Sunday 22nd Feb and we got picked up around 7am by Nathan and Amie to take us to the airport. Daniel and Megan couldn’t make it as they were both working.
The flight went really quickly – just a movie and lunch and a little time each side of those really, so we were pleased not to be bored to tears as we had been on the flights to and from Hawaii. We landed in Sydney, got the luggage and caught a hotel transfer bus. I turned on my mobile once we got on the bus and it is set to show which tower it is receiving a signal from, so I was all excited watching it come up with the suburbs that I get asked for at work (Directory Assistance) all the time and knowing I was actually IN them. I kept turning to show David every time it changed to a different suburb name and he was yawning with boredom and wondering what all the overseas visitors were thinking of the idiot with the phone. Hehehe.
Our hotel, the Unilodge, was OK, certainly nothing to rave on about, but a comfortable enough place to call home for 3 days. It had been chosen for us by a travel agent who’d convinced himself we would want a kitchen rather than eat out all the time.
We dumped our luggage and set out for a walk to explore Sydney. We found the major railway station which also catered for the ‘light rail’ which was a small tram system. The rail station was HUGE by our standards and we were impressed with it all – a very old building but all mod cons including cafes etc inside.
Walking further we found a Gloria Jeans coffee place and decided to try her wares – very nice. We carried on walking and got into the city centre itself and gawped like real tourists and took photos or movie of everything that moved or stood still. We couldn’t believe the number of tall buildings or the expanse that they covered. We’d expected big and I guess it was about what we’d expected but seeing and imagining were different.
We were thrilled to see the monorail going around and then we found the Queen Victoria Building which was one particular thing I’d wanted to see. We were amazed that the building was open because it was getting late by now and starting to get dark and the place was full of shops which were shut.
However, it was absolutely beautiful. A lovely old building with beautiful old woodwork, stained glass windows, winding stairways and 2 VERY intricate clocks, one each suspended above the 2 voids of the mezzanine floors, that did interesting things each ¼ hour. Just lovely!
We’d walked a long way by now and lunch was worn off so we stopped at a little café/ restaurant named ‘Dish’ after a fellow on the street waved an advert at us. We were seated upstairs and could see the monorail coming and going from one of its stations, so that added some interest to the meal.
Then back to the hotel to take our weary feet to bed. We did not sleep well, the bed had its springs very close to the surface and there was a lot of partying on the rooftop in the BBQ area which echoed down the central void area just outside our room. But that’s OK and all part of what holidays are about.
Mon 23rd we bought an all day ticket for the monorail. It was good fun up there. The only secret was not to look down when standing at the stations as it was quite the place to get vertigo.
The first stop we made was the Chinese Garden of Friendship and we spent far more time here than we’d planned. It was just so tranquil and beautiful, we loved it. We also took a great deal of video and a lot of photos.
We had lunch in their tea room which was very nice. We ordered a Caesar salad and a bagel and had half each of both of them and a nice drink and fed some gorgeous, brave, teensy little birds that were just so cute.
The gift shop here was unbelievable with jade carvings and whatnots with price tags in the $10,000 range.
We moved back into the city and looked at shopping centres and inspected The Bridge from every angle. We walked up near the Opera House but it didn’t do anything for either of us so we didn’t bother getting closer to it.
Goodness, Sydney was hilly!!! Steps or steep hills all over the place compared to flat Perth and surrounds. We walked around the Botanical Gardens which were really lovely and also around some of the suburbs near the base of the bridge. There were some really old houses which were interesting and quite well kept, but there was one particular set of flats in a small dead-end street that were horrific slums that left me shuddering. There was a small, filthy shop across the road from them, I forget what nationality it was, but Asian of some description and we saw one person in the slums that would have been of similar origin so I guess it was a little ghetto. Being so very close to the city I don’t know if the real estate values would be high or not – I would hope not, I would rather live in a tent. It was so sad. There were steps missing from the open, wooden stairs – they had metal sides and just the flat parts of the step, no kickboards, so you could see through each step, and then a couple of steps missing entirely. The brickwork was starting to crumble in places and so on. Very sad and left me feeling quite emotional for the people living there.
From here we tried to find our way on to the Bridge itself. This involved quite a walk but was well worth it and we found a path that led up beside the on ramp. Well we just stood in awe of the noises that the Bridge made as the cars drove over the joins, it was amazing and very funky. David took some video purely for the sake of getting the sounds on the tape, it was gorgeous. We walked along the bridge as far as the major pylon which we had been under when we saw the slums but there was no point going any further so we came back again. We were so fascinated by the double decker trains going across the bridge! Getting off the bridge took forever because we followed the road and every time we thought we’d got down to ground level the ground swept away under us again and we were still on bridges or raised roads. We thought we’d be ‘up there’ for ever.
Tue 24th We went on a harbour cruise and I was looking at my phone all the time and again enjoying watching the suburbs change as we travelled.
Amazing what will amuse some people!!! The cruise was interesting enough – we took the long version but with the weather being so dull we probably would have been better with the short one.
Not that it matters. It was quite reasonably priced and we weren’t pushed for time. It started to drizzle soon after we set sail and it became quite steady rain and we were forced to go inside the boat for most of the journey.
The rest of our Sydney experience was just ‘you needed to be there’ kinds of stuff. Lots of water features all around the place of every conceivable shape and size. Miles and miles of walking, some of it in the rain trying to squeeze under one umbrella and not winning too well. Lots of streets full of tall buildings and shops. The number of joggers around the busy Sydney Harbour area was a surprise. If I wanted to run it would not be amongst all those crowds! Are they enjoying the view or are they posing? Anyway, most of what we did were just general things that are not individually worthy of comment.
One part though that will remain with us forever was up some incredibly steep steps between 2 hotels to the right of the harbour and across a road. It was what I will call a Relic Garden.
Lying around in the grass were an amazing assortment of foundation stones which had obviously been rescued from buildings as they were demolished. It just made us laugh!
One P.S. on the rail station before I move on…
We went down what we thought was an underpass for the big street to get to the station one day and found a whole new world ofshops and passageways down there that stretched for a good kilometre or so. It was quite a shock. Not just snack places and newsagents but dress shops and everything. It was very humid and stuffy down there and I would hate to work in one of them, but it was an eye opener to discover that they existed.
Wed 25th and we woke to find it still raining very steadily and decided we would catch a taxi to get the campervan rather than mess with public transport and cases in the rain. We packed our bags and went across the road to the shopping centre there which we had yet to explore. It just didn’t look like a shopping centre from the outside – no display windows or anything, just a few little old shops, but there was an escalator which said Broadway which I knew to be a shopping centre from Directory Enquiries, so up we went. It was quite big, and 4 floors at that, which was a surprise. Another surprise was that the majority of the shops did not open until 10am and then shut at 7pm and were open on Sundays as well – 10 til 4 I think. Poor workers! The cafes were open though and we shunned the busy ones and found a quiet one. Should have taken note of where the locals had chosen to eat I think; we ordered breakfast. David asked for a big breakfast with poached eggs and I asked for a smaller breakfast with fried. When they eventually arrived, my plate was swimming with water and I soaked an entire paper serviette with it. When I took a bite of my egg it tasted vinegary and I didn’t like it. Then David said “Didn’t you ask for fried eggs?” He had my fried eggs on his plate and I had his poached ones. We’ll eat in the busy places from now on!
We then got our taxi and went to pick up the campervan. When planning our route for the week I had not taken into account that we were not getting the van until noon so I’d planned more than we could achieve in that first day. We got the instructions from the hire company girl on how to get out of Sydney and head for the Blue Mountains to get to Bathurst and off we went. Driving an unknown vehicle through unknown streets in a huge city wasn’t the best fun but at least we were on the outskirts and didn’t have to go through the city centre. We eventually went into a tunnel and were amazed at how far it went. It must have been about 2 suburbs long. Then we had to get off that one, and were glad to because it said ‘Last Exit Before Toll’. I had known there were toll roads in Sydney (I get asked for them at work and we had seen people paying them on the Bridge) but I find it a huge cheek and was pleased we didn’t have to. However, the next road we got on had the toll gates at the beginning and we did need to pay this one. It said $5.80 and had lanes for people who had paid for the E-Tags and lanes for those with the correct change and a lane for those who needed change. We did have $5.80 so we went into the correct change lane. David reached down (the camper was quite tall) and threw our money into the catching chute but quickly realized that something was wrong when the $5 note just sat there while the change was credited on a visual display. Oops. When it said correct change it meant correct coins. We weren’t to know. David pushed the ‘help’ button and a gorgeous lady
came out in her raincoat and helped us tourists and changed our note to coins so we could finish feeding the chute and get on our way. We did laugh.
We were fascinated by the speed signs by the side of the road becausethey were electronic and therefore changeable. Speed limits in Perth are static, no matter the road conditions, so this seemed really sensible!!!
We were mystified by regularly seeing three solid lines down the centre of the roads. We get one or two, both of which mean ‘no passing’ so does three mean ‘definitely no passing’?
We eventually got to the mountains and found them very gentle and the inclines were gradual and occasional so that our ears didn’t often pop. It was still raining but we were on a mission to get to Bathurst anyway so weren’t planning on stopping anywhere. We were held up a little at one point by a terrible accident where a tanker truck had turned over and all the emergency services were there. We heard later on the news that the driver had died and I wasn’t surprised as the back of the tanker was absolutely flattened.
We reached Bathurst and headed straight for the Racing Museum where we got a semi cold reception, I think they’d hoped on shutting up early but it said on the car park gate that the gates shut at 4:30 and it was about 3:45 so their reception to us was very rude and unnecessary. The manager told the girl that he’d intended to stay back working anyway and not to worry so we paid our dues and watched the short film they offered us before looking around the museum. David found it more enjoyable than I did, but that’s to be expected. We looked in the shop but were getting frozen out by the staff, who were all still there despite the man saying he would look after us, so made our purchases and got out. It was still before 4:30 so whether the shop should have shut sooner than the gates I don’t know but it wasn’t pleasant!
We then turned left out of the shop to drive around the track. It was completely weird driving around a race track, never mind in a campervan. It was getting a bit overcast and dark but we noted the time as we passed under the banner that marks the start of the track and set off around it. The speed limit there during non-race days is 60kph but I tell you what… there are some very steep, sharp turns and when it’s not racing season it’s a 2 way road so I was frightened someone was going to come the other way. There were pots and pans clattering and falling around in the back, and I was saying “Slow down David you’re frightening me.” And he replied “I’m only doing 40!!!” When we got to the finish flag we’d taken 7 minutes and 15 seconds. The pole sitter last October had broken the 2 minute mark so he’d have lapped us several times eh?
Sorry for the picture quality but this was taken back in ’04 on a home video camera and was the best we could do to make it suitable for the web.
This was the first time we laid eyes on the Bathurst circuit in real life and we were totally stunned by how incredibly steep, winding and narrow the course is. This was after watching The Race on TV every year for 30 years and and we had no idea of what the track was really like.
In the video of our lap below, yes, I suppose I’m nagging. I’m sorry, I was just so scared another car was going to come in the other direction on one of those blind corners LOL Poor David. But he loves me anyway.
Then we drove around again so that we could take our time (har har) and stop at the lookout at the top. The view was stunning and the rain had eased up nicely so we could stand and admire for a while, though the wind was bitterly cold and blew through our thick layers of clothing much too easily.
We were supposed to have driven from here to Wisemans Ferry to spend the night but as I said I’d planned too many miles and the weather was not nice for travelling in strange parts. It also took us a while and a few wrong turns to get out of Bathurst because we tried to do it by feel. The map I used for the whole trip was not a touring map and was terrible for negotiating any of the town roads. We found a nice caravan park a little bit out of Bathurst in Kelso and booked in. The chap recommended that we go back to Bathurst to eat as there were no local restaurants and it was only a couple of kilometres so that’s what we did and had a very nice meal.
Thu 26th We had set the alarm for the morning, which was funny because we wanted to get up at 6am but that meant setting the alarm for 3am because we still had it on Perth time. We needed to get to Bateau Bay to meet my penfriend Pam and I’d told her we would try to get there as close to noon as we could. Oh boy!!! We were unable to go back on the highway that we’d come by once getting back to Lithgow because it was still closed after the truck accident the day before so we were diverted to another road. Now this one was like a European mountain road; or the ones of my youth at least. There were really steep parts with sheer drops right next to the edge of the road and many blind corners. As well as this we were fast becoming aware of how far behind we were getting on our schedule to meet with Pam and there were trucks galore using the route because of the closed highway. How these huge trucks were negotiating the steep curves I do not know and we later found out that there was another truck accident on the diversion which was no surprise. We finally got to Richmond and felt that we were back in civilisation as it wasn’t a bad sized town. Soon after this was Windsor and we began to feel we were more on time so
stopped for a stretch and morning tea. I liked Windsor, it was a pretty place and we had a nice cuppa and a cake and a quick walk up their pedestrian mall. I have never seen so many cafes in my entire life. Or hairdressers. How many cuppas and cuts can you have?
From here we made a wrong turn because of the map having nothing but the main roads on it and went about 10 minutes
drive before it felt wrong and we stopped and asked for directions. We had to go back to Windsor to pick up our place and here began the windingest journey of our lives, all the time worrying that there was now so little time left before we should have been at Pam’s. The weather had cleared though, so we were happy to be travelling in dry conditions. The road then became very steep and windey once more – help!!! We finally got to Wisemans Ferry and were grateful we had not
tried to traverse that route in the dark, it was scary enough in day time. We went down one road and were met by a ferry so went in the other direction and were also met by a ferry. It seemed to be the only way out but our campervan hire conditions had clearly stated that our insurance would be void if we met with an accident on a ferry. We parked the van and walked up a very steep hill back to the police ‘station’ to ask for directions. We asked if a ferry was the only way out other than retracing our steps which would have taken an hour or more. He said that unless we wanted to swim, the ferry was it. David assured me that he had seen trucks coming off it and they seemed fine, and I decided that after all the mountain roads, nothing could be worse. The ferry was brilliant. And not only that, despite the ‘captive audience’ and no other choice, it was free. I had my wallet poised and was expecting a hefty charge, but nothing.
From here the drizzle began again and the roads were even narrower than before, but not so hilly. We wondered why on earth people would live out in this remote country as we passed little pockets of housing with no apparent reason for being there or any sign of how they could earn their living without driving for hours to get there. It was too rocky and hilly for farmland other than perhaps goats. And this road just continued on and on seemingly without end and it was already noon and we were nowhere near Pam’s house.
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