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Singapore is warm but nice!

June 15th, 2007 No comments

For the last few days I’ve been in Singapore on the start of my trip to a land down under and I’ve been having a great time. I think I should have extended my stay here by a day to be able to take in either Malaysia or Indonesia, or to explore some more of Singapore that I didn’t see, but I’ve had fun regardless! The people have been so friendly and it’s just a different world to the UK.

On the 13th I made my way up to Heathrow on the Train and Tube via London. It was a bit chaotic getting there with a big rucksack and it was made worse when the tube driver announced we would not be stopping at Terminal 4, forcing us to get off the tube, only to announce “next stop Terminal 4”. We eventually arrived at the airport but were still nice and early. There was nothing to do in the public area of the airport but I checked in my bags nice and early, due to Qantas using the British Airways all-day check-in facility, before haing a long wait for my time to board the plane. I passed the time with 2 meals in Wetherspoon’s and a couple of drinks in Starbucks before saying goodbye to Mum and heading through to departures.

The rest of the day went smoothly – the flight was without a hitch and we arrived at Singapore Changi airport a few minutes early. It was already night time when we arrived but it was still so hot and humid and I was glad the hotel (Quality Hotel, Balastier Road) was air conditioned when I arrived. I had problems getting to my room initially as my swipe card wouldn’t operate the lift but after being told what I was doing wrong I made my way up to relax and unpack in my room. My flight to Cairns is at 10pm and I’m being picked up at 7 so I enquired with reception about keeping the room on a bit later. They said I could keep the room until 6pm and there would be no extra charge which was really nice of them

Yesterday was my first full day in Singapore so I decided to get up early. After breakfast I explored the area around the hotel to see what it was like and acclimatise to the climate. Even at 7am it was really hot and after an hour of walking around, slowly and in the shade a lot of the time, I needed to rest and change my clothes before my tour in the afternoon – the humidity here does take some getting used to!

View from my hotel room

View from my hotel room

Exploring the area

Exploring the area

Exploring the area #2

Exploring the area #2

I was collected from the hotel just after lunch with a few other people from various hotels and taken to a central meeting point. Instead of having all of the coaches travel all over the city they Tour East have minibuses that pick people up from a few hotels at a time then you all meet in the city centre at a cafe with a lot of bus bays outside where you wait for your tours departure time and I found this to be an efficiant system. After getting on the coach we made our way back into the city to our first stop at the Asian Civilisations Museum. We checked out the statue of Raffles outside next to the river before heading into the museum to see various exhibits about Singapore and its history. Our time here wasn’t very long but it was enough to get an overview of the country and learn more about the rich history and culture that have developed over centuries.

Statue of Raffles

Statue of Raffles

After the museum we made our way to the world-famous Raffles hotel which was something I had been looking forward to since booking my trip. Our visit started with a short tour, where we were shown the grounds and told some of the famous guests that had stayed there, before being taken into the cafe for tea and cakes. The cake tasted amazing but was so rich you couldn’t eat a lot. After tea there was time to explore on our own and buy souvenirs in the gift or, as some people decided would be better, to visit the famous Long Bar for a Singapore Sling Cocktail. I wasn’t in the mood for a cocktail so after souvenir shopping I relaxed in the grounds and made a call home.

Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel

Inside Raffles

Inside Raffles

Cake at Raffles

Cake at Raffles

Outside Raffles Hotel

Outside Raffles Hotel

Our next activity was a cruise along the river and it was a nice way to see the city, if a little short. We travelled south from the quay past many of the buildings we had seen previously and had full commentary from the captain of the boat. We travelled out into the bay for a view of the new watersports complex before having a close-up view of the Merlion and then returning to the quay for our final stop – a pewter coin factory. At the factory we were shown examples of how all of the coins and other pewter items were made historically (and how this place still makes them). I wouldn’t have chose to visit here but it was nice as part of the tour and taught me something I didn’t know. I left the group at this point without heading back to the hotel and explored the city on my own for a bit before eating at a nice Thai restaurant along the river and then catching a Taxi to the hotel.

Bumboat Cruise

Bumboat Cruise

Merlion

Merlion

Weird Statues

Weird Statues

Singapore by Night

Singapore by Night

Today I woke up after another storm that created quite a bit of flooding… they seem to be a regular occurance in thie part of the world! I deciced to visit the city centre but decided to walk since I was only a mile from Orchard Road. This turned out to be a big mistake as the rain had made the humidity worse and my shoes actually disintegrated around me during the walk. The destintion was worth it though as Orchard Road was a nice area and allowed me to both people watch and stock up on souvenirs.

Orchard Road

Orchard Road

After catching a taxi back to the hotel I relaxed in my room for a bit before heading out on another tour. This was to the Night Safari which is a zoo that is only open in the evenings so you can see the animals from a different perspective. It was a really good experience and we saw lots of animals including Hyena, Tapir, Hippo, Giraffe and more. There are jungle walks you can take to see some of the animals but I highly recommend taking the safari jeeps which will get you very close to the animals. The zoo is designed in such a way that it looks like the animals are all roaming free around you rather than being in cages and this adds to the atmosphere and experience. After the safari I had dinner at the food court and watched the entertainment before getting on my coach back to the city. As my hotel was on the way a minibus met us half way in a lay-by and drove us from there which was efficient but we almost didn’t make it back to the hotel as the driver really should have driven a little slower.

My feet are really starting to hurt now as I wasn’t able to do anything about them before the night safari. I’ll get some new ones in the morning in the shopping centre I saw just down from the hotel while making my way to Orchard Road.

My Hotel

My Hotel

My Hotel Room

My Hotel Room

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Touring has been keeping me busy

June 18th, 2007 No comments

I’m in Australia! Today I went on a really long tour that look almost 8 hours and we saw everything in the area around Cairns, but that’s not all I’ve been doing.

After my last post I decided I had to get new shoes on my last day in Singapore as after disintegrating my old ones were hurting my feet too much. First I sat down for breakfast which was only a simple buffet but consisted of things I wouldn’t have thought about for breakfast normally – chicken sausages, rice etc. It was nice to just relax in the morning sun with a filling breakfast and orange juice before walking a few minutes down to the shopping centre. It was a fairly small shopping centre but had a few outdoors shops with good walking shoes in. I figured at least these would survive the heat!

The rest of that day was mainly spent relaxing, walking around the area near the hotel and watching a bit of TV. I had been watching all of the Jurassic Park films which had been on TV every night since arriving but decided to sample some Asian programming before heading off to Australia. One thing I watched was this weird family swap show with a difference – they swapped kids from different backgrounds (Malaysian and Indonesian in this case) to let them experience new things and even though it’s not my sort of show I really enjoyed it.

Later in the day I checked out of the hotel and transferred to Changi Airport for my late evening flight to Cairns via Darwin. The flight itself was smooth. They served an Asian Curry with rice for dinner and was good considering it was airline food! We stopped at Darwin in the early hours of the morning to refuel the plane and let a few passengers off although most of us were continuing to Cairns so were kept in a transit lounge with a cafe while all this took place. I relaxed with a mocha before re-boarding the plane.

Sunrise over the Australian Outback was amazing. Such lovely scenery it’s hard to describe so I’ll just show you with one of the photos I took. I had my iPod on random and it played Avril Lavigne – “Nobody’s Home” at about this point which, while random, added to the atmosphere.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Our flight arrived at 7am into Cairns and after clearing customs I made my way out to the pickup point to wait for my minibus to my hotel – The Cairns Colonial Club. It never turned up though so I made my way there by taxi. Even though it wasn’t even 9am when I arrived they let me check in to my room as they weren’t busy. The service at these hotels has been great so far! After checking in I took the hotel bus into the city to get lunch, explore and take some photos. Lunch was at an Italian restaurant near the beach and after letting my meal sink down I walked along the Cairns Promenade up towards the airport, as recommended by my guide book, before cutting in past the Centenary Lakes towards my hotel. Unfortunately half of the roads weren’t signposted and by the time I found the hotel the heavens had opened and I got soaked, much to the amusement of a group of Aussie teenagers who drove past me. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing in preparation for the long day I knew was ahead of me today.

Cairns Promenade

Cairns Promenade

The sea near Cairns

The sea near Cairns

The next morning I was picked up from the hotel at around 745 by a minibus driver for my tour around the area. After managing to throw loads of money at him while looking for a dollar for the fuel surcharge I got on the minibus and we set off into the rainforest. On the way I got talking to the others and I think everybody else on the minibus was Australian – mainly older people but there was one woman that was there with her daughter who I talked to quite a lot throughout the day.

We saw a LOT of things throughout the day today. We started off by visiting Heale’s Lookout for some good photo opportunities where we were posed the question by our driver “what is the difference between a lookout and an outlook?” (the answer by the way is a lookout is more of a peninsula than an outlook, which is just an area with good views). After the lookout we made our way to Lake Barrine for tea and scones, a nature walk and then a cruise around the crater lake. We were told lots about the area while on the boat and took some good photos including one of a huge snake that was sunbathing on a branch. My first piece of Aussie wildlife!

Heale's Outlook

Heale’s Outlook

Tour Bus

Tour Bus

Lake Barrine

Lake Barrine

Cruise on the lake

Cruise on the lake

Next stop was the Giant Curtain Fig Tree which is a fig tree that was living off of a huge tree that has created an impressive canopy effect. Weird, but a good sight, and it’s one of the most visited tourist locations in the area. Then we made our way to Millaa Millaa Falls which are beautiful and provided great photo opportunities. The falls weren’t as spectacular as they could have been but there haven’t been any heavy rains other for a while so the river wasn’t flowing as fast. Next to Mungali Falls for lunch at this really nice cafe they had there. The food was basic but good quality and I really enjoyed the apple crumble they made – especially how they mix fresh coconut into the crumble topping. I’ll have to try that when I get home. A Kangaroo hopped near our minibus as we were arriving but it was too quick for me to take a photo.

Curtain Fig Tree

Curtain Fig Tree

Me at Millaa Millaa Falls

Me at Millaa Millaa Falls

The falls made me and the woman with her daughter think about Salmon and then about that “You are not a Salmon!” advert. Unfortunately we couldn’t remember what it was so spent quite a while thinking about it… in hysterics most of the time. (Kitkat by the way). After lunch we went to Paronella Park which is a really nice Spanish Castle in the rainforest. There was time for a short tour and free time to explore before our last stop of the day at Babinda Boulders – an area of natural beauty and Aboriginal Myth. Most people were tired so didn’t want to walk it – only me, the woman and her daughter did and I’m glad we did as the experience was really special.

Mungali Falls

Mungali Falls

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Paronella Park

Babinda Boulders

Babinda Boulders

The tour then finished back at our hotels in Cairns early this evening , but not before we managed to make the tour guide laugh. He asked if there were any questions and nobody had any so the woman asked him “So, why aren’t we Salmon?” which made everybody burst out laughing. This guide has been the best tour guide I’ve ever had and he was born in London too. I was one of the last drop-offs so had a chance to say goodbye to everybody. They were all really nice people and I was glad to have met them.

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Great Barrier Reef

June 21st, 2007 No comments

My time in Cairns is over, and I’m now in Brisbane. Cairns was a pretty touristy city but luckily my hotel was far enough out to let me experience more of the traditional Queensland than most people do. At least I saw the Great Barrier Reef though which is the highlight of any visit to Queensland and no trip to Cairns can be complete without a visit out to dive or snorkel it.

The day after my long tour through the rainforest I was picked up in the morning by Quicksilver for the short ride north along the coast to Port Douglas. After arriving we went through the security procedures for the Quicksilver vessel (we had to look into a camera and say our name) and then we could go on board.

Quicksilver vessel

Quicksilver vessel

Port Douglas

Port Douglas

Our destination was a permanent Quicksilver pontoon about 40 miles off the coast although the sailing time was only about an hour as the vessel was a high-speed catamaran. I thought a permanent, fully serviced pontoon was the easy option for my first time in the area but next time I’ll probably use a smaller operator who goes different places each time as the sheer number of people that Quicksilver caters for is damaging the reef – mainly through sun lotion and other creams.

The Pontoon

The Pontoon

Snorkelling

Snorkeling

A FISH

A FISH

After arriving at the pontoon I waited for lunch to be served and then had about 2 hours of snorkeling time which was more than enough as I was travelling on my own. I took a couple of disposable cameras and used up all of the photos on them – I’ll see if I can scan them and upload them later. There were plenty of fish of all different kinds – small and large. My mission for the day was to find a clownfish so I could say I’ve seen Nemo in his natural habitat. I had almost given up when I saw one on the way back to the pontoon right at the end of my time on the reef. He was only tiny but I managed to get a photo.

I got back onto the pontoon and got dressed before checking out the official photos that had been taken throughout the day. I knew a couple of me had been so bought them – expensive for what they were but they were a good souvenir. They were ready for us when we arrived back in Port Douglas and came out quite well.

On the way back I sat next to this family from Tasmania. I got talking to them after we went over a big wave just after the Grandmother said the ride was nice and smooth. We ended up talking most of the way back and they were a really nice family. The mother squashed past me once and we went over a wave – she fell onto my lap and said “ooo… you’re cofortable. Thanks”. The daughter was polite too and said sorry every time she had to come past me. Nice people – glad to have met them.

We then made our way back to Cairns where I relaxed at the hotel for the evening.

Told you it was fast!

Told you it was fast!

Yesterday was my last full day in Cairns so I decided to make the most of it and see all of the things I wanted to see but hadn’t had a chance to so far. Firstly I bought breakfast at the hotel then wandered up the road to the Centenary Lakes. A small attraction but they were inside the front cover of my guide book and looked nice so wanted to see them. I highly recommend walking through the lakes area if you find yourself in this part of Cairns – there is a lovely rainforest boardwalk that you can wander along and loads of great photo spots. If it’s summer you can also relax with a barbecue or maybe take one of the walks up the hillside overlooking the city. I spent some time exploring the area and taking photos before walking back to the hotel to get the bus into the city again. I had lunch on the seafront in the city (pizza again), did last minute shopping in the touristy bit of the city and finally explored around the marina area before getting the bus back to the hotel to relax for the evening.

Walking to Centenary Lakes

Walking to Centenary Lakes

Centenary Lakes

Centenary Lakes

Rainforest Boardwalk

Rainforest Boardwalk

Cairns

Cairns

Cairns

Cairns

This morning I got up early and took some photos around the hotel before my bag was collected and taken to the reception ready for the complimentary minibus back to the airport. I only had one bag and it wasn’t heavy but I needed to make sure I was up for my flight so used it as more of a wake-up service than a bag-collection service. I was taken to the airport quite early as they wanted to combine me with somebody else that was leaving at a similar time. I checked in when I arrived but had to wait quite a while in the departure lounge before my flight. It’s a small airport but I picked up a few last minute souvenirs.

My hotel

My hotel

Hotel Pool

Hotel Pool

Brisbane is still in Queensland but the state is huge and the flight was 2 hours which is almost as long as from London to Rome! The transfer from Brisbane airport to my hotel (The Mercure) was smooth and there was somebody waiting for me at the airport. I arrived at the hotel mid-afternoon and went out to explore the city, had dinner and took plenty of photos. While walking along the riverbank I received a phone call from somebody at my University who was trying to get me to work for them for a few months. I accepted, but declined the offer of doing a doctorate with them – don’t think it would be for me. It’s strange the things that happen when you travel.

Brisbane

Brisbane

Tomorrow I’m off to Australia Zoo which was made famous by Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin before his death. It looks like a nice place so can’t wait and it’s one of the things that made me decide to visit Brisbane and Australia as a whole!

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Australia Zoo

June 23rd, 2007 No comments

Yesterday I went to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo and it was definitely one of the highlights of the tour so far. I know I’ve said that a few times but this really was special and I feel honoured to have been able to visit it.

I woke up early so I could explore the other side of the river from my hotel during daylight. I took a few good photos then returned to the hotel and had somebody say “Isn’t it too cold for shorts?” to me in the lift back up to my room. I explained it was warm outside compared to the UK but they still thought I was weird. A little while later after getting my stuff ready I headed down to wait for the bus to the zoo. I waited and waited and it didn’t arrive but then the concierge got a phone call saying the minibus was waiting for me at the back of the hotel so it could avoid the one-way system. He showed me to where it was waiting and after getting in we were taken to their offices near the main bus station wher wee were met by another few people before heading off towards the zoo.

Brisbane

Brisbane

Brisbane

Brisbane

The company organised a similar thing to Tour East in Singapore and after leaving Brisbane we met up with the official Australia Zoo “Croc Express” bus at a service station, got on board and then went to the zoo on that. The bus had a photo of Steve and a Crocodile on the side and was so big it couldn’t go into the entrance of the zoo directly – it had to turn into the car park opposite the entrance, do a big loop around it then drive out, across the road and into the zoo entrance. I guess the fact they have a very big bus and huge car park shows it’s a good zoo that’s able to draw in the crowds.

Croc Australia

Croc Express

A Croc show in the “Crocoseum” was due to start shortly after I arrived so I walked straight there and didn’t have time to feed the elephants at their regular feeding time beside the park entrance. The people that come on the Croc Express have reserved seating in the best location inside the Crocoseum in case it’s busy so I sat there where there’s a platform they do demonstrations from. In the show they showed off a variety of birds, snakes and of course crocs. They demonstrated the hunting and attacking capabilities of all of the animals and showed us what powerful creatures they truly are. There was a heavy conservation message throughout the show and this is something that Steve was very passionate about so it’s nice that his legacy is being continued.

Croc Show

Croc Show

The Crocoseum

The Crocoseum

After the Croc Show I explored the zoo and saw Koalas, more crocodiles, Galapagos Turtles, Snakes, a huge aviary full of birds before finding my way to the Kangaroo enclosure where I spent a while taking photos. I also got a photo of me taken with a Kangaroo for my friend Tiffany.

Me and a Kangaroo

Me and a Kangaroo

SNAKE!

SNAKE!

Next I petted a Koala at a place where you can get photos with them (I had to ask one of the staff to take mine as I was on my own), then went to see the Elephants where a keeper was washing them while doing a talk. He told me lots I didn’t know about Elephants but I won’t bore you with all the details so you’ll just have to visit yourself to learn everything. I then wandered back towards the Kangaroo enclosure as there was still some time before the other demonstrations when I saw a couple of keepers taking a Cheetah for a walk. Apparently they have got some in ready for when the Zoo expands in a few years and they are hoping to do Cheetah demonstrations too which could be really amazing. After talking to the keepers for a while I went back to the Elephants again where there was a feed in progress¬† and this time I was able to feed one of them which was really cool. The final thing I did was to go to the Tiger enclosure for a Tiger demo. The keepers talked to us about the Tigers, about their conservation and then did a demo of how the Tiger stalks and kills its prey – I didn’t realise how high a Tiger could jump!

Me and a Koala

Me and a Koala

Elephant being washed

Elephant being washed

Cheetah

Cheetah

Tiger Show

Tiger Show

After the Tiger demo I wandered around the zoo for a bit past the Tasmanian Devils and various other crocs until it was time for the bus back to Brisbane. One thing I did find which shows you should always just wander when you go new places as you’ll find new things – under the stands of the crocoseum there is a memorial to Steve Irwin. It’s not on the map but has lots of khaki shirts, toys and other things that people, including keepers, have left in memory of Steve. On the way back they in the coach they played a video about Steve and the zoo which gave us a lot more info too – it was a really educational, moving and enjoyable day.

Memorial to Steve Irwin

Memorial to Steve Irwin

I met with my friend Natalie for drinks in the evening. She’s on a working holiday at the moment and I thought it was silly to be in the same city and not meet. We went out for drinks with her and a friend and caught up on things before I headed back to my hotel for the night.

Me at Australia Zoo

Me at Australia Zoo

Me in Brisbane

Me in Brisbane

Tomorrow I’m due to head to Sydney – my final stop on this trip!

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Sydney has a lot to do for first time travellers

June 25th, 2007 No comments

On my final morning in Brisbane I was collected by minibus mid-morning. I talked to the concierge about Australia Zoo and he was pleased that I had a good time and that I think it’s definitely the best zoo I have visited – including Singapore, London and San Diego. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m in Australia now or not but there was definitely something special about my visit there – make sure you visit if you find yourself in the area north of Brisbane.

Brisbane Hotel

Brisbane Hotel

The flight from Brisbane to Sydney was about half the length of the flight from Cairns to Brisbane – not much longer than an hour. Upon arrival I was transferred by minibus to my hotel – the Travelodge at Wynyard. It’s in a great location only 5-10 minutes walk from the harbour and within easy reach of the bus routes if I need them. There wasn’t much time left for real sightseeing so I concentrated on just finding the things I planned to see and do during my time here such as BridgeClimb and the Explorer bus stops.

Sydney at Night

Sydney at Night

Yesterday was my first full day in Sydney and I decided to pack as much sightseeing in as I could arrange so that I had some free time for anything that comes up later in my stay. I had a hop-on hop-off ticket with Matilda Cruises booked so decided to use it as soon as they opened to get my bearings around the city and harbour. My hotel isn’t far from Darling Harbour so decided to get up early and walk it. After exchanging my ticket it was a little while before the first boat of the day arrived but I was one of the first people on board so got a good seat. The boats do a continuous loop around the entire harbour all day and you can hop on and off wherever you want that it stops and I highly recommend if you want to be able to explore everything around the harbour. There are stops in Darling Harbour, at the zoo, Watson’s Bay, Circular Quay and a few other places.

Darling Harbour

Darling Harbour

The first stop I got off at was Taronga Zoo. I didn’t go into the zoo itself but just up the hill from the zoo there are some walking trails that my guide book mentioned had great views of the harbour so thought I’d check them out – and I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t know why this place isn’t recommended more as it was a nice place but the tranquility was part of how special it was so I’m glad it wasn’t overcrowded. After an hour or so I walked back to the pier to catch the next boat to my next stop, Watson’s Bay, where I intended to have lunch.¬† I ate at Doyle’s on The Beach which is a very popular but expensive restaurant. I chickened out and had the steak as I didn’t know what most of the fish were – but it was one of the nicest steaks I have ever had.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

Bradley's Head Trail

Bradley’s Head Trail

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour

Doyle's

Doyle’s

After lunch I relaxed in a park and then it was back to the city centre where I got on the Bondi Explorer bus. It was running early so stopped for a few minutes at a couple of locations where we were able to get good photos. I decided to get off properly and explore around The Gap park though as there are some amazing views of the harbour entrance there. It has some very rough waters and rugged scenery which is probably why so many people commit suicide there. I did see some whales off in the distance too which was nice as I’ve never seen any in the wild before!

Me at Watson's Bay

Me at Watson’s Bay

Watson's Bay

Watson’s Bay

Bondi Explorer Bus

Bondi Explorer Bus

The Gap

The Gap

I got back on the next bus and made my way to Bondi Beach which is a place nobody can visit Sydney without seeing. I just wish it was better weather as I had only been there for 10 minutes when a storm came in so I had to cut my time on the beach itself short. I bought a few souvenirs in the tourist shops, took some photos then got the Explorer bus back into the city. The last Matilda boat of the day was just coming in too so I decided to save myself some time and catch it to it’s final stop at Darling Harbour so I could visit the aquarium.

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach

As I had an explorer pass I got a discount at Sydney Aquarium so made use of it. It’s not the biggest I’ve been to but contains animals I’ve never seen anywhere else including Platypus, Crocodiles, Lizards and, as we’re in Sydney, a Finding Nemo exhibit with examples of all of the fish from the move (except the sharks, of course). They had an underground tunnel too with Turtles, Rays, Sharks and some weird fish I’ve never seen before. One of them followed me and then decided to have a staring contest – it won as I don’t think its species blinks!

It was getting late by the time I left the aquarium so headed back for a good nights sleep. I’m due to climb up the Sydney Harbour Bridge this morning so needed all of the rest I could get!

Wish me luck!

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Bridge Climb and Sydney Explorer

June 26th, 2007 No comments

Yesterday I took part in one of the scariest but worthwhile experiences of my life – climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’m OK with heights, but there some metal catwalks which made me a bit nervous as it’s mainly the idea of falling from heights or being able to see through the floor that I don’t like! When I booked my holiday this activity seemed to just jump out at me. It was expensive (¬£74 per person) but it’s a once in a lifetime thing and unless I come back to Sydney I’ll never be able to do it again.

Bridge Climb

Bridge Climb

The day started by walking just down the road from my hotel to the Bridge Climb centre. After checking in there was a little bit of a wait where I had a chance to look at some of the photos of famous people that have made the climb – Pierce Brosnan, Status Quo, Mike from Green Day and the Olsen sisters were among the ones I saw there. Once everything was ready for us we moved into another room for some paperwork and safety checks. One of the safety checks was an alcohol test and we had to blow into one of those machines to test that we weren’t under the influence, for safety reasons.

Next we got kitted up in an all-in-one bridge suit. All jackets, wallets, phones, cameras, bags etc had to be left behind in a locker for safety reasons but we took the key with us to ensure nobody could access our property. Then we passed through a metal detector to make sure we didn’t have anything still on us by mistake. That was the last of the security checks before progressing to a simulated section of bridge. We had to attach ourselves to it using the safety harness then climb up, walk along the catwalk and then climb back down again. While we waited for people to do that there was a chance to chat to everybody else. Most of the people there were Australian which was good as I like being around locals when I’m on holiday. There was a girl there who was doing this to prove she was OK with heights. She was a bit nervous so I told her that if the Olsen sisters can do it then she can too. The final stop before heading to the bridge was to fit us with communication equipment – a radio that was developed by the Australian Special Forces that projects sound waves into your inner ear without using headphones – which allowed us to experience the sights and sounds of everything around us without having a headset get in the way.

Climbers on the bridge

Climbers on the bridge

There were some metal catwalks which made me really nervous as you could see 100m straight down to the road below but other than that the climb was pretty nice. Once on the bridge it was nice and secure and the views made up for any nervousness I had before. I was treated with great views of the Opera House and Harbour and could see for miles and miles due to the great visibility. We had photos taken at the top before making our way down the other side. This time it was a combination of metal catwalks and wooden planks at the end which made me nervous but I had survived the rest so was OK with it. The climb leader was really good at giving us information about the bridge and the surrounding area – he also joked with us and made the girl OK with the heights and joked about me and the thought of falling from them – “we’re now about 140m above the water – or about 7 seconds straight down” was a quote I remember from him.

Me on the Harbour Bridge

Me on the Harbour Bridge

The experience was really memorable and I’m glad I did it. I purchased the photos at the end as a souvenir before going for lunch with somebody else that was on the climb on his own – a guy from Adelaide. We stopped at the Australia hotel which is famous for its pizza – including Kangaroo pizza. I didn’t have the stomach for that so had Tandoori Chicken Pizza which had huge chunks of chicken with cheese and a mint dressing and tasted really nice! After lunch I parted ways with the other guy and went off to the Pylon lookout – a museum exhibit with great views that was included in the price of the Bridge Climb.

The Australian Hotel

The Australian Hotel

View from Pylon Lookout

View from Pylon Lookout

View from Pylon Lookout #2

View from Pylon Lookout #2

Me at The Pylon Lookout

Me at The Pylon Lookout

That evening I did some more random exploring and took some more photos.

This morning I made an early start for the other explorer bus, the Sydney explorer, which concentrates more on the city than the buses on other routes. First I got off at Macquarie’s Chair – a lookout made by the first governor for his wife. A few photos later it was back onto the bus to do the most of the tour in one go due to the rain. I had to reconfirm my transfer to the airport so got off at the stop next to my hotel, confirmed it by phone, then got back on the next bus to finish the tour.

Me at Mrs Maquarie's Chair

Me at Mrs Maquarie’s Chair

I spent some time exploring the Botanical Gardens that lead from the Opera House to Macuquarie’s Chair and took some really great photos which I’ve put below. It was nice to just take some time to relax in the small break in the rain. It didn’t last long though so I got back on the explorer bus and stayed on a few stops until Hyde Park where I got off and spent some time at the Museum of Sydney. It’s a nice little museum telling you about the city and was a nice place to escape the rain despite museums generally making me bored very quickly. I planned to do some more exploring but the rain kept arriving so I made it back to the hotel to relax with a movie.

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Tomorrow I’m leaving Australia and flying home via Bangkok, Thailand. I have a mid-morning departure from the hotel so have booked an early tour of the Sydney Opera House in the morning.

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Back from Australia

June 28th, 2007 No comments

I made it back to the UK but I had a really great time in Australia and I miss it already. Overall the people were great and I saw and did so many great things. The same with Singapore and although it was rather hot it was a really nice place.

On my last day in Sydney I left the hotel early to take some last minute photos before my 9am tour of the Sydney Opera House. I walked down past BridgeClimb to the area near the observatory, then down to Circular Quay to take some photos before collecting my ticket for the Opera House tour and leaving my bag in their baggage drop. This was perfect timing as there wasn’t much else I could do in the few hours I had spare and if I booked online in advance for an early tour it was less than half price!

Opera House

Opera House

The tour showed us all around the public areas of the Opera House including the lobbies, lookouts and concert halls. For copyright reasons we weren’t able to take photos inside the concert halls but were able to in the other public areas. Our guide, Troy, told us about the history of the building as well as the construction and also telling us who has played there. Something I was surprised at was Foo Fighters recently played a concert here – I guess I just didn’t associate it with anything other than Opera.

Opera House

Opera House

Opera House

Opera House

Me and the Opera House

Me and the Opera House

After the tour it was back to the hotel for a last minute freshen-up before checking out, leaving my bags with reception and going out for some more last minute photos. I went up the glass elevator to the walkway behind circular quay and there were some fantastic views and I don’t know why no guide books recommend it – if it wasn’t for the BridgeClimb guide I would never have known about it. After coming down I spent the last of my money on a CD of an Aboriginal musician that was playing along the quayside. Apparently he’s the one in all the adverts for Australia playing didgeridoo on top of the Harbour Bridge and was also the Aborigine that came out of the desert in that Priscilla Queen of the Desert movie. Random – but I shall have to watch it some time.

Circular Quay

Circular Quay

Musicians

Musicians

I went back to the hotel and collected my bags from the hotel (the woman that brought them was really short and thin I thought it was going to break her back) before waiting for my minibus to the Airport. I almost missed it as he parked on the other side of the road and down a bit so the scaffolding around the hotel was blocking my view but luckily I noticed him in time.

My flight was on time which was just as well as it would take me 23 hours to get back to the UK including the stopover in Thailand. We were there two hours and although we never left the airport I still class myself as having been there as we touched down on their soil. We had to go out into the departure lounge, come back through security and then re-board the plane. There was this woman from the UK that asked a cleaner where the flight to London was. He didn’t speak English so she said “Plane… London… where” loudly as if he would suddenly understand and it’s no wonder British people have a bad reputation.

Bangkok Airport

Bangkok Airport

Apparently I have lost weight these past couple of weeks too – my trousers almost fell down after taking my belt off to go through security but I guess that’s a good thing.

The rest of the flight was smooth too, except we had to rush to make our window over Afghanistan but we made it back to the UK on time where I met my Dad in Starbucks for a coffee before returning home. I was glad of the Starbucks after that flight. I had a few before I left the UK too as I didn’t think I’d see any more – but my hotel in Sydney was opposite one so I had some then.

I had a great time, and hope to return to this part of the world again soon.

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