Exploring Australia Part 1: Sydney

October 3, 2013
Oh man… get ready for lots of pictures! It’s not a good day to have slow internet connection…

Note: I’m splitting our 12 day trip into 4 posts, based on the 4 different places in which we had accommodations.

The first leg of our Australia trip was to Sydney. We spent 2 days exploring the city, a day at Bondi Beach on the south side of the city, and on our 4th day in New South Whales we took the train to the Blue Mountains. Amazing. But first, Sydney.

I thought Sydney was one of the cleanest cities I’ve been to. Admittedly, the weather was nice and we mostly stayed in the more touristy parts- so its very possible there’s less bright and shiny parts. But I really enjoyed it. There are lots of parks and the public transportation is good. And oh, the shopping…

We stayed in the Annam Apartments, on the border of the Kings Cross and Potts Point neighborhoods. Kings Cross is the party scene, the strip club strip, the GLBT hangout, and it has lots of corner espresso joints for hipsters to loiter near and judge from. It’s one multi-flavoured place. Potts Point is just a bit upmarket and frankly, boring. But being on the junction of the two is a nice enough place to stay. Annam is the only accommodation I didn’t get a photo of… but I give it 3/5 stars. It looks modern, the bed was comfy, it had a washer/dryer, and the kitchen was really handy. But it was loud as hell (very thin windows!), the washer/dryer was a combo machine and it took us 4 days to figure out how to use it, and the shower flooded the whole bathroom every time it was used. A unique water feature.

On day one, we arrived at 7am (yes 3am was an early wake-up in Christchurch) and hopped on the train to our spot. We crashed out for an hour or two before taking on the city. Then we got to it.

St. Mary’s Cathedral
Sydney Sky Tower (we tried to get a cocktail up there but we didn’t meet dress code!)
3 story tannery building in the shopping district. Neat architecture.
Water sculpture in Kings Cross

Ok, the above isn’t exactly a flattering picture of Scott, or the cafe or anything really. But it was 5am, and he was possibly embarrassed that i was taking a picture of the place. Regardless, Room 10 is a cafe that deserves 6/5 stars. How they fit all the glorious food and coffee into one shipping container sized hole in the wall is beyond me, but I’m glad they did. Out of several amazing places we ate, I think this was the best.

View of St. Mary’s again from across the Aquatic Centre

The weather took a turn for the cold and windy on day one, so we ducked into the Contemporary Art Museum. It was free. Which is the nicest thing I can come up with to tell you about it. Contemporary art is not for me.

Across the street we saw this little guy though:

A rainbow lorikeet

And all over town we saw these funny birds:

White ibis in their natural-ish habitat- ok the botanical gardens aren’t natural. But you get the idea, and besides-  you’ll be just as likely to find them up in palm trees, in every park, and even scrounging through your trash.

On day two we explored the city some more, and branched out into a few surrounding suburbs that had more funky shopping and smaller (cheaper!) eating options. I liked this part of Sydney the best.

The architecture around the suburbs surprised me. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting New Orleans. Ok, I’ve never been to New Orleans… but I’ve been to New Orleans Square at Disneyland, and Im sure that’s an exact representation. And so, apparently, is Sydney:

For your reference, below is New Orleans Square in Disneyland. See what I mean??? Sorta?


Ok, I just google’d it and apparently the style – with all the bi-level verandas and intricate ironwork is Victorian Filigree. Who knew?

So… the Opera House. It really is quite impressive from up close, but from across the harbor it just looks like such a wee little thing. I was a bit surprised. Cool to see though, of course.

View from the Botanical Gardens
Ok, it doesn’t look small in my picture. But the camera was on full zoom!!
Scott on the steps

So as I mentioned, on day 3 we headed over to Bondi Beach. It was a 30-40 minute bus ride after a 10 minute walk, but it is a beautiful place. It’s kind of like if the funkiness of Santa Cruz met the tanned plastic people of LA, all next to the blue waters of Cancun. We did a 5k walk along the coast, which went along from beach to beach.

Look at that ocean…

So our walk was really beautiful, but we weren’t totally impressed with the town. It had a slight Jersey Shore ghetto-ness. Like a lot of really orange skin and body enhancements.

Alright… the 4th/final day in Sydney. We got out of Sydney. We’re not really city people. Scott, with the fear of having to go to another over-populated beach or stroll through the botanical gardens again, got on the internet the evening after Bondi Beach. He told me it was only a 2 hour train ride to the Blue Mountains, and didn’t I want to spend at least 4 hours total on the train so we could go out to the middle of nowhere?

Of course I did. The Blue Mountains looked amazing- all the wildlife and waterfalls! We took the train all the way from Sydney to Wentworth Falls (I’m very proud of us for figuring out public transportation).

Ok, Australia is huge so it doesn’t look very impressive at all… traveling in NZ is a lot easier to document.
Zoomed in- Sydney to Wentworth Falls

As soon as we got off the train, we were greeted by a local:

A cicada. They were shedding their exoskeletons everywhere. Disgusting.

Thankfully that was the most we saw of creepy crawlers in the Blue Mountains. We grabbed sandwiches, and were very lucky to meet a lady in the deli who knew exactly what kind of hike (a real one) we wanted to do and where we should go. She gave us a lift to the trailhead so we could make the trek a longer, one-way venture.

The hike was phenomenal. The trail started on top of a massive canyon, densely populated with over 100 different species of eucalyptus. We followed a creek, and thus many waterfalls half way down into the canyon, and then the trail followed a natural “hollow” along the edge of the canyon wall for a few kilometers. Near the end, there was an option to make it a loop, and several extremely steep staircases, and some ladders were involved to help get one to the very bottom of the canyon. This is right up our ally, so we climbed those and poked around the canyon floor for a bit. Then we climbed right back out, and headed back for a several kilometer hike into town. The meal we had afterwards couldn’t have tasted bad, no matter what it was. We were worked! Incidentally, little Wentworth Falls was the only town we found real craft beer in. A bottle shop in the middle of nowhere. Huge props to Australian Brewery‘s “The Pale Ale.” We so wished we could find you again.

Moving on… the trail we hiked, called the National Pass Trail, was originally built in 1906 with picks and shovels. There was a trail building competition at the time, and so a chap named Captain A Murray decided this was the place to build his. I don’t know if he won- but if he didn’t, I’d like to see who did! In 2008, the entire National Pass Trail was renovated, with the intention of being considered for a Heritage Preservation award. Lots of care was used to keep as much of the old track style as possible, while using aesthetically pleasing trail building techniques to fix rough patches and make the whole thing safer. The result is seriously stunning. It won the award. We’ve hiked in a lot of incredible places, and I’m still having trouble coming up with a trail that was more beautiful than this one.

As usual, someone should teach me to use my camera. I don’t think my photos do it one bit of justice.

View from the start…
Sweet bit of trail leading down to waterfall #1 of many
Again with the really neat trail- an innovative waterfall crossing.
Looking up!
Getting to the steep stuff!
View of Wentworth Falls. Amazing.
When you think you’re almost done… more up, up, up!
Scott on one of the oldest bits of trail. Those old guys were nuts!

So our trip to the Blue Mountains was worth every minute of the train ride and was the best way to spend our last day “in” Sydney. That evening we went to check out Lord Nelson’s Brewery, which we’d heard about since landing in Australia. Best craft beer in Sydney everyone said. It got really hyped up. We were tired, but we went for it. What. A. Letdown. All I can say is, when we thought there was no decent beer in New Zealand… we’d never been to Australia.

We did have a nice meal though, and sleepily walked to the train station to go back to our spot. We had an early 4:45am wake-up the next day so we could catch our train, to catch our plane to Cairns!

Last evening glimpse at Sydney’s most famous icon.

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