A trip to Down Under!!!

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July 15th 2018
Published: July 15th 2018
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Travelling is not just about ticking your passport with visas but actually living in a city where you have never been to!!!! This is what I did in my trip to Australia in January 2018. I was accompanying my husband for an official workshop in Sydney and we decided to stay only in Sydney for the entire duration.

After checking out a lot of itineraries online, I decided to plan my own chilled out vacation without any plans. I received my visa just one day prior to the journey which caused a lot of stress and last moment rush. So as soon as I reached Sydney, I decided to spend the first two days relaxing and enjoying a much-needed SPA, unwinding after a stress journey and adjusting to the time zone as Australia is five hrs ahead of IST.

To start with, we took the first stroll to Circular Quay followed by many to see the Dawes point, Sydney Cove etc, during our stay in Sydney and each time it had something diverse to offer. It was the main station for ferries, trains and buses. Not only this, it’s a vibrant harbour from where huge cruise ships board and depart. Though it was summers, the weather was surprisingly very pleasant with nonchalant breeze. The two main attractions- Opera house, Sydney harbour bridge can be covered from this point. The iconic Opera house is a recognised UNESCO world heritage site, signifying a unique blend of culture with innovative architecture and design. This place was full of people as multiple shows were running since evening till late night as it was a Saturday evening. The harbour side open restaurants & open disc with a site of lighted Sydney Harbour Bridge were truly cherry on the cake. This sums up a mellow evening at the circular quay.

(Traveller’s tip: For breath taking views, one may choose to climb the Sydney harbour bridge. The cost is $300.)

The next day was a beach day as we headed to Bondi Beach, seven kms from Central business district and easily accessible by bus. It was interesting to know that ‘bondi’ is an aboriginal word meaning the sound of the water crashing into the rocks and at times you find even this melodious. We particularly enjoyed walking around in a glistening white sand beach and did not wavered from doing a 6 km coastal walk from Bondi to Cogee beach, offering splendid views of the sea, rocks and lush green parks surrounded by a promenade. In the end, rested at the small grassy knoll, waiting for the sun to set in.

(Traveller’s tip: For walking enthusiasts, a walk from Bondi to Cogee beach is a must.)

During the weekdays, while my husband was attending the workshop, I indulged into some shopping, strolling and exploring the city on my own and happen to visit places which we usually skip in a two-day trip. Getting used to a habit of relaxing and in no hurry to move, made me start my days little late in Sydney. In one of the afternoons, while strolling I decided to go to the Royal Botanical Garden as I hardly get to see gardens in Mumbai where I am staying for the last 9 years. This garden was 30 hectares large, situated in the heart of Sydney, a short walk away from Circular Quay and Hyde park. It was a serene retreat on the edge of Sydney harbour offering spectacular views of Sydney harbour, the Sydney opera house, Sydney Tower and the Sydney harbour bridge with absolute peaceful atmosphere. The garden was home to colourful birds, fruit bats and water dragons.

(Traveller’s tip: Entry is free to the gardens, open daily from 7am. The nearest train stations are Circular Quay and Martin Place)

Continuing with the walking fervor, the other day, I happen to chase a magnificent structure in Gothic style with twin pinnacles called- St. Mary’s Cathedral, visible from far off, despite being surrounded with high rise construction. The cathedral was picturesque with interiors richly decked up in combination with red, blue and gold.

While returning from the cathedral, I went to the oldest public parkland in Australia, Hyde Park, located in the Central Business District (CBD). It was lush green sight with big trees offering a cool breather in the summers. Another highlight of the park was Archibald Fountain where a bronze Apollo was encircled by horses’ heads, dolphins and tortoises.

I eventually crossed the Parliament House and Sydney’s oldest surviving public building, The Mint commonly known as Sydney living museum. These days the building is famous for hosting events of high prominence. The best part of these walks were mid-way cafes difficult to resist. One such instance where my endurance gone for a toss was The Lindt Café located next to Martin Place stations. Must for all those who aesthetically love chocolates. The café has savoury items also in their menu.

To catch the panoramic glimpse of the entire city, we made it to the Sydney Tower and experienced the skywalk in an astoundingly chilly weather, despite January being summers season. It is the tallest structure in Sydney offering 360-degree views of the city. We were lucky enough to go to this place twice to adore the view in bright daytime as well as in glittering night-time.

On one of the evenings, we happened to attend a live musical show performed by a local whose forefathers were aboriginals. Aboriginals are traditional custodians of Australia and still found to be living in many parts of the Sydney regions. The aboriginal people developed three musical instruments- the didjeridu, the bullroarer and the gum-leaf. The local performer played the most famous instrument ‘the didjeridu’ ( actually called a yidaki in the aboriginal language ), which was a long bamboo like instrument made up of wood mostly from a hollow trunk of a tree, propelled with lips like a trumpet and in a unique way adjusted by the player’s vocal tract. The musical show was about mimicking bird’s call, their laughter, cries of dingoes with remarkable dramatic effect.

Another offbeat attraction covered was a visit to Fort Denison Island, used to be a former penal site and later became a historic museum. The museum exhibit age old defence fortification, Artillery stocks of 19th century including giant sized canons. This place was used by Europeans as a place for incarceration of convicts and offered very little food as part of their punishment so they always had ‘pinched guts’. For this reason, this place was originally known as Pinchgut Island. Later on, the fort was used as a reference point for tide gauge station, weather station, time marker and changing navigation systems.

Needless to mention, we even took a tour to Sea life Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Wildlife World and Madame Tussauds wax museum. Since their wildlife world was quite small and my craze for Koala prompted us to visit Taronga zoo. With such an impressive public ferry system, it was quite comfortable to travel in all directions. By ferry, Taraonga zoo was 30 minutes from circular quay and located in the suburb of Mosman. This is the best place to see exceptional faunas including Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, Koala, Ring tailed lemur, Porcupine, Tasmanian Devil, etc.

As the trip was nearing to an end, so was my quest for buying an Australian opal. Opal is an incredible gemstone and 90 percent of the world’s precious opals are from Australia. A lot of colourful opals are available, however, black opals are the most rare ones and expensive too. It’s fascinating to see the sparkling battle of colours as the light passes through opals. I settled for a brilliant blue opal earrings which I bought en-route to Manly Beach. The starting range is 150 to 200 Australian dollar. Since we bought it from a registered shop, we could also claim for tax refund from the airport while leaving.

Our last excursion point was Manly Beach, only a 30-minute ferry ride away. It offers swimming, surfing, snorkelling, Kayaking and coastal walk. Since I am a beach person, I cannot find anything wrong with the beaches. This was the perfect way to end the vacation by saving the best for last.

Franklyn Roosevelt once said “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on”, however, this time I am making an exception as I am looking forward to my next trip.

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