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Australia Round the World 2007

Goodbye Sydney

I checked out just in time this morning, but stayed a little longer for a coffee to use up some of my milk. I left a note for Martina saying goodbye, then got a taxi to the station. The driver seemed very grateful to get a tip. In the train station (above the coach station), I was given an address about 600 metres away, where there was a left luggage. I decided to try in the coach terminal first, and they had left luggage too, which everyone else is apparently oblivious to.

I started walking into town afterwards, and it took me a good ten minutes to realise I was going in the wrong direction! Should’ve occurred to me the street names I recognised started disappearing! Anyway, when I finally did start going in the right direction, I got into the city centre, got a coffee, wandered around the Queen Victoria Building a bit, then headed over to The Rocks.

Lots of sitting on grass and reading today. Had lunch in a cafe. I’m sure I would’ve stopped for another coffee too. Finished Fleshmarket Close.

I got up and started walking back to the station around 5pm. I said “goodbye” to Sydney (while no-one else was in earshot!) and felt quite sad, since I won’t be back for quite some time.

Australia Round the World 2007

Sydney From The Sky

Sydney Harbour from the Bridge

I woke up late this morning and missed breakfast. I was fine with a coffee and juice though. I started my day at Sky Tower. The second tallest building in the southern hemisphere, and the same height as the Eiffel Tower. I met a really nice Scouse couple on the way up in the lift. You can always rely on them to be chatty!

It’s been really clear today, so the views were great. You could see all of Sydney. And the windows are angled, so you can look right down to the streets below. Unfortunately there is a skyscraper partly obscuring the view of the Harbour Bridge, and you only see some of the Opera House; but you do still them. My ticket also covered something called OzTrek, but I couldn’t be bothered sticking around for that.

My second lookout was the Pylon Lookout at the Harbour Bridge. That was much cheaper and just as worthwhile. You have to climb quite a lot of stairs to get up there, after walking quite far too. There is a museum about the construction of the bridge and various facts about it. It’s the largest and heaviest bridge in the world, but one in the US is 63cm longer. There’s also a video, but I didn’t watch that. The views from the top are great. And there are markers facing various directions, telling you what landmarks or places are that way. And I could just about make out the Blue Mountains in the distance.

I had planned to go to the southern beaches today, but time seemed to escape me. I started late, and stopped for coffee a few times. Hopefully I’ll make it tomorrow: would hate to come to Sydney and not make it to Bondi!

It was around 4pm when I was leaving The Rocks, so I went into the Queen Victoria Building to have a quick look around. “Opulent” is probably the best word I can think of to describe it. And if ever you come here, make sure you use the toilets on the top floor!

And then I came to the internet cafe to update my blog and upload as many photos as I could before I left Sydney.

Australia Round the World 2007

Museums and Galleries

Sydney Opera House

I didn’t realise just how long it takes to get from the hostel to Circular Quay until this morning. I had my Opera House tour booked for 10am, but it said to get there by 9.45am. I set out a little after 9am, expecting time to get a coffee beforehand, but I only got there by 9.50am.

The tour was quite interesting. Did you know it took over one million tiles to cover the shells of the building? And all the screws that are (pointlessly) screwed into the floor slabs are perpendicular? And that the organ pipes in the concert hall go eight metres back? Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take any photos inside the halls, only in the corridors and the exterior. So I bought a postcard of the concert hall as that was the most spectacular. There was also a display of the other shortlisted design entries, including one that has been kept under a bed for 30 years!

Anyway, after that I went for a coffee and read a couple of chapters of my book, then headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Most of the exhibitions were quite boring, but I saw some interesting print pieces, and a video piece about Dog Day Afternoon, which made it worthwhile.

After that I wandered around The Rocks Market for a little while, which is all up-market and tourist-oriented gifts. I decided I didn’t really want anything so got some lunch in a nearby cafe, followed by chocolate covered strawberries on a stick. I dropped my last strawberry though.

After that I headed over to the Australian Museum. It was already 3.30pm, and I think that’s why I got a concession. It too was quite boring. Don’t think I was really in the right mood for looking around museums. There was a really big mineral and gem display though. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was brilliant. Well worth the admission price of the museum.

So, after that I headed up to the internet cafe. Unfortunately, Flickr was undergoing maintenance so i couldn’t upload any photos. I still managed to spend three hours there, getting my $3 worth!

I got back to the hostel around 8.30pm and had some supper before the kitchen was locked up. Then I hung out in my room chatting to Martina, the Swedish girl I’m in with. Read a few chapters and went to sleep around 11.30pm.

Apparently Sundays are the day for domestics on the street around here. We were woken by two people screaming at each other around 6am, and there was a girl screaming at someone before we went to bed too. Fairly certain the woman from this morning was taken away by the police!

Reading: Fleshmarket Close – Ian Rankin

Australia Round the World 2007

Blue Mountains

“Who spotted the snake? Good going Fran, we’ll make a tour guide of you yet.”

Diego, the tour guide

I’d booked a tour to go up to the Blue Mountains today. Picking up at 7:50am. Ugh. I coped fine though, ready outside the door as told. There were two buses going, and I had to swap before we left the city, but that was fine because I ended up with the lovely Diego as my tour guide. Very cute Aussie of Spanish descent.

We visited the Olympic Park first, as it’s on the way out of the city. We didn’t go inside the stadium, but we were right outside, and we saw the torch, which had the names of all the medal winners on small plaques in the ground around it.

Then we headed up into the Blue Mountains National Park, and our first stop was Glenbrook. We visited a nice clearing in the middle of the eucalyptus trees, where there were quite a few kangaroos hanging around. We stopped in the village for a drink and bite to eat, and then headed further into the mountains.

We stopped at a lookout where we could see the Three Sisters rock formation, Mount Solitary, and a lot of the canyon. We then went to Scenic World, just outside Katoomba, the unofficial capital of the Blue Mountains. We took a walk down into the canyon, about 250 metres, passing the Witches Leap and Katoomba Falls. While still near the top, we saw a tiger snake. Highly poisonous. And I didn’t run away screaming. I was actually following where he was going so that everyone else got a chance to see him. Made sure I was well out of the way before everyone started taking photos and pissing him off though!

To get back up, you can either walk or take the steepest railway in the world. Had Diego told me the railway goes into the rock and it goes pitch black for a few seconds, I might’ve considered walking. It was pretty scary. You don’t go fast, and you don’t go that far, but it is a 52-degree incline, and there are thoughts of plummeting into the canyon running through your mind.

Anyways, when that was all over, we went over to Echo Point Lookout, which is really popular for seeing the Three Sisters as it’s the closest. I got some photos, then had a muffin and coffee while I enjoyed the view.

We left around 4pm and I was back at the hostel by 6:30pm. Then had supper and updated my blog.

Australia Round the World 2007

Busy Busy Busy

Manly Wharf

Today is my 18th day away from home. Feels longer.

So today, the weather still wasn’t great, but I’d decided I was going to Manly this afternoon no matter what. I started the day by going to the used bookshop up the road and buying two books. I then took a wander through the main strip of Kings Cross (I’m actually on the outskirts). This is the seedy suburb by the way. So I wandered up Darlinghurst Road, past the train station, and then all the hostels and tour booking companies, mixed in with strip clubs and sex shops. And I walked into the Golden Arches for a milkshake. You can always count on McDonalds to be everywhere can’t you?

Then I went up to El Alamein Fountain which is pretty cool. It’s in the shape of a dandelion seed head. Then I wandered down a couple of streets to get to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. This is a Sydney Institution. It’s a pie shop that’s by Finger Wharf and has been there since 1945. I got a pie and coffee, and then remembered I had also planned to go to the Art Gallery and Botanic Gardens before Manly. So I got going.

Whizzed around the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Managed to see most of the free exhibits. Walked directly through the Botanic Gardens – they’ll have to wait until another day- and straight up to Mrs Macquarie’s Point. I took a couple of photos of the city en route, but the point is supposed to be the best place for photos. I got half way through my panorama and my camera batteries died.

Anyway, while I was out there I noticed the weather was improving, so I quickly walked over to Circular Quay and got the next ferry to Manly. Manly is about 7 miles from Sydney and takes 30 minutes on the regular ferry, which is perfectly fine, but you really feel the waves when you reach the ocean inlet.

Manly Wharf is on the sheltered, river side; and it’s main beach is on the ocean side. When we reached Manly, I went to Tourist Info and “Boost” for a juice and stamp in my loyalty card. Then I walked to the beach, which takes about five minutes. I enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach, reading my book, until I started getting pestered. So, what is it about me that says “Freaks, please come talk to me!”. Surely it’s not asking too much to just be left alone?!

I was going to walk along the Scenic Walkway, but feared I might end up with some unwanted company, so I made my excuses and headed back to the wharf. I got a coffee and muffin,and bought a ticket for the JetCat ferry – only takes 15 minutes. Then I paddled around on the beach next the the wharf, and got the 6:15pm JetCat.

When I got back to Circular Quay, I walked up to the Opera House for some photos since it was such good weather. Then I got an ice cream and milkshake, and sat and read for quite a while. I left the quay just as a big cruise ship was leaving. It was still reversing as I left, and didn’t look like it had much room to turn around.

Listening to: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell

Reading: Ian Rankin – Fleshmarket Close (I haven’t finished Paulo Coelho, I just forgot to take it to the beach today)

Australia Round the World 2007

Taronga Zoo

“Are you a tourist?”
“Yes.”
“I can tell cuz you’re smiling – no-one smiles around here.”

Conversation with a Scottish tourist

Must be that weird smile I don’t know I’m doing, like when I’m counting cutlery!

I was hoping to go to the beach today, but the weather was rubbish, so instead I went to Taronga Zoo, on the north shore. It’s about 10mins by ferry, and you can buy a ticket which gets you there and back, into the zoo, and includes your skyride up.

I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for on the way over. Children. Everywhere. Stepping on your feet. Climbing on stuff right in front of you. Bloody kids. Luckily, they seemed to disappear once I got there.

I had a really good time. There was loads to see. I even went in the reptile house alone and didn’t run out screaming. Although I did start to feel quite ill after a while and was glad I was near the end. There were koalas, kangaroos, giraffes, zebras, elephants, chimpanzees, a rhino, tigers, lions, a red panda, meerkats, a platypus, wombats, gorillas, bears, dingoes, a tasmanian devil, Himalayan goats, weird-looking sheep, emus, ostriches, a giant tortoise, taipurs, otters, river cats, and loads of birds and ducks. I got about 3ft away from a wallaby, but some other people came along and scared him off. I watched the free-flight bird show, which was really good. Very well trained birds, and made me sorry I missed the other shows, like the sealions. The only problems were that it was a little difficult to navigate around, and the snow leopards weren’t visible, and I really wanted to see them.

The skyride up and down was good. Great view of Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge, and you travel over a lot of the enclosures, so you’re looking down on the elephants and giraffes and stuff.

I had supper when I got back to the hostel, then went up the road to the convenience store where they have unlimited internet for $3. I was there for a couple of hours, updating my blog and booking tours. I also had to move all my photos onto my USB pen – 470 photos and 7 videos already!

I walked back to the hostel (about 300 yards away) at around 11pm. Kings Cross is not the place to be walking around at night by yourself. Personally, I was more bothered on my way up at 9pm. But then my key for the front door of the hostel didn’t seem to work. I was so scared! I couldn’t get in and there was no intercom or doorbell. I thought I’d have to phone, but then realised it wouldn’t do any good because there was no-one at reception anyway. Very scared. But then a girl staying there too walked past, and showed me the trick to it. I was so very grateful!

Australia Round the World 2007

Walking Tours

Free breakfast in this hostel. Nothing special – just cornflakes and toast, but it is free. You have to pay a deposit for a mug here, so I paid and was able to make myself a coffee, also free. After breakfast, I planned out my day.

American Pie was just starting when I went downstairs after getting ready, so I watched some of that, then finally got out around 1pm. I’d picked up leaflets about self-guided walking tours you could do around the city, so I started with the “Community” walk. It took me from the Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral, past some old warehouses, the Trades Hall, Chinatown, Paddy’s Market, Aaron’s Hotel, Capitol Theatre, Cyril’s Fine Foods, Mark Foy’s Emporium, Hyde Park, the ANZAC Memorial, Archibald Fountain and St Mary’s Cathedral.

Most of it wasn’t that exciting, but it was good to see some of the city. The ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Memorial was good (what is it with me and war memorials?!). Very informative display. There is a central statue that you can view from above and the side. It is of three women, one carrying a child, all bearing a dead man on their shoulders. It is meant to symbolise the forgotten casualties of war, being the mothers, wives, children and sisters left behind. Apparently it’s quite controversial.

St Mary’s was amazing. A very kind Christian opened the door for me after crossing himself. I hate going into churches as a tourist, since people do occasionally go there for quiet solitude! Luckily, I followed a Japanese tour group in, so no-one noticed the two photos I took, especially as the flash was off.

St Mary’s Church, Sydney

So then I walked up Macquarie Street to reach the start of my second walking tour. This is where a lot of the old civic and public buildings are located. I saw St James’s Church, the Barracks Museum, Mint Building, Sydney Hospital and the State Library.

I got a coffee by Circular Quay while I looked over the “Colony” tour. This one started at Customs’ House, then went past Macquarie Place with the anchor, cannon and obelisk, past the Education Building, Land Department, Burns Philip Headquarters, Stock Exchange, St Patrick’s Church, St Philip’s Church, up some old steps to Susannah Place, along Cumberland Street, through the subway under the Harbour Bridge, up to Observatory Park, along Kent Street, past Lord Nelson Hotel, along Argyle Place and Lower Fort Street, and back to George Street and Circular Quay.

This walk basically stayed in the area called The Rocks, where the original penal colony started. It’s full of beautiful, small streets and terraced houses. There’s also some old factory and warehouse buildings. From the observatory, you can see Darling Harbour, the wharves and Harbour Bridge, and the old colony houses just below. The Lord Nelson Hotel is a landmark because it’s the oldest pub in Sydney.

There is a lot of old late 1700s and 1800s buildings here, mixed with buildings and skyscrapers up to the present day. The older buildings are totally dwarfed by the huge number of skyscrapers, even though some of the old civic buildings aren’t exactly small!

So I reckon I covered about 12km today, which is about 7-8 miles. No wonder my legs ached so much!

Australia Round the World 2007

Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The coach got to Sydney around 8.30am. After feeling as though we were literally dumped outside the train station, I decided a taxi would be the best way to get to the hostel, since I didn’t really know where it was, or how far. So I got a coffee and muffin in the station, then got a taxi.

I don’t think the driver knew exactly where I was going. I saw us drive past the hostel and pull in, and he was pointing to somewhere up ahead of us. So I said, “OK, thanks”, got out, and walked back to where I’d already seen it. The girl at the front desk was so nice. She gave me my key, then I went to shower and change, then collected my map and discount vouchers on my way back down. It’s nothing plush, but it’s fairly close to the city centre, comfortable and cheap. And I can see the Harbour Bridge from my window.

So I walked along William Street for a few blocks west until I reached George Street, and then I walked north towards Circular Quay and The Rocks, the historical part of the city. Got my obligatory photos of the Bridge and Opera House, then went to Tourist Information and picked up leaflets on everything I wanted I wanted to see.

I felt totally overwhelmed when I got a coffee after and sorted through them. There was so much I wanted to do, and I just didn’t know what to do first. Eventually decided to head over to Darling Harbour to go to the Aquarium, Wildlife World and Chinese Garden of Friendship.

Wildlife World was nice: all native Australian animals. Quite a small place, but they pack a lot in. Insects, which I wasn’t too bothered about. Reptiles, which I couldn’t get out of fast enough. Birds, hiding in their trees. Nocturnal, so it was dark, and some woman was taking flash photos in there. Koalas, which could’ve come over to you if they really wanted. Kangaroos and wallabies. I think that was about it.

The Aquarium was great. Loads of people were crowding around the platypus though, so I didn’t bother. The penguins were cute. I got a great photo of the moon jellyfish, which glow blue and pink. The seals were being playful. You could watch them from above or from the two submerged walkways. Two were chasing each other and one was posing for photos. the sharks and rays were great. They had this calming music on in the background in the tunnels, and the rays, turtles and larger sharks moved around slowly, gliding. It was all very serene and calming. And they had a reef section, with some very bright fish, and some weird-looking ones too.

Then I got an ice cream and walked along Pyrmont Bridge, which goes across the Harbour. Then I got a Boost juice and answered a survey, and finally went over to the Chinese Garden. Very tranquil, even though you could still hear the sounds of rush-hour traffic not far away. Then I watched a bit of the cricket on the big screen TV nearby, walked back past the hostel to the supermarket, and then to the hostel. Had noodles for supper, watched NCIS and The OC, then went to bed around 10.30pm.

I’m feeling much better about Sydney than Melbourne. The hostel certainly helps, and I’m not letting money be an issue, so I’m actually doing stuff. But I think I just prefer Sydney anyway.