge to the giant heart hanging at the centre which began the display.
A great night, and a bonus was that our drinks stash was still under the hedge at the end!
New Years day was spent at and travelling to the Hurstville motor lodge in Blakehurst. probably good that we weren't sunbathing on a beach, because at 46 degrees C it was the hottest day in Sydney since 1939!
..and it's Houston swimming for the Gold!
The following day was alot cooler and we took the ferry over to Manly on the norh side of the Sydney estuary. In Ocean World we saw a huge tank with a large collection of Grey Sharks, huge ray fish which appeared like rugs on the floor of the tank above the viewing tunnel and among other things turtles, snakes and spiders.
The popular Manly beach was not so crowded due to the cloudy weather, but we sat on the sea wall for a while bfore hitting the shops for new swimwear then the pub for a ten dollar steak...
Due to the heat and the weight of our packs, we splashed out on a taxi to the station and caught the train to Olympic Park, the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Luckily we were able to stash our packs in the Aquatic centre office having phoned ahead and been promised there were lockers big enough for our packs... which there wasn't!
Australia always have great success in the pool and with facilitis like this you can see why. Under one roof they had a 50metre training pool, the fifty metre competition pool, a twenty five metre
'short course' pool and the large diving pool with at least 6 diving platforms /boards.
After warming up in the training pool, we had a swim in the competition pool. Great to think that I'd swum in the same lane as Ian Thorpe when he won those world record golds in 2000.
After a quick lunch, we went on a tour of the Telstra Stadium formerly known as Stadium Australia. The running track had been removed along with the extra 30,000 seats installed just for the games. This still left a stadium able to host four codes of football (rugby -league and union - soccer and aussie rules) with a capacity crowd of 80,000 people.
Our last visit at the park was to the Tennis centre, which was being prepared for the warm up event to the Australian Open. In the evening, we had a pizza, (well, i had two!) with Mark and Fetin, - Lins friend from university and his new wife - then stayed at their flat in Meadowbank.
On their way to work, Mark and Fetin dropped us Blacktown where we caught the train via Springwood to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Very misty
What a great view!
on arrival, so we checked in at the large YHA then just walked around town and booked an activity for the following day.
Had a swim, spa and sauna in the local sports centre and only noticed the 50m outdoor pool on our way out!
The mist was still present the following day, but this only meant we couldn't see the view from the top of the cliffs from which we would do our abseiling! I'd last abseiled in the scouts so I was looking forward to this. After a warm up of three metres, the group progressed onto 15 then 25 metre abseils.
Our friendly guides then drove back to town to drop off Lin and the other half day customers then myself and 5 others were driven to the Empress canyon for a spot of Canyoning! After lunch we changed into our wetsuits and abseil harnesses and walked down into the Canyon. I've never had so much fun, and really enjoyed making our way through the canyon over rocks and boulders, jumping from great heights into natural pools and creeping round a poisonous water snake before attempting the final challenge.. a 35 metre abseil down a waterfall. I really enjoyed the experience and the scenery and couldn't stop smiling on our way back to the bus.
On our last full day we ignored the mist and walked around the cliff path to Echo point. It was a great shame, as views were supposed to be fantastic but just before we left Echo point and millions of pesky flies!.. the mist lifted enough for some pictures of the Three Sisters, the well known rock formations.
Having exhausted myself the previous day, I returned to town for some blogging and a movie. Lin continued down into the valley and enjoyed an afternoon on the Skyrail, more walking and a trip on the worlds steepest railway.
Had a relaxing evening with a tasty do it yourself Indian complete with poppadums!