Sydney, Australia (10th Jan 2008)
After a long day travelling we arrived at Base Backpackers in Sydney to find that Mark and I were in a separate room to Johnny and Sam even though we booked in together. It wasn't too much of an issue though as we were pleasantly surprised with our 8 bed dorm as it had a shower room and a toilet and air conditioning. It was only when Sam and Johnny came down to see us that we realised we had got lucky as they were in another part of the hostel in a room with long termers that had no en-suite facilities, no air conditioning and even no individual bed lights! Off we went out for our first night exploring Sydney with Johnny and Sam where food soon became our first priority and so rather than hunting for somewhere new to eat we went back to Star Bar so the boys could enjoy the AU$6.95 steaks. Feeling pretty wipes out, we made our way back to the hostel for a good night's sleep.
The next morning we were surprised to find ourselves been woken up around 11am by housekeeping knocking on the door but not quite feeling like we were ready to face the world we kept our heads buried until they were gone. We decided we needed to have some kind of productive day and so we visited The Natural History Museum Australia. As soon as we paid for our tickets we were a little disappointed (Mark especially) as a significant part of the museum was temporarily closed to make way for the Dinosaur exhibit that was due to open in March. Our first stop was the stuffed animal exhibits which had a very similar layout and finish to the Manchester Museum and made for an interesting time as the initial room showed the skeletons of numerous animals rather than their outward appearance. We were both captivated by the creepy crawly part of the exhibition as each small cabinet specialized in a particular animal and lit up to highlight all aspects of their life from breeding to hunting to just simple methods of survival. Another exhibit specialized in Minerals from Australia and all over the world and documented the life of a young Australian Boy who started collecting them and as he grew older his collection grew until it was one of the largest in the world.
Thinking that was pretty much it we started to make our way downstairs but something out of the corner of our eyes caught our attention. We made our way over and were really pleased to find a Photography Competition Exhibition specialising in all aspects of nature. There were numerous different categories ranging from 'Wildlife at Night' to 'Underwater Discoveries', all of which had a winning photograph and then a few that were highly commended. We were blown over by the beauty and complexity of some of the photographs and the talent that some people have, especially after finding one of the best photos there and realising it was the winner of the Under 16 category and was taken by a 12 year old boy. What made the exhibition that bit better was the personal touch of having a paragraph from the photographer explaining what the photo was off, how they came about taking it, and more often than not how the animal kingdom is under threat from global warming.
On our way out we spotted one more exhibition that we thought you had to pay to go into but we were able to walk in just fine. It was another photography exhibition that comprised of huge floor to ceiling portraits of Gorillas, Monkeys and Ape's each with their own individual facial expression and life story, highlighting how alike us humans are to them. Most of the animals had had a difficult upbringing, more often than not been left orphaned at a very young age, developing mental illnesses and life threatening diseases.
We wondered down to the botanical gardens as we didn't really get to see a lot of it on New Year's Eve as it was so crammed full of people. As soon as we stepped through the gate Mark spotted the biggest and most intricate spider's web we had ever seen and of course right bang in the middle of it was a bloody big spider, again the biggest we have ever seen. Kara didn't want to hang around too long so we took a few photos and swiftly cleared the area! The botanical gardens are really beautiful and as we discovered on NYE, probably one of the best vantage points to view Sydney Harbour from. There was a complete different feel being there a second time round as it was so quite, we were only interrupted every now and then by crazy city workers running up and down the steps in their lunch hour to keep fit. After an hour or so wondering around and relaxing the sun started beating down so we decided to head back to the hostel and make some plans for the evening. Johnny had been wanting to go and see American Gangster for a long time so we decided to spend the night in the cinema, arriving back at the hostel at gone 12, our latest night for a while!!
Again we slept in till housekeeping arrived and as we were still both feeling pretty tired we decided to have a bit of a nothing day and just chill out in the hostel. Johnny and Sam went out climbing for the day which we would have been interested in doing too had we not been so tired. As soon as they returned we made plans for our evening, drinks in the hostel room then out onto the streets of Sydney! We already had a litre bottle of Raspberry Vodka from China so we cracked that open, put some music just had a bit of fun. Once we drained the bottle we headed downstairs to the Base Backpacker bar, Scary Canary, only to be told that we couldn't get in with flip flops on, so Kara and Johnny rushed upstairs for an outfit change and made it back down just in time for the end of happy hour. With the girls feeling rather merry we thought we could just have a bit of a wonder around and find another bar.....easier said than done. With road after road proving unsuccessful and Star Bar not letting us in coz Johnny was wearing shorts Mark took us to a basement bar he knew from his last visit where we continued on the beer and Mark and Johnny found amusement in a shooting game. Sometime later we eventually stumbled back to the hostel and were surprised to find we were some of the first ones back, not quite the party animals we thought we were!
A hangover breakfast/lunch was a necessity for everyone as soon as we woke up so we went straight to Scruffy Murphy's and all ordered the greasiest things on the menu (burgers, all day breakfasts, wedges) the only cure for a hangover. Still wanting to see a little bit more of Sydney, we walked down to The Rocks, the site of Sydney's first European settlement. It was like walking into a different city as the skyscrapers slowly disappeared to make way for quaint cottages and cobbled streets, in a distinct European style. Since we left England we have been indecisive as to whether to do the Bridge Climb or not but when it came to it we figured it was a bit too expensive so as a substitute we visited the Pylon Lookout which is located on the bridge itself so you still get amazing views but without the high price. As part of the entry price we got to visit a museum all about the bridge and its history, the highlight being a video documenting how the bridge was built, piece by piece. Our evening was spent making tea and doing laundry before we decided to take a walk down to the harbour to experience Sydney at night and get some twilight photos.