2. The 'Big Smoke' of Sydney, Not-So-Blue Mountains and meeting GODZILLA!
Distance covered so far = 841 Km
G'day! Howzit goin? (a phrase I am hearing all too often in the Land of Oz) well its February! and I'm usually used to it being the coldest time in my life....in London though but still we are smack bang in the middle of the Aussie summer so here's a new blog from my early days in my adventures around Australia.
After Melbourne, I crashed at a friend of the family until their son was making an unexpected visit, so I had to hit the road for an emergency trip to the 'big smoke' the mistaken capital of the continent.....Sydney! in the new state of New South Wales. Of course I was heading into the honeypot of Australian tourism, but well advertised pretty things and places in the world are inevitably going to attract masses of people so its something you can't always escape if you've flown to the other side of the world only to miss out on.
I had my firsthand experience of Australia's east coast main rail network, the very accommodating 'CountryLink' for the 12 hour trip, making me realise this country is BIG compared to itty bitty England and the distances between cities and towns are HUGE. Of course the Aussie's don't think anything of it and would gladly drive three, four hours to see a friend. I like their style and they must love driving. Anyway, I arrived finally to the famous Sydney, the oldest and most diverse city that Oz has to show off, built around a stunning natural harbour rightly known as 'Darling Harbour' home of the Sydnarians beloved 'Harbour Bridge' and iconic 'Opera House' which essentially defines 'Australia' to the rest of the world. Of course, its home to 'that' beach, yes one of the most famous in the world....BBBBBondi......maybe. They even have a TV show over here about it, bit like the Aussie Version of 'Baywatch' but its real life. Not that Sydney is all about the lazy beaches. its pretty cultural with a ton of stuff on offer that could rival London....except London doesn't have a beach a bus ride away.
Anyway when I arrived at night (well after 12 hours it eventually came to night time), I had to go and pick the first hostel I could find which also happened to be one of the most expensive in town. with an in house cinema and pool on the top floor of the five floor building. Who needs it really. Anyway it would be a good base to crash and reorganise myself and look about finding a job as the temptation of the cities sure do suck the funds out of you. I'm getting pretty used to letting myself in to rooms and introducing myself to random strangers. Travelling is good character building in a way.
I'm sharing a room with a number of girls (one is an old Irish Lady who sometimes acts like our Grandmother), a Belgium girl Angie and I took a day trip to visit the Blue Mountains near Katoomba west of Sydney - the mountains are part of the 'Great Dividing Range' and get their names from the mist of oil given off by the eucalyptus trees or 'gum trees' which are everywhere in Australia. Not that we could see them as the day we picked to go absolutely poured down with rain but our walking guide (who looked very much like Patrick Swayze, I thought anyway) did the best he could to make the day fun teaching us about how the Aborigines used 'Ochre' from the flakes of rock to paint artwork onto their 'Red Hands Cave' very interesting.
Despite the rain lashing down, we descended through the beautiful low climate rainforest to some monstrous waterfalls and gingerly treaded across the velocity of the water surges ahh!! was pretty intense and the National Park were thoughtful enough to put a sign up showing us 'You are Here' just to feed off my adrenaline
We soon found ourselves standing before The Three Sisters Rocks - the evidence of a legendary Aborigine tale of a sorcerer turning three sisters into rocks to avoid the advances of three young males. The bum deal for the sisters was that the sorcerer died before switching them back. Geez now that's bad luck.
Except errrr.... we couldn't see it.
We ended our day in the mountains by riding the steepest railway in the world up an incline of 52 degree to the valley floor - wahooh, no really it was steep Indiana Jones would have been proud of me
Just what I love about travelling is the unpredictability of it - on the way back to the city we heard word that there had been a landslide, causing road closures so we had to take an alternate route back to Sydney for a further 3 hours - ha! but we did bring back a little souvenir from our day in the mountains
Back in Sydney, my buddy Tahlz from summer camp put me up in her place in the suburbs of Sydney and offered to accompany me in visiting some highlights of the city. We got lost driving up to sample the buttery Northern Beaches still in the stormy rain (I seem to have ruined Sydney's summer) to show me ‘Summer Bay’ home of the Aussie Sitcom rival to Neighbours ‘Home and Away’ (I actually preferred Home and Away as a school girl) it wasn't exactly 'Summer Bay' that day anyway. You find some funky things on beaches though - I love them, when there's nobody there.
Returning to the city, Tahlz knew I was a sports fan and kindly whisked me over to the Olympic Park which staged the 2000 Summer Olympic Games when I was a wee 18 year old school girl. It was pretty magical to look out onto the Stadium where I had been glued to watching all the Athletic events ten years previously. The tour also included a peek inside the dressing room where the 2004 Rugby World Cup final was played so I took a seat in Jonny Wilkinson's cubicle....he didn't mind
'The Rocks' is a popular, quaint and charming little area of Sydney which is like the trendy place to hang out. Tahlz took me to a really popular pancake restaurant in The Rocks, something like 'Pancakes on The Rocks' or something like that. But boy, the pancakes were divine....I never will have another one again.
Now what else can you do on a rainy day in Sydney? well there's the Wildlife World and the Aquarium and guess what there was a 2 for 1 deal so we could go to both, how lucky to come on such a day. So off we trotted to spy some more Aussie animal friends which I think would have left Tahlz yawning at my eagerness to the Southern Hemisphere species spying the Red Kangaroo, a baby Koala (which I didn't get to hold booo) and the biggest crocodile I have ever seen in my life GODZILLA woah! seriously Australia's not for the faint hearted folk and in fact has the most venomous snake, spider, bird being the exotic turkey looking 'Cassowary', fish, octopus and something else.
Now the Sydney Aquarium, that's a treat walking through underwater glass tunnels amongst the daily life of Oz's rich and diverse marine life. Wow! quite a kaleidoscope of colours, oozing tropicano - its magical. I faced the introduction of the 'Dugong' on my 'I Spy Animals of the World' book - a real gem of Australia. They are adorable, nicknamed the 'Sea Cow' and 'Mermaids' (I couldn't really see their likeness to 'Ariel' the Disney mermaid though) and look very much like walruses....see for youself
Speaking of Disney, it was very evident where Disney had got their inspiration for the cast of 'Finding Nemo' (that film did wonders for sea life) coming across the stars themselves in the exhibit.....my favourites the Blue Tang very cool fish complete with a spike in the tail
Is that Nemo and Dory?
Not forgetting the forboding presence of the sinister Sharks, smirking at us with that jagged smile of theirs and the flashy jellyfish (which are actually really dangerous here), not forgetting the cool as a cucumber curious sea turtle checking us out. I cannot wait to get out into the Great Barrier Reef...
You wouldn't believe but after the weekend, the sun eventually shone which gave me some time to fix up my bank account and to just wander the streets of Sydney soaking up its scent surrounded by Aussie voices for a couple of days marvelling at the majestic Sydney Opera House and its Harbour Bridge sidekick.
Now the Harbour Bridge is nicknamed 'The Coat Hanger' and connects the north of Sydney to the central business district taking a whopping 8 years to build and a further $20 million to fund! - no wonder they love it aswell as using it as the centre piece for the New Years Fireworks. You can pay ridiculous prices to scale up it for a panoramic view of the city, but I just settled for the shoestring budget of getting a slightly downsized version for free by taking a good ole stroll across it.
Now you see the Opera House there, on the jetty on the Parramatta River now thats an impressive piece of architecture - it was actually designed by a Danish guy Jorn Utzon who funny enough quit the project before it was completed and opened in 1973! But credit to the Mr Utzon for the original idea, many people liken it to shells and orange segments but I have the idea is looks like a Cockatoos' head feathers when they're playing attention - still it exudes Australia's quirkiness and earthy identity. The inside is grand and beautiful, home to you've guessed it Opera, aswell as theatre, concerts and dance events. At night is when it soars like the stars.
Talking about quirkiness in Australia, I'm beginning to feel the excitement that I will be witnessing some very weird and wacky things in this country, but thats why you travel right? I'm pounding the pavements of the city to try and get a lead for a job as my money is zapping up, drinking 'Snake Bite' (a mix of beer and cider and black current juice - a beverage I enjoyed in my student days) and watching 'crab racing' in the 'Scubar' next door, keep them comin' I'll see you next time.
Go crabbies go!