More from Sydney

We’re still here in Syndey. Last week was pretty busy with lots of visiting going on.

On Tuesday we went to the Maritime Museum which was fascinating. Loads to see there and we didn’t even go on the ships or submarine in the harbour. Inside the huge museum there are loads of boats and a helicopter hanging from the roof and exhibits covering all sorts of subjects including Australian beach-life, surfing (they even have a home-made bong in the surfing exhibit!), swimming, rowing, naval battles and immigration.

The immigration exhibition tied in quite well with the Hyde Park Barracks Museum that we’d visited a few days before. Lots of info about the conditions of convicts and voluntary immigrants and their life on arrival.

That evening we met up with Amy, a friend of Vic’s who used to work with her at the NTA in London, and her boyfriend, Gerald who live back in Sydney now. We had a few drinks together and they kindly offered to take us with them to visit Amy’s dad at his self-built house in Woolombi in the Hunter Valley, an area famed for its wines.

Cyberworlds @ Powerhouse

On Thursday we went to another museum in the Darling Harbour area, the Powerhouse Museum housed in a huge former powerstation. Another excellent museum, sort of a cross between the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Displays of fashion and household wares alongside life-size replicas of spacecraft and real steam engines. Lots of fun and it ate our entire afternoon! In the evening we had a look round the Market City shopping centre which has lots of factory outlet stores, including a Mambo one where I found a nice, but very cheap woollen zip-up cardigan which should come in useful in the colder areas of our trip.

Friday morning we visited Paddy’s Market, which neither of us were very impressed by, and then we went to the Westfield shopping mall at Bondi Junction for a bit of pottering around.

While we were there, my brother’s friend, John Weir, called us. He lives in Syndey and I’d mailed him when we arrived. He invited us over so after finishing the shopping we caught a taxi to his flat in Darlingpoint. We met his wife, Lydia, and his son, Miles, and shared a bottle of wine before going for a walk down by the harbour. John took us for beer at a English-style pub before dropping us home. I’d like to thank John and Lydia for making us so welcome, and I hope that Lydia’s voice has recovered as she was left almost speechless while we there due to a sore throat.

On Saturday, we set off to meet Amy and Gerald at North Sydney station, only to find that the railway line was closed for maintenance, so we had to take a bus replacement service. Fortunately we were only a few minutes late and we then set off for the Hunter Valley.

Amy wasn’t feeling well so the journey took longer than planned. We stopped at a pub in Woolombi for a beer and one of the huge burgers that they do. After that we drove on to Amy’s dad’s place. It’s a large building, completely self-built from local timber and makes a great weekend home. Amy’s dad, Andrew, built it over the past 13 or so years with some help from friends.

As it was getting late in the afternoon we decided to leave the wines for Sunday and just relaxed a bit for the rest of the day. It was great to watch wallabies hopping around near the house and soem birds had built a nest by the chimney and were feeding their babies. We ate a suitably traditional barbequed meal before retiring for bed.

Sadly, on Sunday we woke to the sound of hard rain rattling on the corrugated roof of the house. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and made it pointless visiting the wineries. We set off back in the rain and stopped for lunch at Brooklyn before returning to rainy Sydney.

On Saturday night the clocks changed for daylight saving time. They went forward, whereas in the UK they went back so we’re now 11 hours ahead instead of the 9 hours that we were last week.

We’re flying to Melbourne on Wednesday, and then on to Christchurch on Sunday. Lots to do!

New Look Llamablog

I’ve changed the theme that the blog uses so it all looks very different. I hope you like the changes.

The old style was pretty much the same as the one I used when using the Moveable Type software, and I did some work to convert it over, but I prefer the new theme which I found at the Urban Giraffe site.

Still a little fine tuning to do but it’s getting there.

Photos from Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains

I’ve uploaded some photos of Bondi Beach and from our recent excursion into The Blue Mountains ; on those pages you can click on the pictures to see bigger versions or on the thumbnails in the films strip at the bottom to see the other pictures

We’re back in Sydney, and having failed to find any accomodation in Melbourne (we didn’t realise it was Melbourne Cup week when we booked the flights) we’re staying in Sydney for an extra week before travelling on to Melbourne for 4 days.

Blue Mountains and Katoomba

On Monday we got the train from Sydney’s Central Station to the Blue Mountains. The station is supposed to have left-luggage lockers, so the Rough Guide to Sydney and the receptionist at Y On The Park said, but no, there are no left luggage facilities at the station so we ended up carting all our stuff with us on to the train.

The trains here are great. They’re double-decked so there’s lots of room, the seats have swing-backs so that you can change the direction that the seat faces, and they’re cheap, just A$11 each (about 5 quid) for a 2 hour journey. The trains are clean and so far have run on time too.

The scenery on the journey wasn’t great even as we reached the Blue Mountain area, finally arriving at Katoomba. Sure, there were hills but nothing very special.

We staggered the few hundred yards from the station to our hotel. We were booked into The Carrington Hotel which is a lovely heritage hotel, over 120 years old which makes it practically stone age by Australian terms. We had a “traditional” room which was a decent double with shared bathroom at the end of the hall. No view but given the amount of cloud, that didn’t make much difference.

The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba

Since we arrived in Katoomba the weather has been pretty damp with frequent rain and lots of cloud and fog. Not very spring-like at all, and the locals tell us that it’s been unusual, which pretty much covers our experiences with weather since we set of in the camper van in June 2004, or even before (you may remember our trip to Tromso in northern Norway one February where we experienced unexpectedly warm and wet weather instead of the ice, snow and clear blue skies we were hoping for).

Everywhere Internet in Sydney who had very fast access (and USB ports) for A$1.50 per hour if you spend more than A$3.

Virtually the next town to Katoomba is Wentworth Falls, where John, who we met in Arambol in Goa, lives. We knew he owned a deli there and had spotted one from the rain as we went past on the way to Katoomba, so the next day we popped in to see if he was around. With our usual excellent, timing he was away at the horse races.

Back in Katoomba we walked down Katoomba Road, past the impressive looking YHA hostel to Echo Point. Now we could see why people go the Blue Mountains. Spectacular views over sheer cliffs and scenery which is reminiscent of the canyons of American wilderness.

Blue Mountains and The Three Sisters

The next day we went for a walk in the National Park, heading down a path to where the a xhref=”” mce_href=””>world’s steepest funicular railway ends. After an enjoyable walk down the mountain, through the trees, we took the train up to the top. We decided to skip the SkyWay and FlyWay and ventured back into the town for delicious hot chocolate at the Elephant Bean cafe.

Katoomba is full of little cafes and restaurants, most of them excellent. We tried Savoy, Journey, A-Roon’s Thai Kitchen and Cafe Zuppa. I also had a fantastic Ploughman’s Lunch at Treahorne, well worth a visit if you’re in town.


Once more it’s been a while since I updated the blog. We’re in Sydney now and having a great time. We’re staying at the very nice Y On The Park hotel which is run by the YWCA and is in the city centre close to Hyde Park, within walking distance of the harbour etc.

Sydney is currently suffering from a plague of Bogong moths and they’re everywhere; in the hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, everywhere. One evening we walked by the park and could see hundreds of bats circling the top of one of the skyscrapers, lit up by lights on the top of the tower, a truly marvelous sight as the bats circled and whirled chasing the moths.

We’ve been really busy making the most of the city. Done lots of shopping and have bought a very cool new Stussy jacket and some of those Nike Considered shoes which are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever bought.

What have we been up to? Well, we walked most of the length of Oxford Street looking at clothes, we’ve wandered round the Rocks, had a picnic in the Royal Botanical gardens, been sat on by Cockatoos, taken a ferry to Manly, and taken lots of photos of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House

Sydney Opera House

One evening we ate in Hyde Park where there was a food festival taking place, alongside the “Art and About” art exhibition along the footpaths in the park.

We spent an afternoon at the fantastic aquarium which has a huge tank with loads of large sharks and rays in it. Quite unnerving to walk under a large toothsome grey reef shark as it glides silently over your head.

On Wednesday evening we celebrated our second wedding anniversary (which was actually Tuesday) by having a superb meal at the Opera Bar by the river followed by an evening at the Opera House. We went to see “HMS Pinafore” and “Trial By Jury” and had a great view from our seats in the Circle. A bit pricey, but it was our anniversary and how often are we going to get the chance? The building is amazing to look at and has a really nice feeling, being very open and airy, with cafes and restaurants lining the harbourside. At sunset the building sail-like domes are bathed in a beautiful amber light.

On Thursday we caught the ferry over to Taronga Zoo and spent a day watching the animals. On landing near the zoo you can get a cable car up to the top of the hill which gives great views of the harbour as well as some of the animals in the zoo.

We saw loads of animals, lots of Australian species like kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, platypus, koalas, quokkas, dingos, wombats, emu etc. They also have lots of non-Australian animals like Sumatran Tigers, lions, gorillas, orang utans, gibbons, giraffes and some very playful Asian Otters.

I’ve uploaded some photos, a couple of Singapore , and pictures from Brisbane and loads from Sydney .

Vic & Nige at Sydney Harbour Bridge

Sydney is great, quite like a sunnier, cleaner and more airy version of London. Quite expensive, but we’re getting used to that. We’ve had some great meals here, particularly the one at the Opera Bar.

The shops are generally good, not particularly cheap but quite good choice and Vic’s found lots of clothes she likes in Witchery.

On Friday evening we met up with my cousin, Brendan , and his wife Bee. I haven’t seen Brendan for about 30 years and he’s been working in Sydney for 3 years so it was an excellent opportunity to catch up. We met at their wonderful apartment overlooking most of Sydney, and they took us out for a fantastic meal at Otto’s restaurant. It was great to meet Brendan again and to meet Bee for the first time and they were very friendly and kind to us.

Bali Bombings

We’ve been reading a bit about the bombings in Bali on Saturday night.

Having been in Kuta only 6 or so weeks ago, we feel fortunate to have avoided the bombs but also very sorry for the Balinese. They’re lovely people, only just recovering from the bombings of 2002 and they really do want people to visit their island.

I only hope that people won’t avoid travelling to Bali, it’s such a beautiful country with a fantastic atmosphere. By boycotting Bali, people will be doing exactly what the terrorists are trying to acheive, destroying the economy of the only non-Muslim part of Indonesia.

All those in Britain who say that they won’t let the London bombings affect them, show some solidarity with Bali and don’t change any plans you have for trips.

Bangkok, Singapore and now Brisbane

Not had a chance to write much as we’ve been so busy.

We flew from Koh Samui to Bangkok, had a day pottering round and then met Cedric in the Siam Discovery Center a week last Friday.

He’d been in Bangkok for most of ther week and seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed himself. He was staying with his friend, Guy, who has written a book about Bangkok . We went on to a bar/restaurant called Chlorophyl where we met Guy’s friend, Asif, for some food before getting cab to the State Tower where we went up to Scirocco bar at the top of the tower with a fantastic view of Bangkok.

On the Saturday we went to Chatuchak market and bought some jeans and t-shirts. The jeans were either original Levi’s or very good copies, and cost between 500-1000 Baht (70 Baht to the UK pound). After that we caught up with Cedric and Guy at the airport to see Cedric off safely.

More shopping on Sunday, some great shopping centers in Bangkok, much cheaper than KL but with a wider choice.

On Monday Vic persuaded me to go to the Silom Dental Center with her as she was getting her teeth whitened by laser (I’d have considered that too but only if they used a light sabre). I went for a “clean & polish” and checkup.

Didn’t turn out quite that simple though. After cleaning, the dentist decided that he was going to do four fillings and extract one of my back teeth. He also said that I’d need root canal work on another tooth but that he didn’t have time to do that. So I sat in extreme discomfort for two hours while several people fumbled about in my mouth, telling me not to swallow while blowing water on the back of my throat.

I emerged sore, a bit miffed and minus one tooth. Not terribly happy. The bill for my treatment came to around 4000 Baht (so about 60 pounds), pretty cheap I guess. Vic’s laser treatment came to 10000 Baht (150 quid) and gave her extremely painful teeth for the next 3 days. I tried to have some sympathy, honestly I did.

On Wednesday we flew on to Singapore, staying at Sleepy Sam’s (whoever wrote that review saying that it was like waking up a luxury resort must be on some kind of powerful drug!). Our “double room” was a partitioned off section of the main dorm room. The walls don’t go to the ceiling so you can hear every snore or murmur of the people staying in the dorm. Not a great deal of privacy really. And only twice what we were paying for an en-suite room at the Samran Place in Bangkok.

I didn’t like Singapore as much this time as I did went we went a couple of years ago. The shops seemed more expensive (certainly more than KL or Bangkok) though Vic tells me that the shoes were cheap.

At the airport on Friday, I thought I’d check out the Apple iPod Nano in Duty Free but everywhere was sold out of it, despite it being fully stocked everywhere in the city itself.

We arrived in Brisbane at about 7am, and after a long time queueing at Immigration finally made it into the city at about 9:30am.

We’re currently staying at The Bunk in Brisbane. Bit of shock that we have to pay $70 for a double room, but I guess we’ll get used to it. The room is okay (bit small) but the bathroom’s good. The bed’s despite being described in one of the guides as “the comfiest in Brisbane” are covered in that thick polythene to prevent the drunken louts that usually stay there from ruining the mattresses.

So that brings us up to date. We’re probably moving on from Brisbane earlier than we had originally thought, skipping Byron Bay and Fraser Island, both of which seem to be expensive tourist traps for people who haven’t seen beaches before.

At the moment, we’re not feeling terribly positive about Australia. Despite what Australians everywhere will tell you, it’s more expensive than the UK, (A$25 for two coffees and two pieces of cake… that’s 10 quid). All the “backpacker” places are aimed at “Working Holiday” people, with Job Clubs at the hostels and prices in excess of YHA hostels back home. They also seem to be aimed at people who just want to drink all the time, which seems to be the main leisure activity in Australia (people drinking on the streets at 10am on a Monday).

We’ll see if Sydney is any better.