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Published: December 28th 2020
On our second day in Sydney, we had arranged to leave the MSVG for a week which needed a quite bit of organisation, particularly as we had been advised that getting accommodation in downtown Sydney was very difficult on this particular day. Andy confirmed this when trying to get us a room in the hotel next to his apartment on Hyde Park. He had to phone back at lunchtime to see if a room had been vacated. Fellow travellers were told at the Information Bureau there was no accommodation available in the downtown. So we started the day with no idea how it would finish, but agreed to call Andy at lunchtime to see if he had been successful.
We took a decision to do some touristy things and planned to do the $44 deal to visit the Wildlife World and the Sydney Tower as a visit to the zoo - given its location and our time constraints - was a little impractical. The problem was, we had to be back at the ship at 5.00 pm to collect our bags from Immigration/Customs having waited to get them cleared to take off the ship around 10.30 am, which was messing
up our planning. In the event M ascertained that the duck-billed platypus that she wanted to see along with the kangaroos, koalas and cassowary bird (which we missed in Daintree) was in the Aquarium and not the Wildlife Park. So our plans changed and became the $64 deal to visit all three attractions. This turned out to be a great deal, particularly as both the Wildlife Centre and Aquarium were at Darling Harbour, just five minutes from the ship.
We started with the Wildlife Centre which we thought would take an hour but we were there for the rest of the morning. We saw all the indigenous animals we expected to see in very well-planned surroundings. M was particularly taken with the cute koalas and the cassowary bird, but also by the wombat who - after about half an hour of teasing eventually awoke and made an appearance for 2 minutes which we were lucky to spot. D was also well impressed with the reptile collection, particularly the fact that the two most poisonous snakes in the world are from Oz. An excellent morning.
We emerged from the Wildlife Park and M, on a whim, asked the Chinese
lady in the shop (all visitor tourist places have souvenir shops at the exit) if she knew anywhere 'authentic' where we could eat in Chinatown. She gave us very precise instructions to an canteen style restaurant on the third floor of a specific building in Dixon Street, right in the heart of Chinatown. It was about a ten-minute walk from the Wild Life Park/Aquarium, so we decided a lunch break of an hour or so was a good idea, leaving the afternoon free for the Aquarium.
Chinatown was pretty much as Chinatowns are elsewhere, but no less interesting for that. We found the Dixon Building on Dixon Street and went up the escalator a couple of stories. It was not looking promising as these levels contained all sorts of Chinese offices and business specialists. Then, at the back on the 3rd floor we found the restaurant. It was very low key, non-commercial and very busy with only a couple of tables empty out of 25 or 30. We were the only non-Chinese diners in the place, which included everything from businessmen out to lunch and families with babies. It was excellent. D had sticky rice and soft egg with
tiger prawns and M had special fried rice. We got change from $20 - cheaper than Cairns. In the 45 minutes we were in there only one other white guy came in with a Chinese friend. It was a real community eating experience and the people were very friendly - but all Ozzies are friendly away from the sports grounds! It's not in the guidebooks - probably because it’s unlicensed and doesn't need tourists anyway - so let's keep it that way.
Next, we came upon Paddy's Market by chance because it faces Dixon Street and M bought her Sydney T shirt there. And so, back to Darling Harbour via the Tumbalong Parks and Chinese Walk and the IMAX cinema and into the Aquarium. However, before we went in we phoned Andy and learned he had managed to get us a room at the Hyde Park Inn.
We did not see the platypus; but neither did anyone else!! A couple of Canadian girls hung around for over an hour and a half waiting for something to happen. They arrived at the platypus exhibit after we had arrived and had spent 15 minutes trying to spot the beasts in
the aquarium and they were still there when we left. So, that afternoon no one saw this elusive creature. (We were to learn later in Tazmania that dusk at around 6.00 pm - 7.00 pm is the best time for a siting). M really wanted to see this as, together with the species of Echidna, it is one of the 5 extant species of Monotremes - which are the only mammals to lay eggs rather than give birth to live young. It is one of the few species of venemous mammals - as the male platypus has a spur on the hind foot that delivers a venom, capable of causing severe pain to humans. Anyone who knows M will know she likes weird animals!!
However, we did have a good time elsewhere and saw a large female Saltie (Saltwater Crocodile) as well as a Freshwater Crocodile. Apparently, the Australian Saltie is the most feared reptile in the world. (Only the Hippo is feared by Crocodiles - and Oz doesn't have any of those!!). The Saltie lives to an average of 70 years and grows to an average size of 17 feet long and is the largest crocodilian (but specimens
23 feet long and weighing 2,200 pounds are not rare). We also saw many species of fish too ranging from sharks and rays to cute sea horses. The thing we loved about both the Aquarium and the Wildlife Centre is that they both specialized exclusively in Oz fauna.
We got back to MSVG at around 5.00 pm, sorted out a few things and decamped at 6.00 pm, picking up our bags from customs (we hadn't been allowed to take them back on board) and headed for our hotel. We checked in, got sorted and decided it would be a good idea to do the Sydney Tower over dusk, so arranged to meet Andy after seeing the city from its high point. We got to the top without queuing (as we already had tickets) just at the point of sunset and had about 20 minutes before it started to get dark. Like everyone else we did the full round and took a range of photos in the light and the dark. However, as in the Aquarium, some photos turned out better than others, irrespective of whether or not we used the flash. After completing the Tower - also known as
Centrepoint - we did the OzTrek (included in the deal) a 'tacky forty minute "virtual ride" introduction to a cliched Australia'. Difficult not to agree with this guidebook description. Andy was waiting outside when we left. He had researched M's request for a Mexican restaurant and said there was one in North Sydney.We took the train from Winyard to North Sydney; only two stops, but it did go over the Harbour Bridge, quite an experience too. We then set out to find the Had to Happen Restaurant. We enjoyed a very good Mexican meal - Andy and D with beers, M with wine before returning by train and walking to our hotel with Andy where we said our farewells as we were heading off to the Blue Mountains the next morning.
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