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Published: October 27th 2016
Days 5 to 10 of 165
So we have just finished our first day of camper van travel........
But let's go back 6 days.....
Flight over to Sydney was on Etihad partner airline Virgin. We were very fortunate to be seated in just a pair of seats at the back rather than as a two from three set. This made for a fairly comfortable flight over. Food though was pretty naff especially the heated until melted omelette baguette that was served for breakfast - urgh. We were in well on time and fair sailed through customs, immigration and quarantine. Quite disappointed really. No massive warning signs 'no fruit', no sniffer dogs, no xraying of luggage. We declared Pip's medicines, our duck down sleeping bags and our concentrated fruit squash and they were all waved through.
A shared shuttle taxi took us right to our hostel front door. After storing luggage , check in not til 2pm, we took ourselves off to explore. First target was to get to the Opera House which we did via the Royal Botanic Gardens which meant we were also able to check out the spot we have booked for NYE fireworks -
The place is stuffed with exotic birds - kookaburra, parrots, cockatoos etc. It seems like we are permanently walking through some giant zoo aviary. Also we are here when the Jacaranda trees are in their full lilac blossom.
The next day, Sunday, we took ourselves off to Statues By The Sea. Now in its 20th year this sees the cliff path from Bondi to Tamarama , about 2km, lined with 100+ sculptures from artists worldwide. Some very good, some 'what the heck was that about?'. .
We spent a pleasant lunch at the Icebergs Club - so called because it is a cold water swim club, they even put ice blocks in at times - watching swimmers braving the angry seas cascading into their saltwater pool. Bondi Beach was just beyond. We paddled but it was freezing. Hardly anyone was braving the sea in the gale.
Day 7, Monday - we spent a very long morning with a Sydney Greeter, Lyn. A free service, Greeters are volunteers who aim to be like a friend in a new city. We had previously asked that she
focus on older buildings in Sydney, quite a challenge. This she did very adeptly but especially so as she took us inside several buildings eg banks and hotels, that as a casual visitor we wouldn't have dreamt of going in to. The rest of the afternoon was spent going to Manly on the ferry and watching 30-40 surfers with varying skills catching the very large (to us) waves there. We were also very lucky to spot a Water Dragon alongside the path (think very large lizard).
On Tuesday we collected our van replacement hire car and went to the Blue Mountains, passing the Olympic Park. On the way we had a delightful coffee and cake at Glenbrook and detoured to Lennox Bridge, the oldest bridge on Australia mainland, built 1833, taking 12 months with 20 unskilled convict labourers. It carried all traffic until 1926. In the more central Blue Mountains we flitted from viewpoint to viewpoint, and spectacular views they are too.
Wednesday we were in amongst the park. We started with Scenic World, which has 3 'rides' - a cable car between ridge top and forest floor boardwalk, a skyway with a glass floor which crosses a
gap horizontally, and 'the world's steepest railroad' , an incline cable operated rail system at 54%. After completing all they had to offer we went off on a grand circuit Prince Henry Undercliff Walk, the Giant Stairway (900 steps, down of course) and the Federal Path, about 8km in all. We were fortunate to spot several Lyre Birds and an Echidna (think oversized hedgehog) bumbling though the undergrowth.
This was, we found out the next day, quite a good workout for our calf muscles.
And all around it is like being in the Lake District in spring. Azelias, rhododendrons, photina in full red splendour, even some narcissus out.
And this brings us to today. We drove back to collect the van and after some orientation now find ourselves on our first night's camp, at Holbrook ie nowhere, on our way to Philip Island, near Melbourne and the Penguin Parade.
Breaking Roadkill Stakes news :- Dead Wombats 2 - 4 Dead Kangaroos, so we think the Wombats won today.
Some random observations so far:-
Drink cans are 375 ml not the 330 in the UK
Kit-Kat fingers are at least a third longer, though
a bar can cost £2
Aussies know how to use the possessive apostrophe eg Plumbers' Supplies
Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are like pigeons. There are flocks of them, they will land on your table for food.
Aussies drivers do not speed at all; far too many patrol cars and cameras for that and possibility of instant licence removal.
Aussies have a nice turn of phrase, even on official signs eg on dual carriageway crossovers signs at the other side saying 'WRONG WAY, GO BACK!'
Pedal cyclists are allowed on motorway!!! And trucks can use all lanes, and travel at same speed as cars.
Camper vans are not very well endowed with much space!
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