Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Second Time Sydney

Sometimes it is a funny when you go back to a place. Eight years ago I spent a few days in Sydney as an excited 19 year old looking forward to doing the east coast backpacking run. While I enjoyed the city (and indeed all of those first intercontinental travels), somehow it did not leave much of a lasting impression on me. A beautiful city no doubt, but not one etched into my “must return to” destinations.

As I have some very hospitable family in the city and Chris had never been there, we added an extra flight and stopped over for a few days. In this time, my mind's memories and categorization of the city markedly changed. Leaving it now, I see one of the most picturesque cities that I have been to, only really exceeded by Cape Town in natural beauty. A place of buzz and energy which I could really see myself living in for a year or two.

Where to start? Well, that would have to be with where we stayed. Arch and Jan (Arch being my father's first cousin) live in a most lovely house with quite stunning views. They live in the Seaforth area of the northern suburbs, overlooking middle harbour. This is the live, just a ferry hop to the bustling centre, yet at the two end's of the day you can sit on a wide balcony with natural beauty spreading before you. Like a fjord the harbour pours in and across the view. To the front, houses popping out of the green slopes which rise out of the water stretching, curving towards the city on the horizon. To the side, the urbanisation thins out until, just up the harbour, you are in a national park where the dense bush meets the inlet. We were woken each morning by brightly coloured rainbow lorakeets chirping for their feed on the balcony. Cockatoos flew past with yelling shrieks and we even caught a sight of a ring-tailed possum doing his nightly high wire routine on the telephone cable. As dusk falls, hundreds of fruit bats do a fly past to devour the fruits of the national park.

Resiting the urge to sit on the veranda all day, we managed to do some serious sightseeing. On our first day, Jan was a top notch tour guide, taking us from south to north through one beach-laden leafy suburb after another. Beautiful walks along the coast at various headlands gave us spectacular views of the city and harbour from every other angle. I even managed a little swim on Bondi (I wimped out last time, it being their mid-winter)!

In so many places you are so close to nature. Parks and the ocean abound. I could really see myself living by the beach in Manley, going for a surf or swim and then catching the ferry to work each day. What a life that could be! As my good friend Bassett once taught me, I have to keep reminding myself that the grass is always greener...

I even got to meet up with Mik, who has played more than a small part in these scribblings when I was in South America (www.walter82.blogspot.com.........). I was so happy to see he is the same old exuberant bundle of life. I was gutted that we had managed to miss our big night out in Melbourne.

Taronga Zoo and the Centre

If you ever go to Sydney, one thing not to miss is Taronga Zoo. Not only is it one of the coolest zoo's to be found, full of roo's, wombats, sea-lions, baby elephants and the like, but it is also graced with perhaps the best view of Sydney harbour. As you scan from right to left, the mighty metal bridge gives way to the Opera House with a skyscraper backdrop and the then round to the green parks and suburbs.

From the zoo you can catch a ferry directly over to downtown. My favourite part of wandering the city centre was undoubtedly the Royal Botanic Gardens. A beautiful park stretching right down to the water, adorned with lolloping sacred ibis and thousands of hanging fruit bats. The latter particularly excited me and I spent quite some time flicking them with my camera while in imminent danger from falling bat poo.

The centre itself was nice enough, but much like so many other cities. One area which was a pleasant surprise was the Rocks. It was one of the first settled areas and has many old houses and dock type buildings. It is now full of artisan shops and quaint cafes – in one of which I said hello to David Campese, whos is a coffee barrista nowadays – see what happens when you score the winning try in a World Cup Final against England, that'll teach him! (www.link.......)

A bit of extreme bush...
On our final morning, Jan was kind enough to take us up to Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, just 45 minutes north of their house. Imagine Sydney without the city! Bush-land giving way to steep cliffs as it falls away into a multi-jagged, meandering fjord'like inlet. Inspiring vistas over America's Bay and some Aboriginal carvings was spiced up by a couple of encounters of the slivery kind. Less jump-inducingly, we got to say hello to a green tree snake basking on a rock. Far more jump-inducingly, a brownish-orange snake slithered away vigorously through the undergrowth as our feet plodded within inches of it. An Aussie we spoke to reckoned it might have been a brown snake. Either way, I am more than happy to admit that I hopped away pretty damn pronto'ish knowing Australia's renown for possessing pretty much all the most poisonous bighty things on the planet.

Off to FIJI...

As in Melbourne, family were so good to us. It is great to get to know certain relatives better and the Sydney Sinclair's very much fit into this bracket. I have to give so many thanks to Arch and Jan for putting us up being such wonderful hosts.

I lefy knowing I must return..... but I could not complain as Fiji and the South Pacific was only a short flight away...
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