I'm currently at Sydney airport awaiting my flight and have found myself with some extra time, due to a condition passed down from my father of getting to places far too early!! Fortunately they have free internet!!
An update since Brisbane then, my first stop was Byron Bay a small town very touristy where I did a kayaking trip with dolphins and got put in a kayak with a girl who'd gone out the night before and spent most of the trip wretching over the edge of the kayak1 On the positive side we did see a load of dolphins out surfing in the waves.
From Byron Bay I went to Lennox Head, a small town with some nice shops and cafes and a good beach, but very quiet and not a good place to stop by yourself. From here I spent two nigts in Yamba. The main reason I went was becaue it shared its name with the village in Tanzania where Village Africa is based, avid readers will have remembered this!
Yamba did not disappoint, it's a really nice small surfer town with a great YHA. The owners ran a tour daily for $10 to see the local sights. We also went to some rock pools where you could jump off cliffs into the deep water. There were various heights and in my true fearless style I stuck with the lowest. There were locals there jumping off cliffs about 10m high doing somersaults an backflips, it was impressive to watch.
After Yamba I spent 1 day in Newcastle doing a wine tour which was most sophisticated and delightful. Althoughby midday the effects of the vino was taking its toll! The chilli liquour was the real high point though.
I then passed trough Sydney to Canberra for 2 days in the capital. Most people had warned me off Canberra saying there wasn't much to see, but true sports geek that I am I wanted to see the Australian Institute of Sport. Although the facilities were impressive, personally I can see why we did better in Beijing, Bath University is far better!! I also got lost in the National Museum.
On the second day I went with a Swiss girl, to the new and old parliament buildings which were surprisingly interesting and then headed to ANZAC parade and the National War Memorial. Unfortunately by the time we got there there was only 30mins left until closing, so didn't see as much as would have liked. They did close the museum with a rendition of The Last Post on the bugle which made up for arriving so late. The girl from Switzerland was a bit taken aback by all the war memorials lining the parade, and by the fcat that every town had a war memorial, something I've always seen as a part of each town.
Melbourne was my next stop where I had 4 days. As soon as I arrived I headed to Melbourne Park as I had a ground pass to the tennis, which basically let me in but not to the Rod Laver or Hisense arenas. I saw a British doubles pair lose, never heard of them before. Then got in touch with some guys I'd met on Fraser Island who I knew were there, and they happened to have a spare ticket in the Rod Laver, so I joined them to watch Roger Federer and then Venus Williams. It was a good day! Although got a bit of a shock with the weather, it was pretty cold!!
Day 2 I did the obligatory Neighbours tour, which disappointed me a little, I think I'd have quite like the whole cast to have greeted me at the street and thanked me for all my years committed service. However, just the security man who patrols the street was there. Ramsay street is actually called something else and is home to normal people who have to put up with twice daily tours of people like me wanting photos next to Dr Karl's house! On return to Melbourne I did get to meet Ned Parker!! Had a photo taken and a chat, he was very normal! In the afternoon I did a tour of the MCG led by Norm who was about 80years old and an MCC member. Norm liked to talk, but did forget things every so often so we were left hanging on his words wondering what he was about to say. A worthwile visit though.
I did a tour of the Great Ocean Road the next day, lead by a very strange guy called Chris, who insisted on us having jumping photos at every stop, they do look good though, and sharing with us the onbgoing disagreements he was having with all the other tours, taking pictures of their illegally parked buses. We went as far as the 12 apostles, although they are no longer 12, but noone knows how many there are, which seems strange to me that it's not a simple matter of counting them!!
I returned to Sydney and the got a train straight out to the Blue Mountains and stayed in Kattoomba. I spent two days here and would have loved to stay longer. The 3 sisters is an impressive rock formation that you could walk beside. The second day I hired a mountain bike and did a cycle along a track which was actually quite hard core mountain biking and did involve me getting off and pushing a few times! On the way back a thunder storm then broke out and I had lightning coming down pretty close, I was a little scared!!
In Sydney I did the tour of the Opera House which was good, it was pretty easy just to wander round the various areas of the city and just people watch, visit the markets and beaches. I caught a bus to Cooggee one morning and then walked to Bondi which was nicer than I thought it would be maybe I caught it on a quiet day. Manly on the other hand was packed and I didn't really like it, so got back on the boat pretty quick.
So now I'm at the airport ready to go, am rushing as have people waiting to use this free internet station. Looking forward to getting to New Zealand, where I am meeting my cousin, Alice and picking up a campervan tomorrow!!!
Australia has been great, I can see why so many people move out here, the weather and lifestyle is easy to get used to, but roll on New Zealand!!!