Friday, 9 January 2015

Sydney, Australia

After a lovely few days in Melbourne and travelling along the Great Ocean Road [both of which you can read about here], Emily and I flew to Sydney. The flight was short, taking just over an hour and it was super speedy getting from door to door, with really easy connections both ends. We headed straight to our pre-booked hostel, Elephant Backpacker, which turned out to be by far the most unpleasant place we've stayed in seven months of travelling this year! Definitely one to avoid: dirty, rowdy and generally very badly maintained. We were lured in by the cheap price and decent location. 

airplane view
Flying from Melbourne to Sydney

We spent most of our first full day in Sydney exploring the harbour area. The Sydney Opera House is one of the main things I associate with Australia, along with Koalas and Kangaroos, cork hats and "throwing another shrimp on the barbie"! Emily and I spent ages shamelessly taking selfies in front of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Botanic Gardens situated next to these huge sights in this harbour is very beautiful and it was lovely to walk through them and enjoy the view. We walked all the way along the water to Mrs Macquaries Chair, which is another great place to enjoy the view. By chance, there was a sailing event taking place in the harbour, which we sat and watched for a while. It was a pretty big competition, with international teams competing, including a team from Great Britain with captain Ben Ainslie!

sydney opera house
Sydney Opera House selfie!

sydney harbour
Sydney Harbour views, including the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

We walked to the foot of the Harbour Bridge, where there is a small grassy area to sit and enjoy the amazing view of the harbour from a different perspective. There were chairs and a bamboo altar set up near us in this area, ready for an Asian wedding, which guests started to arrive for while we were there. The backdrop was amazing for this wedding, but it did seem like a strangely public place for such an intimate ceremony!

A video posted by Josh Kinnersley (@joshkinnersley) on

We met up with our friends Kim and Stew later in the evening, both of whom Emily used to work with in Cheltenham. They've been living together in Sydney for the last six months and were in Melbourne for six months before that. Stew has been travelling for two years in total and they're travelling around China and Japan together as the grand finale on their way home to the UK. Really looking forward to hearing about their travels there as I'd love to visit both countries, especially Japan. 

The four of us went to a Malaysian restaurant called Mamak, which is popular and apparently always very busy. The food was pretty good, but the service was rubbish, including them forgetting to put our mains order through, so it took a very long time to eat! We all then headed over to Darling Harbour to meet up with Janie and Sam, who we met in Pai, Thailand [read about Pai here] and travelled around Thailand with them for a few weeks earlier this year. It was Sam's birthday the day before, so we celebrated with a few drinks at a couple of bars.

darling harbour
Darling Harbour

We met up with Kim in Hyde Park on the Monday morning. The area was chaotic, as lots of business people has been evacuated from nearby buildings, which we assumed was due to a fire drill or bomb scare. As dozens of emergency vehicles of all varieties continued to race to the area, we discovered that this was all due to a hostage situation unfolding in nearby Martin Place. We decided it would be safest to head further out of the city for the day, so we walked a fairly long distance, before relaxing in Centennial Gardens. These huge gardens were very pretty and the three of us had lunch at a little cafe before heading back into the city early in the evening.

nitrogen ice cream
N2 'Extreme Gelato'

We wandered around the city and did some window-shopping in the city on Tuesday, before heading to N2 'Extreme Gelato', which Kim had said was an absolute must place to go. They make ice cream in front of you with Liquid Nitrogen, which is very cool to watch. We ordered a Brokeback Moment to share, which was topped with chocolate and honeycomb, with a syringe of salted caramel in it to pour over the top ourselves. It was super delicious and a fun experience.

After exploring more of the city on Tuesday, we met up with Sam, Kim, Stew and their friends Alicia and Jonny at the Dove & Olive pub in Surry Hills, for a pub quiz. Stew and Kim had been to the quiz before and said it was a good laugh. The quiz master had a field day with jokes about us being a table full of "Poms" and we did pretty well, considering some of the questions required good knowledge of Australia's current affairs! On the way home, Emily and I visited the Lego Christmas Tree outside Westfield Sydney, which my mum had seen online.

sydney pub quiz
Stew not impressed that they spelt his name wrong!

lego christmas tree
Lego Christmas Tree!

On Wednesday it was time to head over to Bondi Beach, where we had booked two nights accommodation at Noah's Hostel. This was actually a pretty decent hostel, and seemed like the Hilton compared to Elephant Backpacker in the city! It was very easy to get to Bondi, catching a bus from the city centre, which stopped just a few feet away from our hostel. We had lunch at a cafe called Bondi Massive, which was quite pricey, but very tasty food. The weather wasn't amazing, but it was sunny enough to relax on the beach for the afternoon and enjoy this world famous beach! 

We met up with my friend Craig in the evening, who has been living a few miles outside of Sydney for several years. Craig brought his lovely and excitable puppy Dolly with him, who wouldn't sit still long enough for us to take a photo with her! We ate at Moo Burger, walked along the beach and had a drink at a cool little beach bar. 

bondi beach
Chilling with Craig in Bondi

The following day we had brunch at Bondi Massive again, before doing the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. This is a well-marked route along this part of the coast, stopping at lots of beaches and small towns along the way, including Bronte, Clovelly, and of course Coogee. The day started a bit gloomy, but the sun came out later in the afternoon. We enjoyed the sea views and stopped several times to relax in grassy parks and on the sand. For dinner we had a bargain Dominos Pizza collection deal and caught the bus back to Bondi, to chill in our hostel for the rest of the evening.

We couldn't quite work out why Bondi Beach has such an amazing reputation. It's a nice beach, especially compared to most British beaches, but other beaches in the area are just as good, if not better.

coastal walk
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

After dropping our bags off back at good old Elephant Backpacker on Friday morning, we met up with Kim, Janie and Sam at Circular Quay, to catch a ferry over to Manly Beach. This is a famous surfing beach and in my opinion a much cooler beach than Bondi. We had Moo Burger again [oops] for lunch, before spending the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine on the beach. Sam and I hired body-boards and spent ages being battered by the waves, trying to catch a break. Not quite sure why I didn't do it as a child, but I hadn't body-boarded before, and I found it much harder than it looks! In the evening we went to Harry's Cafe de Wheels, a famous little pie shop in Wooloomooloo, not far from our hostel. This is highly recommended locally and by our Lonely Planet guide book, described as being a Sydney institution and having served famous people including Frank Sinatra and Elton John. We thought the pies were alright, but they certainly didn't live up to the hype.

manly ferry
Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly 

On the Saturday, the end of our year of travels was in sight, with just two full days left before flying back to the UK for Christmas. We decided to do something special on our final weekend and we were really excited to go to Taronga Zoo, which is a short ferry ride away from the harbour. We bought a ticket which included the ferry, zoo entry and a gondola ride, which takes you from the bottom of the hill near the ferry port, over the top of the zoo and to the top of the hill, where you enter the zoo. Check out the photo below of the awesome views from the zoo: it's in such a nice location overlooking the harbour! 

taronga zoo view
Sydney Harbour views from Taronga Zoo

We paid extra for a 'Koala Encounter', where we were able to get up close to an adorable Koala Bear called Charlie. Koalas sleep for an astonishing 20 hours of day, which sounds like an ideal lifestyle to me! We also got a professional photo of us with Charlie included in the encounter fee. 

Taronga Zoo is very well presented and the enclosures were mostly very spacious. We went to a Seal show, which seemed like the seals were well looked after in spacious tanks, unlike the terrible conditions whales live in at places like SeaWorld. The penguin tank and enclosure was particularly impressive. I love penguins and have seen them at many different zoos. These penguins seemed to be looked after particularly well and we were lucky enough to watch them being fed, when they were busily swimming around their tank to catch their food.

koala bear
Selfie with Charlie the Koala Bear at Taronga Zoo

taronga zoo
Feeding time for a bear at Taronga Zoo

penguin zoo
Penguin feeding time at Taronga Zoo

After a busy day of watching animals being awesome, we had dinner at the Opera Bar, which is part of the Sydney Opera House. The food was tasty and although a bit pricey for the kind of bar food it was, it was worth it for the bustling location and great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. 

sydney opera bar
Dinner at Sydney Opera Bar, overlooking the Opera House and Harbour Bridge

We met up with Kim, Stew, Janie and Sam on Sunday, which was sadly our final night in Sydney and very nearly the end of our travels [for now]! We all had a picnic together in the beautiful Botanic Gardens, before heading into the city for a couple of drinks. On the way back to our various homes/hostels, we all visited Martin Place, where tens of thousands of floral and written tributes had been laid for the victims of the Sydney Siege earlier in the week. The scale of the tributes was overwhelming and I'm glad we visited, to reflect on the terrible situation that unfolded so close to us while we were in Sydney.

martin place
Martin Place tributes

sydney friends
Our final night in Sydney and the end of an incredible year of travelling

After this, it was time to say goodbye to everyone after a very enjoyable week in Sydney. Our final weekend was lovely and a great way to end our 11-week trip, which was the final trip of a total of 7-months exploring 10 countries this year. 

Thanks for reading!

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