This is of course my second stint in Sydney and it wont be my last as all my flights into and out of Australia head through here, however this is my main stay here and I’m planning to do the bulk of the ‘to do things’ in this visit.
I arrived in Sydney on Tuesday 28th December, and I have a full 10 nights here. I’ve managed to pack quite a few things in over the past 5 days, so I guess now is a good time to summarize them before they slip from my memory!
So my abode for these nights is a not so glamorous hostel, to be honest it’s a pretty terrible hostel really but you’ve just gotta make the most of it. And options in a place like Sydney over New Year are very much restricted, even when you book them in August! The place does offer free WiFi and Breakfast, but the WiFi never works so I use up my phone data instead and the milk offered for breakfast is somewhat weird as they seem to water it down a lot and make it from a mixture! The room has no curtains on the windows. Add into that the fact there are two showers and three toilets in the main building for about 15 dorms!
I spent Wednesday walking around the Botanical Gardens and the Harbour area up to the Opera House and getting plenty of picturesque pictures. The weather was also really nice and rather hot, which made a change from Melbourne where it was rather unusually cold! I didn’t do much else on Wednesday, I’d planned to meet up with April and Ash who were in my hostel in Melbourne, to go to the Blue Mountains the next day so an early night was in order really. I bumped into a Welsh chap, Aled, who’d just moved into my room and he decided to come with us the next day too, so we had a nice sized group to go with.
The day trip to the Blue Mountains was the day before New Years Eve and deliberately chosen as such so that there was no alcohol consumed that day! We avoided all of the arranged expensive tours and took the train out there for a tiny $11! One of the few bargains I’ve found in Australia yet! The train did take a while and we ended up taking the train an hour later than intended as Ash and April realised they’d left their camera at the hostel just as we were about to get on the earlier train! When we did eventually get there we had to walk for a few km from the town of Katoomba to the main Echo Viewpoint. This gave us quite nice views of the ‘Three Sisters’ and the surrounding valley. Whilst here some old chap started giving us a bit of a lecture about the area the shrubbery and various aboriginal tales about the area! It was really quite interesting and bizarre at the same time! Then we headed off down on a walk around the cliff edge towards a waterfall. This walk took us quite a while though with Ash giving Aled a bit of a photography lesson for his SLR. I’m not sure how much of the lesson stuck though! When we got around to the next area near the road Ash and April decided to head back as they wanted to get a bunch of things sorted for NYE tomorrow. I was quite keen to stay and go further, and probably stay till sunset, so Aled and I stayed.
After a short chill out break we lucked onto some serious money shot viewpoints. The first one offered a rather picturesque view of the whole rock face going along the cliff face to the three sisters, with the waterfall on the other side. The waterfall didn’t have that much water going over the top and we could see a bunch of people walking about on the landing area where there wasn’t so much water. We headed down there and found ourselves greeted with such a great view over the surrounding area and were able to get some quite stunning pictures of both looking right up at the waterfall and out into the valley. After finishing off the rest of our lunch for dinner we headed back via the road to the original viewpoint and headed back the opposite way along the trails. We went right down to the three sisters down some rickety stair cases and you can get right up close to the rocks. By this time the sun was starting to go down and I came up with the idea of walking around the other way to get the sun going down behind the three sisters. On reflection this was a little ambitious and we must have ended up walking 6 or 7km in an hour or so trying to get a better viewpoint for when the sun went down! We eventually got pretty much the best possible, the three sisters will still around the corner from the viewpoint, but it was great for look outs over the whole valley, and with the sun going down the colours just become quite spectacular!
The next day was of course New Years Eve and after sleeping a little later than really planned we caught up with Ash and April again and found out where they were heading to watch the fireworks from. We caught up them just after midday, they had been there since before 11am! The spot they’d grabbed was in Milsons Point and directly opposite the Opera House on the other side of the water and close to the foot of the Harbour Bridge. When they’d got there a lot of people had already spent the previous day camping overnight in order to book out their spot, so obviously this must have been a pretty hot spot! It was a scorching hot day and there was little shade and breeze at our spot. Fortunately there was a quite a high wall we could sit near with a fresh breeze coming in off the river. The area was unfortunately, but perhaps a blessing in disguise an alcohol free zone. In truth it was far too hot during the daylight hours to drink without having dehydration issues, and once the sun went down we’d have had serious trouble getting to the toilet in time! There was only a little entertainment put on in the build upto new year, with an aeroplane fly by doing some air stunts first up at about 5pm, followed by a bunch of boats sailing by and then the 9pm ‘family’ fireworks, which were impressive in parts and left a little bit to be desired in others! The earlier boats then sailed back past several times with some ‘lighting decorations’ attached as we waited for the main attraction.
When they arrived they were really rather impressive, and when I look back through my photographs they look more impressive than I remember when I was there in person, perhaps a little too much time looking at the camera I guess! The ones going off the bridge were always really spectacular, but aside from a few others in the middle of the water, and those off the top of the skyscrapers, we couldn’t really see the others as they were annoyingly hidden by trees and the pillars on the bridge! I’m really glad that we had such a good viewpoint and did it though, however I can completely see why people don’t go to see them every year. Firstly getting out there that early in the heat is really draining, and you don’t really want to drink and are just ready for bed once they’re done. Then there’s the hassle and stress of getting back with reportedly over a million people viewing them from different angles the queue for the train station was rather large and there was a lot of people pushing even though there was no space to go into, it’d be rather easy to get a crushing going on there… Luckily we were getting on the train first so the trains were empty at our station, others who saw the fireworks from the downtown area weren’t quite so lucky I expect!
On New Years Day I caught up with Amanda, who I met last year in Vancouver whilst travelling North America. It was really cool to catch up with someone I’d met before and also be able to let someone else do the thinking about where to go and what to see. She’d spent the previous 3 days an hour or so north of Sydney at a music festival and only had the afternoon/evening to catch up with me in Sydney, I’ve arranged to catch up more in Canberra next weekend. We headed out to Coogee Beach, which is one of the less well known beaches, well at least compared to Manly and Bondi anyway. That’s pronounced Koo-jah or something like that by the way! It was quite late in the afternoon by the time we got there and the weather was really pleasant, we hung around on the beach for a while and after deciding going in the open ocean wasn’t really for me, we headed over to one of the natural pools that was formed by the rocks near the edge of the beach where I could easily stand up. It was rather refreshing, even if my eyes started stinging quite a bit due to the salt water! After that we headed upto a bar where an old work colleague of Amanda’s was having a few drinks with some friends. One of the friends was Brazilian so I had a few stories to swap there! Incidentally I think I saw her in a bar I was in today, but I wasn’t really sure so never said anything! We headed back into town for dinner whilst having various parts of town pointed out to me worth further investigation; I think I managed to take most of it in and got the key parts written down in my little green book anyway! We had dinner a pub in Newtown and the food was really pretty good. That said there were cockroaches walking around in the outdoor area; I was assured they weren’t in the kitchen area! Time had kinda slipped on quite a bit after a round more and we had to call it a night after that as Amanda had an early bus back to Canberra.
Once I got back to the hostel, there was of course an early Man Utd kick off to enjoy. It’s quite rare that football is on such a respectable time as 11.45pm in Australia, and it turned out to be a better game than I was expecting! So I’m pretty much half way through my time in Sydney now and pretty much have some activities lined up for the remaining days which I’ll cover towards the end of the week with a bit of luck. After that it’s an extended weekend in Canberra before being off to New Zealand for 5.5 weeks, Fiji for 10 days and then back to Australia for 6 weeks. Then South East Asia for 6 weeks after that. At least that’s the rough plan now, the last 3 months are still open to change. Anyway that’s all for now, till next time.