For my final stop in Australia, I was able to indulge in a few home comforts. For this stop I was staying with relatives, so for the first time in 7 weeks I had a room to myself, and a night without being juddered around by the person on the bunk above or below. Also it was nice to be in a foreign city and knowing someone from the off. It's not too bad going it alone, but it's a nice novelty to have a contact in an unfamiliar city.
But anyway I was in Sydney, one of Australia's premier cities, although it's another place which is very similar to London; not least considering there are several places named after locations I know in London, such as: Hyde Park, Paddington, Lewisham, Dulwich, and even Croydon. Thankfully the Croydon of Sydney is not the knife ridden grey place I've frequented on nights out, although I am told it's a little dull. Maybe better dull than stabby.
One of the first things I went to see was the Blue Mountains. Believe it or not they are actually blue, thanks to the eucalyptus haze. I was lucky as well, as I went up on a nice clear day and got to take advantage of some amazing views. There are many lookouts around the national park, and most offer breathtaking vistas and views where you can see for miles. It's a little like what I'd imagine the grand canyon to be like, except blue.
I've also done, what pretty much every person does whilst here - but it's still amazing to do - was go to see the harbour, with the bridge and opera house. The opera house, despite being one of the worlds most recognized and photographed buildings, it was still really cool to see in reality. The harbour itself is really great. I know it's just a harbour, but you really have to see it for yourself. Another benefit is that it's nice and breezy down there and there are cruise liners that dock in the main harbour. My only regret is that the QM2 wasn't in port. Seriously that thing is supposed to be like a floating city, which is hard to believe given the size of the average cruise liner, which is pretty big.
Also just across the harbour is Watson Bay and The Gap, to which I took one of the many harbour cruisers out to. This is a very quiet area, and also there is a great fish and chip shop here. It's one of the only places I've found in Australia where they make their own chips, as the rest of the time they are simply the frozen variant which have been fried. I had expected better than Australia for that. Still at least they call them chips here as well - You hear that America! Fries indeed. What was quite amusing, was that after doing this tour between the harbour and Watson Bay, was that they showed it on a Australian travel TV show the same day. It was quite nice to smugly dismiss the feature with a 'been there done that' attitude.
I was very impressed too with the botanical gardens, which are right next to the opera house. The reason why was that the wildlife couldn't have been more different to your average park (In England). There were loads of tropical birds just sitting idly about. I walked past one tree and it had three or more Cockatoos sitting in it. It's, to me being a Brit, the equivilent of me finding a non-deluded/self absorbed contestant on the X-Factor, quite rare thanks to the stage-management from the producers.
Later I was drawn to some trees where a spectacular racket was coming from. It sounded like some screechy birds, so I scanned the tree for some. I couldn't see any birds, but then realised that there were several hundred bats just hanging from the branches. I've never really seen bats up close, so this was pretty cool. Although, unlike those at DC comics would have you believe, it didn't inspire me to suit up and fight crime. Maybe if my parents had been killed in front of me in a freak robbery gone wrong it might of been a fairer test. But then again most superhero origins are nonesense, most people involved in radioactive accidents(involving spiders, cosmic rays or otherwise) sadly tend to succumb to radiation, rather than developing amazing powers. After all the hero count after Hiroshima is still zero. No Godzilla either for that matter.
I also (for the first time in many years) did a spot of fishing. I'm not really an avid fisherman, but decided to have a go for a laugh. Also my host here, Carl, (my aunt's brother, so he is basically my uncle, but not officially. Dahh! It's too complicated, we'll just say he's my uncle and let that be an end to it) had all the rods and equipment. So me him and one of his neighbours went along to try and torment some fish for our amusement. For a lot of trip I didn't catch anything. I kept casting my line out, only to find the bloody fish had nicked the bait and swam off. Just as the whole excursion was becoming an apt metaphor for my love-life, I managed to catch a whiting, which wasn't that big but that didn't matter. The point is I'd showed nature who's the boss in the smallest possible way, and in these days of man's domestication that means a lot more than it used to.
Having enjoyed tormenting the aquatic life of Australia so much, I decided to follow suit the next day when I popped to the Sydney aquarium. This was pretty cool, as there was all manner of marine life to see including Sharks, Octopus, Jellyfish, Crocodiles and even Dugongs. I have to say I was pleased to meet one of the writers of Family Guy up close.
Also I couldn't have left Sydney without paying a quick visit to Bondi beach. Now, I was preparing myself for a cesspit of a beach from what I'd heard from locals about the place, but seeing it for real it wasn't that bad. Although maybe as it was midday on a tuesday, and none of the drunken tourists were about.
What was funny about the area was the amount of supposedly 'fashionable' types you saw walking around. Now I have never had much time for keeping up with fashion, as many who see my wardrobe would be able to tell. To be fair seeing some of the types around Bondi I wonder who looks stupider, me with my rather unflashy and unfussed appearance or them with their fussy attempt to look more scruffy for me (normally including one pretentious or shocking t-shirt statement.) and slicked hairstyles. Given the fact some of their clothes looked like they were made to look broken or uncoordinated they probably paid a fortune to look like a complete tramp. A bit of spray on perfume that made them smell like they'd not showered for a week, and people would be throwing them change in no time. I bloody hate fashion me.
Fashion rant aside though there is a really good walk over the cliffs past the other eastern beaches, and to be fair the others are nicer than Bondi and less crowded too.
One downside of Sydney is the public transport. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible; it's a hell of a lot better than some cities I've been in. However, when I went on a night out I had to deal with the rather sub-par level of customer service. For instance, when I asked what time the last train would be the response was the less than helpful, "To be honest, I don't have a bloody clue," which conjured up images of the British Rail era at it's worst. It's a shame really as this is the first time I'd really dealt with a surley Australian.
I also reached a milestone in Sydney as I finally came face to face with the elusive Platypus. Now this rascal had been quite hard to find, as one wildlife park was yet to open it's platypus enclosure when I was there; and in another the platypus was hiding, and was nowhere to be seen. However, here in Sydney I managed to finally see one. Quite a funny thing though - as if an poisonous egg laying mammal beaver duck thing couldn't be - was that when it swam it moved like a wind up bath toy. I was expecting a more graceful creature as they appear on the aboriginal art, however it was just as clumsy looking as it looks. At least it's really real, as I was having doubts the creature was an elaborate hoax. Still this meant I had seen all the weird creatures I had wanted to in Australia, and in just the nick of time too, as I only had a few days left before I flew to New Zealand.
On another of my final days (in Sydney, that did sound a bit ominous otherwise) I took a trip out to Manly beach. There was nothing particularly masculine about it, but I must say it was a really nice beach. Way better than Bondi, and less crowded too. On my way back from this I then went to the famous 'Harry's Cafe de wheels' pie shop for a quick pie. It was an interesting place adorned with photos of famous faces such as: Rolf Harris, Frankie Muniz and, strangely, Colonel Saunders.
Still I had finished my brief affair with Australia, and overall it had been fun. Still I had barely scratched the surface of this giant continent-state. To do the place any justice would have taken months or even years. Still, I'll try and come back one day and maybe this time see Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Uluru (although really it is just a big rock in the middle of the desert) and all the other things I missed this time round.