Thursday 22nd March
(Yes Thursday! The last 2 paragraphs of the previous entry should have been under Wednesday really, and don't forget we lost Tuesday.)
We went on another walk through Sydney from Sam and Laurie's flat today, a different way from last time (through Kings Cross the red light district, not that we would have noticed if Sam hadn't told us; perhaps it looks different at night). We went past St Mary's Cathedral, a huge red brick Catholic cathedral, down to Circular Quay and boarded the ferry to Manly. It went out past the Opera house and under the Harbour Bridge, I still couldn't believe we were in Sydney, Australia!
The information leaflet says "Manly is one of Australia's first and foremost beach destinations. Manly Cove was named by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 for the 'confident and manly' behaviour of the local Kay-ye-my Aboriginal people." Manly is regarded as the birthplace of surfing in Australia; Duke Kahanamoku (an Olympic gold medallist in swimming) being the man who brought surfing to Australia in 1914 from Hawaii. It is the site of some of the largest waves ridden in Australia. This year Manly Beach was the host of the 2012 Australian Open of Surfing in February.
From the ferry terminal we walked through the Corso, the Manly shopping centre and on to the beach. There were certainly big waves rolling in, and there were surfers in the sea. We continued walking along the beach with the sea on our left and at the end of the beach stopped to watch what looked like a school PE lesson at the Manly Life Saving Club. The pavement continued on a walk that went along the coastline, and we followed this for a little while. There were signs about Eastern Water Dragons (colourful lizards) and that it was an offence to remove them from the wild. I looked everywhere, hoping to catch sight of one on the rocks between the path and the sea but didn't see one. There were little crabs and sea anemone 'blobs' on the rocks waiting for the tide to come in. We turned and walked back to Manly and had lunch in the Manly Wharf Hotel bar. Then it was back on the ferry to Circular Quay and a bus ride from there to the flat.
It was cocktails and pizza tonight with Sam and Laurie at a local restaurant.
Friday 23rd March
Laurie had the day off work and we were all off to Kangaroo Valley for the weekend. Martin and Sam walked into Sydney first thing in the morning to get the hire car (Sam's car wasn't really up to the long journey) and we set off as soon as they were back. Sam had compiled a Quiz to keep us occupied on the way. Laurie had done it before so she was quizmaster whilst Sam drove. When all the scores were totted up I had won by a couple of points. On the way we visited a blowhole near Kiama where every so often a big wave from the sea spouts up through a hole in the rocks. We stayed to see a few spouts and admired the views up and down the coast. It was a beautiful sunny day with a cloudless blue sky. We then went into Kiama for lunch, where Sam bought a quiz book in a second hand shop, and also got supplies for the weekend at a local supermarket.
We drove on to Kangaroo Valley village to get the keys for the cottage and Martin also found a quiz book in a second hand shop! We followed the directions to the cottage, turning off the main road just outside the village onto a side road that soon turned into a gravel road. We then went through a gate onto a single gravel track that led to a pair of large metal gates that we had been given a code to open. The 'road' changed to concrete tramlines and went uphill winding its way through trees for several minutes before arriving in front of a white and grey modern 'V' shaped mansion. The wooden cottage was set downhill from the 'big house' screened from it by high bushes. It was really picturesque and looked like a cottage you would find on a Swiss mountainside! We went inside into a small lounge/diner with a kitchen to one side. The bedrooms were further on, one was en-suite and there was another separate shower room for the other bedroom. Upstairs there was another big lounge under the eaves with patio doors out on to a balcony. The balcony and the patio at the front of the cottage had fantastic views down into Kangaroo Valley!
Whilst we were getting settled in, out of the window Laurie saw something moving in the garden. She called to us all that she could see an echidna! We all rushed outside to have a look and sure enough it was and echidna making its way along the fence between the lawn and the field on the other side. It was about the size of a football and covered in thick spines like a hedgehog. When it saw us it tucked its head under its body and stayed still. We also stood still and soon it started to move again. We watched it for about half an hour as it went around the lawn. It looked like it was digging for worms or insects with its front feet and snout. We were able to get within a few feet of it to take photos without causing it any alarm. Eventually it went into the woods to the side of the cottage through a hole in the fence.
Sam and Martin fired up the gas barbeque and Sam cooked the meat for our tea whilst Laurie made a lovely salad to go with it and some fabulous marshmallow cupcakes for afterwards. We had another quiz compiled by Sam from his quiz book and Martin got the highest score on that one. Later that evening we could hear (but not see) laughing Kookaburras in the trees. It sounded just like monkeys ooh-ooh-ooh-aah-aah-aah-ing in the trees.
Saturday 24th March
Martin and I woke up early (a bellowing cow woke me up - it went on for ages!) and went out on the patio with a cup of tea and saw the sun coming over the top of the valley. We looked through the binoculars trying to spot kangaroos at the bottom of the valley, but all we could see was cows.
After a leisurely breakfast Sam drove us down into the valley to the Golf Course where he and Laurie had stayed before in a cabin on the edge of one of the fairways and seen lots of kangaroos. On the way we stopped and admired Hampden Bridge, Australia's last surviving wooden suspension bridge of the 19th century, before we drove over it towards the golf course. We drove around and walked a short way around the course but didn't spot any kangaroos. We went back into Kangaroo Valley village and had a look around and a tasty homemade lunch in a small café.
We decided to return to the cottage to enjoy the sunshine and views from the patio for the rest of the afternoon. At the top of the road near the big house we met the owner. We said we hadn't yet seen any kangaroos, but had seen an echidna. He said there was also a platypus in the stream near the main gate. As we pulled into the parking space for the cottage we noticed a helicopter in the field next to the house!
That evening we had another excellent barbeque and quiz night with a game of Cranium as well.
Sunday 25th March
Martin's turn to drive today, and so we went down the concrete tramlines to the main gates and Martin parked the car on the other side of them. We walked the short way back to the stream and stood looking around for the platypus. We weren't sure where we should be looking but we couldn't go any further than we were as the ground was very muddy. A few inquisitive black cows and their calves had come to stare at us on one side of the stream. There was no sign of a platypus - of course we expected it to be swimming around in the water in front of us! After a while we decided to return to the car and discovered the cows were blocking our way to the gates and the car. It was a bit frightening as we are not used to cows up close - they are very big! We walked away from them (and the car), and waited hoping they would lose interest, but they were still there. As we stood there more cows came and joined the herd! After a while Martin got fed up waiting for them to move and he walked purposefully around the edge of the herd towards the gates. There was a cattle grid in front of it and he soon crossed it and punched the code in to open the gates. The cows didn't move much but were still watching us intently. Sam, Laurie and I quickly followed in Martin's footsteps and were soon over the cattle grid and in the car too.
We went into Kangaroo Valley village to return the keys and Sam suggested we had a quick look at the golf course again to see if there were any kangaroos. It was cooler today so it was more likely they would be out. As we drove into the car park we could see some kangaroos on the edge of one of the fairways! Yay! There was also a Kookaburra sat on one of the signs and I managed to get a good picture - they are very strange looking birds as they have a huge head compared to their bodies. Martin and I walked round the edge of the golf course to see if we could get closer to the kangaroos. There were golfers on the hole that the kangaroos were on and neither seemed interested in the other. We were able to get close enough to take some photos and watch the kangaroos for a few minutes. A couple of them had very full pouches but we couldn't see any joey heads poking out. As we stood and watched, a golf cart went past within a few feet of the kangaroos but they were not bothered by it at all. On the way back to the car I was lucky enough to get some photos and video clips of a water bird called a Pukeko. I had been fascinated by these birds in New Zealand as they were one of the first unusual birds we had seen, in marshy fields by the side of the road. They have a large triangular red beak, a black head and their body is half black and half blue, a bit larger than a duck, with longer legs. They have a short stubby tail that flicks up and down as they walk showing a white patch underneath. As they are a marsh bird their feet are huge, with three toes, but are not webbed. They are usually in pairs and this pair also had a big brown fluffy chick with them that stayed very close. These birds were not as shy as the ones in the wild as they were probably more used to people. There were plenty of streams and ponds on the golf course for them.
On the journey back to Sydney we stopped at Fitzroy and Twin Falls waterfalls. The road up towards them was reminiscent of those in New Zealand; very steep and winding. We walked from the car park to Fitzroy Falls (free) and unusually, at the viewing platform we were looking down on the high falls from above. It also provided a magnificent view far down the valley. There was a path from the top of the falls along the cliff that we followed for a few minutes to another viewing platform that gave us another outlook onto the falls from further away across the valley. From here we could see there was another set of falls spread out below the tall column of the top of the falls. We continued following the path for 10 minutes to another viewing platform across from the top of the Twin Falls. These were two thin waterfalls about 50metres apart from each other, falling from the top of the cliff.
The journey back to Sydney was a more direct one than the one we had taken on the way to Kangaroo Valley and included a long tunnel underneath the airport complex.
When we got back Martin and Sam rushed off to the pub to get there in time for 'Toss the Boss'. This is a special 'happy hour' where you pay for the first round of drinks and from then on you toss a coin and call heads or tails. If you win you don't have to pay for the round of drinks and if you lose then you do. Martin and Sam and 2 of Sam's friends paid for 3 out of their 4 rounds. Sam and Martin both lost their tosses. When the 2 men came home we had superb chicken fajitas cooked by Laurie.
Monday 26th March
Martin and I were up at 5.30am to leave at 6.30am to go to the airport for our flight to Cairns in 'The Tropical North', of Queensland. The flight didn't leave until 9.30am but we had to get the hire car back by 7.30am otherwise we would incur another day's hire charges.
The Qantas flight to Cairns was around three hours. We had probably the worst in-flight breakfast of all our flights this holiday - it wasn't inedible, just not as nice as previous ones. We arrived in a tropical rainstorm; it was pouring with rain but very hot. We had just missed the hourly shuttle bus to the town centre so got a taxi to our hotel The Mantra Esplanade, where it was nice and cool (and dry). We had a big hotel room on the 6th floor with aircon, fridge, a BATHroom and a balcony with a sea view. Luckily I managed to catch the maids whilst they were cleaning the room next door to ask for extra teabags, sugar and milk. The rooms in this hotel are unserviced rooms (and apartments), unless you are staying more than 8 nights and then they service them on the 5th day. Whilst Martin had a nap, I went out to find the information centre and get some biscuits and snacks. The information centre was two doors down and I collected leaflets and asked advice about things to do that evening and the day after next. There was a small grocery shop nearby so I got the biscuits, cans of soft drinks and also a pint of fresh milk (much nicer than the UHT pots!). When I got back Martin was in the bath having been unable to sleep. We looked through the leaflets and agreed on a trip for the 3rd day. It had to be a half day trip because we needed to be at the airport for 5.30pm to get our flight back to Sydney. Most of the full day trips didn't get back to the wharf (nearly all started with a boat journey) until 6pm.
When I had been researching Cairns before Christmas and decided on the hotel, I had noticed that there was a casino just along the road from the hotel that advertised evening shows. The show on at the moment was Xtreme Illusions a magic show. We went back to the information centre and booked tickets for the show on a 2 for 1 special deal, and trip tickets for the day after next. Returning to the hotel we got ready to go out and eat early before the 7 pm show, realising we hadn't had any lunch.
It was getting dark at 6pm and as we got ready to leave, flocks of noisy birds were landing in the trees across the road below our balcony. We waited for the lift in the lobby on our floor next to a big window where we could see huge flocks of large black birds filling the sky. As we looked we realised they weren't birds but big bats!
The rain was still falling as we left the hotel, but we could walk under the purpose built overhangs from the buildings alongside the hotel, and found a restaurant a few doors down. We were still near the trees where the birds were chattering and the bats were coming into roost. Whether the birds were excited or frightened by the bats we didn't know, but they were very noisy! This continued for at least another half hour. The rain and the heat continued too and we sat under big square umbrellas over the tables on the pavement outside the restaurant to eat (served by an English waitress this time). Afterwards we made our way to the casino and the show which was in the night club underneath. There was a slight delay before the show started as the stage hands tried to move the audience to the seats nearest the stage. We had chosen to sit at the back at a high table on barstools, as it gave a view of the stage above the heads of audience in the 10 rows in front. Unfortunately the number of people at the show tonight was very low; only about 50 out of the 280 capacity. Our table along with 5 others were removed so we had to move closer and ended up being 3 rows back from the stage! The illusionist was Sam Powers, who has been Magician of the Year 5 times and performed in 16 countries. The show was amazing and had all the big illusions like sawing the assistant in half, and appearing in seconds from behind a curtain the assistant raised around herself then immediately dropped, having locked Sam Powers in the box she was standing on. He was also very humorous, engaging in banter with members of the audience he had pulled up on stage. Another trick was one in which he said he had had a dream the night before about what was about to happen and written it down. He showed a short video clip of him writing on a piece of paper and sealing it in a box which now swung above the audience. Part of the clip showed a shot of today's newspaper proving to us he had filmed it earlier that day. He then asked questions of members of the audience, the answers creating the story of the dream he'd had - the words in capitals show the answers provided by the members of the audience he asked; "I dreamt I won a million dollars and took CINDY CRAWFORD on a holiday to HAWAII, where I bought her a present of a POTATO SACK." I think there was a bit more to the story, but at the end he brought the box down from above the audience, unlocked it and unravelled the paper, showing in turn each line of the story … and it was exactly as what had just happened! There were many other illusions and magic tricks and each was as unbelievable as the last and only 10 feet in front of us. He was an excellent 'showman' too. He bowed on the stage at the end of the show and was suddenly at the top of the stairs saying goodbye to everyone as we left! An excellent evening.
Tuesday 27th March
Today we were up early to have some breakfast before walking along the road to the wharf. It was grey and drizzling, but it didn't really matter - we were going snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef! There was no dining room in the hotel but there was a small café in the foyer and we bought tea and toast, not wanting anything too heavy before the 90 minute boat trip out to the Reef (remembering our whale watching trip!). We got to the wharf before 8.30 for check in and got our boarding cards. On the catamaran the staff were very informative and attentive and gave advice how to avoid seasickness. The boat was stable until we got out of the protection of the islands offshore and until then we listened to the guy briefing the passengers who were going to be diving in scuba equipment (not us). When they announced that we were about to get into rougher water Martin and I moved to the back of the boat outside in the fresh air. We stayed there for the rest of the trip to the platform and we were both ok and did not get seasick. The Marine World platform was a huge floating concrete platform anchored next to Moore Reef. The main deck was laid out with bolted down metal bench tables and chairs under an arched roof with open sides and there was also a small raised sunbathing deck at one end.
The clouds had cleared the further we went away from the mainland, and by the time we were 60km (37miles) away it was almost cloudless. We had booked to do a half hour guided snorkel and after getting into our lycra suits (to protect us from the sun and any jellyfish) and our snorkelling gear and fins we took to the warm (28 deg) water with another lady and Sammi, a marine biologist, all hanging onto a life ring. This was so Sammi could guide us around the reef and not worry about trying to keep us all together. It also meant we could hold on and put our faces in the water and look immediately below at what she was pointing at and listen at the same to what she was saying. She pointed out different fish and coral and told us about their habits. We saw a giant clam - which actually wasn't very giant being only 20 cm (8in) across. We also saw the reef's orange and white striped Clownfish (finding Nemo) in their anemones where they stay all their life. We met Rocky, a huge blue Wrasse about 40kg (6 stone), who is very inquisitive and loves humans. We were able to touch him and had our photos taken with him. He then followed us around for the rest of the time! A wonderful half hour!
We went back onto the platform took our off our lycra suits and dried out a bit, and then had some lunch - an extensive hot and cold buffet was provided - while we waited for our next booked excursion. This was a 30 minute helicopter ride up and down the reef so we could see it from above. Martin and I were the only ones who had booked the 30 minutes so we had the helicopter to ourselves with the pilot. We took a little boat to the helipad a short way away from the main platform and put life jackets around our waists before boarding the helicopter. The view was stunning! The water was pale turquoise where the sand bars and reefs rose to just under the surface. As we flew along we could see the outline of lots of individual reefs. We went towards a thin white stripe in the water and when we got there we could see it was a sand bar that was above the water, the sand spread out under the water and the reef had formed itself around the far edges. The pilot told us he had spotted a manta ray and went around a few times so that we could see it. We weren't very close but we could see the black diamond shape as it swam under the water. He then took us to an area where he said there were often turtles and sure enough from up high we could just see several little black oval shapes with legs on either side. He looked for a shark for us but unfortunately didn't find one in the time that we had. I got lots of photos and a few video clips.
We had a short time back on the platform before we were off on our next trip…this time under the water. We put our wet lycra suits back on (yuk) with some difficulty and laughter. We went to the meeting point and were joined by another lady (a different one this time). One of the staff fitted us with weighted belts and went down under the platform onto a metal walkway with water up to our waists. In turn each of us stood on a box and a big round 'spaceman type' helmet was placed over our heads. Tubes at the back of the helmets fed air into them and we could breathe normally. We then walked off of the box down a ramp so that the water went over our heads. Martin had a problem with his helmet as it had let in water up to his nose so he backed up the ramp until it could be sorted out. A diver in scuba gear led us underwater around the metal walkway under the platform until we reached an observation point. The diver emptied some food pellets into the water and the colourful fish swarmed around us right in front of the helmets! Rocky also came to see us again and the photographer came and took some more photos. We took a little boat to the helipad a few tes so we had the helicopter to ourselves with the the pilotide in the fresh air. w
When we came back up from the helmet dive we had another hour to do some snorkelling on our own and went around the reef looking at the fish and all the various shaped colourful coral. As well as the brightly coloured fish you would see in a tropical aquarium, there were shoals of little pale blue fish swimming near the surface around the snorkelling ledge at the side of the platform and down on the floor in the middle of the reef were a shoal of black, hand sized fish feeding by scooping up the sand and expelling it through their gills. Another incredible experience!
Afterwards the catamaran took us back to the mainland and we walked back to the hotel. We went past a park that was at the end of the road from the hotel. There was a permanent stage next to the path and we could hear music. As we followed the path we could see the front of the stage with 2 dancers on it and a crowd of people spread out in front of it. It was 'Zumba in the Park'! We watched for a little while and were amused by the solitary older man in the middle having a good go, but not quite getting it right. When we got back to the hotel room we could still see the stage and hear the music, but not see the crowd through the trees. An hour later we sat and watched the flocks of birds and bats in the dusk from outside on the balcony again before going to a seafood restaurant along the promenade. We walked back to the hotel through the park alongside the road where people were using the free gas barbeques and having evening picnics, and via a swimming pool called 'the Lagoon' across the road from the hotel. It had a sand 'beach' on one side that you could enter the Lagoon from. There were free showers and changing rooms for swimmers and lifeguards were on duty. Even though it was dark the lagoon was well lit and lifeguards were still on duty; there was still a handful of people in it. There was also a board nearby giving details of the free exercise and sports classes - including the earlier Zumba - in the park during the week. There were 2 different classes each day. The lagoon and its beach were probably created because the 'beach' in this area of Cairns was actually mud flats. There were signs along the promenade warning you not to go on to the mudflats and that jellyfish and crocodiles had been sighted - the mud flats were several feet below the pavement thank goodness!
Wednesday 28th March
We checked out and the hotel stored our cases until we were ready to go to the airport later that day. The trip we had opted for this morning was a visit to a Crocodile Farm. It was drizzling slightly in the heat as we boarded the boat at the wharf but it soon cleared to a lovely bright, even hotter, sunny day. The first part of the trip was an hour boat ride on the river through the mangrove swamps. The staff on board provided a good commentary about the river area and the mangroves. There were only 11 of us and we had quite a large boat to ourselves so it was easy to take photos without jostling for a good position. There was complimentary tea and coffee, fruit and muffins for us all too. The boat took a short diversion up a smaller creek branching off from the main river and the captain pointed out a big crocodile on the mud bank! He went a bit further to see if there were any more but he had to turn the boat around before we ran out of water. We went back past the crocodile to the main river. The boat arrived at a small wooden dock and we disembarked and then got on minibus which took us on a few minutes ride to the crocodile farm. After passing through the gates we covered ourselves with mosquito repellent and got out of the minibus (!). The driver /guide took us down a banked up gravel road alongside a six foot chain link fence. On the other side of the road was the mangrove swamp. He pointed out our first crocodile lying in the water just a few feet from the fence! It was so still that it didn't look real. The guide told us it was a concrete one! We all laughed and he said 'No, it's real. If you watch it's eyes they may open.' I don't think we knew whether he was telling the truth or not. He then said 'Please listen carefully; behind the fence we know there are crocs. There are also crocs in the swamp. If you hear or see anything moving in the swamp gather around me in a tight circle and throw the smallest child to the croc to distract it and then run for the bus' in a deadpan voice. We laughed nervously and all looked at the one young child in the party (who was Swiss and hopefully hadn't understood!). We walked further along the fence and saw more crocodiles, some on their own on the bank or in the water and groups of others in large areas of water. The guide explained that all the breeding crocodiles had been caught in the wild (often nuisance animals that needed to be removed from the wild) and were in a massive fenced off natural area we were now walking beside. They were fed on dead chickens every so often - full grown crocodiles do not need to eat regularly, getting nearly all their energy from the sun. Therefore they don't need to fight for territory and all live together in the 'farm'…except for one… he has his own pen and is called Psycho! They put females in with him every so often to mate and remove them again. He is antisocial and doesn't get on with other crocodiles. Female crocodiles lay eggs in a nest they make. The staff check the main fenced area for nests and remove the eggs making sure the nest doesn't look like it's been disturbed. The eggs are then incubated and raised in large pens in another area of the farm. We got back into the minibus and were taken around to see the pens. Large concrete pens with a bump down the middle (for basking on) and water either side were full of 'baby' crocodiles about a metre in length for tip to tail. They weren't too overcrowded and could move around. The guide said there around 20,000 junior crocs at any one time on the farm. At the moment they were all being sent to Louis Vuitton in France. There was a 36 hour turnaround time from when they were slaughtered to when the skins arrived in France. The meat is sent for sale for human consumption, apparently it tastes like chicken. We didn't go in the processing part of the farm. The journey back to Cairns was in the minibus and we passed through sugar cane plantations outside the city. The guide gave an interesting commentary about the cane fields (did you know sugar cane is just a form of giant grass?) and the history of methods of harvesting - once by hand and now machine. As we got to Cairns we toured some of the city dropping off passengers at their hotels. Again the guide gave us a commentary about some of the buildings in the city as we passed them, including the wooden 'Queenslander' houses, built up until the 1920s on stilts to keep them cool, in the days before air conditioning. We were almost the last to be dropped off at the wharf and it was so hot we didn't want to do much, so we had lunch in a café on the wharf and then walked through the park and sat at one of the many stone benches and tables under the trees. The Lagoon was full today as it was such lovely weather. There were a couple of buskers singing with guitars but other than that it was reasonably quiet despite the numbers of people (children were at school of course). We spent the last hour in the cool air conditioned foyer at the hotel before getting a taxi to the airport for our flight back to Sydney. Sam and Laurie picked us up at 11pm and we went the 'long way' back, as Sam missed a turning the dark!
Thursday 29th March
Sam had the next two days off with us and after a lazy morning he and Martin went off to play golf on a course overlooking Bondi Beach. I was invited but it was a boiling hot day and I didn't want to be out in the sun (and grumpy if I was too hot and not playing well). In the meantime I tried to repack my case and carry on rucksack for our flight back to the UK in 2 days (successful), and catch up with all this writing (not as successful - I am way behind!).
That evening we took Sam and Laurie out for a meal at the Sydney Tower, the tallest building in Sydney. It stands in the middle of the Sydney skyline view and has 2 revolving restaurants, an event venue, an observation deck and a Skywalk on an open air glass platform at the top of its 309 metres (1014 feet). Each level is accessible only on booking and we had to go through 'check in' and a security gate before entering the lift. In the lift there was a screen that showed one of the other lifts. On the screen we saw a couple kissing before they realised they were being watched! We all waved to each other and laughed. We were seated at table 100 right next to the window. The doughnut shaped floor of the restaurant revolves inside the building whilst the windows and the middle of the building stayed still. Over the next hour and a half whilst we ate 3 courses from the all you can eat hot and cold buffets the restaurant revolved twice. It was interesting as the starters were on the revolving part of the floor and the mains and desserts were on the stationery part - so when you looked up from collecting your mains or dessert, your table had vanished around the other side of the room! Amongst the dishes were Sydney Rock Oysters, Baby Octopus & potato salad, Braised Kangaroo and Crocodile Sausages. You can google the full Sydney Tower Buffet menu. Whilst we were there we saw planes landing and taking off at the airport, a big cruise ship leave the harbour, the buildings that Sam and Laurie work in and as dusk fell, we saw the sunset and the lights in the city come on around us. It wasn't scary at all because we were looking out across the city; you couldn't see the ground unless you pressed your head up against the (slowly moving) window and looked down. Completed in 1974 and opened to the public in 1981 it is one of the safest buildings in the world and its design makes the tower capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind conditions. A very enjoyable evening in lovely company.
Friday 30th March
Our last full day in Sydney. Sam took us into Sydney again on the bus and we stopped at the Opal Museum in Pitt Street. It has a rare collection of opalised fossils, including dinosaur bones, which are only found in Australia. There was also a very nice selection of opal jewellery going up into thousands of dollars. I had a voucher from a Cairns tourist magazine giving me a Free Gift from the museum. 'A memory of your time in Australia' the assistant said as she handed me a gold plated stick pin of a kangaroo holding a small opal! It was only available to overseas tourists on production of passport and ticket home. It was probably a marketing ploy to get tourists into the museum and shop…well it worked to get us there, but not to buy.
We walked down to Circular Quay where we had time to watch an aboriginal busker playing the didgeridoo before we got the ferry to Darling Harbour. The ferry took us out past the Opera House and under the Harbour Bridge, where we could see the climbers on the top, and views of the city showed the Tower where we had been the night before. Darling Harbour is a leisure area within Sydney, having 50 restaurants on the harbour side, cinema complex, wildlife attraction, The National Maritime Museum and Sydney Aquarium amongst other things. There are some fabulous boats moored there including 2 old renovated paddle steamers 'The Sydney Showboat' and 'The Harbour Ballroom' (available as function venues) and the 'Starship Sydney' a black glass boat (also available as a function venue) 'the largest contemporary glass boat in the world!' with 3 metre (10ft) high windows spanning the 2 interior levels.
We had lunch in the Cargo Bar on the harbour side and then walked across into the centre to get some shopping and flowers for Laurie and a taxi home. That night we had our last Aussie barbeque with Sam and Laurie and another quiz night (which I won this time!)