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Sydney Escapades

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 12 May 2013 | Views [712]

Note to self: single trip tickets offer greater flexibility! I slept most of the night time journey from Adelaide but arrived in Melbourne at 6am with 7 hours to kill until the Sydney flight – not easy when you have a cumbersome backpack, too large to fit in a locker!

Back in Sydney and this time in a hostel near Central Station. It’s only a 2 bed dorm and at least has a wardrobe, desk and chair. Free Wifi, tea & coffee as well as use of laundry facilities - with some redecoration and a good deep clean, it would be fine. I have never seen a loo cubicle that is also a shower unit! Its rating exceeds 7/10 and I find myself wondering how grungy the rest of Sydney hostels might be. Australian hostels do seem to be the domain of the young!

Yesterday’s adventure was an organised tour of the Blue Mountains. The drive through Sydney and out on the Great Western highway was informative and interesting. Our guide not only knew his stuff but is clearly passionate about his homeland. Up in the mountains the views were somewhat obscured by the mix of the blue haze (due to the oils released by the many species of eucalypt trees found there), along with smoke from the controlled burning (done when the wind is minimal to lessen the severity of bush fires).

The day consisted of running commentary on the history of Sydney as the little bus whizzed along between designated stops. Lunch in Leura - a delightfully healthy veggie wrap and bright green nutritious smoothie. On the road nutrition can take a back seat so that when you do find something that naturally does the job of the daily vitamins pills, you can almost hear your body singing out arias of gratitude.

We visit the Scenic Centre where we cross the valley beside the Wentworth waterfall in a cable car, ride in the world’s steepest incline train and walk through the undergrowth, by-passing a now disused coal mine. Then it’s a whistle stop tour of the Sydney Olympic village, the facilities of which not only remain in use, but generate a profit. We head to the Parramatta River just as the sun begins to disappear. A Captain Cook cruise vessel collects us and, against the glittering Sydney night sky, takes us to Darling Harbour. I head off to the hostel to get ready for a night out. The Cruise Bar at Circular Quay, in great company, is indeed a most pleasant way to spend a birthday evening.

A side salad of trivia. The poor eucalyptus tree bears the stigma of being referred to as a ‘dirty tree’. Known for its shedding - the bark, leaves, branches and even seed pods contain oil that slows down decomposition and increases its flammability - making for ready tinder in the event of bush fires.

It’s Saturday and searching the What’s on Guide I come across an afternoon workshop which seems interesting, and so set out - only to find out it has been postponed. I decide instead to walk around some of the local suburbs before coming back and getting ready for a night out in Manly. This evening I am meeting up with an Australian that I worked with some years ago. A wild child back then, it is incredible to see how she has successfully found her niche in life. As I sit on the Manly ferry, I reflect how the ferry service is such an integral part of life here and at the same time a feature on every tourist agenda. Unfortunately it is dark and I have to rely on memory from my previous trip for the view.

Australia is surprisingly strict on many issues. Alcohol and responsible drinking is far more strongly enforced here than in the UK. It is not uncommon to see the police with sniffer dogs going through the bars. Law and order is to be flaunted at your peril and I think the UK could do well to emulate some of the policies here. Certainly I see no room for the political correctness which is practically crippling other parts of the world. As I walk back to the hostel some 30 minutes away from Circular Quay, the streets are still busy but I see no-one staggering around and feel perfectly safe even though it has gone 1am.

The trail path between Bondi Beach and Coogee remains unchecked on my list and the weather obliges by being another beautiful autumn day, perfect for the 6-7km walk. Heading South from Bondi where the beach and seas are busy with weekend revellers, Tamarama Beach is a tiny cove with a few confident surfers willing to negotiate the rocks. The water is much colder than in Adelaide and I am surprised that anyone swims without a wetsuit! Bronte Beach comes into view in the next cove and is a smaller, more intimate version of Bondi, with a sea water pool and childrens’ amusements. Further south is Clovelly with its bowling greens perched above the long narrow cove where infants and the elderly enjoy the sheltered calm waters. Less accessible is Gordon’s Bay, a tiny beach lined with racks holding small boats and finally I arrive in Coogee. There are some lovely views and I’m pleased to have done it.

Tomorrow is my last day in Sydney. It is a very easy city to live in, although with 4.5m people, probably not my first choice. I have really enjoyed being here, felt quite at home and have a feeling I will be back.

A spectacular last day is planned which I think will definitely warrant its own blog entry…!

Tags: blue mountains, bondi beach, sydney

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