Sunday, April 18, 2010
The Botanic Gardens were opposite our hotel, literally across the street, so we spent a few hours the first day, as dusk drew in, having a wander. As we were going through the 'jungle' section of the Gardens the girls and I noticed how noisy all the birds were in the treetops - but when we looked up, they weren't birds at all! They were giant bats!
We had thought the shapes on the trees were fruit, but as dusk drew in the bats started opening their wings and chittering away to each other - thousands of them - and then they started flying in the direction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge..
We discovered that if we stood on our hotel balcony we were level with them as they flew by, they were huge, and so many of them! No chance of any bugs being able to spoil your evening meal outside, with all those hungry mouths to feed!
They had a wing span of about a metre and were grey-headed flying foxes, endemic to Australia, and unfortunately the colony has grown over the years and now they are damaging the trees in the Gardens, so they are going to be forcibly relocated - by playing loud noises at them, so that they don't roost there. I wonder where 22 thousand bats will go?
The Gardens themselves are filled with exotic trees and glass pyramids, fountains and sculptures - we only managed to see one half of it, so... next time!
They curve around and out into the Bay and give spectacular views of Sydney and the Opera House and Bridge. I suppose it's as odd as Central Park in New York, you just don't expect this huge, green space. We had to walk to, and of course, sit on Mrs MacQuarie's Chair!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We spent a morning at Sydney Aquarium – right on the waterfront, it doesn’t look very big from the outside – but it took us 4 hours to get round and we could easily have stayed longer!
One of the areas had a sign ‘dugongs’ and there was a queue ...we joined it to discover that, worldwide, only six dugongs are held in captivity and two of them were in front of us.
They look a lot like manatees and are the only survivng species of ‘sea-cow’ in the world. Dugong actually means ‘lady of the sea’
As you can see they have no fins or limbs, look a bit like a dolphin from above and a bit like an elephant in their face. We watched feeding time and they must have hoovered up sixteen cabbages.
Dugongs are hunted – the Japanese again! It’s now near extinction even though laws have been passed (some nations think they are exempt)
They live, if allowed to, for up to 70 years and can grow up to 2 metres – gentle giants really
Cave drawings have been discovered of dugongs, the drawings are over 5000 years old!!
My second favourite was the ‘leafy seahorse’ SO cool!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Circular Quay (originally Semi-circular Quay) in Sydney is where Governor Philip and his crew arrived two centuries ago.
It has one of the world's great views as you stand on the quay, facing the harbour. The famous Opera House on the right with its dazzling, seemingly white roof and to the left Harbour Bridge, which seems to edge its way into every photograph.
In the distance is the glimmering Luna Park, an amusement park, with what I would say was a slightly terrifying head, for an entrance.
Then, there are all the chunky ferries arriving and leaving with rapid regularity and tanned, smiling workers marching out of them, looking as if they quite like going to work.
And, behind you, towering skscrapers with gleaming windows and acres of shimmering metal.
It's the place to be!
This is where we based ourselves at the Sir Stamford Hotel (more about that amazing fellow later!)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
At the southern end of Darling Harbour in Sydney there is a green oasis - the Chinese Garden of Friendship.It was created in 1888 to symbolise the friendship between China and Australia.
Up at the pagoda
We were on our way to somewhere else - it was included in our tourist passes - so we popped in.. and stayed for three hours.It was peaceful with little pagodas and jade carvings and carriages in the small museum.
At the Dragon wall
There was an exhibition of flower art, which was amazing! Huge pictures made entirely out of petals and leaves, in the most intricate designs.
The gardens were beautiful, with lakes and streams, statues, willow trees and a huge temple.
We 'took tea' in the pavilion while the girls opted to dress up as Chinese maidens...
Jessica being prepared
and wander the gardens with tourists asking for photos with every step! They had fun and fluttered their fans - the costumes were beautiful.
By the Dragon carving
Girls at lakeside
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Remember the three explorers I mentioned? Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth?
Well, Wentworth Falls are just one of the discoveries that they made and named after themselves. William Wentworth was a colourful character - he was born on board ship bound for Australia, as his parents were convicts ( not the most auspicious of beginnings). He eventually got sent to school in England and returned as an explorer, with his two friends he discovered Wentworth Falls and was given land as a reward from the Crown.
He published books and poems, studied to be a lawyer, and became one of the wealthiest men in the Colony (but alas, not respectable or accepted because of his convict mother).
He had seven daughters and three sons - busy!
He died in England but his body was returned to Australia for burial. What a life he must have led!
Following in his footsteps, we stayed at the historic 'Grand View Hotel' (which had a view of the new main road they were building)..
and had tea at the Carrington Hotel - which was lovely oldy-worldy inside.
Apparently, Charles Darwin stayed here and went for a walk along the cliff - they named it imaginatively Darwin's Walk (maybe he didn't walk much).
Anyway, having unpacked and visited the gloomy sitting room with its giant screen TV and Victorian overstuffed sofas, we went for our first descent to Wentworth Falls. As we climbed down the uneven steps, jollied along by signs stating 'Good View of the Falls' we descended into a light mist (actually it was cloud ) and saw the Falls for about 60 seconds before being enveloped in a dense white world.
That one glimpse was breathtaking - a huge waterfall, divided into lower and upper falls, dense gum trees surrounding it and flocks of white cockatoos. It was like an animated scene of The Lion King, come to life.
It seems mean but as we sat waiting for the cloud to disappear, several groups of tourists stumbled down the last steps, peered into the mist, which was dense white by then and stumbled back up again.
No wonder no-one discovered the Falls for a quarter of a century.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Blue Mountains are the scenic and long-impassable hills lying to Sydney's West. They look, in the distance, soft and green with gentle undulations, but are, in fact, rent with treacherous gorges, bouldered canyons and sheer rising cliffs with waterfalls torrenting out of them.
For twenty-five years the Blue Mountains provided a barrier to explorers, until, in 1813, three men, Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth and William Lawson made it through!
The Great Western Highway that we followed takes their almost exact route from nearly 200 years ago, so the roads are somewhat torturous.
Our first stop was at a small town called Katoomba and a viewpoint titled Echo Point (for obvious reasons I'll explain later).
The view is outstanding - a huge green eucalyptus forest, pierced with jagged rocks called the Three Sisters. Their names are Meehni, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo, with the usual story of being turned to stone when pursued by lusty young men from another tribe. But they never got turned back into girls..
There is a Giant Stairway to a cave at the base of one of the Sisters, and a difficult walk to the base of Katoomba Falls.
If you don't have a head for heights, or legs for thousands of stairs, you'll be pleased to know that there is one cafe in Katoomba and they serve semi-decent coffee, with tables hung over a spectacular view and thieving magpies who'll make off with all your possessions!