Please walk on the grass...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Jul 09, 2011

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Where I stayed
bounce hotel

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, June 24, 2011

Hello there, sorry for the lateness of this entry, i will try and do it justice from my memory of the place, just been so busy busy busy!

Right so we arrived in Sydney after a 3 and a bit hour flight (you think of NZ and OZ being right next to eachother dont you...not quite!) plied with free simcards at the airport was a nice touch to be welcommed in before we headed down into the underground of the airport and jumped on the metro.  These are pretty cool, double level trains, not seen them before. Getting out at central station our eye sight was filled with skyscrapers and people!!! a tad overwhelming after coming from new zealand!!! we jostled through with our backpacks and found our way to our hostel, luckily was just around the corner! the hostel was lovely a cross between a hotel and hostel we had our own room and bathroom! ahhh! the common room floor provided a free breakfast in the mornings and had an awesome roof terrace five floors up which whether it was morning or night (with the whole of sydney lit up) it was a view you could not look away from.

We headed out for a wander around the near by bit of city that evening, we were near china town, everything was buzzing, people everywhere, the trams and buses were nonstop, the monarail was overhead, the buildings were HUGE and everynow and again a beautiful town hall or church popped up in the middle of the chaos, huge masses of people crossed at the traffic lights and (especially in china town) the foody places were spilling out onto the streets.  Even doing the conversation from our kiwi earnt dollars into aussie dollars (which isnt the best conversation) there were still plenty of cheap eats there as we held hands and built up our confidence being in a HUGE city again, its been a while after all!  We grabbed a chinese takeaway and took it back to the roof terrace, all lit up by blue lights and took in the glittering city from that angle, amazing.

Tuesday was exploring day! we were up and breakfasted early before heading out to see everything sydney had to offer and boy did we walk EVERYWHERE! we started the day heading up the side of the city skycrapers to one side royal parks and botanical gardens to the right.  Wandering through with take out coffee cup in one hand, a lovely walk, giggled at the statue of a hog outside the city hospital and just as the sun managed to top the skyscrapers we arrived at the end of the row, right there infront of us sat the iconic sydney opera house and just to the side the harbour bridge.  Theres nothing like actually being there, i've seen the pictures/tv shots of it so many times but to know you are standing right there with every other visitors footsteps, slightly surreal.  Meandering back along the edge of the harbour past the opening designer shops, boutiques and cafes we laughed that we were now in the "money" area, we were definately staying in the downtown of sydney.  I cannot tell you how far we wandered but we poked around the backstreets of the rocks (one of the oldest areas of the city) and strolled right underneath the harbour bridge which gives amazing views looking back at the opera house before heading down towards the centre again and finding ourselves starving and in the middle of the pricy business district where even the food courts were unaffordable!! haha we snuck into a subway (dont judge) fueled up before zigzagging out of the town down to continue our nosying down into darling harbour.  Very much the new area the harbourside is surrounded by all the latest bars and restaurants along with the huge IMAX cinema (biggest in the world it claims!) cafes plus the zoo and aquarium, walking along knowing deadly creatures just on the other side of the wall is funny! There are even little tourist trains that run along on wheels to transport you from one side of the harbour to the other.  We pottered all around the water features and the lights before we decided to make one more big stop in the city before resting our weary legs.  We headed to the sydney fish market! got a little bit lost on the way but im so glad we made it! huge area of stalls and little shops right next to the sea selling everything fishy you can imagine, that is the place to go if you want fish in sydney, fresh in everyday a cheap snack or a whopping great big lobster they had everything! they can cook it up for you there, marinate for you etc etc and apparently do amazing fish and chips (they did look incredible), gutted we had eaten that subway and werent hungry we just watched everything before treating ourselves to a little icecream sitting next to the sea.  Thats where we saw these huge birds, look a bit like a stork, as many as you would find seagulls in uk sea towns, dive bombing the bins etc but they looked so funny! (asked my dad later, he looked them up - a white ibis - apparently it takes a tourist to notice them, i had just never seen anything like it!).  Just as we were about to leave pelicans flew in!!! suddenly i noticed them everywhere, brilliant!!! what a day!

Wednesday we headed out early on a trip up to the blue mountains.  Picked up outside our hotel the driver of the minibus very soon had us laughing, i just find the craziness of these downunder guys just brilliant, their lifes-a-ball lookout on life is just so refreshing.  Throughout the day as we wound up right into the mountains, did little treks headed up to lookouts we heard so many quips from him about life experiences and things hes got up too..definitely a crazy life. We started the day with a drive into the national park on the sydney side of the blue mountains, on the hunt for wild kangaroo! and we found them! they are so chilled arent they? One just lay there looking at us munching on some grass as if to say 'well look at you'...we also saw a young joey, see photo, just adorable. From there it was a trek to a lookout to get our first glimpse of the inside of the blue mountains, with a safety talk just before we got out which im pretty sure made me more nervous than reassured...."so yea guys 6 of the worlds deadliest snakes are in oz and four of them live in these national park, so i mean you probably wont even see one, but if you do...yell so i know which way not to go!" haha!

Did you know the blue mountains are called blue because they actually have a blue haze hanging over them? A beautiful sight, due to the masses of eucalyptus trees with the huge amounts of oil in their leaves, as it evaporates it causes it... fascinating!  It also doesnt really fit the name mountains, he explained its actually similar to the iconic grand canyon style geography.  Throughout the day we popped out at several look outs, including one that involved getting in a cable car and heading out during 105kmph winds over a valley 100s of meters drop below swinging around providing a phenomenal view of the three sisters (a formation of rocks) while your stomach falls out of your feet and your brains convinced your not going to make it across! this was followed by a steep cable car down to the valley floor with me clinging to the rails before heading back up on the steepest railway in the world! covered by a wire cage you are sitting horizontally as your shoot upwards and backwards, through caves, the valley floor disappears below you, beyond thrilling, its terrifyingly amazing.  we had walked across the rainforest on the valley floor to get to the train, on boarded walkways we could peer into the remains of the mine shafts that had once been full on men and horses, spy the strangler vines which can hold tremendous weight - steve demonstrated tarzan style - while they take over their host tree, spot the trees burnt out inside due to lightning strikes and the devastation in the immense greenary that the rock slides from above can cause.  It was down here on the valley floor that when a girl from the back of the group zoomed into her photo on her camera we discovered we had walked right past a yellow bellied snake (a top 15 deadly snake), eurrgghhh.

We finished the day admiring the breathtaking views from the flat rock lookout, a slab of rock that juts out over the heights, before we gathered around an aboriginal carving found on the ground.  Using a bottle of water tipped over the markings the water runs around the small troughs created in the ground by the carver highlighting the shapes.  Suddenly very clearly you can see a kangaroo.  Having met with one of the aboringinal people from the local tribe our guide was able to also point out the line which indicated the entry of the spear to to kill the animal, that the feet point to the direction the tribesmen must have come from, the nose to the direction they went in.  This may seem a lot to conclude from a drawing in the rock, but in aboriginal culture carving is viewed as highly significant.  If any of them had produced "grafitti" they would have been severely punished by the leader; if they found out (a barbed spear through the thigh, leaving the offender to pull the rest of the spear through however they get wider towards the end, snap off the barbs with bare hands and reverse the spear, or reverse with barbs still on spear.  Also the offender would be isolated from the tribe until the wound healed), therefore it is thought that 98-99% of the carvings in Australia are very significant.  Pretty shocking stuff.

To lighten the mood we were taken to the site of the year2000 olympic games once back in sydney, we heard about the undertaking of the huge cleanup for them to be built and i was particuly taken by the huge array of volunteer poles - interspersed by those covered in artwork, a forest of poles with the inscription of every single volunteer who helped the games take place.  We finished the trip on a sunset cruise down the harbour back to the centre of sydney, by the time we arrived the lights were all out, reflecting and twinkling in the water, just beautiful.  We took note of our huge day relaxing with wine and tender steak (weekday deal - bargain!) over the waters of the darling harbour.

Thursday was a wonderful day for me, first thing we headed out of sydney central on the trains into the suburbs.  And there waiting at the train station was my great uncle laurence! so many years since we last saw eachother we had so much to catch up on.  Passing on the news from both sides of the family we experienced his car that drives through hand commands only - no pedals! and visited his apartment and wonderful other neighbours he jokes are the "other inmates".  A morning of giggles and cups of tea before lunching at a wonderful chinese restaurant in his little town where i told the delighted chinese owner that the cooking was better than chinese food in england - she had asked!!! Too soon we were on the train back to the centre.  A quick pop into the huge indoors paddys markets marvelling at the mounds of souvenirs before we ran uptown and jumped on a ferry to the peninsular of Manly.  The feel of being its own island after the half hour journey, its an idyllic holiday town atmosphere with fairy lights dangling over shops and restaurants that line the white beaches offering volley ball nets being put to full use while we were there and with the lines of palm trees it feels simply tropical.

And that finished our whirlwind week in sydney, now it was off to the airport friday morning for the little domestic flight up to see steve's uncle, aunty and cousins.

Lots of love to all,

P xxxxxxx
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