Sydney and The Blue Mountains

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September 18th 2009
Published: September 18th 2009
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A short hop on the plane from Melbourne and we landed in Sydney. Unfortunately, it seemed like we had taken the rubbish weather with us but after a bit of rain on day one we got glorious blue skies and sunshine for the rest of our time in Sydney.

It was an actioned packed 4 days in Sydney starting off with a good old walk around the main sights in the city centre, taking in the botanic gardens, Anzac memorial, opera house and harbour bridge. It says in the guide book that you get tingles the first time you see the opera house and harbour bridge and we would have to agree with that as they are such iconic images that everyone associates with Australia and they certainly must be two of the most photographed sights in the world. After wandering around the harbour area and sampling the fare at a harbourside cafe we walked over to the area known as The Rocks. This is the oldest part of Sydney and it has undergone regeneration in recent years so it is now home to shops, restaurants and bars, so we indulged in a bit of retail therapy with Joe finally replacing his 50p sunglasses with some proper ones and Sarah purchasing a pair of Ugg boots - I know, so 2007 but I'm looking forward to cosy feet this winter (although they are less use as footwear in the current 26 degree heat in Brisbane!).

Next morning we got up close and personal with the harbour bridge by climbing up to the top of it. It was very expensive but it was a great way to take in the view over the city and the harbour and it was a good little challenge for those amongst us who aren't so great with heights. Luckily, safety was high priority and the first 45 minutes were taken up with getting into all-in-one suits and harnesses so that we could be clipped on to the bridge to prevent us falling. It wasn't a hard climb, just a fairly gentle incline to the top, which is about 135m above the water. It was pretty hairy though as you could generally see straight down beneath your feet through the steel steps to the water below. The views from the top were breathtaking, we could see out to the open sea to one side and out to the Blue Mountains on the other, with the city scape in between. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take cameras up so no photos of the views but we have them in our heads, which is the important thing.

That afternoon we took the bus out to Bondi to visit the famous beach. It was warm in Sydney, about 20 degrees, but not quite swimming or sunbathing weather for us just yet, although there were quite a few locals enjoying the sun, sea and surf. We sampled some local fish and chips, harassed throughout by sea gulls before heading back to the city centre.

On the third day we joined a tour to the Blue Mountains, about 100km west of Sydney, which are so named as the eucalyptus trees in the area give off a blue haze. We had booked a fairly cheap tour, and it showed, it was all a bit chaotic and there was a renegade group of French backpackers who insisted on running to their own schedule rather than the designated itinerary but that aside the tour was interesting. We started off with a visit to a camping ground that is a regular meeting point for kangaroos. Apparently, numbers have been down recently but we were lucky enough to see a mum and her joey hopping around. Next we drove to the tablelands area to a rocky lookout that provides a good panoramic vista of the entire Jamieson Valley. The Blue Mountains is a bit of a misnomer as they are not actually mountains but instead valleys created by the erosion of sandstone leaving higher bits. We then went for a walk through the bush to view some caves and waterfalls before heading over to the main settlement in the area, Katoomba, to visit the Three Sisters lookout. The Three Sisters are three rock outcrops that, according to Aboriginal legend, were created when a witch doctor froze his three daughters to prevent them being attacked by something evil. He had intended to unfreeze them once the danger had passed but he was attacked himself losing his magic bone that would have released the girls. Lastly, we visited Scenic World, which isn't as fancy as it sounds. It's essentially a cable car and a steep railway (the steepest in the world) down to an area of rainforest, but it passed a couple of hours pleasantly.

We headed back into Sydney in the late afternoon in time for us to dress up (well as much as you can on a limited backpacker wardrobe) for a well deserved meal out at a swanky restaurant called Rockpool. The food was amazing, definitely Michelin star quality (and portion sizes!), so if you are ever in Sydney with a few bob to spare and want a good feed we recommend this place. I think they spotted us for the skanky travellers we were when Joe ordered a rum and coke as an apperitif (classy!), the waiter was visibly surprised but thankfully Sarah brought us back up to spec by managing to order an excellent bottle of wine by chance but pretending to the sommelier she knew what she was doing!

On the last day in Sydney we caught the ferry over to Manly, a beach suburb of Sydney. The ferry takes you past the harbour bridge and opera house, so lots more photo ops, before heading out past the opening of the bay to Manly wharf. Once in Manly we took a bus to the starting point of the 10km Manly scenic walk and walked for 2.5 hours back to wharf. The walk was around a beautiful area of coastline and through a national park with views of the opening of Sydney harbour and back over to the city itself. It was a pretty long walk for us walk-shy types, but we enjoyed it and rewarded ourselves with a well earned ice cream at the end. We had timed the walk so we could get a ferry back to coincide with sunset and thankfully we got it spot on to stunning effect rounding the corner to see the opera house and the harbour bridge backlit by the falling sun - as they say quite a bit in Oz: bea-u-tiful.

We loved Sydney, it's a really amazing city with loads to offer the tourist. You could probably stay for longer and still not see everything but we had a bus to catch to start the 3,000km up the coast to Cairns so we sadly waved goodbye to Sydney.

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