Sydney At Last!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Glenferrie Lodge Kirribilli
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When I started this 'walkabout' back in September (UK – Thailand – Australia), Sydney seemed like a distant dream. Now, for better or worse, it’s here; I’m here. However, being in Sydney has two drawbacks:

a)      I’m coming to the end of my ‘walkabout’, and

b)      I’m virtually out of money! What’s the point of being in Sydney if you haven’t got any money to spend?

The journey down from Byron Bay was uneventful – a packed Greyhound bus; a 13-hour journey; 2 hours sleep – the usual. Well, almost. One roadhouse we stopped at is worth mentioning. In Kuruah, they had possibly the best roadhouse ever (and I should know, as I’ve been in more than a few of them by now). Apart from the usual food and drinks, it had a corner for people to rest. In that corner, there were large, comfortable sofas (particularly satisfying after being sat on a coach for 8 hours) with a TV in the corner and a selection of DVDs that the customer could put on if they so wished and watch on the TV. It was a veritable oasis in the middle of the highway.

As we pulled into Sydney, the city looked fairly unassuming – from a distance, Sydney seemed to have the typically Australian skyline; a few solitary, abstract skyscrapers making the CBD look alien to unaccustomed eyes, though to the seasoned traveller around Australia, it immediately looked familiar. Never again would I be fooled by an Australian city like in The Matrix, the filmmakers of which had wanted an ‘unknown’ city for their film and so chose Melbourne. Just as, after years of watching American movies and TV, I was familiar with most American cityscapes, now the Australian city skyline was instantly recognisable to me.

In this case, there was one exception to the general uniformity of Australian cities: The Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve never been to the States, so I can’t comment on their bridges, but London likes to pride itself on its bridges. Well, as seems to be the case with just about everything else back home (except for the seagulls), the Harbour Bridge is far bigger than anything I’d seen in the UK, with the possible exception of the Severn Bridge, but that spans two countries – the Harbour Bridge, merely spans a city harbour. Suddenly catching sight of it out of the coach window, the only thought that went through my mind was, "My! What a big one you’ve got!" It is huge.

On arrival, I realised I’d lost my one skill as a 'city boy'. After a few weeks of being met by hostel reps and taken to various hostels, here I was in Sydney having to find my B&B by myself. I’d forgotten to look it up or find it on a map, so I was in the middle of Sydney (I think), with no idea of how to get to the B&B. As I might have mentioned earlier, suddenly money had become a concern and so a taxi was out of the question. I had the address written down, so I did what I used to do in the dark days before the internet and mobile phones – I asked the way. It took some doing, but I got there eventually! Who needs the internet and smart phones?

Of course, getting to my accommodation meant getting public transport. I knew I had to get a train, but I had no idea of the type of ticket I would want. There were various tickets available, so, at the ticket counter, I asked the assistant which ticket to buy. Seeing I was a tourist he recommended one that allowed the use of all forms of transport (buses, ferries and trains) for one day; the cost? $20AUD. Now, I knew Sydney would not be cheap, but this was taking the Mickey! When pressed further, he let slip that the same ticket was available on a weekly basis for...$41AUD. I was stunned briefly as I tried to do the maths, then I laughed in the face of the assistant. 1 day = $20 but 7 days = $41? Who was their accountant?

After checking in, I went straight back out to see the city despite my fatigue – after all, what would be the point of travelling overnight if you weren’t going to take advantage of the day? My trip to the B&B had mostly been underground and I had been too bewildered and tired to really take in my surroundings when I’d got off the Greyhound.  So, it was time to take a cursory look. The first good thing about the B&B was that it was very close to a ferry wharf. So, naturally, I took the ferry back into the town. I’d barely sat down on the ferry, when we rounded a corner and, unexpectedly, I had the most glorious view of Sydney’s icons: The Sydney Opera House and The Harbour Bridge. All my travelling had been leading up to this and I was not disappointed: this was Australia, Baby!  

From a distance, Sydney looked like any other city in Australia, but it wasn’t until I started walking around the Circular Quay area that I realised just how enormous it was. The skyscrapers were far taller than anything I’d seen thus far, just trying to look up to see the top of the buildings was enough to give you a crick in the neck. And the harbour itself was huge and incredibly busy with ferries, private yachts/jet skis, tourist cruise boats going here, there and everywhere - much like the people of the city itself. Approximately one fifth of the Australian population lives in Sydney, so, after so many weeks in the deserted outback and in small coastal towns, it should have come as no great shock to be unaccustomed to the hustle and bustle of a capital city (it may not be the capital of Australia, but it's still the capital of New South Wales). Honestly, I’d never felt so lost in a city before – I had no idea where I was going, where I should go or where anything was. So, I did the most rational thing, I looked for the Visitors’ Centre. This was by far, the most helpful one I’d been to on my travels. I gave them one remit, “What can I do in Sydney on a tight budget?”  After a few minutes, the assistant had put together two double-sided sheets of A4 paper with free things to do in Sydney. Let the sightseeing commence!
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kyzia on

Are you going to do the walk across the top railing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Please choose a day without a strong wind, George, because we want to see you back on this side of the world in one piece!

georgegoode on

Hi Peeps,
Just wanted to say that even though I wrote that I've run out of money, I reckon I should be able to survive - I just have to be a little more careful about what I spend my money on, but thanx for the concern.

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