Joe's Travels - Round the World 2003

 Diary - Week 5
Friday 14th March - Sydney & ferry to Parramatta

 Sydney sunset

Caught the ferry from Neutral Bay to Circular Quay and from here we jumped on the 12.30 ferry to Parramatta – or so we thought! In fact we soon discovered it was just a ferry doing a 45-minute trip around the Harbour, so we were back at Circular Quay in time to catch the 13.30 to Parramatta instead. This didn’t matter as we had plenty of time, and the first little tour went via Darling Harbour and twice under the Harbour Bridge. We had purchased all-day explorer tickets so that wasn’t a problem either.

The Parramatta ferry is a fast and very smooth Rivercat service. The service runs to the top of the Parramatta River, and passes many headlands with expensive houses. We also saw plenty of herons and cormorants, especially towards the top of the river. The Rivercat only stops once on the way, at Rydalmere, and from here onwards is limited to 7 knots as the river narrows and the area is bordered by mangroves. The whole journey takes only 50 minutes. Weather was lovely all day with just a few clouds and a temperature of around 26°C – a bit warmer inland compared to around Sydney Harbour.

Did some shopping then caught the train back to Sydney Central and walked through Hyde Park - this is fairly small but the central path through it has some superb trees, beneath which a number of ibises were foraging.

All went up to the Oaks pub in the evening. Had a steak, which you have to cook yourself on the gas BBQ in the beer garden. Being a Friday night, the place was heaving.


Saturday 15th March – Sydney

 On Sydney Bridge Climb
Today we did the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. Checked in at the reception area just after midday. The kitting-out and instruction procedure takes around an hour, but is very professionally done and it seems nothing is left to chance. You cannot take anything loose onto the bridge at all, so have to remove watches etc. You can take sunglasses but these have to be attached to the regulation grey boiler suit which must be worn. There is also a harness meaning the suit is attached to a static line on the bridge throughout the climb, so you cannot fall off. You are given a radio so the climb leader can tell you anecdotes and information as you climb the bridge in a group of 12.

The first part involves a walk horizontally along a platform under the bridge to the first bridge pylon on the south east side. From here there are four steep ladders which get you up above the road level, and from here on you climb quite shallow steps over the eastern arch until you reach the top of the bridge where the two flags are flying. The top of the bridge is 134m above sea level. All of this was very unhurried, and there is plenty of time to enjoy the superb views. The weather was really ideal for the climb, 22°C, wind speed of 20 km/h, sunny with a few high clouds and very good visibility. The climb leader takes a number of photos at different points, which you can purchase later (one shot of the group is included free). At the top, you cross over from east to west and return to the first pylon, via the western arch of the bridge. The whole climb lasts just under 2 hours and involves about 1,500 steps. This was definitely something worth doing and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Sydney.

Next, we visited the street market, which fills George Street (weekends only), and later we had a barbecue on the balcony with several friends.


Sunday 16th March – Sydney

 Pacific Ocean from The Gap

Drove to Watsons Bay where we had lunch at Doyles fish restaurant – a very popular spot overlooking the bay. We then drove a short distance up the hill to The Gap (right on the edge of Sydney Harbour National Park) - from here there’s an excellent view of the Sydney skyline in the distance to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

Next we drove down the coast to Bondi Beach, had a quick paddle in the sea which was beautifully clear but pretty cold. Returned to the flat and in the evening we went out for yet another superb Thai meal at Thai Intra on Military Road.


Monday 17th March – Sydney

Another hot, dry & sunny day. A relaxing day – just went up to Military Road at lunchtime to do some shopping and ManLan cooked Chinese food for our friend's birthday in the evening.


Tuesday 18th March – Sydney

 Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Hot, dry and sunny again. Walked through Cremorne Reserve to Robertsons Point. This is a beautiful area surrounding Cremorne Point, with a number of interesting plants, plenty of wildlife and fantastic views of Sydney. Continued round to Mosman Bay Wharf then walked through Sirius Cove and around the south-western tip of Taronga zoo. On the way we saw an Eastern blue-tongued lizard on the path. There was supposed to be one in the zoo, but we couldn't see it! Hmmm.....

We went into the zoo by the southern entrance and took the cable car to the top of the zoo. The location of the zoo means it has the most incredible backdrop of any zoo I’ve visited – you can see the Sydney skyline, Opera House and Harbour Bridge from many places. Had a look at most of the animals, the best being the giraffes, kodiak bears, snow leopard, red panda, meerkats and penguins.

Took the ferry back to Circular Quay. Two protesters had painted ‘NO WAR’ on the Opera House in red paint during the morning, and there were at least ten people abseiling down trying to clean off the paint. This made the national news in the evening.

VIDEO - I have posted a short camcorder clip (26 secs) - click here
This is Windows Media Format and is 326KB


Wednesday 19th March – Manly

 Shelly Beach, Manly

A superb hot and sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky. Took the ferry from Neutral Bay to Circular Quay, then the ferry to Manly. The Manly ferry takes only 30 minutes and it’s a very pleasant trip on a large boat.

The main beach was fairly windy today and the waves were about 6 feet. Went in the sea, which was a wonderful clear blue colour and reasonably warm, but it was difficult swimming with such large waves. After lunch we walked a bit south east to the smaller, but totally sheltered, Shelly Beach. Here the sand is not quite as fine, as it is indeed noticeably ground-up shells, but the water was totally calm and we had a good swim. It was too hot to spend long on the beach, so we returned to Sydney mid-afternoon. Arriving at Circular Quay we noticed they are still trying to remove the red paint from the Opera House – now it has run down the largest sail as big red streaks. It must be a hell of a job trying to clean it in this heat, especially with the sun reflecting off the white sails.


Thursday 20th March – Sydney

 Ant-war demonstrations, Sydney

A very warm day indeed with temperatures reaching around 30°C. Caught the ferry to Circular Quay then walked around to the Opera House for a close up view of the paint removal – which is still ongoing (day 3). They have reduced the number of red streaks from three to two so are making some progress! Walked through the Botanic Gardens and again saw thousands of bats in the trees. Continued on to the Fish Markets for lunch.

Walked to Darling Harbour and saw two IMAX films. First we saw the superb “Space Station” in 3D – a really amazing film partly shot by the astronauts on the International Space Station. Seeing a 3D IMAX film is an incredible experience - almost as good as being there yourself! Next we saw the 2D film “Australia – Land Beyond Time” which was average but not one of the best I've seen.

We then walked to Town Hall and found ourselves in the midst of a large anti-war demonstration. There was a huge crowd and many speakers on the steps of the Town Hall. Caught the train back to Milsons Point. Whilst crossing the Harbour Bridge we saw a very unusual sight – a dust storm had enveloped much of the harbour giving an eerie yellow light as the sun tried to shine through.

 

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