Beach and bridge walks!

Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
Trip End Dec 25, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Saturday, December 3, 2011


We arrived in Oz early (very early) on Saturday morning after our night-time flight from Bangkok. Amazingly, the backpacks followed close behind having been in transit since check-in at Siem Reap airport the previous morning. The journey was a pretty smooth one (apart from a grumpy woman at the bureau de change), having decided against staying in the flood-damaged Thai capital we instead spent a few hours lounging in its airport before catching a good 2 hours sleep on the flight to Sydney. Amy again displayed her maternal instinct by wanting to punch a small continually whining child during the flight!

We were told that we wouldn't get far in Sydney without a resident bemoaning the transport system; we didn't have to wait long as the tourist info man complained as he made us 2 train tickets better, but $15 dollars each worse, off. We arrived at the hostel before opening and sat in the park for a bit, struggling to come to grips with what time it was in Cambodia, Australia and the UK. Eventually after checking in Amy turned in for a late morning nap while Michael snoozed in front of the NZ vs. Oz test match on the hostel sofa.

Somewhat topped up with sleep we walked into the town centre. Our interesting route from the hotel saw us pass through the Botanical Gardens via the gay quarter and restaurant laden Surry Hills area. Unfortunately New South Wales is having it's wettest and coldest start to December in 50 years. The cold, wet weather does make us feel a little more festive (as do the Christmas trees and copious Santa figures dotted around the city) but eventually forces us to take refuge in the Art Gallery of NSW. Housing aboriginal, contemporary and older Australian artworks amongst others, the gallery will live long in the memory of Amy for it's banana bread in the cafe. We realise that we have spent quite a while in the gallery and rush off to Darling Harbour to meet up with Becky and Seb, friends from home who are also visiting Sydney. A few days earlier (up the harbour bridge no less!) Seb had proposed (and Becky accepted) and so the evening was spent reliving the moment and all the events leading up to it. Congratulations again guys! The conversation also strayed on to how expensive things in Australia are. This has come as shock to us, especially now having to pay at least ten times that of Cambodian beer prices!

The next day we retrace our steps towards the harbour and take in the views from Mrs Macquarie's seat, ending up poking round the opera house and the Rocks area (and the obligatory tourist shops) before catching the 30 minute ferry to Manly beach. The showery weather still hasn't improved much but we bravely venture out on one of the coastal walks and are rewarded with great views, nice beaches but unfortunately no sightings of the endangered bandicoot. As the sun sets behind the clouds we take the return journey back to the harbour in the twilight and head back home.

For our last full day in Sydney we catch the bus to Coogee Beach and set off up the coast for a two hour meander to Bondi. After an excellent walk we arrived at the world famous beach and watched a few of the surfers conquer the waves before having lunch in a cafe recommended by a former local (cheers Sarah!). Amy comes to the conclusion that she is for the ordering of salads IN THEORY, but maybe not in practise... There's always room for banana bread though! We catch another bus back into town and pay a quick visit to Pylon Lookout for some fantastic photo opportunities before descending to the main attraction of our stay... the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb!

Amy had done this "once in a lifetime" climb a couple of years ago with Will and her Mum, but is willing to splash the cash on a return visit. The tour actually takes around 3.5 hours in total. We are in a group of 12 and are given an introduction and suited up by a lad from Wakefield who seemed a bit nervous - not really what you want when you are about to travel up such a structure. Our actual guide however, who takes over at this stage, is a veteran of 3,500 climbs and has stories to tell in abundance, keeping us all informed and amused for the rest of the visit. Thankfully the gloomy weather has passed before we get out there (we are wearing an extra layer of water-resistant trousers and are equipped with additional fleece and rain-proof jacket) and so get to see the sun's rays out to the sea and the storm clouds out towards the blue mountains. We emerge into the night with a photo from the top, two certificates (Amy is now a "Master climber") and beaming smiles. Fantastic!

Before catching the train up to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains the next day we purchase our Greyhound hop-on, hop-off ticket from Sydney to Brisbane and are all set to explore the rest of NSW, let's just hope the sun comes out!
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