A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney Bridge Climb and Opera House

Ascending a bridge in a hurricane and a trip to the Opera!

all seasons in one day
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Sydney Bridge Climb

Having travelled over 7,000 miles to escape the British weather, Sydney decided to show us the best of its patriarchal rulers wind, rain and hail on the day we decided to climb its' harbour bridge. It rained so hard the drain at the bottom of the road had a water fountain a foot high from the water flooding its system. Luckily I opted to wear my walking boots for the climb, unluckily Natalie had not. A short piggy back through the flood planes of Circular Quay later and we were on our way.

After being fitted with boiler suits, thermals, waterproofs, hats, gloves and radios (all of which clipped onto the boiler suit so they didn't blow off!) we began our ascent of the Harbour Bridge. Not that we climbed the bridge alone, we had a guide and a group with us including double Olympic GB rowing champion Tom James MBE!! For somebody who doesn't normally get tongue tied, Natalie watched and laughed as I stumbled over my words. He was seemingly excited about meeting me too, and so he should have been, I am after all a "dedicated athlete".

The bridge was built in 1923 and took 9 years to complete taking 6 million rivets, 52,800 tonnes of steel and 16 lives along the way. The bridge was built by a firm from Middlesborough employing Australian locals only and showing off the best in British engineering is the widest single span bridge in the world. When people think of Sydney they think of the Opera House but I have to say the bridge gives the Opera House a run for its money, it is absolutely gi-normous, more than just a launch pad for the New Years Eve fireworks! Australian legend, Paul Hogan a.k.a Crocodile Dundee himself even worked as a rigger on the bridge before finding his "fame and fortune"!

As me, my new best mate, double Olympic gold medalist Tom James MBE and the rest of the group climbed the bridge the wind set in, then the rain, then the hail. There were points on the climb when we just held onto the railings as the wind howled past. Though I am prone to the odd exaggeration, checking the weather report later in the day showed average winds of 44km/h and gusts of 63km/h! I think the picture says it all!

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After descending through the bridge past the road and railways that crosses over we were told the interesting and amusing story of how the bridge was opened. for ease, I'll let the Australian Government tell the story.

The Bridge has an interesting past including its official opening on 19 March 1932. Before the NSW Premier, the Honourable John 'Jack' T. Lang, could cut the ribbon to signify the opening of the Harbour Bridge, Captain Francis De Groot of the political group The New Guard slashed the ribbon with his sword. Captain De Groot believed that the only person to open the Bridge should be a member of the Royal Family. Captain De Groot was detained, the ribbon tied together, and the Premier then officially cut the ribbon.

Nothing like a bit of showboating!

A huge thank you to those who contributed towards our climb, Natalie, double Olympic champion Tom James MBE and I had an absolute blast despite the hurricane and it certainly made a great memory of our first anniversary.

Opera House

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It wouldn't be a trip to Sydney without a visit to the Opera House and Saturday night had a showing in the concert hall of Cirque de la Symphony, a duet of Cirque de Soliel performers with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Having not seen a Cirque performance before, I quickly learnt how squeamish I am watching high wire acrobatics. Although I did thoroughly enjoy the show my main enjoyment did come from the relief of not watching someone plunge to their death on top of the woodwind section.... Probably would have sounded pleasant though!

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Sydney by night also provided an opportunity open up the camera shutter again, I think I did ok on this one!:

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Posted by Where's Willy 17:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The Blue Mountains

They're blue ab-a-di ab-a-di!

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Two hours train ride from Sydney Central takes you through the city suburbs and out onto the plateau of the Blue Mountains. It is not known what gives the Blue Mountains their colour. The mayor of one of the towns even commissioned a study from a university (great use of local taxes) as to why they looked so blue. The answer? Light deflection. Money well spent!

The double span windows on the doubled decker train lend themselves to an entertaining in-rail movie of ever changing, ever beautiful vistas of the ground dropping into the valleys carpeted with plush rainforest.

As an anniversary surprise for Natalie, and as a light relief from two whole days in the slums of Sydney backpackers, I booked us into the Fairmont Resort Hotel in Leura where we where upgraded into a superior room with a view of the imaginatively named "Mega Long Valley"..... you can guess how long it is!.

Still, only there to sleep.....out to the mountains!

When packing our bags we had umm-ed and agh-ed over whether or not to bring our hiking boots. What a perfect excuse to break them in, particularly with the infrequency and cost of local transport! We walked down to sublime point for our first 270 degree view of the blue mountains. They say pictures are worth a thousand words so enough of me rabbiting on:

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The walk took us two hours round the cliff edge down into the valley and into the pools of Siloam for my first fiddle with the shutter speed on my camera, trying to slow the water to get that smoothed silk effect:

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And of course the obligatory explorer poses:

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The problem with descending into the valleys to see the lovely waterfalls is eventually you need to climb back up. Two sets of burning thighs later took us to the viewing point for Gordon Falls which puzzled us and other tourists as no one could seem to find them! After half an hour of scouring the area we found a stream the strength of a leaking tap that appeared as a white thread of cotton against the mountain face. Thanks for that one blue mountains - from the bottom of my aching feet!

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A dip on the hot tub and a good nights sleep later we were recharged and ready to take on the mountains again. Breakfast even included honey straight out of the honeycomb. Absolutely delicious until my second trip to the breakfast bar saw some snotty handed kids sticking their fingers in the honeycomb trying to find the bees! Winnie the Pooh never had to put up with this!

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We returned to Leura cascades for another camera session before taking the Prince Henry cliff walk round to the three sisters, a formation of three needles on the edge of the blue mountain valleys.

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Legend has it (at least the one we where told) that three sisters fell in love with three brothers from another tribe which was at war with the first tribe. A wise man, who saw the weird scenario of three sisters marrying three brothers, puzzled over whether the situation constituted incest, before turning the sisters to stone promising to turn them back once the war was over. The wise man was killed during the battle and the sisters remained locked as stone forever, never to confuse their children of who was an uncle or aunty at Christmas ever again.

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Posted by Where's Willy 15:43 Archived in Australia Tagged walking waterfall katoomba leura cascades blue_mountains three_sisters Comments (1)

Twincredible!!

Travelling to the other side of the world just to see a guy who looks like me!


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On Tuesday evening we went out to Newtown, just outside of Sydney, to meet my university doppelganger Brian for schooner or two of beer. A man I only know from two years of repeatedly being mistaken for him in Royal Holloways Students union. There was even a facebook group ‘Is that Will or Brian?” devoted to our common features.

On meeting him at the station Natalie said “what if you don’t recognise him?”

“Of course I’ll recognise him, he’s the handsome guy, looks just like me! Look he’s over there!”, as I pointed, Brian waved to greet us……then hugged somebody else and walked off! It was then we realised there is a third (and probably evil) twin out there!

Needless to say it was a good evening drinking beer and staring back at my own face, albeit with newly fashioned facial hair. At least I know that if I decide to grow a goatee (I’m going to grow a goatee), that the look has already been tried and tested!

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Posted by Where's Willy 17:55 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Around Sydney

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Back to backpackers!

In Sid-knee now staying in our first backpackers. I think I look back on my gap year with rose tinted glasses and had forgotten that most backpackers greet you with the smell of incense, the sound of rap music and a white guy with dreadlocks behind the desk whose response to every questions is “cool”.

Homemade backpacker ‘art’/graffiti adorns the walls and the promise of the evening’s entertainment of “Goon Pong, 8pm, with free goon” made me very quickly realise I am no longer the 18-year old care free traveller I was on my last trip. Perfect location for the hostel though as we are pitched between the Chamberlain Hotel and the Broadway Musical – The Addams family! At least irony is on our side if not the need for Dettol!

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Still, it may not be the best accommodation on our trip but it certainly won’t be the worst either. Only there to sleep anyway……out to the city!

Sydney City

Once our bags were dropped we were quick out the door to discover what Sydney had in store. A long walk down the busy Pitt Street brought us out into Circular quay and to the enormous harbour bridge and the iconic Opera house.

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A stroll round the harbour, obligatory photo in front of the opera house and trek up to the bridge climb office to book in our bridge climb for Saturday morning had built up a thirst for a quick pot of beer. Luckily this also meant we were in the historic ‘Rocks’ area of Sydney and able to stop by in the Lord Nelson for a glass of Three Sheets pale ale and a chat with some morris dancers.

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I first went to the Lord Nelson when travelling alone on my gap year. Having been travelling by myself for a whole 12 hours I, desperate for conversation, told the barmaid all about my school, how there was a house called Nelson, and how it served minors a pint of beer, cider or even wine for a bargainous £1. Seemingly uninterested in serving alcohol to the under aged she moved on quickly and I returned to my solitude. Luckily this time I had the wife with me to retell the story to for a 5th time and she was equally uninterested.

Bondi to Coogee Bay

Wednesday morning saw the first test of our pale British skin against the Australian sun as we jumped on the ‘Bondi Bendy’ to the world famous Bondi beach. Having been repeatedly warned that Bondi was not a nice beach, was a tourist trap, and there were much nicer beaches to go to in the area, we were blown away at the beauty of the beach. Bondi sits in a secluded bay that serves as a trap for sun, waves and surfers. The near on white sand and blue waters certainly beat the beaches of Skegness or even Bournemouth, if there are nicer beaches in the area – point the way!!

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Having packed our ‘togs’ (swimming kit to Australians) we soon remembered bondi was made famous by its surfing and that. Realising going for a quick dip would be the equivalent of picking a fight with a giant washing machine, we opted to watch the pros and start that sunburn. Steve embarked on his first surf lesson on the beach and we soaked up some rays on the beach before taking the dramatic costal path round to coogee bay. I have to say at this point how well the path is maintained with information/look out points, water fountains and even free suntan lotion.

The path is also dotted with free public swimming pools that get filled by the tides of the Tasman sea. Now that's what I call a wave pool!

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Walking round to Tamarama beach was just stunning, and a real lesson in physical geography and the power of erosion from wind and sea. Although only 6km the walk round to coogee took well over 2 hours mainly due to the endless Kodak moment viewpoints, each equally jaw dropping with the bluest waters hitting into the layered rock.

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Botanical Gardens and the Opera House

The end of the day took us through the botantical gardens in Sydney and to Mrs MacQuaries Chair for an unrivalled view of both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Perfect end to the day, now lets go get a beer!

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Posted by Where's Willy 17:36 Archived in Australia Tagged opera_house sydney bay backpackers coogee lord_nelson bondi_beach Comments (0)

Sydney Souvenir

Must buy gifts from Australia's icon


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Australia’s most famous resident, the kangaroo (ok second to Rolf Harris), is well known for keeping its most valued possessions in its pouch. And now you too can store you keepsakes in the same style with new ‘Aussie Kangaroo Pouch’.

That’s right for a mere AUD $11.99 you can be the holder of a ‘genuine kangaroo scrotum’ kangaroo pouch. Large enough to hold two grapes, and with a tan kangaroo leather drawstring this accessory really is the Joey’s nuts!

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Want more? Why not compliment this purchase with a genuine kangaroo scrotum bottle opener! Because nothing feels as manly like opening your favourite bottle of beer with another animals ball bag.

So forget the ‘My friend went to Australia and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ t-shirt and say thanks with genuine kangaroo scrotum products today!

Some kangaroos were harmed in the making of this product.

Posted by Where's Willy 00:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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