After just making the bus we arrived in Sydney; just happy to be there. It got better when we discovered that our friend Matthias had been kind enough to make our beds and supply chocolate cookies, so all we had to do was roll into bed before 1am. After our short night we had a reunion breakfast and then set out to explore Sydney.
Ted enjoying the impressive Sydney harbour view
Matthias (the other fairly normal one) had been in Sydney before and recommended Manly Beach so after sorting ourselves out with Opal cards we boarded the passenger ferry. The boat rolled a bit in the waves as it drove down the river before pulling alongside the pier in Manly. The place is a nice area for those looking to escape Sydney for a day and features many shops, restaurants and cafés. We did not have anything with us to go surfing and the cold wind was not particularly inviting us to hang around for long, but we had a good fish and chips on the steps to the beach. Thanks to the seagulls constantly perstering us is wasn’t the most relaxing meal but the scenery was nice.
Despite the sunshine we soon returned to the pier and got the boat back to the city. For the first time in a long while we had an evening program and we did not want to miss it so after a quick dinner in the hostel we wrapped up warm and rushed out again to see our first game of Aussie Rules football.
Our first impressions were pretty good, although it is the most concrete jungle like city we have been in for a while. Thankfully there were a few nice old buildings to have a look at. Outside the Strand shopping arcade we found an artist colouring in large pieces of paper with just a few biros. He uses up to 70 biros to complete one picture but some of his pictures were great. From the modern artist we walked into the old shopping arcade which unsurprisingly was filled with overpriced designer shops. From there, we visited the botanic gardens, where we got a great view of the opera house and harbour bridge, before returning to our hostel to wrap up warm and see our first game of Aussie Rules football.
We got fairly last-minute tickets to see the Giants vs Richmond game at Spotless Stadium in the Olympic park. We knew almost nothing about the rules of the game, other than what we had read online. The game can only be described as a chaotic mix of rugby and football played on a cricket pitch. The oval pitch has 4 posts at each end and players aim to score between the middle two uprights for 6 points or between the inner and outer posts for just one point. Almost anything goes except high tackles and holding the ball while running. We enjoyed watching the players run in circles and appreciated the kicking skills, but it is a bizarre game. The free popcorn was a great way to get through the 4 quarters and the game was pretty close to the end. It seemed that the Giants cheer squad led by Mr Orange army (not anything like the orange army in Glasgow) sang the whole way through, but most of the fans only started cheering as the clock counted down the final quarter. A little chilly we returned to tea and chocolate cake before bed.
After a little break from the city, we returned to the concrete jungle, but this time we stayed in an Airbnb in Canterbury. The owners of the apartment were a Dutch Chinese couple and we happened to be their first guests. They gave us a few tips and ideas but mostly we wanted to get a feel for Sydney. We spent a lot of time walking the city, visiting the old shopping arcades, botanic gardens and parks. We made our way up to walk across the Sydney harbour bridge for some great city views and then back down for a happy hour beer in the Munich Brauhaus. The botanic gardens are well worth a couple of hours and the calyx exhibition about pollination was beautiful and quite interesting.
One highlight of Sydney’s cityscape at night was Badu Gili a light show projected onto the two smallest sails of the opera house. The show is on at sunset and 7pm every day and is free. It was lovely to see the aboriginal art lighting up the sails even though 7 minutes is quite short. We saw the original show, but it is due an update later this month. Here is a video of the show: Badu Gili video
So much city time left us missing the fresh air, and to be honest we were keen to try our luck at surfing again. Sydney has some great beaches nearby, so we opted for the world famous Bondi beach for a brief stay outside the city. We arrived for lunch and didn’t waste much time before we got wetsuits and boards. Feeling totally inadequate we walked all the way to the north end of the beach to the beginner waves. We might have looked the part, but we certainly didn’t feel it and the waves breaking in front of us were a little daunting. Somehow, we managed to get out far enough to catch a few waves but most of our time was spent being smacked in the face with salt water or walking against the current. Our surf lesson in Byron Bay had been great, but Bondi was a reality check. Our instructor Dylan had done a great job making us think we could surf, but we were still complete novices and our few successes were overwhelmingly outnumbered by the wobbles, falls and frequent pummeling of the waves. An hour later we were tired and ready for a hot shower and cuppa.
The next day we got up early tucked into free pancakes and then set off along the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee. It was busy on a Sunday morning with a mix of walkers, dogs and runners. The views of the craggy coastline and ocean were beautiful especially in the sunshine. There were loads of surfers waiting for waves but more swell than waves in most of the bays. We had a lovely walk followed by ice cream before we were on our way again.