G’day troopers and happy Valentines Day! Woo hoo! Since I wont be there to give you all a big kiss, here is a cyber one instead xxxxx Andy and I have been together for 13 years today, ah bless. But enough of that sappy stuff, lets go back in time to Australia where Andy’s last blog left you in some naff expensive camp in the middle of a very wet Sydney.
It was weird waking up for the last time in our little gay Hippie-mobile… brilliant actually. I could not wait to give the bloody thing back to Apollo rentals and check into our hotel with a comfy bed and en-suite bathroom. But I have to admit I did feel slightly sad too, this heap of flowery metal on wheels had transported and homed us safely all the way from the top of the east coast of Australia, right down to the bottom and back up to Sydney. We’d experienced it all together and now we were saying goodbye. Here’s some figures and facts for you all to blow your minds – we drove 7,748km in Australia. That’s Cairns up to Cook Town and back, Cairns down to Melbourne, then Melbourne back up to Sydney. That’s 4,814miles!!! Interesting facts- that’s 0.6% of the earths diameter, 84,733 football fields, 183.6 marathons or 67,786,527 finger lengths! BOSH!
We checked out of our crap camp site on what was looking to be a very fine sunny day indeed, drove to our hotel – a Budget Ibis (woo hoo go Limn’s!) – to drop off our bags and carried onto the airport where the depot was and handed the keys over. That was it! We were van free and felt like tourists on holiday again… oh yea, that’s what we were anyway but you know what I mean! 🙂 We had a few days on our own before my mum was due to fly out, so we mooched around the city whilst trying not to see the best parts, saving them for when mum arrived. This is slightly hard when the harbour bridge and Sydney Opera House are so stunning. Honestly I never tired looking at them. They are breathtaking! I mean a bridge is a bridge right? How cool can a bridge be? Well this one is different believe me.
Waiting at the airport arrivals gate for my mum to walk through was one of those moments when I knew I’d be emotional. Not only had I not seen her for 7 months but she’d just lost her mum (my nan). I was expecting to see a very jet lagged Yvonne walk through those gates, instead she was as fresh as a daisy and looking as lovely as ever. I threw my arms around her and balled my eyes out. I loved that hug 🙂
On Mums 1st of 6 fun filled days in Sydney, we took her into the city via a 7/11 for her first ever dollar coffee. Being a coffee lover, even she had to admit that it tasted good! This reassured us that we still had high standards in coffee. She was hooked! So it became the norm for us to pop into a 7/11 or Mc Cafe (also awesome coffee) for the rest of the week. We showed her the Queen Victoria building on George Street which reminded me slightly of Harrods in London. They had a huge Christmas tree inside that snowed 3 times a day and played Christmas tunes for the shoppers. It was hard to get into our heads that it was nearly December let alone Christmas. I think Andy and I had been living in a very warm eternal August for the last 7 months. We continued walking towards the water (not far from the city centre really), to an area known as ‘the Rocks’ near the harbour bridge, where we visited The Fortune of War pub (the oldest in Sydney) and toasted my late Nan with a Chancers beer.
Mum was blown away by the sight of the bridge and Sydney Opera House just like we were when we first saw them. She got to see an Aboriginal couple who were busking by the waters edge painted in traditional colours and playing a didgeridoo. There is such a buzz by the harbour, cruise ships roll in and moor alongside the million dollar apartments and posh restaurants, musicians and magicians entertain passers by and everyone just looks, well, happy here. I can’t describe it. It’s just a very hip, happening, happy place! Mum treated us to a lunch at the Opera House with a glass of bubbly. Thanks mum. Wow it was a far cry from us slumming it in a van! Ha ha! We walked off our lunch around the Botanical gardens, which are just beautiful by the way – one side meets the water lapping up against the high stone walls and the other is lined by sky scrappers. We sat on Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – a block of sandstone curved by convicts in 1810 for Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth, which had incredible views of the harbour from a different angle and made us realise how far we’d actually walked. Time to make a move back to our hotel we thought but not before making a detour through China town – we just couldn’t resist it! Sydney’s China town is brilliant, it brought back so many memories of our travels back in April – I drank my favourite milk tea, we introduced BBQ pork steamed buns to Mum (she quite liked them) and topped it off with tiny cream donuts known as Emperors Puffs. Yum!
Just when we thought a day in the city couldn’t be topped off, we visited Taronga Zoo the next day. Wow! The boat ride over to the zoo alone was fantastic, then you get up close to all the native wildlife including kangaroos and koalas, but the best part of the day was the bird show. You sit on an amphitheatre looking out across the water to Sydney on the other side, and whilst music plays, a lady introduces each species to the audience while parrots, owls and vultures whizz round your head making everyone gasp in amazement. Being a total ornithology geek I absolutely loved it!!! I thoroughly recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting even if birds aren’t your thing. On the way out, we took the gondola down to the boat, giving us an overview of the entire zoo. It’s all perched on the side of a hill but they seem to house everything from gorillas to elephants here, so it’s pretty big. After returning to the harbour, we spontaneously jumped onto another boat taking us under the big bridge to Darling Harbour. This area of the city features cool cafes, bars and restaurants along the water. It also includes the Maritime Museum, something Andy planned to visit in a few days time since it homed a full sized replica of Captain Cooks ship, the Endeavour. We watched the sun go down sipping cocktails in the Hard Rock Cafe. Another awesome day in Sydney!
Today was officially a chill out day…Naat! Well it was supposed to be, but reading through my diary, it was pretty jammed packed still. Mums poor feet had started to take a right bashing! We caught a bus to Bondi Beach after having a stroll through beautiful Hyde Park in the city. It was midweek, windy and overcast, yet I didn’t think that would put people off from visiting Sydney’s most famous beach. Well it was empty! We practically had it to ourselves which was cool. I’d always watched the program ‘Bondi Rescue’ where it was heaving with people and there were always Japanese drowning or surfers ripping themselves open on the rocks. Gripping stuff!
After a quick swim in the ice cold sea (I’m kidding, we dunked a toe in!), we jumped on another bus over to ‘The Gap’, also known as Watsons Bay and saw where the entrance to Sydney Harbour meets the sea. This would have been the first view of Sydney for many sea sick weary travelers back in the early 1800’s, who’d have spent months at sea getting here to start a new life. We then sampled some yummy fish and chips at the famous Doyles restaurant on the water front, as recommended by our Aussie mate Ron. Man it was good, cheers Ron! Oh and so was the beer 🙂 After a catamaran and a bus ride later, we were in the Westfield shopping centre back in the city, climbing the countless floors in a lift up to the top of the Skytower. I swear the top was swaying in the wind! I felt so dizzy, hang on, I’m sure I only had one beer at lunch! It was weird. Amazing views though – the crazy high speed city below, the Gap and sea in the foggy distance and the blue mountains beyond that. And that’s where we were off to the next day, on a train into the bush!
Being late and running for the first train out to Katoomba (central town for the Blue Mountains) in the early morning certainly wakes you up I can tell you! We didn’t even have time to grab a 7/11 coffee to take onboard the two leveled leather seated train, much to Mum’s dismay. She had to wait for two hours till we arrived in Katoomba before she could get her smackers round a cappuccino. A very welcomed warming cup it was too since it was absolutely freezing outside, my fingers felt numb! After the coffee and consuming a huge pie (I couldn’t help myself, their pies are insanely good!), we hopped onto a tour bus and were taken straight to the sky cable. After queuing for a while, we were then crammed onto the glass bottomed cable cart with a ton of happy snappy Japs with their cameras poised for the best photo. We glided over the ravine between the Three Sisters peaks and the other side, admiring the mass of foliage below whizzing by. The blue hue to the mountains apparently comes from the amount of eucalyptus trees present.
We were now in mining territory. The whole side of the mountain we were stood on had once homed tunnels, tracks and miners digging for coal. We got onto an old train that played the Indiana Jones music and quickly descended down the steep cliff face and into a pitch black tunnel. We were all screaming and ducking for fear of hitting our heads yet were actually completely protected inside a cage. Ha ha! What a ride! Buzzing and laughing from the mining train, we took a leisurely 45 min walk through the ancient forest via a boardwalk. It was beautiful. Birds ducked and dived all around us, towering old trees covered in plants swayed in the breeze and the air felt fresh in your lungs. You got a glimpse into an old world, a pre-European settled Australia and it was spectacular. To get back up to the top we took the Sky Lift, which offered us yet more stunning sights of the mountains and how vast they are. We spent the rest of our time in the park hiking round to viewing points, searching for waterfalls and riding the tour buses with their fantastic friendly drivers who are incredibly informative and whitty. They loved knowing where you were from and of course calling you a POME 🙂 What a day eh! Check out the pics below, the Blue Mountains are a must do for anyone visiting Sydney. It was perfect for someone like my Mum who had only seen the city of Sydney and not rural Australia, so it gave her an insight to how beautiful this country can be too.
Day 5 & 6
The last two days of our time here in OZ were spent enjoying the city. We went to a funky cinema in Newtown (a very hip and happening arty area) and Mum and I watched the final film in the Twilight series (a vampire love story for any of you out there who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about). Of course Andy didn’t join us, he went and saw the new Bond film – Skyfall – on his own. Ah bless 🙂 We shopped around the crafts markets in the Rocks and visited a museum about the first settlers in Sydney and ways they are building relationships with the native tribes of that area. Andy finally got to jizz his pants on a replica of Cooks boat, the Endeavour. He’d read Cooks journals before leaving the UK, followed his path down the entire east coast of Australia and finally got to board his ship. I think that was it for Andy, the best ending for our time in this country. Mine was the awesome meal and wine mum treated us to that night on Darling Harbour, watching the fireworks going off over the water. Apparently they do it every Saturday! It was also their ‘Santa Fest’, so street lights were being switched on and Christmas trees were going up. It was truly magical, but nothing would prepare us for the sight of the Sydney Opera House and harbour bridge that night after we took a slow walk over to them. Once lit up in the dark they look even more spectacular, and they themselves were having firework displays too. I’ll never forget that last view of the harbour, it was sensational.
Sydney, you were simply superb. Australia, I’ll never forget you but New Zealand beckons me and I’ve heard it’s a petty awesome place too. No rest for the wicked eh!