Sydney, 28th August - 6th September 2010
I love it, I love it, I luuurve it! Sydney rocks, and not only does it rock but it's warm and sunny. I'm really glad too as I was starting to get a bit disheartened after NZ.
The flight was 3 hours from Christchurch and we actually gained 2 hours due to the time zone change. It's quite weird to think we're still this far away but we're technically starting to come back already.
So what did we get up to whilst in Sydney? Well we went to see the Sydney Opera House, I did a bridge climb, we did a day trip to the Blue Mountains, been out on the town, on a harbor cruise & over to Manly for an evening, went to Bondi beach, walked through the botanical gardens, been shopping, mooched around The Rocks, met some wicked people and just had a generally had a really good time.
We were staying in a place called Kings Cross that's the 'darker' end of town. It's full of prostitutes, drug addicts and back packers, and everyone gets on fine. :) It's a wicked place and I absolutely loved it.
I strongly believe in Karma and figured we surely deserved a break soon.As luck would have it the hostel we checked into was the best yet. It's called The Blue Parrot, is in a wicked location in the middle of King's Cross, everyone is so friendly it's like living in a house with 50 of your mates (luckily it's a very big house!), and there's always a party going on, but it's always quiet past midnight so everyone who wants to can sleep.
Our first day there was spent mooching round the city, taking in all of the world famous sights like the Sydney Opera House & the Harbour Bridge. We did some shopping on George Street and I found a place to get my haircut, although the bloke clearly did not understand what a trim meant.
This was a gift from some of my old work pals and what an awesome pressie!
They brought me the night climb and as we got out onto the bridge a bit early we even got to see the sunset, but I'll get that bit in a sec.
Selena came down to the Bridge with me to see me off, but didn't do the climb as it's really expensive. We had a look around the centre and at all the pics of celebrities doing the climb and then when it was time 'to board' I went into the briefing room.
First of all we all had to sign our lives away, complete a breath test to make sure we hadn't been drinking and were told about what we could take on the climb with us. There actually only 4 things you can take up there other than your clothes and they are; 1. A wedding ring, 2. Glasses, 3. An Asthma pump and 4. Any medication that you need whilst on the climb. The last three items have to be secured to you, but everything else has to stay. You're not even allowed to take a camera, a watch, hair clips or a tissue.
Once that was done we all got kitted up into some very unattractive jumpsuits and Selena was waiting for me to come out in my sexy gear to take a pic. She's actually managed to take a picture that makes my torso look twice as long and has given me midget legs! This has provided no end of entertainment with everyone in the hostel. :)
Once we were kitted up in our jump suits we headed for the equipment room. We met our climb leader Mike who took us through the rest of the gear. We put on our belts (which felt like a ball and chain when not attached to the wire), hats, gloves, handkerchiefs, head torch, hoodie & even collected a specially issued hair band with no metal in it.And everything (other than the hair band was attached to the suit). The handkerchiefs and gloves were attached to clips on each wrist, the hat was attached behind the neck and the hoodie was attached to the belt and when you opened the hoodie it came out of the bag but remained attached to the suit, so absolutely nothing could blow away.
We then did a trial in the centre and found out what it was like to climb up and down the ladders and walk along the walk way whilst attached to the wire. Then it was finally time to set off. The bridge climb took 3.5 hours in total and we climbed up the steel structure mainly around the pillars until we were on the top of the arch. We took a slow walk up, often stopping so we could absorb the view and as we had kitted up quickly we were on the bridge as the sun set. Even having seen hundreds of sunsets whilst living in Ibiza, I can honestly say it was one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen.
It was quite surreal to see the city changing throughout the climb and as the sun set the whole city started lighting up. On the way up the Sydney Opera house was on the right and Darling Harbour on the left with the rest of the city behind us. We stopped for some photo stops and once we'd climbed the steepest parts we were walking on the actual bridge.
We spent about 20 minutes at the top, underneath the giant flags. Apparently they're 10 meters by 4 meters and have to be replaced every 2 months, they also have a light there to warn low flying aircraft and we walked out right over the traffic. I was surprised to see how close the cars were as the lanes are so small, but Mike said it's because when they built the bridge no one had cars and the main mode of public transportation was buses and trams.
When we started walking down he pointed out what I can only describe as a black rainbow breaking through the clouds. He said this can only be seen at night and when above the lights on the bridge as it's a shadow cast on the sky from below. It was a lot harder walking down the bridge and wasn't helped by it being night time, especially as the light was casting shadows on the steps so you couldn't see where they started and ended but we all got there in the end and everyone loved it.
I had an absolutely wicked time and want to say a special thank you to Kate, Si, James, Jo, Marney, Andy & Tom. :)
Bondi & Coogee Beach
A trip to Sydney would never be complete without a visit to Bondi.
We were also told of a beach very close to Bondi called Coogee beach, which was a lot less touristy and was definitely worth a visit whilst in the area.
We got the underground to Bondi Junction and then jumped on a bus to Coogee. It was really easy and nothing compared to the public transport headaches we'd experienced in the US. We visited these beaches on 1st September which is their first day of spring, and people there were already sunbathing on the beach - oh yeah & roll on summer! :)
After having some gorgeous fish & chips on the beach, we got the bus to Bondi Beach and watched all of the surfers trying to catch the waves. It's a real nice beach and have been told in summer it is absolutely packed, but if I'm honest I'm not sure why it's so famous. Along with Coogee & Bondi we also went over to a place called Manly and their beach was probably 3 times bigger but just as nice. I'm really looking forward to being able to spend some time on the beach. We fly up to the north of Australia in a weeks time and that will be a lot hotter and definitely sun bathing weather. We've timed it pretty well with their seasons as they are completely reversed to ours, so even though it's only the beginning of springhere now as we start working our way down the east coast it will be getting warmer as it heads into their summer. :)
I'm gonna make this part pretty short and the pictures describe it much better than writing about it.We went on a day trip to the Blue Mountains which is just outside of Sydney. It's home to a rock formation called the Three Sisters, the Worlds steepest train journey (which is more like something from Alton Towers), loads of waterfalls, rivers and a Rainforest.
On the trip we also got chatting to a guy called Mark from our hostel & a girl called Kymmi who joined the tour part way through as they'd forgotten to pick her up in the morning. :(
We all decided to get the cable car from one side of the valley to the other and no word of a lie, when we were walking to it everything was fine, and when we got off it you could see right to the other side, but whilst we were on it all we could see was a cloud all around us.
The weather changed quicker here than it did at the top of Mt Hutt, and literally the whole sky completely changed every couple of minutes - I've never seen clouds move so fast.
Once we'd seen absolutely nothing on the cable car we decided to get the train down to below the tree canopy to walk around some of the Rainforest. What happened next was completely unexpected and absolutely awesome! We were the first in line for the train so got to sit at the front. We should have realised then that something was different as you had to queue up for the train like a ride in a theme park. It was only when we were standing at the front of the platform that we noticed there was about 10 meters of track in front of us and then nothing - it just dived down into the rock. The train suddenly bolted up from nowhere and the four of us squashed into the front of the train.The roof of the train was smaller on the right hand side and got bigger as it went to the left, so quite why I went in first, followed by Mark who's over 6ft tall I have no idea.Selena's got a wicked pic of us squashed up in the corner. Now as this felt like a ride at Alton towers we were all fully expecting a bar to come down to hold us in, but there was nothing. In fact we all ended up putting our feet up on the front of the train so we didn't fall forward. The train turned out to be the old Coal Miners railway and is the steepest railway in the world. The train set off and it felt like we were catapulted into an underground tunnel on an almost downward vertical slope.We were all hysterically laughing, whilst trying to take pics and pushing against the front of the train to keep ourselves on the seats.
When we got to the bottom we were beneath the Rainforests canopy and we went for a walk around the raised walkways. Now we only had an hour to spend down here as the guide sarcastically said 'remember you brought an introduction to the Blue Mountains, if you want to see it all you'll need to book 5 days'. He was one of those country bumpkins that obviously feels intimidated by cities and city people and would put Sydney down and big up the Blue Mountains at every chance he got. So we almost ran round the walkways and as Mark said "We're like the Michael Schumacher's of the walkways, no time for sightseeing just move out the way!"
We did have a good time looking around though, and we decided to get the cable car back up. Well it was either that or the 1,000 steps, and no matter how much we wanted to unfortunately time would not allow - yeah right, lucky escape if you ask me. Hahaha.
So we got on the cable car, thinking that finally we might get to see some of the scenery as we went back up to the top. However, mother nature had other ideas and as soon as we set off, in flew the mist. I've taken a pic of the view we could see and other than cables and mist there really wasn't much to see again. Honestly!
Other parts of the day included an hour's hike to see some waterfalls where no matter how hard the four of us tried (and others who were also clearly fed up with him) we couldn't lose our idiot tour guide. He even accused us of trail blazing - yeah, no s*** Sherlock, we're all trying to get away from you! On the way he did drive past a protected Wildlife Reserve and we saw loads of Kangaroos in the wild. I'd never seen a Kangaroo before so this was pretty special and he partly redeemed himself.
OK, that was a bit longer than I thought it would be - whoops.
On our last weekend at the hostel it was John's birthday, and as he was one of the Managers we had a huge party.
We all helped decorate the hostel and it was covered in balloons, banners, brightly coloured candles in the garden and loads of photos (99% if not 100% were of course whilst he was drunk). Once the decorating was done we went down to the supermarket and brought a box of wine known as Goon. It's absolutely disgusting and cannot be drunk unless you mix it with lemonade, but 'does what it says on the tin' and gets you absolutely blotto'd. Our dorm which had 10 girls in it was absolute carnage but a lot of fun as we were all getting ready, blow drying, straightening & curling hair, painting nails, trying on outfits, doing make up, drinking and dancing to music.
The lads were taking it in turn to do the BBQ-ing, although everything was pretty French and we ended up wacking it in the microwave for a couple of minutes just to make sure if we were sick the next day it wasn't due to food poisoning.
I've uploaded a load of pics partly as it's always better to look at pics and partly so I don't have to write loads about it. :)
Sad news from New Zealand
On Saturday (4th Sept) we all heard some news that really shocked us. I don't mean to sound mellow dramatic but it was shocking to think we've been to all these places over the past 2 weeks.
Early Saturday morning there was a huge Earthquake in Christchurch, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale. It was so bad that they declared a state of emergency, shut the airports and imposed curfews on everyone between 7pm - 7am. I'm so glad we moved our flight forward a week otherwise we would have been in Christchurch when it hit waiting to catch our flight that afternoon. There were some casualties but miraculously no-one was killed.
Another really sad incident that happened early Saturday afternoon was when a plane burst into flames just after take off and killed everyone on board. They were all skydiving at the Fox Glacier and there were 4 tourists, 4 instructors and the pilot and was the worst air disaster in New Zealand in 17 years. It was right next to where we did the Glacier hike and we were both thinking about doing it there, but as the weather was so bad they weren't flying. The first we heard about that was when one of the girls in our dorm had a call from her friend who was very upset as she'd just done that skydive in morning and now they were all dead. It really shocked us as we were going to do a skydive when we were at Franz Josef which is next to the Fox Glacier. I'm obviously not saying that anything would have happened when we did it, but it just kinda shakes you up a bit.
On a brighter note we're going up to Uluru on Monday and I'm well excited about it. I can't wait to be able to speak to aborigines, get an insight in to their beliefs, see how they live and also get a feel for the real outback.