25 November, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja
Morning spent washing some clothes and posted a few negatives back to Norway before we boarded the OZ Experience bus. The drive to Bellingen was 6 hours, the hostel was nice, and it cost only 12 dollars. In Bellingen there is a bat cave, and the bats start flying out of that cave at exactly 19:55 – it must have been tens of thousands of them. Very cool!
26 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Finally arrived in Sydney after travelling for two days. Left Byron Bay yesterday around 1.30 p.m. and arrived in Bellingen at 7 p.m. Quite a nice place, and we got a twin for AUD 28. Went to watch thousands of bats as they left for their nightly hunt for insects at exactly 7.55 p.m. – and what a sight! A magical atmosphere with the crickets and kookaburras singing, the shine from the river and green hills as backdrop. Saved some money eating noodles in the hostel while the others went out for barbeque… Left around 8 a.m. this morning, then many hours on the bus, arriving in Sydney around 6 p.m., where we stopped at Circular Quay for champagne – marking the end of our trip with Oz. Weren’t sad to say goodbye to anyone on the bus, most of them we’d only seen these past two days, so we really only wanted to get to the hotel. But there was a great view from Harbour Bridge over the city and especially the opera. We’ll do some more sightseeing tomorrow. We’re staying at a nice hotel with bathroom/toilet, television, fridge, a double bed, couch, tables, night tables and so on – quite the luxury. And at only AUD 10 per person! But we’re only staying here for two nights, then we’ll have to move to a backpacker room, but maybe we can stay here for another AUD 10? We’ll see what the other room looks like, and check if this room is still available. Soon going to bed, we probably have some “hard” days ahead.
Started at 08:00 and after a lot of meaningless stops and another meeting with our nemesis American Obnoxious Girl we came to Sydney at 19:00. The bus stopped first at Circular Quay for a “champagne” for 45 minutes, we have no idea what that was, total waste of time! The bus stopped outside the OZ Experience main office, and we walked a few hundred metres to the Astoria hotel, and we got a nice room for 2 nights for 20 dollars. We ate dinner at Burger King, tomorrow will be a big day!
27 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Have walked around a bit in the area today, went into the centre of the city and walked around surrounded by lots of massive skyscrapers. I’m already longing to get out of the city and the smell of exhaust, also a lot of strange people here in Kings Cross. Ok in the day but wouldn’t want to walk around during night time. We walked by St. Andrews Cathedral by chance at 12 p.m. and heard Nick Cave’s rehearsal for the funeral of Michael Hutchence of INXS later today – very sad. Then we went by a partner of Kilroy Travels to see if we could get some discount on tours, but they weren’t interested in giving us anything. Very nice lady in the Sydney Euro Center though, we got refund for all our medical expenses from the insurance, AUD 270 in total. Continued down to Circular Quay and Rocks before heading back by train, heavy rain, thunder and lightning made us appreciate staying in the hotel room more than wandering the streets.
Started the day trying to find the student UNI Travel agent. On the way we stumbled upon the church where the service for Michael Hutchence will be held later in the day. We heard Nick Cave dress rehearsal, and he sang “Into your arms” I felt sad. It was gruesome to be back in a major city for the first time in a while. I got stressed at once. We found the UNI Travel office on the 8th floor but after a quick talk with their manager there were no freebies to be had from them. We walked to our insurance brokers office in Sydney to get our medical expenses refunded and fill up our travel kitty again. Very helpful people and we got to read relatively fresh Norwegian newspapers! We walked to Circular Quay and the Rocks, a nice shopping area. In the afternoon it started to rain with thunder, so we walked to the Kings Cross “Underground” a strange area filled with everything from souvenir shops and tourists’ side by side with strip clubs, transvestites, prostitutes and drug dealers. The weird and the wonderful inhabited this area. There were rumours in Sydney about a serial killer that targets backpackers, he is said to have killed at least 3. We used the rest of the night in our room with some TV and a whole bag of candy.
28 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Slept in today, and didn’t leave the room until 1 p.m. – nice to have a slow start for once. Tomorrow we need to get up early though, bus pick up at 7.40 a.m. leaving for Blue Mountains, if we’ll be able to go, read in the newspaper today that the national parks will be closed for 48 hours due to fires. We got a really good offer from Debbie at Oz Experience, only AUD 10 per person to go on the tour. We also got t-shirts, and a free extension of our Kiwi Experience passes in New Zealand. Went by underground to Townhall, then walked to Centrepoint Tower and paid AUD 8 to go to the top – more than 300 metres high, great views although we weren’t able to go outside. Went from there to Darling Harbour – an area with a lot of shopping, a museum and a newly opened casino. We visited a gaming place, great fun for Ørjan. Went back by underground, had something to eat at Hungry Jack’s and have just been chilling out in the room after that.
2 months until my birthday! Slept in for the first time in a long while. We started our day with visiting Debbie at OZ experience, she was very nice to us and treated us to a free trip to the Blue Mountains tomorrow! We read in the papers that most forest areas and parks around Sydney were closed due to bush fires, it had been a very dry and windy few weeks. We also received our complimentary Kiwi Experience bus passes for New Zealand, yay! And a t shirt. I must remember to send her a fax to thank her when we get back home. We walked back to the hotel and got some food before we took the train down to Town Hall in the city centre. We got off a few blocks from the Centre Point tower – a golden “thing” in the middle of Sydney at 326 metres tall. We took the elevator all the way to the top and the view was amazing. You could see all the suburbs, the beaches and all the way to the airport. After the visit we walked to Darling Harbour, a nice area with shopping and the Maritime Museum. We visited Sea World, but it was a huge disappointment. Walked back to the hotel to watch the Simpsons and to have a read through the Kiwi Experience catalogue.
29 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Got up early, had the alarm set for 6.45 a.m. and were picked up at 7.40. The same driver, Fly, as we had from Townsville to Airlie Beach, her first tour to Blue Mountains on her own, and she did a very good job. Must be hard driving the bus and be guiding at the same time. Foggy and no views in the morning, but it got better later on, and we again got to see what a beautiful country Australia is. Green and lush and beautiful formations in the canyon. The mountains have their name from the silver-grey eucalyptus trees that from a distance give the mountains a bluish shine. The oil in the leaves however is one of the reasons why the fires get up to around 100 km per hour, the fire hits the oil, causing explosions of balls of fire flying to the next tree. Also why the koalas are so drowsy – as they get a bit intoxicated from the oil, or so they say. Went for a walk of more than 1000 steps of stairs, luckily downhill, and got on a skyrail, a roller coaster-like train that went almost straight up the mountain wall – very short ride, but great fun. Also went by a nice little zoo, Featherland Wildlife Park (I think), where we saw koalas, kangaroos, emus, wombats, dingoes, crocodiles, lots of beautiful birds and bats. Got a few tips for Tonga from two Swedish guys on the bus. Back in Sydney around 6.30 p.m.
Had to get up at 06:30 to get the Blue Mountains bus at 07:40. Blue Mountains got its name from the blue haze that can be seen over the eucalyptus forests. The eucalyptus oil reflects the blue light, hence Blue Mountains. Our driver was a girl named Fly, we also had her as a driver from Townsville to Airlie Beach. The mountains were spectacular with deep valleys and canyons. We stopped at Windsor to walk to a lookout point I forgot the name of. At Westworth Falls we walked around 1000 steps down and we took an old mining train back up at an angle of 51 degrees – it was a steep ascent. We also stopped by some nice waterfalls. We ended in a small Australia zoo where we got to see most of the amazing Australian wildlife including wombats and Echidnas, a kind of hedgehog looking thing. I got some good pictures, I think. It was a great tour, helped by the knowledgeable Fly who guided us all the way.
30 November 1997, Astoria Hotel, Sydney, Australia:
Last day in Australia, excited to move on to New Zealand now. Have done some packing and have to get up early tomorrow – around 5 a.m., bus pick up at 5.30 for the airport, flight leaves at 8. Slept in today and went through Wooloomoloo (?) to the harbour and the botanical garden. Beautiful park with nice views over the opera house and the bridge from Mrs. Macquarie’s pt. A “chair” was chiselled in the stone where apparently Mrs M. had been sitting looking out across the harbour. Saw the “Bounty” copy that was used shooting the film and which is now a cruise ship. We went over to the opera house and bumped into Tim and Johanne, then a bit later when in the market at the Rocks Rikke jumps out in front of us, Pernille was there as well of course, so we got to see them all again before leaving Australia. But they won’t be leaving for New Zealand for a while, and Tim and Johanne are going to Hawaii, so we’ll probably not see them again after today. Both Ørjan and I bought nice rings at the Rocks. Went into the centre of the city and into Victoria Building – a big shopping centre in an old building – really cool. There was a replica of queen Victoria on coronation day dressed up in all her glamour – lots of glittery stuff. Paid for the stay now, and they have charged us AUD 2 per page for emails, so the four-page email I sent yesterday cost AUD 8 – a bit expensive I think, and they claim we got if for half the normal price…
We walked through the awesomely named Woolloomooloo bay to the botanical garden on our way to Mrs Macquarie’s chair, a great vantage point to the Sydney Opera House. The whole area around the iconic building is very nice with parks and great views. At the opera house we met Johanna and Tim! Of course, in a city of 5 million we would meet them by chance. We walked to The Rocks area under Sydney Harbour Bridge, they have a great weekend market there. We bought a couple of rings at a shop. And wouldn’t you know it, we met Rikke and Pernille! Had lunch at Mc Donald’s. Walked around this amazing city for the rest of the day. Dinner at Pizza Hut and took the train back to our hotel. Sydney is a bit like London, only with more high-rise buildings, more construction sites and a little less history. Australia has been everything I hoped for and a place we will come back to sometime in the future. There is so much more to see in this amazing country. Tomorrow we fly to New Zealand!
Coming up next: Landing in a much cooler New Zealand and exploring the South Island.