Sydney & surrounds

Our journey to Sydney was quite an accident. You see, Suan’s brother worked in the hospitality industry back then. And part of the perks of doing so was the opportunity to book hotel rooms at a huge discount. And we mean huge. When Suan’s brother told us that there were a couple of low season rooms at a discounted rate of A$50/night at the Sheraton Sydney, it was a no brainer.

And so off we flew to Sydney.

Once again, no plans made nor any research. And remember this was in the relatively early days of the internet. There was not exactly a treasure trove of information out there yet and certainly no TripAdvisors etc…

Critical city landmarks

Now any visit to Sydney cannot be had without at least

Sydney Opera house2
As iconic as it gets

seeing the opera house. This building has inadvertently become the symbol of the city. Indeed it took a long time from design (1957) till final construction and opening (1973), we were there when the city was in the final stages of preparing for the Olympic Games. Yep it’s that long ago.

Sydney Darling Harbour8
Oh how this would have changed!

Circular Quay was where we launched ourselves into Sydney harbor from one of the “show boats” that ply the waters giving us views of the Sydney harbor bridge and of course the opera house. Today there is much more that one can do – such as making that walk up the top of the harbor bridge. One can also look back at the CBD area and the skyline as the boat lumbers its way.

Now Chinatown is just south of Darling harbor and wildly popular with tourists back in the day coming to Australia to buy fresh abalone. This shellfish is exotic our part of the world and considered a delicacy. Needless to say, Mel and Suan dutifully purchased quite some to bring home to the family too…

Visit the 3 sisters

If one ever tires of the city, then an excursion our to Katoomba in the blue mountains would definitely be an option.

Katoomba hike10
Not sure why rain and not snow

And this is exactly what we did. Not to experience skiing, but to take a hike. Unfortunately, rain nearly ruined the entire day at the mountains. Much of the journey involved bush-walking through the rain forests.

Now since there was severe mist and fog in the mountains, we could not see anything from the top.

Katoomba hike5
Imagine the landscape behind her

The highlight at the end of the hike was to take the Katoomba scenic railway down to a viewing platform. Said to be the steepest inclined railway in the world, we would descend to see the “3 sisters at “Echo point”.

Katoomba hike11
Don’t miss the last departure!

This railway was a short 450m only down an angle of 52° with an actual vertical drop of 250m. And as luck would have it, views of the 3 sisters appeared for a short while! Tip: If one intends to be there, take note that the last car leaves at 1655hrs.

Katoomba hike12
Oh finally!

After that, it is a long hard hike up to the trails on the plateau!

Perhaps we were overly ambitious. But then so were 10 other folks. Hiking in winter in the blue mountains expecting to see wonderful views is not exactly a winning bet. Come in summer instead. It could be a lot warmer plus it might just be clearer.

Getting cozy with the locals

Port Stephens to Nelson bay4
A storm’s a brewing…

While not quite the place to watch whales, one can certainly spot pods of Dolphins frolicking. From Port Stephens, we took a cruise into Nelson bay. A storm was approaching. Perhaps this is why the dolphins are moving into the bay – for shelter?

Port Stephens to Nelson bay6
Headed back for shelter?

Visiting Australia and not getting out to the wine years is such a pity. But to simply drink one’s way the whole day was not considered dignified, so we signed on a tour that also took us to see the local residents.

Nope, not some hunky men or svelte women.

We are in the Hunter valley and after having a tipple, made our way to a wild life sanctuary for kangaroos, wallabies and koalas. Yeah we got to feed the piglets too! Then there is the wombat, always hiding away. Perhaps it’s too cold! But the highlight of the visit was definitely the Koala enclosure. Not sure about other folks, but when we see Koalas, they are almost always asleep except for the time in Cairns when we each carried one in our hands and got clawed all over…

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If there was ever an excursion that combines such varied activities, it’s a no brainer to simply go!

The Zoo, Taronga

The zoo is outside the limits of the city and we had to take a ferry to reach it.

Ferry to Taronga2
Ferry, cross the ….

On the day we visited, the weather had improved and our morning was not ruined by rain… Founded almost 100 years ago, the zoo has some of the finest collection of animal species in Australia. There are exotic species of Australian origin that we might not see at parks and private game enclosures.

Taronga Zoo1
No point hiding!

One such example is the Tree Kangaroo that is threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat. While the Sun bear is not native to Australia, it is also vulnerable and especially in the last decade’s destruction of the rainforests in southeast Asia.

The most elusive though, is the Platypus – a duck billed marsupial that can only be found in Australia. As it is nocturnal, we could not even photograph it. And definitely the Tasmanian devil. Tassie cannot be seen!

Just as extensive in the zoo though, is the collection of bird life. Thus there are lots to see.

Taronga Zoo18
Enjoy a view, visit the Zoo!

A large picnic area gives nice panorama of the city. So families and large groups can self cater and enjoy the scenic view while touring the zoo. Spend the better part of a morning here. It’s definitely worth the time.

That was the last activity of our journey to Sydney. On this occasion we managed to link up and take time to visit a couple that we met from the Scandinavia journey of 1996. The old couple lives in the Sydney suburbs of Hornsby – to the north of the city.

Bruce and Trish family2
Oh how their grandchildren have grown!

We had dinner at their home, not wanting to go outside for dinner (it is quite expensive!). So wonderful to be able to meet up folks you befriended from far away!

So much has changed since we last visited that we’d not recognize the city (except the opera house and bridge) when we get there. Perhaps it’s time to make a return journey to Sydney. It’s a beautiful city!

The journey took place in June 1999

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