03.12.2012 - 07.12.2012 27 °C
At the weekend we spent some more time with James’ extended family. We headed out to a buffet on Saturday night, followed by a trip into Sydney city centre to see Sydney at night. The harbour which had been so relaxed during the day was buzzing with people, outside restaurants bars and clubs and down the steps to the waterside. There was a fantastic atmosphere, very calm and friendly- the kind of place you’d feel safe enough to walk through alone, unlike so many other cities. We went on to visit the Star City casino, which was pretty spectacular- when there’s a Gucci shop at the entrance that is still open at 10pm, you know there are people with money to burn inside. Unfortunately we weren’t those people, but as places for people watching go, we’d found one of the best. It was certainly a contrast to the casino in Alice Springs…
On Monday we moved on to Baulkham Hills, another Sydney suburb, to visit more family. Sydney and the suburbs seem to go on forever, and there’s no discernible divide between suburbs in spite of the fact that some of them are the size of UK cities in themselves. Parramatta, which sits roughly between Baulkham Hills and Sydney, is about the size of Oxford, but it just blends into both.
Tuesday was a lazy start followed by a drive up into the Blue Mountains and a town called Katoomba. We started off by a trip to Leura Cascades, a river running down the mountainside to a very high, steep waterfall (definitely a waterfall, not a cataract, Dad) dropping into a valley. Blue skies and fairly cool temperatures (mid-twenties with fresh mountain air) made it a stunning walk, and we were lucky enough to have chosen to start our sightseeing away from the rest of the tourists. The path and steps wound down through the woods, following the path of the river and lots of little cascades until it abruptly ended in the waterfall. There aren’t quite words to describe the scale of the valley and the sense of space and distance- it was another of those moments when I realised just how huge this country really is. As we were standing admiring the view and taking copious photos, a wild cockatoo flew in to drink from the river. I managed to take some photos before it flew off over the valley- definitely one of my favourite photos as it was only one of two that I’ve seen in the wild so far!
Wild Cockatoo at Leura Cascades
We followed with a short drive on to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters, which are three pillars of rocks sticking out further along the same valley. I was prepared for the scale this time, but it was still an incredible sight. After lunch in Katoomba we drove on to Scenic World, which is another stop along the same valley. From there it’s possible to ride on two different cable cars and a railway which runs down the mountainside at a 51 degree angle- I think it’s the steepest in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately it wasn’t working, but we were able to get some good views from the lookout point to finish off our trip.
The Three Sisters, seen from Echo Point
Thursday was our last day in Sydney, so we caught the ferry from Parramatta into Central Quay in the city centre which gave us the chance to arrive in Sydney by sailing under the Harbour Bridge- a bit of a must! The weather was perfect for walking, so we headed up through the area called The Rocks, a bit of a maze of alleyways and boutique shops, onto the Harbour Bridge to walk across to North Sydney. It was definitely worth the climb up, as we got some incredible views of the city and the Opera House again. It turns out that the water and sky really can be as blue as the postcards show- I always thought they were photoshopped! After a leisurely walk back to The Rocks we stopped to have a drink and watch the world go by, before heading off to do exactly the same thing in a different location- this time watching people arriving to board the cruise ship that was docked in Circular Quay. Late afternoon soon rolled around, so we said our goodbyes to Sydney and jumped on a train to get back to Baulkham Hills in time to pack ready for our next stop- Melbourne!