Saturday, June 10, 2006

And now to my last few days in Sydney.....

June 10th. Arrived in Sydney and jumped on the #400 bus to Bondi Junction then the #381 to North Bondi (love when i sound like i know what im doing!)... This time around I had decided to stay in Bondi, a)because i hadn't seen it yet as I'd spent my first time in Sydney in the city and b)'cos Gabby and Carolina, two friends from the Fraser Island trip, were thinking of staying in the YHA here too, so sounded like a good idea!

Liked this hostel immediately - some just come across as more friendly than others! Nice relaxed vibe here and my two roomies (in our bijoux and compact dorm) were Joanne and Jane from Kildare (pic here from a trip we did later in the week to Blue Mountains)! Lovely girls. Pottered around then off to bed (I know, I'm in Sydney and I'm a boring fart) but as my flu was a bit worse, i felt rotten! Had left a note for Gabby and Carolina so we connected later that night and decided to hang out together tomorrow.. good stuff!

June 11th. Up this morning to gale force winds - seriously! This weather is much cooler than Ocean Shores... and tons of rain too! We decided to take the bull by the horn and ignore the weather... we had planned to do the beach front walk from Bondi to Coogee, past Tamarama and Bronte beaches. So off we went, rain jackets on, holding on to the railings, and each other, for dear life! Even with the weather, the scenery was gorgeous; tons of people out surfing in the big waves. Interesting - there are clubs at Bondi and Bronte for swimmers who go out in the winter and swim and race. Their pools are outdoors, built in and around the natural rocks of the beaches. Pretty cool! Also passed some very funky steps so felt the need to take a pic! Thoroughly enjoyed blowing away the cobwebs with this lovely walk! Got to Coogee then took the bus into Bondi where we pottered around Westfield, the largest shopping centre in the Southern hemisphere (ok, that only covers OZ and NZ so not that big a whoop, but still a giant place!). Ended up buying a pair of jeans 'cos i was so darn cold.....

Then it was into town to check out the Sydney Film Festival options. Tough choice but decided on "Grain of Ear"; a Korean/Chinese production. Tragic story about a single mother trying to get by for her and her son; lets just say police, prostitution and a bitter ending are all wrapped up in it! A bit odd to be honest, but very compelling - thoroughly enjoyed it!

June 12th. Today was the Queen's birthday! How do i know that and why am i even telling you this, I hear you ask! Because everything in Sydney is closed today in celebration of this auspicious occasion, well, all government offices anyway! We dont even have that happen in the UK - how weird is that! And I had planned to go to get my India visa sorted out today so very annoying! Boring day as I still felt rotten - so took this opportunity to check out Bondi Beach - absolutely gorgeous - totally hypnotic, just sitting watching the waves and the little dots of surfers, as they washed in and out of the waves. Gorgeous! Spent some time working on the darn blogs as I'm way behind.. low key day!

June 13th. Up early today to get to the Indian Consulate to sort out my visa. Hmmn - bit of a disaster, as the lady (i will say she was very pleasant unlike the ladies in the Indian Consulate in New York where I got my first visa.. which of course expires before i even get to the bloomin' country so that was a waste of time being pro-active!).....told me that there wasnt enough time to process it before i left (ok i did leave it to the last minute as i was flying out in 3 days!).. so ill need to get it in Bangkok! Oh well. Decided to explore more of Sydney as i was in the city centre anyway. First stop - St Marys Cathedral. Gorgeous and much prettier than the official "posh" cathedral, St. Andrews which i thought was very unimpressive! Visited the Anzac Memorial (ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corp)with its beautiful reflecting pool; nice building. Past the Supreme Court then down to Darling Harbour.This area (some still call it a white elephant) has been spruced up over the last few years, and there are now a ton of things to do down here, from shopping, to the moni theatre, to just hanging out people watching at some of the trendy cafes! Sydney has a monorail system (that essentially intersects the downtown area of the city and is primarily used by lazy tourists who jump on and off one stop apart - bit pathetic really!)which looks quite space age to me. I managed to catch a good shot of an Emirates wrapped monorail (im sending it your way Lynn -my old Emirates client in New York!).... Checked out the Chinese Garden of Friendship - hmmmnmn not that impressive - sorry Sydney! Then went to a didgeridoo concert held as part of Outback Australia, this Aboriginal run store...Really interesting. Not only to hear how the music has evolved and now works with modern twists, but also to listen to our musician (whose name escapes me!). and hear his life story. Until he was 16, he didn't know he was half Aborigine or that his father and grandfather lived in northern Queensland with their tribe. After he found out, he went to live with them for two years, to learn the language, the culture, the didgeridoo of course, and how to play it - lots of fast, short intakes of breath in case you are interested. 90% of all Aboriginal dances that accompany didgeridoo music, are about giving praise to the animals of the land and nature ...animals either still living or who have died to provide food for the people or have died as a sacrifice. The remaining 10% are spiritual.. and Aboriginals use dance and music to thank the gods, the same way we say grace at dinner.. Those men they play the didgeridoo need to be pretty good at it 'cos sometimes the music goes on for over 4 hours with just one song - what!!!!!!!

As a total aside, I loved this "cheeky" ad for littering that is all over Sydney! Anyway back to the music!!! Our didgeridoo player's tribe is completely self sufficient, own their own land, right now it is about 300 hectares and there is absolutely no alcohol allowed (big issue for the Aboriginals). Land rights are also a big issue here (but i dont know enough about that to tell you more info right now!). I bought a CD of the music; very dance trance stuff, and actually really cool.Oh yes and some boomerangs too...for those of you thinking of buying any boomerangs in the near future - please note that some of the more colourful ones don't actually return; the ones that do come back are called "rebounding boomerangs" so you should always check first teehee!!!!

I pottered around town a bit more (feel like i've got a pretty good lay of the land here, and that's wierd, cos i usually get lost all the time in cities!) then decided to take the plunge and get my stupid camera fixed.... as im sure you have all seen the black blobs on all my photos lately... however I met a lovely wee man (in a camera shop, not just randomly on the street, folks!) who said he would help me out so i have to pick it up on Friday...but i feel lost without it... i might miss that perfect shot. Oh well!

June 14th. My wee brother Patrick's birthday! Happy birthday! Today is a big day! Jane, Joanne and I are going to the Blue Mountains so fingers crossed the weather holds out! Got up early to catch the morning train out of the city. The Blue Mountains area is known for its artsy culture, being a bit of a new age hideaway, wilderness getaway or bushwalkers dream; take your pick! In a way, the Blue Mountains are Sydney's alter ego - couldn't be more different, but yet great that they are so close. We went to Katoomba - 109km away from the big city... and used a lovely double decker bus to hop on, hop off around the key hiking spots outside of town!

But of course we had to get our energy up by having a delicious bacon and egg buttie as recommended by the bus driver at one of the funky wee cafes in town! Katoomba, with a population of around 18,000, is made up of art deco guesthouses and tons of cafe bars, with the famous and very grand Three Sisters natural rock formation (and one of the key attractions of the area) within strolling distance. The name Katoomba means "shining tumbling water" (i like that!) and it has been a big tourist attraction since the 1920's!

We basically took the bus to stop # 12 (can't remember what that was, sorry!) and then we walked all the way down the valley through rainforest to where we could catch the scenic railway back to the top! Now before you think we are lazy losers, we were almost the only people doing the real hike; we saw tons of Americans and Japanese and Korean tour groups who were bussed in, took the cable car down and then the railway back up. We hiked, man! OK not a very strenuous hike but we did break a sweat.. i think! The scenic railway is built up to be this scary ride with a 45 degree angle; the steepest railway in the world. Lets just say all those folks screaming.. need their heads examined. Nothing scary to see here let me tell you!!!

Within the Blue Mountains area, Echo Point is the most popular spot. The Three Sisters sit back from Echo Point and its quite a lovely, if somewhat sad, story about the rocks and how they got there! Its about magic, and special sticks, and daughters being turned to rock to save them from scary monsters.. but enough about that...lets get down to the funny story. We were starving - and at this point absolutely freezing - when we got back to Katoomba, so decided to chance it and try and fit dinner in before the train left for Sydney. Suffice it to say there were desserts involved and we literally had to drag Jane out of the restaurant, with spoon in hand, saying "just one more little bit".. and we made the train by about 5 minutes!! OK maybe you had to be there but it was the funniest thing at the time! The woman in the restuarant was looking at us as if we were freaks, who had never seen dessert before... but it was very very good dessert!!

June 15th. Another big day! Start my malaria tablets before i head off to Vietnam tomorrow! Lots of different opinions on this .. to be honest, being a bit over-protective and pre-emptive here, but my doctor said as i would be in and out of different areas over the next few months, easier just to take them all the way through so for now, thats what i'll do! Hung out with the girls today - wait for it, i was actually giving someone technical computer advice - on how to set up your online photo albums now that's a first right! Back to the hostel to pack and get ready for Vietnam - yah, my next big adventure. I've actually loved Australia but ready to visit something completely new and different.... so Ho Chi Minh City ... here I come!!!


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