Alicia: one of my favourite places we've visited do far. In all we got to spend two weeks in Sydney finally enjoying catching up with everything and being able to live in a city for a bit.
We arrived in Oz on the Saturday before the big All Blacks vs Wallabies rugby game. Mike had been offered a spare ticket by a guy we met earlier in the day in Auckland for it but had to pass it up because we were flying out. We still managed to catch it at the Sugar Mill pub in Kings Cross after swiftly checking in to Zing our home for two weeks. After watching the All Blacks thrash Oz over a stubby and $10 steaks, we went on search of the Opera House, which included walking through the Domain park at night- was well worth it though as we kept walking to the waters edge before finally opening ours eyes to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge all lit on front of us across the water. Beautiful.
The next day we took the 3hour free walking tour around town which was pretty cool- got to see the Opera House again, circular quay, The Rocks and major shopping streets (:D) and the Botanical gardens which had cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets as well as flying foxes (the worlds largest type of bat) sleeping in the trees.
Our 'catch up' day was Monday where we decided to get our Chinese visas sorted. Took ages to walk there and finally they stuck us with a $178 bill each!
Tuesday followed in much the same way as we decided to look into campervans properly. Everyone was telling us to do it but we thought we'd check out proper prices and see if it was for us. We went around A LOT of rental places before deciding we want to go with
Jucy, though we had to wait till the next day to confirm it all. Before all this we got an email from the visa people to say we'd have to traipse across town again cos they'd had a problem with our application. Apparently because we'd filled out that 'yes' we were in a malarious area 1month ago, we'd have to get a medical certificate to say we're malaria free, even though we told her we wouldn't reach China for another 2months. Pfff! Another day wasted, but managed to save Wednesday by heading out on a pub crawl. Was a really good night and met some cool people including Jackie and Andy who we'd met up with again a few times after. We went to a few places including a sleezy, sticky bar but with $3 scooners and a highlight of the night was a cool bar that brewed their own alcohol and with a jazz/ brass/ rap group performing on stage.
We both ended up with pretty horrendous hangovers the next day (didn't get up til 12 :S) but managed to make it to the opening day of Expendables 2! Mike was ridiculously excited the whole way to the cinema, and we figured although the tickets were expensive ($22 each for the iMax) it was pretty funny and it made Mike's week.
After the none touristy few days, we managed to get the ferry to Manly (so called one of the ship dudes who founded Oz went past, saw some Aborigines and thought 'they look pretty manly'. Brilliant.) Was a pretty little beach, but a bit too cold to go in. As it was the end of winter, some of our Sydney trip was a bit nippy, particularly in the evenings. When we got back to our hostel, we found we had three new room mates - two Aussie girls out for their 18th birthdays, and a Swedish girl. They were all crazy excited about everything and when they found out we'd never had Goon (cheap boxed wine you drink straight from the foil bag) before, they rushed out and brought us some, then continued to run around the hostel pouring said Goon into the mouths of random people. Brilliant. In the end we joined them going to a few bars round The Cross, never staying long enough for a proper drink because they wanted as many entry stamps on their arms as possible. We ended up with what looked like sleeves on both arms. 'twas an interesting night in all.
We made our way on Saturday to Cockatoo Island for the Biannual Free Arts Festival- mainly we went as it was a free ferry ride to some island which would make a nice picnic spot. When we got there the first thing we saw was a pile of broken teacups amongst this abandoned warehouse. Was a pretty strange place. In the evening we arranged to meet up with Jackie and Andy from the pub crawl and see the weekly free fireworks display over Darling Harbour which was pretty good. The Aussies definitely know how to put on a show even for a Saturday night. We went out for a drink or two later but Darling Harbour, although nice, is pretty expensive, so we left after a couple of drinks, I even opted for a hot chocolate whilst the lads went for beer.
That Sunday we headed off to Bondi Beach for some serious beach bum action - twas a bit nippy in the wind, but the sun came out for us a few times and was lovely watching the surfers in the water for the first time too. We decided to try the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, which was nice and took us past a few different smaller beaches. Didn't quite make it to Coogee but saw it in the distance so still counts :P
Monday saw us pick up our passports finally so we could book into our hostel in the Blue Mountains, then we headed off for a walk across Sydney harbour bridge. Completely free if you follow the road round, and great sights of the city as we went across before sunset. On the other side of the harbour there is a theme park called Luna Park which we thought we'd have a look around, but actually was closed for that evening for a corporate event sadly. Still got to see Ronald McDonald-a-like escort lots of people in tuxedos off a ferry to get there.
We took the train from Sydney Central to Katoomba in the heart of the Blue Mountains on wednesday morning, then spent a few hours leisurely wandering through the small town, surrounded by cockatoos overhead, and some unusual new red parrots just chilling out in people's gardens. We ventured down to Echo Point and saw the Three Sisters - famous rock formation of the Blue Mountains. The Aborigines believe that three sisters in one tribe fell in love with three warriors from a different tribe. And because this would be bad, a warlock dude turned them to stone long enough for the warriors to leave them alone. But before he could turn them back, the warlock was killed so there they stay forever as stone looking out over the valley.
We went in a pretty long hike on the Thursday along the Federal Pass, down the Giant Staircase (a set of about 1 thousand stone steps), through lush rainforest on the Dardenelle Pass, finally reaching the beautiful Lwura Cascade waterfall. Mike had a great time looking out for the Lyre bird - a black bird with a long peacock-like tail that mimics the calls of other birds and surrounding noises. So rare, we saw three of them :D
We headed back to the City the following day, excited about our evening of fanciness at The Opera House we'd booked the previous week. When we arrived at our hostel we were then informed they'd booked out our beds. After a hour or so they finally found us a replacement room in another hostel, but meant we now couldn't make it to the rotating 44th floor bar for cocktails before the show which was a real shame. But the evening was still amazing - we headed out in our glad rags (or the best our backpacks could conjure up) in slight drizzle to The Opera House. Inside was buzzing for the start of Copeland's 3rd Symphony. We just about managed to down our glasses of wine as classily as possible (Mike: literally down, we bought a drink as soon as we got in, then the announcement that the show was starting in 5 minutes came on) before heading up towards our seats in the concert hall. Inside was amazing - high wood panelled ceilings with long ribbons streaming onto the stage . The musicians took to their seats and we had a great view even though we were at the back. The first half was a range of music from 2 different composers, 1 more classical, 1 more obscure from a Japanese composer. During the interval we headed our to another bar at the back of the Opera House with gorgeous night views over the water. It felt like we were actually on a ship. After the interval we heard some of the pieces we actually knew - The Fanfare - which was a great end to a lovely evening. After the show we headed back to Kings Cross for a few more drinks and an impromptu dance from a crazy man in the bar, before calling it a night. Great end to our time in Sydney. Definitely one of our favourite cities though excited to see what the rest of Oz had to offer.
Mike: Sydney was really a beautiful city, the bridge, opera house, the harbour and botanical gardens (which we went for a morning run around twice) were all really pleasant. Unfortunately it was very expensive and I found the people intolerably rude. Pretty much all of the nice people we met were originally from Europe. It was a shame as it could have been by far the nicest big city I had ever been.