Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sydney & the Blue Mountains – (Monday August 2nd thru Sunday August 8th )

This is a my second attempt at writing an entry for Sydney. I wrote one entry after the 4th day but didn't like it because it was too linear and step by step. I think what I'll do is summarize what we did in downtown Sydney for the first few days and what did when we stayed out west of the city. I'll follow up with some observations of the city/country, general observations, and how the trip is going overall.

We spent our first three full days in Sydney after our arrival in the downtown area. Once we saw how expensive public transportation was we decided to walk to the places we wanted to visit. We're both in pretty good shape and many of the things we wanted to see were located downtown plus our hostel (Eva's Backpackers - is centrally located.

The first day in Sydney we hiked a few kilometers west to the Darling Harbor area and checked out the Australian Maritime museum (it was free). We also hiked over to the Sydney Fish Market and enjoyed some fresh oysters before hiking down to the Haymarket and Chinatown areas. It was a pretty good first day to get oriented to the city including distances.

The next day we had a goal of walking across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. We accomplished our goal! The views from the bridge were pretty. We could see the Sydney Opera House, downtown Sydney, and the Sydney Harbor. The weather was clear with the temps in the low 60's. Before arriving we stopped at the Lorn Nelson Brewery which bills itself as the oldest brewery in I believe Sydney, if not Australia. So far my impression on Australian beers is not that favorable. It isn't just the prices. Australia beer tastes are kind of bland and the alcohol level is lower from what I've seen so far. It pretty much took a full day to walk to the bridge, explore the area downtown known as The Rocks including the Opera House before walking back.

Sydney Opera House from the Sydney Harbor Bridge

We spent the next day walking strolling around the Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens are downtown and very large. We only spent a couple hours walking around and saw probably less than half. Good thing the weather was pretty good on this day too. After lunch we took a bus about 45 minutes to Bondi Beach. The beach is pretty well developed and still relatively close to the city center. It is also too dangerous to swim and is known for its surfing more than anything else. We walked around the general area for a couple hours before taking the bus back. The bus itself wasn't cheap. It costs $8 per person round trip. Maybe they make a profit off of their public transportation? :-)

After three full days in downtown Sydney we checked out for our first couch surfing experience ( for those not familiar with it). We are staying with David. He lives about 40 km (26 miles) west of downtown Sydney. We decided to rent a car since he lives out in the suburbs plus we planned on driving up to the Blue Mountains. Alethea was the driver since she rented this car. Remarkably it was an uneventful 45 minute drive. Australians drive on the left side of the road and the cars have the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Alethea did a good job driving. She turned into and stayed in the correct lanes. The only problem was that she kept turning the wiper blades on instead of the turn signal since they are on opposite sides of the car as in the US! Our couch surfing host turned out to be excellent. He is friendly and a good host. He cooked for us on Friday evening and even breakfast the next morning. We're staying with him for three nights before flying to Cairns on Monday. This is only the second time I have couch surfed. The first time was last fall when we took a weekend trip to San Juan Island north of Seattle.

On Saturday we drove up to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains begin about 25-30 minutes further west from where David lives. We spent the day stopping at various different lookout points including Glenbrook, Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, before turning around for the day at Mt. Victoria. We stopped first looking for Kangaroos in Glenbrook but didn't spot any. The Blue Mountains remind me of a cross between the Cumberland Plateau and the Smoky Mountains. The geology is similar. The weather was sunny and clear again but much cooler than the 60's we experience in Sydney. The highlight of the day was on our return back to David's. We stopped again at a place called Euroka within the park and spotted our first kangaroo! It was a dark brown one towards the main entrance area. We were hoping to spot several but this was the only one we saw.
Blue Mountains National Park

On Sunday we pretty much decided to take it easy since we have been on the go quite a bit. We've spent most of the day uploading pictures, blogging, and working on the remaining part of our Australia itinerary with a little work done on the New Zealand portion as well. New Zealand will be here before we know it!

I'll dedicate this paragraph or so to some of my observations and thoughts about our trip. Sydney was an interesting big city. It reminds me of Canada sort of with a touch of Europe especially with the driving on the left side of the road. It is also somewhat of an expensive city which is why we concentrated on many free activities such as parks, the Harbor Bridge, and mountains. Our plan for Sydney and Australia in general was to start in a place that should be relatively easy to adjust too before getting to cities and countries that will be more difficult such as well...Asia and Africa for me :-). We knew it would be expensive but I think we did a good job on costs while at the same time exploring the city. I'm looking forward to Cairns which should be much warmer. Highs are in the mid 80's vs. the low 60's here in Sydney. I'm also still getting a feel for my blog as I document the trip from my perspective. It isn't as easy as it looks. I'm sure it will take a few more entries before I feel more comfortable with it all.

So far so good on our trip. I cannot think of anything we left behind nor do I think we took too much. I did have to buy an electrical adapter for Australia\New Zealand. We researched this before our trip. Alethea had two adapters that are supposed to be universal and work for every country we are going to but apparently Australia\New Zealand are different somehow. The adapter I bought only cost $9 and works in both countries. I might try to sell it in New Zealand. Alethea actually got hers for free from one of the women working at the front desk of the hostel. I recovered from the jet lag from the 14.5 hour flight with 18 time zone changes including losing a day by the second day and even then it wasn't that bad.

That's enough for now. Hope everyone is doing well. Let me know if anyone has any questions or any type of feedback for our adventures.

The first kangaroo we spotted!