Out of no where, we were driving on a highway that twisted through valleys of rock, cutting through mountain sides. The road looked like it had been made by cutting giant pieces out of the mountains. In fact, while I write this I am realizing that that is probably exactly how the road was made. Man what a construction site that would be. Maybe Mike will work on a project like that one day.
Then without warning, we had made it to Sydney! Ok maybe a bit of warning. Had to be quick on the draw to get the camera out for this one.
We spent our whole entire first day in Sydney at the library sorting out our paperwork for our India visas. It was quite the process and required a lot of trips to the nice librarians to ask for more time on the computer and help with the printer. The total session clocked in at about 3 longs hours. Next we went to the post office to pay for the speeding ticket we'd acquired near Cairns and finished strong by working on the blog at McDonalds.
We found a free truck stop near the city limit so we happily drove there to settle in for some dinner and some zzzzzz's. We made delicious burgers that were quick and easy and we just so happened to have the perfect condiments.
Day 153- The morning began at the Indian Consulate where we finalized our visas. We weren't surprised when they told us we were missing paperwork and made a mistake on our paperwork, so it took us another couple of hours to get everything in order. But, I must commend the consulate on their reasonable approach to the errors made and the computer stations that they had setup outside the office to make adjustments. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to "come back" when doing similar tasks in Canada. Sooooo frustrating when it is just a matter of a wrong date and they require you to go home and reprint the entire document. In this case we had made our standard two and a half mistakes but were still able to make the changes and submit all in the same visit. Yay!
We had the whole afternoon and evening ahead of us and we were excited to explore this new city. And what a city it was! I felt like we walked out of a time machine and ended up in a modern european city. There was such a great mix of new and old buildings and it seemed to have a historic site on every corner. We parked the car near the harbour for a couple of hours at an inflated rate but we had to maximize our day and parking downtown was the best way to do it.
Our first stop was of course the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Two iconic Australian must sees.
It was a stormy and cloudy day in Sydney and the colors of the sky were dull, so the black and white photos gave me the pop I was looking for.
It was a nice walk up to the bridge where we had a good view of the many old buildings around the harbour.
Any walk is better with ice cream.
Mike enjoying the view of the Sydney Opera House, while I enjoy my view of him.
We are always happy to see the Canadian maple leaf... We are pointing at it in the distance. (hard to see)
We found cheap parking after 5pm for $10 bucks right downtown. We parked our home and went exploring. Best sight of all... christmas was in full spirit everywhere we looked.
The Saint Mary's Cathedral was truly beautiful and it looked like a castle. Too bad we couldn't go inside.
Mike ruined the moment when he decided to take a pee in the fountain! Just Kidding.
Giant trees lined the streets everywhere and most of them seemed as old as the city.
We went to China town to check out the buzz and quickly realized there wasn't much to buzz about... Although, we noticed quite the lineup outside of a restaurant called Mamak. Like every good lineup we decided to jump in early and ask questions later. It was a gooooood move.
It was a fusion restaurant of Malaysian and Indian food and it was potentially the best roti that has ever blessed my insides.
One of the outdoor/indoor malls decorated through and through. So weird to be outside and feel like your inside. This is quite common in Australia, I suppose given their hot weather.
The building in the photo below took over the entire block!
They closed off one of the streets for construction and instead of blocking it off with pilons and tape, they turned the area not being used into public space. If any of Mike's colleagues are reading this you should take note because people seemed to love it. They sit in the area and listen to music while taking in the excitement of the city.
We finished off the evening at the movies to watch the christmas comedy, The Night Before, which was a nice touch to end off our christmasy day.
Day 154-We went to McDonalds in the morning so Mike could discuss fantasy football business with his long time bud Fabian and I used the time to work on the blog. Next we drove down to Bondi Beach to catch some waves.
The water was freeeeeezing and not at all what we expected. Crazy the difference a couple hundred kms down the coast can make. We sucked it up and played in the water until I got hurt by a wave. I really want to master the art of body surfing but somehow I just get ripped around every time. This time I disappeared right before Mike's eyes, then surfaced only to hear him yelling to get down before another wave came down on me. I held my stance as a fighter would before taking a hit but the waves fear no one. It hit me so hard that my side actually swelled and turned red for the rest of the evening. Ok, Ok ocean, you win..... this round that is.
We decided to take that as a sign to do something I'm actually good at. Something that can't hurt me...much... Skateboarding on the boardwalk.
Graffiti decorates the streets everywhere in Australia and the art on the boardwalk was inspiring.
We headed back to our local truck stop for the night to rest.
Day 155- As I have mentioned to many people over the past while, I have fallen way behind on the blog. Not due to a lack of effort but due to the lack of good wifi to download photos from the trip. I read about a place online that was said to have fantastic high speed wifi. We wanted to see for ourselves so we parked downtown and headed over to Black Sugar Coffee. They had great wall plug ins everywhere, which definitely seemed promising. Mike connected his laptop and within minutes 800 photos downloaded onto dropbox. Booyeah, It was a christmas miracle!
We ended up spending the next 6 hours there using as much "juice" as we could. When security asked us to leave we walked around the busy downtown streets to get back to our van and witnessed an impressive performance. A young man passionately played along with the theme song from the HBO series Game of Thrones and a huge crowd was cheering him on.
We stopped by Mamak for another serving of delicious indian food before making the journey to our lovely truck stop. This time we took it to go. Who knew the skateboards would make for such a great table.
Day 156- We wanted to give surfing another shot so we returned to Bondi Beach for the morning surf. We knew we weren't the best surfers and we didn't want to waste our money on two boards so we rented one and shared it. Mike was up first.
He got up on his board a couple of times. Then it was my turn. I managed to knee surf a few waves and although you can't see my face, I'm smiling.
We had enjoyed our skateboard so much from the day prior that we decided to go for another run on the boardwalk. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these are the simple pleasures that make us happy.
On our way out of the city, we were blessed with the most striking sunset.
We spent the night at a lookout point in the National Park near the Blue Mountains. It was no fancy truck stop on the highway but it would have to do.
Day 157- We woke up early and drove the rest of the way to the famous Blue Mountains. This mountain region borders the city of Sydney.
The view was breathtaking and they even have their own three sisters mountains, just like Alberta.
There is a walk to the bottom of the mountain down a giant row of stairs. The stairs are called the Giant Stairway and the walk down and up were steep and scary.
The steps are cut out of the side of the mountain and count 900 in total!
We went on a short hike once we made it safely to the bottom but we ran out of time because we didn't put enough money in the meter. Yea I know right... after walking down 900 steps we realized we would run out of time, which meant only one thing, we needed to hurry our now tight butts back up the 900 steps before we got a ticket! Now that's what I call a leg day. Mike beat me up but he looked like he might pass out so I'm calling it a tie at best!
On our way out of town we stopped in at an Aqua Golf driving range! It was a pretty sweet set up and we had the potential to win cash prizes if we could get our balls in the marked boxes. The golf balls had holes drilled into them so they floated when they hit the water. Our skills were a little rusty so we walked out just as we had walked in, with no money in our pockets.
After a great day of steps, hikes and backswings we headed out of the Sydney area and made our way south. We drove for a couple of hours before we decided to rest in a small trucking town. We enjoyed the sunset while dinner cooked on the gas stove.
Day 158- We made it to Melbourne in the afternoon and parked the van to do some exploring. We knew we'd be returning to Melbourne so we didn't worry too much about seeing everything. Similar to Sydney it had big beautiful buildings, old and new. Old trainstations are still the headquarters for citizens and ancient churches looked like they were taken right out of Europe. Mixed among the old buldings were many new and innovative structures. Buildings that didn't even resemble buildings looked like a giant piece of art.
Melbourne is known for their narrow back alleys and skinny side streets. Little shops and cafes are hidden within the back alleys on every corner and if you're lucky you can see how trendy and unique each one is. Artistic graffiti is widespread in Melbourne and we even got to watch some artists at work.
Australia has no shortage of street entertainers, each looking for a few bucks to keep them on their way. Most seem to be fellow travellers passing through and I wish my guitar skills had developed enough before I left so I could join the many talented musicians.
I loved this little flower stand on the street. Just like in the movies. If I lived here I would stop here on the way home and grab some fresh flowers.
The streets were packed with people, many getting ready for the holidays. Although we had been continuously looking for christmas reminders, it was now in full swing. The photo below gives a good idea of the mix of old and new buildings. On the left, you see a shiny metal building and just opposite and across from it are two vintage looking structures, not to mention a clock tower. I sure wish Calgary had more heritage sites integrated into the city.
Among the great variety of buildings and decorations in the city, none could compare to the one below. Now that takes some real skill to construct.
Then, we came across a store made for Mike. Like a kid in a candy store.
After a great afternoon of exploring, we headed out of town to a truck stop south of Melbourne. We woud be back but we had a great ocean to see first.