Sydney and Port Macquarie with Candace and Marv

Trip Start Mar 18, 2011
1
6
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Trip End May 15, 2011


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hi Family and Friends:

Another couple of weeks have passed on the latest leg of our Australian odyssey.   After our last entry we flew from Melbourne to Sydney to join Candace and Marv Groberman, good friends from Palm Springs.   While they gradually got over their jet lag we explored the harbour and beaches of Sydney together.  Our hotel was close to the Opera House and Circular Quay (the ferry terminal at the Harbour) so we saw quite a different view of the city than on our first stay, (when we stayed in the 'bohemian' neighbourhood of Darlinghust.)

The Harbour and Opera House really do deserve their status as a World Heritage site – the area is spectacular from all angles and can be explored at leisure.  The old area by the harbour called ‘The Rocks’ is devoted to tourists but manages to avoid being too touristy – we spent hours in its alleys and art galleries.

We did manage to catch a performance at the Opera House – the only thing on in the main hall while we were there was the Sydney Symphony playing the background music from Final Fantasy, a video game series!  We had no idea of what to expect but it actually was lovely – there was a huge screen above the orchestra showing scenes from the 14 versions of the animated games, all of which was greeted with wild applause by the audience (mostly young and Asian, many dressed in costume) who were obviously fans.  We looked a bit out of place but just enjoyed the music and amazing interior of the Opera House – the ceiling looked to us like a giant origami shell and the acoustics were superb.

The beaches of Sydney are famous.  We first set out on the Manly ferry – one of many that ply the waters of the harbour.  The ferry takes about half an hour to a beach north of the city – the views of the Opera House from the ferry are spectacular and the area is much more laid-back than downtown Sydney so we spent the afternoon exploring.

Probably more famous is Bondi Beach, where the beautiful people surf.  We took the local bus there, checked out the surfers (yes, they are beautiful) and then walked along the coastal route, a walkway through amazingly carved limestone cliffs. By the end of our day, the sun was setting so we decided to try out an Australian tradition recommended earlier in our trip by a charming old gent at the tourist bureau in Kyneton  - he suggested we try a meal at the RSL if we wanted "good grub at a good price".

RSL stands for ‘Retired Servicemen’s League’ and it is roughly comparable to our Royal Canadian Legion.  Now we don’t haunt the Legion at home, but it seems to be much more common here and we discovered it is the source of the best value meal in Oz – a huge steak dinner for $8.00!  So we sat on the balcony overlooking Bondi Beach, beers in hand and saluted the service men and women of Australia!

After 5 great days in Sydney it was time to rent a car again and head off to Port Macquarie.  Despite assurances from the concierge at the Marriott that it was ‘dead easy’ to navigate out of downtown Sydney, it turned into a bit of a nightmare.  We could see the Harbour Bridge but darned if we could actually get onto it!  Finally Phil made a heroic U-turn somewhere in the Rocks area and we were on our way….briefly.  We had neglected to find out the name and number of the expressway (everyone said to just follow the signs) so we wound up on the’ milk run’ highway heading north, through endless Sydney suburbs.  It was very quiet in the back seat (with intermittent gasps) as Marv and Candace experienced the wonders of left hand driving but to their credit, they did not lose it!  And after 6 hours or so, we made it to Port Macquarie intact.

Port Macquarie is a town of about 40,000 people on the east coast between Sydney and Brisbane.  It was in Port Macquarie that we had arranged our ‘home exchange’ with a very nice couple (retired teacher) who will use our Calgary home in September.  They went camping and very obligingly had their cozy bungalow ready for our use, complete with a home cooked meal and a couple of bottles of wine upon arrival!  Our hosts know we are keen birders so they obligingly bought some special bird seed for their feeders – for parrots!

As a result, we now have severe ‘bird feeder envy’ – early in the morning (very early) we are first awakened by our trusty laughing kookaburra living up to its name and then are treated to flocks of rainbow and scaly-breasted lorikeets, galahs, crested pigeons and a beautiful Eastern rosella all fighting for their treats in the front yard. Check out a typical scene at the feeder - chickadees will never look as exciting again!

Some of the loveliest beaches in Australia are located in this part of the country so we have been exploring the coast.  The first four days of our stay were in lovely sunny weather so we joined the throngs of families at the beach for the Easter long weekend.  While Candace and Ruth basked in the sun, Phil and Marv set out on a beach walk – they were excited to report that they had seen the ‘brown-breasted Ozzie bird’ on the next beach, a secluded cove where clothing is optional!

The remainder of our time has been quite rainy but between torrential downpours we have managed to see the sights, visit a winery and eat very well, thanks to Candace’s culinary skills.  One highlight for all of us was a visit to a Koala Hospital, staffed almost exclusively by volunteers.  They rescue and rehabilitate koalas which have been injured by cars or dogs or have developed chlamydia.  Koalas are at risk in Australia because of habitat destruction – they are very particular about the type of eucalyptus that they eat and do not adapt well to being transferred to a new location.  It was hard not to fall in love with the baby koalas in particular.

Another highlight was a meal at Finnian’s Irish Tavern in Port Macquarie.  Having done so well at the RSL we decided to give it a try on ‘2-for-1 night’, figuring how bad could it be?  Amazingly it was among the best meals we have had at a bargain price.  The manager who was working the room selling raffle tickets introduced us to the crowd of regulars as Canadians and so we got a rousing welcome as well!

A final highlight (for Ruth) was a visit from a leech.  Having bragged that I avoided them when birding in the ‘fern gully’ with Steve, I no longer have bragging rights.  After a lovely coastal walk in the morning, the four of us were having lunch at a food court in town when I looked down to see a squirmy, bloated black object on the floor beside my table.  It apparently had also had its lunch - a long leisurely dining experience on my ankle.  Being a city girl I only figured that out when I got home and examined my sock and ankle (apparently they are clever enough to use an anaesthetic when they bite and suck,,,,and suck...).  A quick trip to Google reassured me I won’t get any sort of tropical disease so I am now a wiser person in wet areas!

So after a (mostly) relaxing 10 days we are leaving for a couple of days in the Blue Mountains, an hour west of Sydney, then we will fly to Cairns for a week at the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree rain forest area.

Hope everyone is well and that the snows have finally disappeared!

Ruth and Phil, Candace and Marv
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Comments

Joel and Sally on

Hello from Victoria,
What a wonderful blog,you write beautifully!!
Enjoying seeing Katy and Spencer, but weather has been so so.

sullman
sullman on

I agree with Joel and Sally; you are a talented writer mom! You should submit your travelogue to the Herald or something like that.

Karen Abrams on

Now, you're in the territory we became familiar with and loved... Something you may wish to do in Daintree is a night tour of the rainforest - most enjoyable! Saw lots of lemurs and even a platypus (very rare to see). Make sure you wear your pants inside your socks up there as lots of leeches!!!!.
All this sure makes us want to return.... Say hi to Candace and Marvin

Wendy on

Glad you 4 are having a swell time. Loved the picts. All's well here in Maui. Still coldish in Bellevue I hear. Carry ON! Wendy

Larry G. on

Like the pics & the blog. Looks & sounds like your having fun.
Keep up the good work?

All The Best

Caroline Ullman on

Tropical illness from a leech? I was wondering about how you'd explain the chlamydia from the koalas.

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