Tuesday, 25 December 2012


Ok, the reality is we've been back home longer than it is until i go off on another trip to Turkey. So this really is playing catch-up! (At this rate, expect a write up of climbing in Turkey over new year sometime late spring!)

The last 5-day leg of our trip to Australia was to the city of Sydney. Once again we were cursing our lack of research into this trip as our arrival in Sydney coincided with the last week of term and a whole host of school kiddies booking out all the cheap accommodation. After phoning around we managed to find a double bed in the city centre YHA for our first night, but there after it looked like we might have to swap dorm-room/hostels/hotels each night until flying home.

A last minute saviour was found in the form of my long lost cousin, Stacey. A Sydney resident for the last few years, but I hadn't seen face to face for many more. We were massively grateful to Stacey and fiance Dennis for offering to put us up for the remainder of our trip, but I was equally massively embarrassed to discover it had been 22 years since we'd last seen each other at Melanie's wedding!

Our time in Sydney was spent at a more relaxed pace than the previous 2.5 weeks with more museum/art gallery/stately home visits than you could shake a stick at. We walked a huge distance despite having bought 5day travel passes to the tube/train/ferry/bus network. These were a godsend and cheap way to travel, but Caroline managed to tear her ticket on the first day and for the rest of the trip had to wait in line to show her dogeared ticket to the attendant to be let through.

Our first use of the travel pass was to take a ferry under the iconic harbour bridge.

We simply got on the first ferry going that way and found ourselves at Ballast point. Here we found some bizarre art installations making use of the industrial detritus of the points previous function as a fuel storage depot. We also found numerous engraved padlocks fastened to the foreshore, perhaps celebrating a loving couple or commemorating the loss of a loved one?

Our top 5 Sydney attractions:

1) Maritime Museum: Lots of interesting exhibits including a 1960s destroyer and Submarine to go aboard and explore

2) The harbour - bridge/opera house and all that: Iconic views; need i say more?

3) Elizabeth Bay House: A 18th century folly that bankrupted the governor who built it. Needless to say it's a very fine example of Georgian architecture and the view from the lawn across the bay is almost peerless. We also enjoyed winding through the newer high-rise building to find a stoney grotto and koi pond which were part of the original house gardens.

Stoney grotto a short distance from Elizabeth Bay House, but now hidden in  away between high-rise blocks of flats

4) Fish markets: Dennis dropped us at the fish markets on his way to work one day, and we ate a massive fish supper of calamari  snapper, crab sticks and salmon all deep fried and served with chips.

We really could have done with a lie down afterwards, but carried on walking around town and found...

5) Sydney Art Museum: An unexpected bonus as we stumbled upon a late night opening to celebrate the life of Francis Bacon. I'm normally an art philistine, but really enjoyed the displays of aboriginal and modern art.

Some other photographic highlights of Sydney:

Coming second in the pub quiz; Australians seem to think that asking questions about Europe makes their  quiz difficult, when in reality it just means that ex-pat teams take the prizes... (Me and Caroline pictured with $40 certificate and Stacey in the middle)
$7 BBQ yourself steak - hmmmm....
Caroline viewing the 3 Sisters in the Blue Mountains - so named after the haze produced by Eucalyptus trees that often hangs over the valley

A spectacular waterfall seen whilst on our daytrip to the Blue Mountains - The one bit of climbing i did here on a boulder above the path quickly deposited me back on my bum with a broken hold in my hand.

Feeding the colourful parrots on Stacey's balcony on the last morning (Rainbow Glories?)

Eventually the trip had to come to an end, and much like all our previous flights, we turned up late for this one too. Checking in with 45min to spare on a 26hr flight is not to be recommended but somehow we made it through security in time and settled in for the long flight home, via a brief 1hr stop in Singapore airport.

Arriving back to a dark Heathrow morning and 2 Celsius was thoroughly demoralising, and work on Monday morning all the more so, which just leaves one question...

...When are we going back?

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