Sydney

Trip Start Sep 03, 2007
1
139
220
Trip End Jun 17, 2009


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, June 19, 2008

The cloudy night was warmer than of previous and we awoke to a dull day. Setting off northwards over 'Lake Burley Griffin' by one of the road bridges, we stopped to get a better look at the 'Captain Cook memorial jet' but it was turned off! Aardvarks.

Eventually finding our way out of the city we continued on 'Federal Highway' 23 through the north side business area and suburbs and it started to drizzle with rain. The road left the city and ran on one side of a very wide and completely flat, brown valley which was bordered by low, forest covered hills. The farther we went the valley narrowed as the hills grew higher and the forests wider.

We turned off Hwy 23 and headed east towards the coast and although the forested hills were still with us, there were now green fields with a few cattle in them. The rain had now stopped.

At 'Moss Vale' we stopped for petrol and a look at the 'giant merino sheep' that stood outside a souveneir store
there.

We were still quite high when, approaching 'Wollongong', we slowly descended down a very steep, twisty bank and looking back saw effectively a cliff face running for miles inland.

Wollongong was at the coast, although on the Hwy 1 we did not see much sea. The road started to climb steadily for many miles through a forest that grew wider, until it stretched in each direction for as far as you could see. We were now approaching 'Sydney' and this must have been the forest which was on fire and threatening the city a few years ago. You could only imagine what a fire in this expanse of forest would have looked like.

The traffic grew thicker as we passed through the Sydney suburbs and through a tunnel under an estuary. By chance we took the wrong road and instead of going through the harbour tunnel, drove over the great Sydney harbour bridge. Very impressive.

A bit of late signposting gave us the run around in the very busy late afternoon traffic but eventually we found our way to the district of 'Manly' on the north coast of Sydney. Here we found an apartment near the ferry and stopped, to get ready for a few days of exploring.

Distance driven       355  Km                             220 miles

Total distance driven from Melbourne to Sydney   1290 Km    800  miles

Friday 20th June

A lazy start with a nice lie in and a good breakfast. The morning was cloudy but definitely warmer here. First job was to return the hire car at a local office and then collect info from the tourist info centre.

Manly is a district to the north east of Sydney and is at the neck of a peninsula containing a big national park. This gives it two beach areas, the main one on the Tasman Sea side which is used for surfing and a smaller inner one on the Sydney harbour side, which seemed to have netting all round it in the water. From here there are ferries to the city area docking near the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

We walked around the town area, a smart and not predominantly tourist location, with many cafes and restaurants and modern apartments. Getting organized, we booked a hairdressing appointment and a dive  - a good balance!

In the afternoon we walked on the seaward 'Manly beach' and sat watching the surfers and people going by. It was nice to just relax and do nothing for once. We walked down the beach as school kids turned up with surf boards, there were kids also playing beach volleyball - and this is winter! Walking through another part of the town, we went out onto the ferry wharf and watched people fishing. A nice lifestyle here.

Saturday 21st June

It rained overnight but had stopped by the breezy, cloudy morning. I was at the dive shop for 8am to pick up equipment and then onto a minibus for the (very) short trip to the next small 'Little Manly Cove'. There were a few boats moored in the narrow inlet, which was surrounded by houses on both hill sides, with a small sandy beach where we kitted up and waited for the dive boat.

He came in and up onto the sand, we loaded and then off across the choppy main harbour entrance, as the swell grew bigger in the brightening sunshine. Across at 'South Head' we dropped anchor against the cliff face and dived down into the boulder strewn cliff side and onto the clean sandy bottom. The visibility was not too good due to the windy sea but there were plenty of fish of all sizes and colours around and amongst the rocks. We disturbed a big, one metre stingray, that glided down over the boulders and 'flew' away across the sandy bottom.

The second dive was on the opposite side on 'South Head', which was quite exposed to the sea and a bit rough. The visibility was down to 5 metres, just like being at home on an average day, with a serious surge underwater that pushed us to and fro. We were looking for the debris remains of a wreck but apart from some timbers did not find it. There were less fish in this rough spot but still a good dive.

We met up mid afternoon and walked down the 'Corso' pedestrian area towards the seaward 'Manly Beach'.

There was a big queue outside a 'famous fish and chip shop', accompanied by a real good smell, so we succumbed, collected fish and chips and sat on the sea wall in the sunshine, watching the surfers and swimmers.

Dessert was a Belgian ice cream as we walked down the promenade to the end of the beach and sat in the (very) warm sunshine. There were many families playing on the beach, a kids surf school, surfers out in the rolling waves and people walking to and fro on the beach walkway. Today is the winter solstice - the depths of winter. Gee it's a hard life out here!

As it fell cooler at dusk we returned to the apartment for an easy evening and finalized arrangements to catch up with a very close friend going back to school days, whose career had brought the family to Sydney and where they had eventually settled in Oz. They now lived 'up country' but were coming back to Sydney to show us the city and the surrounding area for a couple of days.

Sunday 22nd June

A breezy, bright day and we met up with Neil and Sylvia at 9.30am. After a joyful reunion we set off on a guided tour of the Sydney area. As the second biggest natural harbour in the world, Sydney is absolutely teeming with creeks, inlets, coves, harbours and bays - and that's on the inner side. One of the creeks runs for about 25 miles inland and there are houses overlooking the water all around the area. It's a fabulous set up.

There are large (and small) parkland or forest areas dotted all round, which are contained in the greater Sydney area. We visited different headlands and bays, saw fabulous (and expensive houses), hundreds and hundreds of yachts in the many marinas and people having barbecues and outside birthday parties in the sunshine. Magical.

We drove north up the long peninsula towards 'Barrenjoy Head' which protects the 6 mile long 'Pittwater' inlet from the 'Tasman sea'. On the way we passed the great 'Narrabeen Lake', which has a long, narrow estuary to the sea and is a good, safe watersports area. At every cove there were toilet and changing facilities and invariably a good sized swimming pool built into the rocks as a (shark safe) alternative to the sea. Again - what a way of life. I don't know if I sound impressed, but we were.

Returning to Manly we went for a walk to the south end of "Manly Beach', where another small, 'Shelly Beach' was tucked away inside the headland.

A leisurely pizza supper and then we talked until late. A great day.

Monday 23rd June

We joined for breakfast and then caught the ferry into 'Circular Quay' in Sydney, getting great views of Sydney harbour bridge and the opera house on the way in. In the warm but breezy sunshine we walked round the opera house and its iconic 'shell shape'.

Our guided tour continued under the bridge and some excellent views from the observatory. This old part of the city has maintained many of the old houses and converted most of the warehouses into apartments.

In the modern, skyscraper dominated city, the older, majestic buildings have been kept and converted. The busy city has excellent shopping areas, many underground and food outlets scattered all over the city. You'll never starve in Sydney!

We saw the old post office, a magnificent building and then the 'Queen Victoria Building', which had been built in the 1900's as a four storey shopping mall in classic Victorian style. It is still a popular shopping centre today.

After lunch we continued into the 'Darling Harbour' leisure area of major skyscraper offices, a marina, sea museum with a warship and submarine and the aquarium. Old wharves have been redeveloped with new apartments and restaurants and a monorail runs round the area. Good or what?

A walk back to the ferry for the half hour trip back to manly and a very enjoyable day out.

After supper we talked into the night until finally going to bed well after midnight.

Tuesday 24th June

After saying goodbye to Neil and Sylvia we had an easy morning, with Norah having a chiropody appointment. We planned what else we wanted to see in Sydney, booked a car for moving on on Friday and then went for a walk in the afternoon sunshine.

Wednesday 25th June

Another bright and sunny but breezy morning as we caught the ferry to Sydney's Circular Quay, which is a perfectly square shape! Here we had different itineraries.

"You're going to do WHAT !!!!!........................Part 6

Now, what have we got in Sydney? Opera house, Sydney harbour bridge....So, what can you do with the bridge? Drive over it, photograph it and ............climb on it. Yes, it's a big kid's climbing frame!

I turned up at "Bridge Climb reception' and after an overview, paid up. My group went into the changing room, filled in the liability disclaimer, was breathalysed (yep, no wobbly legs wanted here!), had to leave all coins, wallet, phones, cameras, handkerchieves and watch in the lockers, changed into the bridge romper suit and then went through the security metal gateway. After this, American airports will be a piece of cake!

Next a glasses holder cord was fitted and clipped to the suit, a baseball cap also clipped to the suit and a handkerchief tied to my wrist. I put on a security harness with attached line, a radio and headset and a fleece jacket pack was fastened to the harness. Any more? Yes, the last check was to open my mouth to prove I didn't have any chewing gum!

 We then did a 'performance check', of walking up a ladder, across a gantry and down the other side, to practice coping with the line connector on the safety wire (and probably our physical capability)! Having proved we had nothing loose to fall off, we were ready.

Out of bridge reception we walked down the street and into the bridge entry access area. Up flights of stairs, which took us to a doorway out onto the bridge. We clipped on our harness line connectors to a steel line that runs all the way round the bridge walk and then, three storeys above the ground, we walked across a narrow gantry leading towards the bridge end tower. The towers play no constructional part of the steel bridge and were put on to reassure the public in their apprehension of this new, modern bridge design (completed in 1932).

We climbed up five tall sets of ladders, passing the roadway next to us, and emerged at the lower end of one side of the enormous sloping bridge arches, which was nearly three metres wide with a railed walkway in the centre of it. The arch upper surface had flat, wide, metal plates bolted on it to make steps and we now trudged skywards towards 'the summit'. We heard a commentary through the radio about what we were seeing around us, the history of the bridge and safety warnings as we progressed.

There was a slight breeze and a cloudless sky, which treated us to fabulous views of the city and out to the sea, suburbs, the long creeks and the 'Blue Mountains' in the inland distance. We stopped for photo shots and frequent long looks from this fantastic platform in the sky. The steady trek downwards was just as enthralling and we returned to earth after three and a half hours and having climbed 1437 steps. What a fabulous experience!

Norah had gone to look round the opera house but the only daily tour started at 7am. She did manage to have look inside and then relaxed in the sunshine waiting for me.

By mid afternoon we met up and went for a late lunch and a well deserved beer (well I thought I deserved one!)

We walked into the city and went up the 'Sydney Tower' to look at the views - yes, more heights! Here we went on a feature ride that simulated flying over the main sights of Australia and by the time we arrived at the observation floor it was dark. The city was a blaze of lights with all the skyscrapers lit up and the evening traffic crowding the streets.

From the tower we went to the 'Lyric Theatre' in 'Darling Harbour' to see 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Ok, so we've seen it before but it's our favourite musical and it was very well done. An enjoyable evening.

We crossed the city and caught the last jet cat ferry back to Manly, arriving after midnight. A very memorable day.

Thursday 26th June

A late, lazy start and at midday we caught the ferry again, a bus across town and visited the famous 'Bondi Beach'. A stiff breeze was blowing big, rolling surf into the wide, fine white sandy beach. The swimming pool at the end of the beach was regularly overwhelmed by waves, which caused a surge of water to overflow the end and spill onto the beach. A dozen surfers were having varied measures of success in the waves, which gave us quite an entertaining afternoon.

Arriving back at the apartment in the early evening, we started to prepare for moving off on the road again. It had been a good stay here and Sydney and the area had been very enjoyable.
 
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