We said farewell (for now) to NZ on Thursday, March 14, and arrived in Sydney around 7pm after a short 3.5 hour flight. We picked up our rental car, a new Volkswagen Golf – the nicest and zippiest car on our trip thus far – and proceeded to make our way towards Manly, a northern suburb of Sydney. With Don’s good internal GPS, we only had one small detour before we were headed in the right direction. We arrived at our new home for the week and were delighted to see that it looked just like the pictures, maybe even better! As you know, we’ve been traveling in a camper van for the last 4 weeks, so this place seemed downright luxurious. It was a studio/mother-in-law like place with all the amenities ( kitchen, big bed, wonderful shower and TV) that opened up onto a pool with a covered sitting area. Oh yeah, it also included two friendly schnauzers that belonged to the owners of the main house. :)
Friday morning we awoke to the first rain we had seen in quite some time. We may have been a little more travel weary than we realized, because both of us confessed that we didn’t have the desire to do much. We hung out in our new place reading, catching up on email and generally relaxing until mid-afternoon and then went out to do a couple of errands. Don had made arrangements with Dean Gardiner to borrow a surfski while he was in town, so he could paddle around Sydney. However, we needed to figure out a way to transport the ski, so we went in search of a kayak shop to buy some sort of soft rack system. Once that was accomplished, we headed to downtown Manly to check out the town. We walked around a bit, bought a few groceries, and then decided to go have a beer and an early dinner at a local brewery.
The weather was sunny and warm, albeit a little windy, on Saturday and after lazing around in the morning (we did get some much needed laundry done), we finally got up the energy to go for a drive. We drove north to see the Northern Beaches and went as far as we could to Palm Beach, where we were able to do a hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
Even though it was windy (there was a big swell too) it was still fairly hot and humid, so we stopped and got some cool drinks and then headed home. Don went for a paddle out of Manly in his borrowed surfski and Stina hung out by the pool – lounging and going for a little swim. Yeah, did we mention how awesome our place was?! We bought a roast chicken (very popular around Sydney) and had that with a nice salad and wine for dinner. We continued to take it easy Sunday, staying local and checking out our neighborhood. We didn’t feel like dealing with the weekend crowds in Sydney and were still adjusting to city life. We had breakfast in Freshwater and then took a great hike along the beach and surrounding cliffs. As we were walking along the rocks we were surprised to find a remote control car trials contest. It was fun to watch, but unfortunately we didn’t have the camera with us. Later we hiked a section of the Manly Scenic Walk and then called it a day, because Don had decided to meet a group for a training paddle at 5:30am. (What?!)
Monday Don managed to get up at 5am and paddle – shock (for him) and awe (for Stina) – so that made it an early day. After breakfast we went to the Manly wharf. There was still some swell and the ferry ride to Sydney was a little rolly, but it was a nice day. We spent the day touring the city and taking in all that we could – doing a fair amount of walking and by the end of the day we were pretty beat. Don took some time to defend the city from invaders.
On Tuesday, we drove back to Sydney to see more sights. First we walked through the botanical gardens and were amazed by all the runners (maybe there’s a race coming up?). The trees, plants, birds and eels were cool, too. We learned about the wattle, and Don sang the famous Monty Python song, and then we cracked up about this (at bottom):
Next we took a drive to check out the famous Bondi Beach (and the beautiful beach bodies!). After a little lunch (California Mexican!) and a walk around the beach, we decided it might be better to drive a further north where there was a better hike with some nice views. We walked the cliffs around South Head, with amazing views in all directions. The cliffs are especially foreboding to the south.
Wednesday came and we realized we only had one day left in Sydney. Don was able to meet up with a local paddler in the morning and they did a long paddle in the harbour. After all the wind and swell of the previous days there were only a few small leftover waves to surf, but it was gorgeous. Stina did a little more laundry and then took a walk into Manly to do some shopping. We met up in Manly and then had to take care of some errands. In the midst of errands we were happy to find a local art gallery selling original aboriginal art. We found a piece that we loved and are now the proud owners of some local art – it has an interesting story behind it too so that makes it even better. After getting our errands done, or what we could before the shops closed at 5 pm, we decided to go for one last hike around North Head to see the views and snap a few photos of the amazing sunset. Then it was back home for packing.
Our flight to Perth on Thursday morning was at 10:10am, so we planned to leave at 7am to give us plenty of time – accounting for morning traffic and returning the car. We were out the door a little after 7 and our host came to say goodbye, but also let us know that there had been an accident and traffic was backed up. Apparently, it was not a typical morning in Sydney. A truck had spilled diesel in the harbour tunnel to Sydney. There are only two options for getting from Manly to the airport and they are the tunnel and the bridge. So we were basically screwed. In addition there was an issue with the trains causing them to cancel a few routes. People were sitting in traffic for hours and we were right there with them. Eventually the diesel was cleaned up and the tunnel re-opened, but traffic continued to be slow. We arrived at the airport at 9:45am, and knew we had little chance of catching our flight, but thought we’d have a go. Alas, we missed our flight and were put on one a couple hours later. Not too bad considering.
We arrived in Perth late, but safely. The rental car company didn’t have the VW we reserved so we ended up with a Mercedes – fancy! . We made our way to the hotel, got checked in and unloaded our bags before heading off to check out the sights. We drove along the coast to Fremantle, and then turned inland towards the Perth CBD. As we were driving along the Swan River we both happened to look over at the water at the same time to see a shark fin gliding by. “Did you just see what I just saw?!” “Uh, yeah!” Crazy. Unfortunately we didn’t have the camera along to catch the fin or any other sights, but the next morning we cracked up at this bus stop poster.
It had been a long day and we decided to find a place to eat. Perth is very expensive due to the mining industry in the area. We looked at some mediocre restaurants with insane prices and decided if we were going to spend that kind of money we might as well eat somewhere good. So, we found a really nice place where the chef chose what to serve us based on what was fresh and in season. It was probably the best food we’ve had on our trip! Stina had very little sleep the night before, so after dinner we returned to the hotel and crashed.
On Friday we had a few more hours to explore the Perth area. First, we stopped by a friends’ place to borrow some goggles for our upcoming boat trip. Nearby was a marine facility kind of like an aquarium, but more education and research oriented, so we checked it out. After that we took a nice walk along Perth’s northern beaches, with the gorgeous blue green Indian Ocean at our side. Our time was about up, and fortunately we gave ourselves enough time to get to the airport and return the car, because it took a lot longer than expected.
Our flight to Carnarvon was delayed by an hour, so we had extra time to write this post as we hung out in the little charter terminal. We met a couple of folks that would be on the boat trip with us, and talked excitedly about what it would be like. Finally our flight departed, and a few hours later we landed in the remote NW coast of Australia. Shortly after checking into our motel room we walked out and caught another glorious sunset, hopefully boding well for the upcoming week on the water.