Richard's Travels

Tales from the Southern hemisphere

Thursday, March 09, 2006

End of NZ, Start of Oz

Saturday & Sunday: Free days in Christchurch

As I'd already spent some time in Christchurch on arrival in New Zealand, I didn't really have much in mind to do with my second trip to the city. Hence, most of my time was spent wandering round, looking at stuff and doing shopping. On Saturday, there was a Korean thing going on in Cathedral Square (the centre of the city) involving Korean men trying to throw one another over in a big sandpit. Entertaining for a bit anyway!

On Saturday night, I'd arranged to go to a rugby match, as we were offered a good deal of $20 for the game, transport and a couple of beers (compare that to any english prices). The match in question was a super 14 match between Crusaders (from Canterbury) and Blues (Auckland). Although the atmosphere at the game was good, it was nowhere near as good as I expected it to be! However, at least the home side won.

Sunday was spent walking round with Jo, both of us trying to fill up our last day in the country. I would've liked to go out for my last night, but most people we knew had already left, and I'd got the nice sensible flight time of 6:45am, meaning I was going to have to leave my hostel at 4am! Hence, an early night was called for.

Monday: Moving to Australia

As I mentioned above, I had a really early start to catch my plane. I was finally leaving New Zealand after about 7 weeks of being here - was definitely hoping Australia wouldn't be a let down after all I've seen so far!

Upon arrival in Sydney, I checked into my hostel (and was very surprised to be able to actually check in at 9am!) before meeting up with Matt & Cate, who had arrived the night before for their 2 week holiday in Australia. First stop of the day was Sydney harbour and the opera house. After looking around the outside for a few minutes, we decided we should really spend some money and go inside on the tour. This was actually quite interesting, showing us that the opera house is actually a number of buildings inside another building - the "shells" or "sails" are just the outside, with the theatres a separate building inside. We were shown around the two major theatres - the first being just a concert hall, and the second being the opera theatre. Both of these were impressive, the concert hall most of all. Everything has been designed with acoustics in mind, from chair upholstery that absorbs the same amount of sound as the average human (so a half-empty theatre sounds the same as a full one) to the wierd UFO-like rings reflecting the sound back down on the orchestra. The organ at the back looked quite impressive, with 100 pipes. The guide then told us that there were another 10,000 pipes behind what we could see! I would've liked to hear something being performed in there, but I think that's a bit out of my league for now!

For the rest of the day, Matt & Cate decided to part with large amounts of money to walk up a lot of steps on top of the harbour bridge; I decided to skip this and instead did the cheaper 200-step walk up one of the pylons at the end of a bridge to get some photos of the harbour.

Tuesday: Bondi Beach

Since arriving in Australia, the change in climate from NZ has been remarkable. The first day was quite warm (30C) and hardly a cloud in sight all day. As today was going to be the same, we decided to hop on a bus to Bondi beach to see what all the fuss was about. After following Matt round in circles a couple of times to look for the bus stop, we eventually made it. To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with the beach - sure it was a clean beach with nice surf, but I couldn't understand why it's so famous. Anyway, we sat on the beack and went in the water for a bit, with Matt & Cate needing to apply more factor 50 sun cream every half an hour.

After this, we went for a walk round to Coogee beach, about 5km away. By the time we got there, I think we were all a bit tired, definitely not used to this climate. Matt had managed to miss large areas of skin with his suncream and was already beginning to develop burnt bits. By the end of the day, Cate has also managed this! We went in search of an ice cream, before heading back.

Wesnesday: Blue Mountain Day Trip

On Wednesday we got out of the city by hiring a car and driving out to the Blue Moutains, a moutain range about 100km out of Sydney. They appear to be covered with a blue haze from a distance due to light hitting droplets from some of the trees. Our first stop was Katoomba, the main tourist centre of the blue mountains. From here we did a little walk to see the three sisters, 3 columns of rock. They are so called because the aboriginees thought that they were once three aboriginee sisters, turned into stone by a witch doctor. Must have been rather large sisters! We walked down 900 steps to get to the bottom, and was disappointed to find nothing much down there. From here, Matt & Cate went back up to the car, and I continued on a walk through the rainforest to Scenic World, a very touristy loop walk through the rainforest on a boardwalk. Matt & Cate had driven round to the top of of scenic world and come down on a train; we all returned up on a cable car.

Next stop was Jenolan Caves, another 80km away. This was at the end of a very narrow and windy road, and consisted of a tourist settlement which appeared to have been built to serve many more than were there at the time - I guess it isn't the high season any more. We did an hour-long tour through one of the many caves here. Loads of interesting stuff to see in the caves, and quite an informative tour.

After a long drive back (with a wasted stop at Wentworth falls, inaccessible due to most of the tracks being closed), we had a meal and went back to our hostel/hotel.

Thursday: Aquarium & Manly

After yesterday being a slightly cloudy day to the delight of Matt & Cate, today was back to clear blue skies and hot weather :) First stop today was Sydney Aquarium. I'd heard good things about this from other people, and was not disappointed. Lots of very big fish, but the highlights for me have to be the Little Penguins, huge stingrays and some of the sharks. The low points were the hordes of screaming kids running around visiting the aquarium as a school trip.

After this, we hopped on a ferry upto Circular Quay for some lunch, before catching another ferry over to Manly. Manly is a nice beach town north of Sydney, but the beach was a lot more populated than Bondi was! We first walked round to Shelley beach, where Matt & Cate stayed to sunbathe. I then walked back to start the Manly Scenic walk round to the spit, a walk I've heard a few people say was good! When I got back to Manly beach though, I was surprised to find hardly anyone in the water. The few people that were in the water retreated when an announcement came over the tannoy reminding them that a shark had been recently sighted!

The walk to Spit was 10km long, although I'd already walked a fair distance by this point. Walking it on my own meant I could be very relaxed about it, and as I didn't have any reason to get back by a certain time I stopped at a lot of viewpoint of photos, and found a nice beach to have a swim towards the end. By the time I did get back to Manly, I was quite tired! Had dinner in Manly, before catching more ferries and buses back to my hostel. I'm now using the rest of the night to catch up on burning CDs and writing this blog - should really stop leaving it so many days!


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