Week Twenty Seven - Sydney

Trip Start Aug 26, 2003
Trip End Aug 24, 2004

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Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Somehow, I have managed to wipe about 100 photographs from my Memory Card. Therefore all the shots for Tuesday right through to Friday are gone. I am especially annoyed at losing some great close ups of the wild Kangaroos boxing.

Day 180 - Tuesday 24 February

Up, too early, for 6.30 start. Drive along the Alpine Way into the mountains. Stop off at disused airfield to get a good look at the local Grey Kangaroos in the early morning. Drive through the Snowy Mountains to Australia's highest point - Mount Kosciuszko. Most of us pay $23 to take the chair lift up the steepest part. This leaves a small matter of 13kms round trip to the summit. It's 2 degrees C but not too cold with all the effort, even in shorts. We make it up first with Alan. The rest follow in dribs and drabs. Three hours later we make it back to the town of Thredbo for a coffee then board a change of bus for the rest of the journey. Next stop Canberra for a chilly tour round the main sights including all the Embassy buildings constructed in each nation's own style. The 'unofficial' Aboriginal Tent Embassy is the most notable. The Parliament House is built largely below ground and appears as a grass mound. Unimpressive. We arrive at our hostel at 7pm. Victor Lodge costs us $70 for double with shared bathroom. A quick change then over to 'Filthy McFaddens' Irish Bar for beer and pizza. Phil, our guide, isn't feeling well so retires early. We leave about 10pm.

Day 181 - Wednesday 25 February

Slightly later start at 7.30 after brief brekkie in Lodge then back on the road, passing through deep gorges on the way to The Jenolan Caves. Trouble is the weather which is cold and wet with fog making any sight seeing impossible. We forego the cave tour and take short walk in the rain instead. Back on board after couple of hours and drive through the Blue Mountains to the Worlds Steepest Railway. Viz is down to a couple of meters so we forego the ride and sit drinking coffee instead. The planned walk to the Three Sisters is postponed until tomorrow morning so we go straight to our accommodation in Katoomba. The Blue Mountains YHA is a beautifully renovated building with lovely rooms and recreational areas. We book an en suite double for $75. Unfortunately the Wednesday Night BBQ is cancelled due to the weather. Instead we brave the rain an take short walk into town where we have dinner in a Thai restaurant. Diana and Liz join us and we polish off a few bottles of BYO wine. We take a bottle back to the YHA where the rest are being entertained by Phil and his guitar. It is a good night if a little late.

Day 182 - Thursday 26 February

Eight thirty start. First down to The Three Sisters limestone stacks. Weather has improved although it is still drizzling. Aussies really like their limestone stacks. A short drive to Wentworth Falls which are lovely. Take group photos - now lost - and head into Sydney stopping off briefly for McDonalds. Arrive into sunny Sydney at midday. All say our farewells and most agree to meet up tonight in Scubar beside Central YHA. A ten minute walk takes us from Central Station through Chinatown to our apartment at the bottom of Dixon Street. Small but reasonable 'luxury studio apartment' for $82 per night. Try to extend our stay but fully booked for the Saturday night of the Mardi Gras on the 6th March. Sleep for 5 hours then get up and eat in food hall in Chinatown. Not nice but cheap. Meet up with Diana, Rikk, Nick, Alan, Kendra and Rhonda and go to several Irish Bars. A good night. Home for 2ish.

Day 183 - Friday 27 February

Lie in then wander back towards Central looking for internet café that will connect laptop. Eventually end up in YHA which does but cannot get it to work. Copy text onto camera card and eventually upload TPod that way. Get my hair cut for $10 then go back to apartment, drop off Lifebook and walk to Darling Harbour's Cockle Wharf. It's only five minutes from our apartment and is buzzing with bars and cafes. Sun is shining and by now we are starved. Settle on 'James Squires' bar and restaurant. Lovely steaks and 'Naked Grape' Sauv Blanc whilst watching the crowds go by and the various parties going on at adjacent tables. Walk back to apartment intending to meet up with Nicola's friend, Kevin, from back home but by now my guts are a bit ropey. Have early night.

To make up for all the lost photographs here are some interesting observations about Australia which you wont find in any guide books.
1. Chocolate here is just as ghastly as in Africa and Asia. Even brand names like Cadburys Twirl taste awful.
2. When a dual carriageway becomes a single lane cars merge from the left as opposed to the right back home.
3. The trains / tubes here are triple deckers. You can sit at platform level or go up or down stairs.
4. You will not be served alcohol in a bar if you are clearly drunk. However many of the bars are open 24 hours per day.
5. Cigarettes are sold in packs of 20, 25, 30 or 50.
6. Basic income tax is 37%.
7. Companies specialize in sending boxes of accrued items back to the UK for about 100 quid.
8. The big reality TV show here at the minute is 'My Restaurant Rules' where six couples are given 100000 AU$ to open a restaurant in each of the major cities in Oz. The one in Melbourne was opposite our Motel. Each week they make a presentation to a panel of experts who decide who will win the weeks bank of an extra $50000. Yesterday morning was open day for potential staff to go down for an interview.
9. As gras grows all year round there are no 'Do not walk on the Grass' signs.
10. A normal cup of coffee is called a 'flat white'.
11. The gay Mardi Gras next Saturday attracts 700000 spectators for the 2 hour parade. Boy George, Gloria Gaynor and a surprise guest will sing at the after-party.
12. Sydeysiders say 'eh?' at the end of each sentence.
13. Most pubs have ATMs.

Day 184 - Saturday 28 February

Up feeling refreshed at 9.30. Have bought cereal, bread, ham, cheese etc so make breakfast then walk into town. Walk through Hyde Park then down to the waterfront. Thirty degrees and sunny with a nice breeze off the sea. Unexpectedly come across The Opera House in all its glory. Stunning building. Walk around it then go in. Check out upcoming events and book seats for some Brazilian guitarist called Gliberto Gil who is doing a one off concert on Sunday 7 March. He apparently mixes Samba with Bob Marley so should be good. Tickets cost $79 each. We considered going to La Traviata or The Magic Flute but they were way over the two hundred dollar mark. Sorry Dad. Walk round to Circular Quay and buy $40 weekly Green Zone travel pass before boarding the Manly Ferry. Beautiful views of The Bridge and The Opera House before heading towards Manly. Lots of boats in the harbour with a large cruise ship preceded by tug with all it's fire hoses spraying into the air. Manly is a lovely place and the beach is full of the young and the beautiful. We stay until 4.15 then ferry back to the city. Get taxi to apartment as Nic is feeling a bit crook. Have quiet night in watching TV.

Day 185 - Sunday 29 February

We walk down to the nearby Chinese Garden of Friendship which was designed by the Chinese as a bicentennial gift according to the rules of Feng Shui. Book campervan through NQ Rentals for a month starting Monday 8 March. Get upgrade to deluxe model for an additional $10 which brings it to $119 per day. That's ₤49 per day. Have dinner in Noodle Box then have early one as Nic still nor brill.

Day 186 - Monday 1 March

Decide to get up early and get some sights out of the way. Go down to reception and find that Quest Apartments, who own most of this development, have had a cancellation for Saturday and we can now stay here from Thursday until Monday. Cost goes up from $90 to $135 but apartment gets serviced daily unlike this one and we will have a phone line to go on line from room. From Town Hall we get train to Bondi Junction. From there the bus takes us down to the beach. The first three rows of seats on the bus are preferred seats for the elderly or infirm. A fact pointed out to the young English couple sitting on the front seats by the old German Jewish lady who got on our bus. We get off at the North end of Bondi beach which is much smaller, less busy and less tacky than we imagined. It is of course Monday morning so this probably explains how quiet it is. We walk along the beach admiring the flat stomachs and decide to call in for an ice cream. Next on to Tamarama Beach and then Clovelly, which is lovelly. It is about a 5km walk and takes in some beautiful coastline. My knees are jiggered so we get the bus back to Bondi Junction then train to the city. We have couple of drinks in The Three Wise Monkeys Bar then drop off our bag and go down to Cockle Bay Wharf for dinner again in James Squires. I have 'small' portion of ribs complete with disposable bib, Nicola has pasta with no protective clothing. From there we decide to walk to the casino at Star City to try our luck. We shouldn't have bothered but had a good night anyway
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