From Kiama we continued up the coast towards Sydney, stopping first at Shellharbour. We went in to the visitor centre a strange experience, it was in a casino/club place! We found our way to the beach, again it was very picturesque and relatively empty, a couple of surfers, joggers and walkers. Wayne sat on the grassy bank and fell asleep, we'd only been awake an hour or two. I took a walk to the Northern end of the beach, the water was not too cold to paddle and there was some rocks to walk upon, we spent an hour there before moving on to the City of Wollongong. Wollongong is quite industrialised as you drive in but has a beach area as well, we sat above the hill on the fort and watched the beach, it was a bit dull so we pressed on up the coast. The road actually followed the shoreline and the drive is called the great coastal drive, in places the road comes out over the sea, which is what we were expecting when we did the Great Ocean Road down in Victoria. We stopped at a little beach front town for our soup lunch and then again at the end of the drive to admire the view with an ice cream. We were now not far from Sydney and we thought it would be best to get there, so we did, as we entered the city suburbs the highway seemed to go into two lanes and the traffic crawled we managed to navigate our way past the airport and botany bay to the Eastern Suburbs. We found the famous Bondi just as it was getting dark. We found a parking bay that would serve as our bed for the evening and walked down to the town. There were still surfers in the sea and the streets were busy We found the internet and settled for Hungry Jacks (Burger King) for dinner.
The following morning we thought it best to get to a campsite closer to the city and also so we could do our laundry. We made our way there slowly but without getting lost so that was a bonus. We sorted ourselves out and then made our way on the double decker train to the City centre and the Sydney sights. We met Scott and Kelly, who were still in Sydney and we walked to the Rocks, a lovely area of old warehouses now turned in to shops and bars. We headed first to Sydney's oldest bar and then one high up in the rocks with a view over the harbour to the Opera House. We had lunch in the pub and then walked down to Circular Quay so that we could have a wander around the outside of the Opera House and see the extent of the Harbour Bridge, both were magnificent sights. We stayed for a while taking our photos and just watching the harbour world go by, before we moved on to Darling Harbour. After another pub stop Scott and Kelly caught the ferry home and we made our way back to Circular Quay for a night-time look at the Bridge and Opera House before catching the train back to the van.
On the Wednesday we took the train again in to the City and this time walked over the Harbour Bridge, there were people high above us doing the bridge climb, not for us the views from the bridge were pretty good as it was. We walked back through the narrow alleys of the rocks and went to the Sydney museum for a bit of culture. It had good exhibitions on the first discovery ships to enter the area and the European settlers that lived here and the impact they had on the aboriginals. We finally headed for some lunch in a nifty little bar and then on to the Sydney Aquarium, which again was good and had some seals which you don't normally see in an aquarium. Once back at the van we negotiated our way again through the terrible Sydney roads, mainly one lane and full of pot holes, to Scott's Dads house, which was right on the river in a lovely area. We went to Sydney rowing club to watch the State of Origin. The first of three Rugby League matches between New South Wales and Queensland not something we would normally watch, but this is a big Australian event and a proper grudge match, New South Wales won. We stayed on the sofa at Scott's Dad which was lovely of them to offer and they had treated us to Pizza in the club.
We liked Sydney but as we were already in more of the Western Suburbs we went to the Blue Mountains in the New South Wales hinterland, it was about an hour and half drive from Sydney and once we had cleared the suburbs we were up in to mountains. We drove through Katoomba to the scenic railway and the now disused coal mine. The railway was no ordinary train journey, we started at the top of the mountain and were put in to a cage type carriage and taken down a very steep slope, nearly vertical, quite scary. The train line down in to the valley is in fact the old coal train line as within the valley there was a coal mine used in the late 1800's. We then followed the scenic boardwalk track around the valley floor and it showed us how the area was used during the coal mining and also the vegetation that grows within the valley. To transport us up to the top we opted for the cable car instead of the train. We had chance to see a bit more and get a great view of the three sisters rocks. We drove on first to Eaglehawk lookout and then on to the main Echo Point lookout which was full of tourists. The lookouts both had views of the mountains, valley and the three sisters. Which according to legend the sisters were turned to stone and they now sit overlooking the mountains which have a distinct blue haze due to the eucalyptus forests. We decided not to walk out on to the sisters via the Giant Walkway as the first few steps we attempted were huge! We went in to Katoomba town which is like stepping back in time, before we found the town campsite.
On leaving Katoomba we went to another area of the Mountains, Wentworth. Here we walked to view the Wentworth falls, although some of the tracks were closed for maintenance so we took one of the longer walks. It wound it's way around the mountain and gave good views into the valley, there again was definitely a blue haze hovering among the trees. The tracks were not that clearly marked and we ended up on a rocky dead end ledge with a big big drop down and the waterfall in the distance. We turned around making our way to a safer lookout and the view of the valley and the lovely waterfall were good. We made it back on the under cliff path to the car park and headed back towards Sydney. We decided to head North of the City as we would be heading that way when we leave, we got ourselves to Manly on the bay but it had taken forever. We had a walk around the town and stopped for a drink before we found a place to sleep and cooked a curry.
We walked from the outskirts to the town, we must have taken a wrong turn as it seemed much longer than we thought it was going to be. We then took the ferry to Circular Quay it was windy but we sat out at the front so we could see the City, Bridge and Opera house come in to view. We then caught the train to Bondi Junction and the bus on to Bondi Beach as we had not really had a chance to enjoy the area when we were there before. We were going to take the scenic walkway along the coast, but after being distracted by the surfers we stayed overlooking the beach. To the right of the bay where we were sat was the surf life saving club, with it's outdoor pool built in to the rocks. There were hundreds of surfers in the waves and it was good to watch the experts and those learning. There were also a large group of people swimming behind the surfers towards the entrance of the bay, back and forth they went it must have been tiring to swim in those conditions and freezing cold. It was quite sunny but only about 20 degrees so we went and sat on the grass behind the beach and read our books for a while although it was more interesting to people watch. The beach was quite busy although it must get absolutely packed in Summer the Asian were out paddling and the lifeguards were out supervising (I was seeing if I recognised any of the from the TV show Bondi Rescue!). We made our way back to the City just in time to get the return ferry to Manly. We passed the houses set on the hillside and Manly harbour was busy with all sorts of boats. We used the internet in the afternoon before having a sausage and bean stew for dinner.