DAY 10 : SYDNEY
Sat in the warm afternoon sun on the grass eating chicken kebab and chips and looking out over Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Not a bad spot for lunch! And the chips would be passable in Lancashire! Arrived in Sydney ok yesterday. Snoozed a little on the plane – and read my book on the Ulura. Three hours didn’t seem too long and I moved across a seat to avoid the latest long-legged American on full seat recline in front of me. These 737s are quite tight on space. Jumped on the train to Central Station and then a brisk walk to the hotel again. Reunited myself with my suitcase and checked in to room 719. I had just unpacked when Angeno rang and said he’d meet me at 6.45. It turned out to be 7.30 which was pretty irritating but, in the meantime, I loaded all my Ayers Rock photos onto my laptop. He had been waiting just up the road and was suited up. Shook hands and found an extremely reasonable Thai – scruffy place but excellent food for $5 each! And some beers. Yet again we trawled over ABH, until he gave me a pep talk on looking forward not back! Carter Grisso! He also told me how intelligent he was etc etc and should have sacked Alan and George etc etc. He needs to chill! He had to go at 9 so we walked up to the train station. He is perplexed by my lack of “ambition” and personalises every observation back to himself. Still – it was company for a lonely traveller. Although since I first arrived in Sydney I didn’t feel homesick. Back at then hotel I vainly tried to connect to ISDN, even ringing the help line twice. Lois was very helpful but we concluded that the port was dead. I asked to move rooms – up two floors to 919. Chap brought me a key and I re-packed and unpacked – having carefully, for once, put everything away! Grrr. Chucked my wet socks and pants into my suitcase, which I had washed earlier; finally making use of my travelling plug! All of this (I forgot!) having wandered out at 10.30 around Darling Harbour. And that (I also forgot) after Deb had surprised me with a call! Updated on James’ latest running pantomime – 4th/5th in 1500m for Charnwood at Coventry and now doing his SATS. Darling Harbour was quiet – lots of walkways and shops around man made harbour. Nearly everywhere sold food. Took pictures until my zoom jammed (it had been making complaining noises on the plane – thought it just didn’t like heights). It was well and truly stuck. Just heaved a big sigh of relief that it hadn’t done this on my Ayers Rock tours and that I’d be able to buy a new one in Sydney tomorrow. So if it was going to break, the timing was perfect! Ambled back……changed rooms….and went online to chat briefly to Phil and email the magnificent shots of Ayers Rock. Had emails from Paul, Simon again, Den, Elise, J & V. Lovely. Left laptop on hoping I’d still be connected in the morning. Slept I think from 4am to 10am! (what time zone was that!) Good sleep and felt energised when I awoke. Will write more later, but first I need to amble up to the Bridge.
Sydney Tower, Harbour & Rocks
Which I did. Now sat at front of cheap, trendy coffee/cocktail bar in Manly – 7 miles from Sydney, having just dipped my feet into the Pacific – which is disappointingly tame here. I was expecting crashing 60 ft waves ridden by bronzed Aussie surfers. Frankly, Southport has a better beach. That tune resonates in my head (words unabridged) “I bought a round-the-world ticket to see the world, and what did I see, I saw the sea (and airline seat) And the Pacific wasn’t terrific….”
Anyway to re cap. I planned my day carefully today (at least to H.O.) and task 1 was to buy a new camera. Ambled (well, strode, I never really amble) up George Street, which looked full of food outlets. What is it with Aussies – is eating the only thing they do or, at least, spend money on? Anyway, dropped into a small shopping centre where I found a Sony shop and walked out with a $500 camera (but saved $200). Keen and ok sales lad. Got it up and running for me and I was back as a photoholic, with my first picture of the day. Snap. That felt good. Snap, snap….and up Centre Point I ventured (as recommended by A.G who is the most intelligent person he knows). Found lift to the top. Excellent views of Sydney – albeit a child compared with C.N. Tower. Asian lady doing a loud and detailed commentary. The trick with the photos is to avoid the glare on the windows. You’d think they might have thought of that. Slipped through tacky gift shop intact and shot back down to stick to my plan and walk north towards the Bridge and Harbour.
The story continues from the Manly ferry – still catching up…….
From the Sydney Tower I walked up Pitt Street – a busy central street, very straight and at the end of which you could see the curve of the harbour bridge, a steady point of reference. Great buzz – many people out from work with men in ubiquitous white shirts, clearly the uniform of the Sydney City Man. Reached Australia Square (I believe) reminiscent of a London Square (half expected to see W1 on the street signs). Hum of the city – people swarming around or on mobiles talking to their “mate” (which covers just about everyone in this country) or sat taking a bite to eat. All chaperoned and conducted by a gentleman with an electric guitar playing bluesy easy music. Continued, after photo session, to the harbour area itself and reacquainted myself with the quintessential symbols of Australia – the Opera House and the Bridge (can you have only 2 quintessential items?) If I need 5 I will add a boomerang, a kangaroo and Uluru). This is where I bought my aforementioned chips and kebab (6 pages back). From here I walked along the water (Quay West) and had my photo taken by a girl, with the Opera House behind. An attempt to have my picture taken with the Bridge behind by a very helpful and smiling Chinese girl failed due to battery failure (already!) Seems the free batteries I got today were duds OR this camera truly eats electricity.
I walked up through the Rocks in order to climb on the bridge. This is an alleged tourist attraction with old buildings and exclusive shops but not comparable to any such English towns! And very quiet, bereft of tourists. Now looking for camera batteries, nipped into the Tourist Information who didn’t have the right size, so directed me to a pharmacy, but I found a newsagent instead. Now so comfortable with the money that I just use coins. Climbed up through streets and steps to the bridge. Very solid and busy – a railway as well as 6 lanes of continuous traffic. Walked along to the tower, where I mounted a couple of hundred wide metal steps to the lookout at the top – like a turret with panoramic views of Sydney, but at a lower and more realistic level than the big tower this morning. Dashed back down, skipping the exhibition except to note that the bridge opened in the 1920s, was designed in Middlesboro (the winning award), resembled Tyne Bridge and had a considerable number of rivets! Also expands and contracts several cms and is, therefore, hinged! I succumbed to the gift shop buying a deliberately tacky plastic coathanger. There were no iron badge models – the paper and china ceramics seemed very inappropriate and I wasn’t paying $20 for a rivet! (maybe I should have removed one of the less essential ones, surely it wouldn’t be missed?) In general, Australian souvenirs seem to comprise semi-driving road signs (20 km to the nearest dunny), hatpins, boomerangs and cuddly koalas, t-shirts and aboriginal art/craft. And yes – bought all of the above, except the road signs! And the aboriginal goods are excluded from the tacky description.
Meandered back via the Rocks (first time through checked out the Cotswain’s College –another almost-English-type attraction – I can see why folk care to visit our land. Back at the harbour I re-posed for the missing photos and asked a smiling American lady this time – who said the photo was lovely. I offered to send her a copy, having temporarily forgotten that our USA cousins don’t do irony.
Ferry to Manly and the Opera House
Back to the ferry area, I decided to jump on the Marly ferry – a peninsula 7 miles away recommended by AG and the guide. I think this was 4.30 and the sun was setting already behind the bridge (which I had cleverly anticipated). So I stood aft and clicked away with my new camera. I had forgotten to set it on ‘dark’ and, in fact, the pics didn’t come out too well. Anyway, captured the Opera House and Bridge and then a few side shots of the harbour as we sailed out to Marly. Similar to the Hong Kong Star Ferry, but a bit more upmarket. Outside the ferry terminal is a sign ‘seven miles from Sydney, and a thousand miles from your cares’ Uh huh! Headed the ten minute walk to the opposite beach and the Pacific along a street strewn with (yes again) food outlets. Spotted two shops to come back to (see later). Found the sandy beach (see earlier comments), removed my shoes and socks (hung them by the laces off my rucksack) and dipped my feet into the tepid and tame water. I prefer Cornwall! Sun setting brought out some yellows and satisfied my photo-need. Then visited a toilet almost as bad as the ones at Ayers Rock (a hole with no flush) and purchased the aforementioned coffee whilst updating ‘the log’ and reading a free newspaper. Leading on Kylie Minogue (are there any other Aussie celebrities? See five pages back (still behind – currently on airbus to Auckland!)
Shopped at the two shops I had spotted. One was ‘everything under $10’ – a shop with a soundtrack saying in a cheery voice how remarkable and cheap everything was. Picked up a load of cheap souvenirs to add to what I have for the children. The principle being if you buy tacky, buy it cheap. Then, in contrast, to an Aborigine shop, where the lady engaged me in conversation – I think the first of the day (6pm) so I explained about my trip. Turned out she was a fellow traveller with a geography degree. Took the 6.30 ferry back – more pics, this time of the lights. Walked back up to the Opera House and took loads of photos in the dark, using my brilliant tripod. Thinking how being on my own gives me the licence to do as I please without having to consider others. But all thoughts and emotions and observations remain unsaid and unexpressed, hence the log I guess so that you, dear reader, may share 1% of the experience. Next time I will organise a group tour!
Took the train back to ‘Museum’ and walked back towards the hotel. Quite late now. Saw an internet café and decided $2 for an hour was excellent value so bought a coffee ($4! – that’s how they get you!) and enjoyed an hour of fact (!) hotmail and BBC news. Replied to family and friends. Back in my room after 9, having not yet eaten. Changed from shorts and black t-shirt into jeans and found a random Chinese in Chinatown where I enjoyed Yam Sim, beef szechunin and 2 segments of orange (“dessert”) plus a beer – all for under $20. Sat outside in a group of half a dozen tables. Fast and functional food. Sauntered home and split my worldly goods between suitcase and backpack for the plane, and emailed photos to Phil, (plus a brief MSN chat). Debbie rang at 11. I updated her. James said science SATS exam was “too easy to be true” or WTTE. Online again past midnight as the connection is terminated at midnight (according to Lois). Left laptop online overnight having disabled power management. Recharged both phones and read in bed. Sleep about 2.30am. That was Tuesday – felt good all day (just the blisters on my feet). Enjoyed Sydney very much. And caught the sun a little.