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Sydney, Australia

We left Taree on the 7.30pm bus and arrived, bleary eyed and slightly disbelieving, in Sydney at past midnight. Luckily our first-night hostel was only a stumble across the street from the bus-station, and we manage to grab six hours sleep before packing up again and catching the tram across town to Glebe, the funky, studenty quarter where we'd spend the next four night (five for me!) at Glebe Village Backpackers.
Glebe does feel like a little village, full of little cafes, independent shops, bookshops, restaurants and pretty wrought-iron-balcony'd old houses. It's a breath of peace and greenery when we come back from the buzzing city centre.

The past few days have been hot, and we've walked a lot! The first day's excursion - taking into the Opera House, harbour bridge, the historical Rocks area, Botanic Gardens and the grungy area of Kings Cross - was enough to wreck my feet in flipflops and cause me to pull a [something] in my foot, so I've spent the last three days limping about! Seeing the Opera House caused an actual 'ooh' intake of breath, and it's become more impressive through all the different ways we've seen it - up close, glimpsed through the bridge, from the Manly ferry. The bridge itself is imposing - i plan to walk across it tomorrow (foot permitting).

On our second day here we headed out on the 2 1/2 train ride to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains - so called because the haze of eucalyptus oil from the forests causes a unique blue haze in the air. It's... and this has been an overused word in this blog... but... stunning. Oh, and breathtaking. And... huge.. HUGE. From Echo Point the forests and cliffs spread out in a never-ending panorama, on and on to the horizon, with the rugged rock formation, The Three Sisters framing the view to the left. I could have gazed at it all day.

Instead, though, we opted to clamber down the 1000 stairs of the Giant Staircase and walk along Federation Pass, an approx. 2 hour forestwalk, which passed under the three sisters and ended up at the nauseatingly-named 'Scenic World', where we could catch the world's steepest railway (I was not keen on this, not at all) back up to the top of the cliffs.
The walk was cool, the air was fresh... the world's steepest railway was TERRIFYING. Steep means steep, and the fact that we were the only passengers heading back up didn't fill me with confidence. The words 'I am NEVER doing that again!' may have escaped my lips as we got off, slightly shakily, at the top.

From the 'Scenic World' (urgh) complex, we caught the Explorer Bus onwards and walked to the Luera Cascades, a walk which passed viewpoints above the Bridal Falls - with white cockatoos soaring over the blue - and climbed up through the trees beside cliffs to the cascades themselves. The heavens opened just as we reached Leura town itself, so we headed back to Katoomba for epic hot chocolates and to catch the train back to Sydney.

On Thursday we checked out the supreme tackiness of Paddy's Markets, then Nik went to Bondi while I chilled out at the hostel nursing my foot, yay. In the evening we went down to Darling Harbour, a massively regenerated area of the city with expensive hotels and restaurants around the harbour, to watch the fireworks displays which have been put on every week this month (I'm not sure why, the info board didn't explain, but they were nice anyway - more the 'Ahhhh I'm watching fireworks over the harbour in Sydney' than for any other reason!)

Yesterday we caught the 'famous' ferry to Manly, a seaside town/suburb with a slightly English feel, pretty beaches and 'good surf', to give Nik his last dose of Aussie beach-time before flying back home today. The ferry ride was a definite highlight, with great views back to the city and Opera House/The Rocks.

It's a cool city, though I like Glebe and it's grungier neighbour, Newtown, far more than the city centre - it's a proper little neighbourhood, somewhere people actually live, and I'm so glad we stayed here rather than Kings Cross or nearer the centre. If I'd come to Sydney first and live/worked here I'd probably never have left to see all the other stuff!

Nik catches his flight back to Blighty today, so I'm back to travelling on my own for next month - starting with what I'm convinced will be a fun fun fun 12-hour bus ride to Melbourne tomorrow night!

permalink written by  LizIsHere on October 30, 2010 from Sydney, Australia
from the travel blog: New Zealand & Australia 2010
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