Published: November 9th 2011November 6th 2011
Journey and flights to Sydney uneventful, connection went fine – Brisbane a very easy airport to navigate and 40 mins was ample time! Had a good view of Sydney Bridge and Opera House as we came into land.......in cloud...... Bought 7 day tickets ( $59 each) which will take us to and from the airport, and also allow us unlimited travel on buses, trains and ferries for our duration! Our hotel/hostel (Bounce) is an excellent hostel. Good size room, free breakfast (you have to make it yourself though!) very clean and modern and fabulous views from the roof terrace. The best thing is that it is next to Central Station so very easy to get out and about!
Next Day - Luck was always going to run out weatherwise – and it ran out today! Awoke to grey sky and misty drizzle – just like England!! Caught the train to Central and wandered miserably around the harbour admiring the Opera House! Decided to go back to hostel and get coats (seemed a sensible idea!) and join the Free Walking Tour that leaves the Town Hall at 10.30am. It was an excellent tour- the young girl, Justine, started it as her own
business and just asks for donations at the end, but she is such a personable person and full of entertaining information and history, as well as useful tips and we probably saw a lot of things that we wouldn’t have maybe found ourselves! It was a shame it rained a lot of the way round but it didn’t seem to dampen Justines’ enthusiasm! www.imfree.com.au
At last it stopped raining and about 2.00pm the sun came out and we caught the ferry to Manly Beach where we had a walk along the front, past Shelly Beach and Cabbage Tree Bay and were lucky enough to spot an Eastern Water Dragon sunbathing on the rocks! Caught the ferry back and got some excellent view of the Opera House (better than this mornings drizzly rain ones!)
Had a drink on the Circular Quay, under the Opera House, watching the boats and ferries on the harbour and then went for a walk in the Botanical Gardens for an hour or so. It’s a beautiful park, with many pathways and lakes to be explored, as well as the formal gardens of Government House. Lots of rare palms and unusual trees, jacarandas in full purple bloom
and cockatiels screeching overhead as they find a place to roost for the night! Plenty of bats also hanging around – literally!!
Strolled back around the harbour, watching the last of the light on the Opera House before having a very average, very expensive ( Australia is very expensive for everything!) spaghetti bolognese in the old quarter called The Rocks! I was quite surprised that in Sydney there are a lot of old Victorian Buildings and their history obviously goes back to when the first fleet of convicts arrived in Australia in 1788 and the first ‘street’ was set up along the waterfront. There are a lot of old narrow lanes, including remnants of the first hospital and archways, where it is said that the women used to jump down and attack the men for their money!! (so Justine said!!)
Anyway, back to the hostel for relatively early night!
What a difference a day makes!!! Awoke to bright sunshine and after breakfast decided to catch the M50 bus, from near the hotel, to Coogee Beach, where we could walk (6km) along the sandstone cliff top walkway to Bondi Beach. The path weaves along the coastline covering some of Sydneys best
beaches and has spectacular views of the rocks and sea all the way! We were also lucky because today was the start of the Sculptures by the Sea exhibition so as we neared Bondi Beach we had a few extra diversions!! It was fairly crowded with hoards of school children admiring the Modern Art Sculptures ( although they seemed more interested in the surfers!!) and I took a few photos of the more bizarre pieces of Sculpture! Not really my sort of thing but Chris liked ‘The Red Man!’
Reached Bondi Beach, watched the surfers for a while and after lunch (Macdonalds!) caught the 333 bus back to Elizabeth Street and walked down to the Chinese garden of Friendship! Peered through the fences but didn’t go in as we have already seen quite a few Chinese gardens in China!! Lovely area though with fountains, cafes, jacaranda trees, petit tren, monorail and a lovely childrens water playground with streams, funnels, fountains, pumps and bridges, which then leads out to Cockle Bay and Darling Harbour which is another lovely area to wander around. Walked across Pymont Bridge and decided to get the ferry to Cockatiel Island!
Bit of a shock as no
cockatiels!!! It was a convict prison between 1839 and 1869 and is now on the World Heritage List. The Fitzroy dock, which was the biggest ship building yard in Australia, was carved by convicts in leg irons in the 1850’s often waist deep in water. At some point in history the island was also a home for orphans and there are also a lot of 1950’s industrial sheds relating to the maritime history – Bit of a mish mash really but as no-one went there for a hundred years they are still excavating it to see what other secrets the island holds!
Back on the ferry to Circular Quay and a meal in the Old Quarter again! Had a wander around the markets before catching the train back to the hotel!
Chris had booked a trip way back in June to go to the Blue Mountains today! (Oz Trails) Luckily we had another hot sunny clear day and we were picked up about 8.30am for the hour and a half drive to Katoomba and Scenic World. We decided to do the optional extra of the Sky Train across the gorge (it didn’t look too bad!!) to get the spectacular views
of the Jamieson Valley and the Three Sisters rocks and then caught the worlds steepest funicular railway (52 degrees!), built in 1882 for the coal miners to haul the coal up from the forest floor. The train was enclosed in wire mesh (to stop you falling out?) and passed through a natural tunnel in a slot existing in the cliff face, past rocks 250 – 205 million years old – older than the dinosaurs! Quite a ride! We then had a walk round the natural rainforest at the bottom where our guide/driver pointed out trees that were 500 years old and the vines and other forest plants that the Indigenous people used to use for food etc. Saw the remains of the old coal face and the entrance to the coal tunnels as well as the old camp where the miners used to live until coal mining was abandoned in the 1930’s. We then had a cable car ride to get back to the entrance – not really worth the extra 25$ each as you could have walked and seen the same things, but good fun!
Drove back into Leura for a 45minute stop for lunch before going on to
Wentworth Waterfalls where we walked down to the lookout (mindful of venemous brown snakes that are common in this area! Apparently four of the six of Australias most venomous snakes live here!!) to view the waterfall and rainbow! Not too much water but beautiful view of the valley and blue mountains made it worthwhile! On to the other side of the mountain to Table Top where you can walk right up to the edge of the cliff with a sheer drop of approx 1000ft!! Some people were brave enough to sit on the edge with legs overhanging or stand, in one place, on the small shelf below and look as though they are clambering back up over the top! Mmmm......bit windy for my liking but still pretty good!
Our last stop was going to be trying to spot some wild kangaroos but as we were running late (it was a full on trip!!) our driver had to break a few speed limits to get to a natural wildlife corridor where he knew kangaroos lived! Everyone out of the mini-bus and across into the field (we were supposed to stick to tracks because of snakes but as we were rushing everyone
was going everywhere!!) where we just spotted two kangaroos jumping away! Our guide tried to drive them back towards us but they weren’t up for a photo shoot in the hot sun and galloped away in the other direction for some shade, pretty annoyed at having their sleep disturbed!!
Just managed to reach the Olympic Park on the Parametta River, where we boarded our ‘cruise’ ship with 5 minutes to spare, for our 1hr cruise down the river, past all the residential areas and back to Circular Quay for 18.45pm!
Caught train back to the hostel, ate locally and packed up ready for the New Zealand flight at 08.35am tomorrow.
There are more photos below