Well, we are off again on another long adventure. We are doing 3 cruises going to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore and finally, New Caledonia. We arrived in Sydney 2 days ago and board our ship later today. On our arrival day we found out it was Australia Day, a major holiday in Australia when Captain Phillips set foot in Sydney Cove and began the colonizing of Australia with 11 ships of convicts. Captain Cook had discovered Australia and Sydney 8 years earlier but had just identified its existence and claimed it for England. Although Australia started as a “large prison” it developed into a major British Territory.
On our first day we arrived around 8:30 AM after a 23 hour flight and checked into our hotel. After taking a quick shower, we headed out to re-explore Sydney which we had first visited 10 years ago. Over those 10 years Sydney has really redeveloped itself. Construction is still going rampant and the population is rapidly increasing – now at 4.5 million people. There is a new area called City Market that we went to in order to try out some of the local food. Much of the food is oriental and we decided to try a Thai meal. It was delicious and very inexpensive. Our hotel is very close to Darling Harbor and we went there first. This area, although very familiar to us from our past visit, has completely transformed itself with many new hotels, shopping area and restaurants/bars. This area was a major gathering place for Australians celebrating Australia Day. We walked along the harbor and went north to see the Harbor Bridge. This is a massive bridge built 88 years ago! It allows 6 lanes of cars and a railroad track which expands 1650 feet over the Sydney Harbor. It is hard to believe the people of Sydney had enough fore sight to build a bridge this wide to service the people of Sydney over 85 years ago! Ten years ago we did the Harbor Bridge walk where you can walk along the top of the bridge and get some amazing views. We did the bridge walk at night which would cost over $450 if we were to do it again now. We only paid a fraction of that price 10 years ago! This time we just walked across the bridge at car level and got some great views of the Sydney Opera House and the surrounding area. We then walked to an area called the Rocks which was totally redeveloped since we had last been here. It is comprised of many of restaurants, bars and shops. It was also really alive with parties going on for the holidays. We then went to Circular Quay where the Opera House is located. Although it is still as unique as ever, it seemed a little dingier than last time we had seen it. We think a fresh coat of paint would help it out. We had hoped to stay up until 9 PM to watch the fireworks but we elected to go back to the hotel a little earlier than that so we could get ready for a full day tour we had set up on the following day that started at 7 AM.
On our second day in Sydney we had decided to go see the Blue Mountains. This tour started out with a visit to a wild life sanctuary along the way. We were able to feed and pet kangaroos and wallabies. We got some great pictures of several Koala Bears and saw a lot of native Australian animals such as dingoes and wombats. They even had a 15 foot crocodile there. From there we made our way to Leura which is a quaint little town where we had lunch and shopped in some of the small shops. Our next stop was Scenic World which is the main stop in the Blue Mountains. Here we saw the famous Three Sisters. These are 3 columnar peaks that have many stories associated to them. The one we were told is they were formed when 3 aborigine sisters fell in love with 3 brothers from a neighboring tribe. Since it was against the customs to marry with someone from another tribe, a war ensued with the two tribes. The medicine man from the sister’s tribe turned them into stone to protect them during the war. Unfortunately, during one of the battles the medicine man was killed leaving the sisters cast in stone forever since only he had the magic to turn them back into humans. We took a cable car to the main park area where we then took a very long cable car to the bottom of the valley. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to walk around but we did walk through Dino Valley where they had recreated many very authentic looking dinosaurs and had them motorized so their heads and bodies moved. The kids really seemed to love it. The paths down in the valley were all raised wooden walkways and kept in excellent condition. We took an inclined rail car back up to the top of the mountain. This rail car goes at an incredible steep angle of 56 degrees on the way up the mountain. You literally have to hold a handle bar to keep from falling out of your seat. On our way back from the Blue Mountains we made one scenic stop at Cahill’s Lookout before heading to Sydney’s Olympic Park where we saw many of the structures built for the 2000 Olympics. At a nearby dock we left the bus and got on a river boat to take us the rest of the way back to Sydney. This gave us a nice perspective of the surrounding area and some great view of the large bridges built across the river and harbor. Our boat went by the Opera House before going into Darling Harbor where we got off. We walked around Darling Harbor to some of the places we had visited 10 years ago. We finally went back to the hotel to get ready for our cruise the next day.
It was a short but very enjoyable visit to Sydney. We will be back in two weeks for another couple of days. Our son, Chris, will be flying in and we will get a chance to show him this incredible city. For now, we are off to board the Holland America Noordam where we are taking a 14 day cruise to New Zealand.