Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Sydney - days 55 - 57

Day #55
Packed with advice from some helpful friends, I start the day with a purpose and leave the hotel early. Miss breakfast and head straight to Circular Quay and I’m off for the day!

Take a Hop On Hop Off Harbour Cruise. Get great views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and get off at Watsons Bay, the other end of Sydney Harbour. Have a wander around this quaint little place. Take some great photos of the Sydney skyline, find a couple of deserted hidden beaches and jump around on some rocks. Then have a cheeky James Squire One Fifty Lashes at the pub while I wait for the boat back.

Get back to Circular Quay and have a wander round The Rocks area (as recommended). Grab an ice cream and check out the groovy old buildings. It’s very quiet round here, and I feel like I’m in a Western. I take notes of some pubs I might come back to, especially one called The Fortunes Of War (apparently the oldest pub in Sydney).

Jump back on the ferry and head round to Darling Harbour. Go to the Aquarium – which for the first part I spend trying to get away from a load of noisy Japanese tourists. I guess it’s an aquarium – no different from any other aquarium – but I had fun looking at the sharks, manta rays and dugong, and I saw loads of fish I saw in Fiji. Things like tang, emperor angelfish, triggerfish, surgeonfish – was good to put names to them finally! They also had some monstrous crabs and lobsters - i'd never seen ones so big!

Next up was Griil’d, a burger place I’d read about. It’s another place to add to my list of gourmet burger places, and it didn’t disappoint. Although I did pull out all the pickles and salad from the burger, which seemed a bit pointless! Was a good size burger though, and after I’d eaten all the chips, I was stuffed.

Walked back to the hotel via the groovy fountain displays around the harbour. Unfortunately my camera ran out, so I have no photos! Darling Harbour is a pretty wicked place, and wished I’d had more time to spend here.

In the evening I headed back to The Rocks area to try out some pubs I’d looked up. Walked for miles as a lot of the places were hidden down random backstreets. Completely missed one place I was looking for but found the Harbour View Hotel - which was ok. Had a James Squires, watched a bit of The Mentalist on the telly (and was surprised to see Robin Tunney is in it), then moved onto the next place – another pub I was unable to find! The problem with The Rocks area is, the maps don’t really do it justice. The roads all criss-cross over and under each other, and half the time I couldn’t find the road I was looking for. Eventually I came across a random bar and decided to stop for another beer. This was the Glenmore Hotel, and it quickly became my fave pub in Sydney. It was small, had friendly bar staff and played decent music. They also did wicked food. Sat outside under the gas heaters and had a couple of pints, then wandered down to find the Fortunes Of War, the pub I’d seen earlier.

I dunno whether this place was the oldest bar in Sydney, but it definitely had the old style bar and lots of tiles all over the walls. It kinda looked like an old toilet or bathhouse. However, on walking in, the barman shouted “We’re closed!”. It was 9.30pm.Hmm… chinny reckon you were closed!

So I jumped into a cab and went back to The Yardhouse for a final cheeky James Squires. Then went to bed knackered and slightly pissed.

Day #56
Got up dead early and headed over to the Casino to catch my tour to the Blue Mountains. Boarded a totally full coach and ended up sat at the back next to a translator dude, who repeated everything the guide said in Spanish to the guys next to him. ARGH!!!

Got to the Blue Mountains in a couple of hours and spent the morning taking loads of pictures of pointy mountainous rock structures, fountains and trees. Yeah, the area is pretty immense size-wise, but nothing compared to the Grand Canyon, that still wins “Gobsmacking Hole In The Ground” award of the holiday so far. Quickly worked out that if you did the various cable cars and train rides in the valley in reverse order, you missed all the queues. Which was handy considering 200 Japanese tourists followed us around for the entire day!
Nearing departure time, I jumped on the steepest railway ever to ride back up to the bus stop – and shat myself. The thing was soooo steep and really rickety. I spent the entire journey with my eyes closed, and it really didn’t help that they were playing the jaunty Indiana Jones theme while I was on it!

Back on the bus to the next stop, Featherdale Wildlife Park. Now this was more like it. Featherdale wasn’t very big, so you could around it in an hour. But it was jam packed with awesome animals and was brilliant. First things you get to are the Koalas. Theres about 15 of them, and for a change they weren’t all asleep! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one move before. Next you move into a gated area full of baby Kangaroos and Kookaburras. You could feed the Kangaroos by hand, so spent most of my time feeding a little Kangaroo that was following me around. He seemed pretty friendly so I named him Phil. Once he got his hands on the pot of nibbles I was carrying, he grabbed the off me and ran away. The little bugger. The rest of the park was just as awesome. Finally managed to see Wombats moving around and in the open, more noisy Kookaburras (what brilliant little birds they are!), Echidnas, Dingos, and some absolutely massive Sea Eagles. I really didn’t want to go, I could have stayed there all day!

Final stop was the Olympic Park – which was relatively underwhelming, then the coach dude decided he was gonna be lazy, so he dropped us at a ferry port for us to get the ferry back into Sydney. Got on the boat and had a beer, then sat in the sun and took in the views from the other side of Sydney until we got back to Darling Harbour.

Once there, headed back to The Rocks and the Glenmore Hotel. Had some more Lashes (or might have been Coopers) and a nice big steak in their $10 Steak Night. Nice way to end my Sydney time.

So it took three days, but I finally started to get to grips with Sydney, and kinda wished I was staying for another couple of days. Especially after I found a listings magazine and saw that the Dropkick Murphys and The Drones were playing in town over the next two nights. Gutted! As luck would have it, I’d see the Dropkicks in Perth, but I ended up missing The Drones over there by a week. Its definitely a great city and I liked the place. But – I didn’t think it was anything majorly different compared to places like New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco. I’d definitely like to come back at some point and make more of the place though. And the weather was pretty good – even if it was a little nippy sometimes!

Day #57
Up dead early again and caught a cab to Sydney Airport. I was heading to Perth for my final major stop of the holiday (over 6 weeks of staying in one place!). Flew with Quantas – who hadn’t gone on strike yet – and they were awesome. Spent the whole flight watching 2 series of Modern Family – and laughing outloud and upsetting the commuters!

5 hours later, I’m in Perth and I’m met at the airport by Ray, one of my parents oldest friends. I haven’t seen him for at least 10 years and it’s great to catch up. I’m staying with Ray and his wife Shirley for two weeks or so, south of Perth in a little coastal town called Rockingham. Already the weather is hotter and sunnier than the East Coast. I hope it stays like this, it’s awesome.

We get to the seaside in about 40 minutes and go for lunch at an open fronted restaurant on the seafront. Have a mega fish an chips and a few Pure Blondes, looking out over the bay, and have a great chat with my Dads old mate. By the time I’m back at the house and have dumped my stuff, I’m absolutely knackered. Have a few more beers, chill out in the sun, wander around like a zombie then decide to call it a night. I’m in bed by 8.30pm. But I’m dead glad that finally I’m in Perth, somewhere I’ve been dying to come back to for a long time!

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