7 hours in Sydney

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It is the largest capital city in Australia and spreads over several kilometers. So, what sights did we see when we arrived at Central Station at 10 am and had to be on the 5 pm return train?

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Sydney Central train station

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We checked the large information board in the central foyer and then had the task of finding platform 23, complicated by little signage ON platforms, but plenty of arrows directing you TO platforms. We went three levels below ground, where we headed to Kings Cross, once famous as Sydney’s red light district, but at this hour of the day we were bound for Potts Point, an adjoining suburb. Plenty of heritage buildings, apartments and promising lane-ways, the area supports both the wealthy and the downtrodden.

 

Stopped in at The Butler, with a notion to returning for lunch and admired the great view.

 

After meeting family members, we took the train over the famous bridge to Milson’s Point. Lavender Bay was a short stroll and we entered Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden. Following the untimely death of her husband, artist Brett Whitely, creative Wendy and  daughter Arkie, began designing  a garden on land that was something of a wasteland. Arkie died in 2001 and Wendy continued the work more ardently, subsequently spending 20 years converting it to a beautiful public garden.

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The tower that signifies Wendy Whitely’s house at Lavender Bay

The garden sits at the base of her own home, the tower of which is a landmark.

An impressive fig tree marks the start of it, with a sculpture/plaque at its base, etched with the words to a Van Morrison song and the famous Sydney icon beyond.

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& we shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain…Van Morrison

There is a choice of paths to take, some steeper than others but all of them well-maintained. The plants, the resting places, birds and wondering bush turkeys are all very peaceful.

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good paths

 

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resting/eating spots
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some downhill paths

Needless to say, we’d worked up a hunger, so off to somewhere quite natural –

 

The Botanist, Kirribilli. A great range of vegetarian options in a funky, opshop-style setting. Very well-priced and delicious meals. My favourites were the fried cauliflower, tahini, pomegranate, yoghurt, currents, mint and smoked almonds and then the grilled marlin, chermoula, roasted fennel and green olive.

Fortified, it was time to attempt Cahill Walk!

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From Milson’s Point, go past the Burton Street tunnel to the Bridge Stairs, with the variety of signs indicating what you will see, what you can’t do and it is all free.

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The views of the Opera House, City and Harbour are wonderful. If you take the Pylon Tour, it will cost $15 but you will be almost at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with stunning views and can get enviable selfies behind a very safe and secure wall.

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The Pylon tour includes a 15 minute video that explains the building of the bridge, with historical footage and the 200 step climb takes you past photos, relics and articles depicting the journey of the workers and stake-holders. It is quite startling to see what people did in the days before OHS&W regulations – men sitting on girders, suspended high above the water, with no helmet, harness or sometimes shirt.

It was time to sprint for the next train and return to Blackheath from whence we had come. We needed to buy an Opal card, which is a transport card, and you tap it on an electronic recorder at stations when getting on and off the train.  We travelled the whole day with a credit of $20 and we didn’t run out of money.

Some classic Sydney and something different. There is so much here to choose from, so do your research and do what you love.

Since first writing this post, a son has travelled to Sydney and utilised the Big Bus. It is a hop on, hop off, double-decker bus that takes you to the major Sydney city sights and/or the sights at the famous Bondi Beach. You literally hop on when you want and hop off when you want. The commentary is pre-recorded in 7 (?) languages  but nearby attractions are not necessarily signed. It is a great way to get around to the Opera House, Bridge, Botanic Gardens and other sights, for $49.50 online. You can hop off at 3 particular stops and joint the other tour.

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Pretty hard to miss. It can take as long as you like, between 8.30 am and 5pm. Try this website for more information: https://www.bigbustours.com/en/sydney/sydney-routes-and-tour-maps/

Take water and a hat. Safe travels.

 

5 Things you’ll love about the Blue Mountains.

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Why are they called blue, for a start?

Rayleigh scattering – the elastic

scattering of light particles, put simply. It is common with many such mountain ranges, that they look blue from a distance.

  1. ACCESS

The Blue Mountains are in New South Wales, Australia. They are accessible from Sydney by a two hour train ride to a heritage location, but we took a two and a half day drive from Adelaide. Coaches also travel here and you can hire a car.

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Blackheath train station
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great views from the carriage windows

 

2. ACCOMMODATION

We stayed in Blackheath Glen Tourist Park.  This had great facilities and wide sites for vans, as well as being near Pope’s Glen track to Glovett’s Leap, but we were told that the neighboring Katoomba Tourist Park was equally good, and ran shuttles to major attractions.

There are a multitude of accommodation options in the area and good access to all the necessities – supermarkets, bakeries, sweet shops, swimming pools, liquor, churches and more.

3. STUNNING VIEWS AND TRAILS

Climb the 250 million year old rock strata. Under the canopy of gum leaves seen from above, there is a rain forest below, with many waterfalls.

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Online maps available before we got there were too limited. Even visiting tourist shops en route proved fruitless. We had to wait to stop in at the national parks centre in the region, but they were marvelous at providing maps, suggestions and advice. There are 48 walks on the ‘selection of bushwalks in the Blue Mountains’ sheet. Great detail is here, concerning grade, time, distance and features to be experienced. This was invaluable in planning our outdoor adventures.

4. VERTICAL CHALLENGES

Reported to have the steepest train ride in the world it is really more like a show ride and these days travels very slowly compared with what carried people 20 or 100 years ago.

Then there is the Cableway or the Skyway, with viewing floors and up to 360 degree views.

Or just descend the stairway to the Three Sisters or Pulpit Rock and feel suspended over more than time.

5. HISTORY

Around 1900 the population of this coal mining area was 4000! However, it was very popular as a holiday destination and in Summer the numbers would swell to 30 000 people. The sewage system was unable to cope at these times and it was not uncommon for Katoomba Falls to be dis-coloured with refuse. Erk.

People ride here, walk here, drive here and arrive by the bus loads. It’s easy to see why.

At one lookout a man had his drone travel the 2km gap as he watched the view below on a smart phone. Unfortunately the echo could be heard across the canyon as we travelled to different lookouts, beyond where we could see it.

Take a hat, good walking shoes and water. You may need a coat if the clouds are hanging low, but they can blow away quickly, too.

Safe Travels!

City Lines

For this week’s photo challenge – lines, I used quick visits to Sydney and Melbourne to help me.

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Mary White’s peace garden in Lavender Bay
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Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk
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Centreway Arcade
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Melbourne street art
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Melbourne Botanical Gardens
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Melbourne CBD
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Bridge Road second hand shop
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Blackheath train station
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Sydney Central train station
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Inside Quest on Lonsdale

It was hard to know where to draw the line (sorry) as I clearly like lines and have a million of them. I hope you enjoy some of them.

How to decide where to go in Australia.

Australia is a big place. How much you see and where you go will depend on three things:

  1. the time you have,
  2. the time of the year and
  3. the things you enjoy seeing and doing.

 

The time you have

As Jane Austin says in Pride and Prejudice, near and far are relative terms. If you see my blog on the Northern Territory, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time. Fast travel isn’t for everyone, though. And if you start in a big city like Sydney, you will possibly not get so far, but have seen a great deal.

Western Australia is the largest State and has almost every climate type (see below), producing every kind of environment. Before I went, people warned that it was a long way to anywhere, but it really is about a day’s travel to many of the locations (8-10 hours drive at 100km/hr).  We did it in 39 days, but that included a long stop in Perth and other extended stops, as well as inland treks.

Every State has a lot to see and do. You would have to look at the time you have and marry it with the things you want or love to do.

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The time of the year

As a big island, we have an enormous range in climate. Our climate is temperamental. Check before you leave.

In everyday language, above the Tropic of Capricorn (see map in A good State to be in) you will be guaranteed warm to hot weather all year. Clothing – strictly shorts and light tops.

The vast desert region occupying most of the centre is cold at night in the dry season, loosely corresponding to Winter (June – August) and mild at other times. Do not underestimate how hot it gets in the desert – we have met travellers from Europe about to embark on the Tanami Desert , carrying no water. THAT IS CRAZY! You’ll need a hat, too.

It is hot to extremely hot in the Wet (October – April) and can be tremendously humid.

October to April (roughly) is the cyclone season, so floods and very high winds would deter most travellers from the ‘top end’.

There is no Spring or Autumn in this region, although wildflowers (famous in Western Australia) bloom in what would be called Spring south of the Tropic.

As you would expect, from the Tropic it gets cooler as you head south and warmer as you go north. Winter in the south is from June to August and you’ll get lots of rain and cold winds but our snow regions are sparse. Our minimum temperatures don’t commonly go below zero but in the open it’ll be cold.

Summer in the south is from December to February, but we can have 40C in March (not unexpected in South Australia).

Western Australia is windy.

 

 

In geographical terms, the following map could help:

 

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The things you enjoy seeing and doing.

We are a population that hugs the coast and once won most of the Olympic swimming competitions. We are a beach culture. However, in the north there are ‘stingers’  in Summer. These are jelly fish that sting and some can be fatal. While some beaches have vinegar or warm water for removing the tentacles or sting, not all do and it is common in these regions for people to do most of their swimming in chlorinated public or private pools.

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Climbing – we have plenty of hills and ranges to climb.

Walking – with so much space and distance there is a walk to suit all abilities and ages. Many have bike access or are wheelchair friendly.

Train rides – I’m not sure if we can compete with the speeds of Europe, but we have some delightful and some dramatic steam train journeys, including the 52 degree incline of the Blue Mountain rail journey. Then there are the epic journeys between states and across the dessert.

Underwater adventure – whether it’s the fast disappearing Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays or the Ningaloo Reef, we have underwater scenery to amaze you. Swim with sharks if that takes your fancy, but make sure you are in the cage!

Cycling – It is mandatory in many States, now, for all new roads to have bike lanes. We have the Tour Downunder for a reason, so there are tracks and roadways for everyone.

Scenery – what can I say? We have it all – the good, the great and the unusual.

Birdlife – a very large variety of birdlife can be found and you are better off checking the location you are thinking of or going to  http://www.birdlife.org.au/  before deciding where you’ll bird watch.

Wildlife – Our unique marsupials are world renowned. We have most of the deadliest snakes in the world, so research that and tread heavily where you go.

Fishing – yep! I’d recommend joining one of the Barra (Barramundi) safaris for adventure, but look out for the eyes floating on top of the water.

Food – we are a multicultural country so I defy you not to find your culture’s culinary delight. We offer food trails in most States and several in some. Free samples, too!

Wine – ah! Bacchus couldn’t ask for more. Light wines in rainy areas, heavier in the dry.  Don’t look for anything in Queensland or Northern Territory , as the humid climate and the grapes are not friends. Although they do import from the rest of us, so you’ll find something. Beer is the poison of those regions.

Botany – plants and flowers to satisfy Joseph Banks. We have such a wide range you’d need to check local areas.

Camping – of course. But we are a big place with lots of isolated areas. Be careful and sensible.

History – we don’t have the buildings of the rest of the world, that are centuries old. But we have a billion year old history that is evident in rock formations and landforms.  (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170509194434.htm)

Rocks – see the last item and be ready for red.

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Culture – we have the oldest surviving culture, in the Aboriginal people.  (http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2011/09/dna-confirms-aboriginal-culture-one-of-earths-oldest)

SO much more. Research, research or just ask.

WATER WATER WATER and a hat. And your camera!

 

Sydney, Australia – not just a big city

We had no intention of visiting Sydney again, having seen the icons in 2000, as we thought it was nothing more than a big city. We were so wrong.

To members of the rest of the world, Sydney is probably small fry, with a population of 4.3 million, making it less than one ninth of Tokyo, which I think is the most populous. Rival Australian city, Melbourne, is close behind with 4 million but then the rest just fall away, leading Australians like me to refer to Sydney as a big, busy city.

We were challenged by friends to visit their beloved city and they swore they could show us the type of holiday we would love, with plenty of hiking, outdoors and beaches. So here is a summary.

Plenty to see

We took a ferry from Watson Bay to Circular Quay, then from the quay to Darling Harbour. You go beside the bridge and opera house, then under the bridge and beside lunar park and any warships that are in. The waterfront at Darling Harbour has a wax works, wildlife show, maritime museum and at least one old sailing vessel. The walkways are accessible and interesting, with plenty of places to rest or get refreshment. From Darling Harbour you can go straight into the city centre and from Circular Quay you can cross through the Botanic Gardens, but we didn’t so I cannot comment on how easy or otherwise that is.

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Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk – Great range of sights
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From the iconic shore of Bondi Beach, with its cafes, sunbathers, cliff views and lifesavers, we set out along the cliff top. The gradient varies and we dipped into lovely coves where a surprisingly small number of swimmers were, and strode up to the top again to photograph dramatic and beautiful coastline. The big surprise is the cemetery at Waverley, where notables such as Henry Lawson are buried. Well-preserved monuments provide a somber section of the walk before you step out onto the hilltop once more. Coogee Beach baffled my beach-going instincts and i was lucky enough to see a few brave swimmers attempt the entrance from the side of the concrete …umm … platforms? Not for the feint-hearted, but children could easily enter from the sandy end, devoid of waves. Pleanty of water and rest spots along the way, including amenities. A beautiful walk, but take sunscreen and hat, even if it is overcast.

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The controversial and the magnificent5 of 5 bubbles

We did the pylon climb on the bridge which was easy and yet took us high enough to see amazing sights at the top. The history of the bridge was very interesting and to so close to this icon was inspiring. The opera house was very controversial when built, with people saying it had ruined the city forever. Now it is a world-class symbol of good architecture, recognised everywhere. We saw the harbour by day and night and the myriad of colours and angles are all worth capturing.

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National Parks, the north coast and the heads.

We had a few morning walks through one of the National Parks on the North Shore. It was beautiful and the birdlife, flora and, of course, rocks, were amazing. Our friends took us on a drive of the northern beaches and The Head, where it is common to watch as cruise ships leave the harbour and head out to sea. A varied coastline with glimpses of subtropical foliage and the site of a popular Australian soap opera, filmed on Palm Beach. It got pretty windy, despite the warmth of the day, but the chance of sunburn is still high. We saw a very practical but unexpected way of storing boats in a marina.

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The City itself
There are a number of interesting buildings (old for Australia, at 200 years) and architecture. Hyde Park, Queen Victoria Building and the Royal Botanic Gardens are all lovely and the old wharf is packed with boutique, expensive bars. Maps of the city are easy to follow and public transport is readily available. There are some free buses to main areas, such as Bondi Beach.

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The Fireworks and Balmoral Beach
One of the highlights of the trip was to catch the famous New Year’s Eve fireworks. My camera hasn’t caught it well, or the million people crowded but orderly as we head for the available train stations.  There is nothing like the sounds of a million people “AAAHHHing” at fireworks. We spent New Year’s day on Balmoral Beach, with views to the North and South Heads. It is a lovely, family-friendly beach with good facilities.

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Accommodation can be expensive, but it is like anywhere – you can get some amazing deals, too. Transport is made cheaper by buying an opal card and putting money on it- but remember to validate it on and off. This is a remarkable city. We didn’t visit the zoo this time, but it is quite good – the views are perhaps its best point.
Manly is a very nice spot for cafes and a good ferry trip. The city is filled with pubs and bars that are going at all hours, but that’s not really my scene, so I can’t recommend a particular one or area.
Our friends had done it – we now think of Sydney as beautiful, exciting and full of adventures.
Travel safe, talk to people, take your hat, some water and your camera.

VIEW FROM A BRIDGE

For this week’s photo challenge, ‘atop’, I am submitting this view from the Pylon on Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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Almost as high as the icon, itself, the journey inside the pylon gives you pictorial history, a video if you time it right and magnificent views of the Opera House, the city and, of course, the bridge itself. If you enlarge the photo, you can even see the group of Bridge climbers who have reached the flag.

For someone like me, who doesn’t like the breezy heights sought by others (no metaphor intended), this is a secure, safe and refreshing way to get the views and marvel at the structure.

More on the Bridge in another blog.

Travel Safe. Take water, although a fountain is available in the pylon, and hold your hat when you get to the top.