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Click on one of the links above (or in the map)
for more details on any particular area we visited. On this
page, you'll find the following (links within this page):
Suggestions that may help make your
visit to this region more pleasant.
Description of our trip in Sydney,
the Blue Mountains, and up the east coast
via Hunter Valley.
Where we stayed (hotels, caravan parks)
Photographs - a little larger than
the ones you see in the description of the trip. (I put the
photographs at the end of this page, so they'll load as you read.)
Just a few suggestions, to make your
visit more pleasant...
Don't try vegemite. You're better off with a romantic wondering of what
it tastes like, than knowing what it tastes like. It's one of
those cultural things that you just want to observe from a distance.
Australians eat vegemite, and I don't. It's horrid. If in doubt, check
out the words "concentrated yeast extract" on the package!
Take the ferry to Manly for great views of Sydney Harbour.
Become a member of the Retired Servicemen's League Club for a day.
Pat a koala.
Don't say "yes" or "yeah," but go for a short, clipped, "yih," and
you'll fit right in. "Australia," by the way, is pronounced more like "Airstroilia."
Taste the wine in Hunter Valley.
Description of our trip: Sydney,
Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley
Monday, august 26th, 2002: Sydney
Between saturday morning and now, we had stood in a couple of lines and boarded a few planes, only to wake up in Sydney! Feeling a little spaced-out, we took a bus to downtown Sydney.
We got off at Circular Quay, close to the Opera House. A visit to the
Museum of Sydney gave a very good impression of the history of this area. There's some information on the Aborigines, and the way they lived, and quite a lot about the history of "modern" Sydney. James Cook selected this part of the Australian coast as a decent site to start a
colony, and a certain governor Phillip put that into effect. Don't be fooled, though: James Cook is not really the one who discovered Australia. Dutch sailors had landed on the west coast before then, and had probably also been at the east coast before.
We walked around the harbor, and took a look around the Opera House, amid hundreds of joggers fighting their potbellies on their lunchbreaks. We were surprised to see large numbers of very hip-looking young Asians, or Asian Australians on the downtown streets.
In the afternoon, we walked across the Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli, and back. For a great view of Sydney by night, walk halfway across the Harbour Bridge. You can also climb the Bridge, but we found it too expensive. We walked over to Oxford Street for dinner. Oxford St has a long series of restaurants, side by side, most of them Asian (Thai, Indian, Japanese...). They looked great, but we went for a T-bone steak dinner, for $12.50 each. That's Australian dollars, about 7 euro. Click here for a currency converter. Wow, we like those prices!
Tuesday, august 27th, 2002: Retired servicemen
This morning, we took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly; this trip gives great views of Sydney Harbour, with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. In Manly, we ran into a lunchroom annex shop called the Four Olives, which has delicious brownies.
In the afternoon, we picked up our camper van at Hertz, and drove to the Grand Pines caravan park. We had the smallest camper van you can rent, suitable for two people, but the interior is used ingeniously, and it looked cute and cosy. I knew I wasn't going to have a problem making my home here for a few weeks.
We had asked the Hertz guy for a place to eat, and he'd suggested the Retired Servicemen's League (RSL) Club near our caravan park. This was entirely new to us, and we loved it. You don't have to be retired, let alone a serviceman, to get in. You do have to be a member, but signing in at the door makes you a member for one day. So what do they have to offer?
Very cheap food (and pretty good, $10 for our two meals), very cheap drinks (a large glass of beer, a "schooner," was $2.30), and plenty of opportunity to spend the money you just saved on food, on gambling. The gambling stuff - mostly keno and gambling machines - are what keep this place going, of course.
Wednesday, august 28th, 2002: Koala patting
Today we visited Featherdale Wildlife Park. We'd read in a pamphlet that Featherdale offers "koala patting" and this sounded so ridiculous and cute at the same time that we just had to see it for ourselves. They have lots of koalas, that have been bred there, that take
turns sitting in a eucalyptus stump so visitors can get up close. These animals are very cute and very lazy - I heard that they sleep around 16 hours a day, and spend nearly all of their time just sitting in a tree. That made them very easy to hunt, which is why they're endangered now. I'm not sure about the patting. You could argue that the animals don't like it, but as soon as one animal starts to resist the patting and moves down the tree, he's brought back to his own tree, and another one takes his place. I didn't get the impression that they worried much about anything at all, and the advantage is that this does create a lot of awareness.
We camped in the village of Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains. It got very cold in the evening (in fact, it froze at night) and we soon found out that the heater in our campervan did not work. It was just too cold to sit there, so we warmed up at the Katoomba RSL Club, playing pool and watching the gamblers, and took the courtesy bus back.
Thursday, august 29th, 2002: Three Sisters
In the morning we walked from Govett's Leap to Evans' Lookout, and back, along the ridge of one of the Blue Mountains' cliffs. The Govett's Leap parking lot is just outside of the village of Blackheath. The "structure" of the Blue Mountains became apparent as we walked. They're a plateau, really, with steep cliffs leading down to the valleys below. The valleys were eroded away, while the plateau remained, due to a harder type of rock. At both Govett's Leap and Evans' Lookout, you're standing at the edge of the plateau, looking at the yellow cliffs across the forested valley.
The Blue Mountains are named for the eucalyptus mist that's supposed to be everywhere, and I'm not sure whether it was just suggestion, or really true, but I thought I actually smelled the eucalyptus oil in the air. We watched the sunset at the Three Sisters, in Katoomba: beautiful!
Friday, august 30th, 2002: Wine tasters
Today, we drove a scenic route to Hunter Valley. First we completed the "tourist loop" through the Blue Mountains by taking Bells Line of Road, with beautiful views of the cliffs. We then drove through a region with many fruit orchards in full bloom. In Windsor we turned north-east, toward Wiseman's Ferry. A parking area high above the river, with a view of the ferry, provided a perfect spot for a picnic.
We reached Hunter Valley in the afternoon. The valley is dominated by vineyards, and I loved the warm yellow look of the dusty fields in the afternoon sun. We visited two wineries, Tamburlain and Lindemans. Neither offered a tour of the facilities, but free wine tasting made up for that!
Saturday, august 31st, to Tuesday, september 3rd, 2002: Road trippers
We spent the next four days crawling up the Pacific Highway, with stops in Arrawarra (saturday), Dicky Beach (sunday), Bundaberg (monday), and back south to Hervey Bay (tuesday). We usually drove 500 to 600 km in one day (that is pretty much a day's driving with the campervan), and then spent time visiting a town, a beach, or relaxing somewhere.
Driving the campervan is a little slower than we'd expected. The region's hilly, and the road usually had one lane only. Downhill we made 110 km/hr if there wasn't some slow traffic in front of us, but uphill the speedometer usually went down to 60 km/hr, so our average speed wasn't very good. Plus, sudden gusts of wind sometimes made driving a tiring business.
We started out driving through endless eucalyptus forests, but they made way to fields of sugarcane around Bundaberg. Also, the temperature rose steadily on our way up north, from cool (16 C) in Sydney, to very pleasant (low twenties) around Hervey Bay. Although the road signs warn for kangaroos and koalas, we didn't see any. We did see flying foxes in Hervey Bay, though, just after dark. The size of the villages and towns you come through, can be determined by the fast food chains they have. Even the smallest village along the Pacific Highway has a McDonalds, and every village that takes itself seriously also has a KFC. From there on up, the larger the village, the larger the variety.
The Arrawarra beach looked nice, but it was too cold for a swim. Dicky Beach was best; it's a beautiful beach, named after the wreck of the SS Dicky, and we had fun in the waves just before sunset. This is Australia's Sunshine Coast. We had a fantastic dinner in Moffat Beach (Morfat Beach?), a short walk away, with fresh oysters and a shrimp salad.
We had driven up to Bundaberg to arrange for a diving trip, but the next one we could participate in was only in three days, so we drove a little ways back south to Hervey Bay, for a trip to Fraser Island.
Where we stayed:
Hotel in Sydney:
Capitol Square Hotel, off George Street, in Chinatown. Good. Convenient bus
connection to downtown (Circle Quay).
Sydney: Grand Pines - too expensive (but maybe that's Sydney)
Katoomba (Blue Mts): Katoomba - good
Cessnock (Hunter Valley): Valley Vineyard Tourist park - good
Arrawarra (east coast): Darlington Beach Resort - excellent
Dicky Beach (east coast): Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park - good
Bundaberg (Bargara): Absolutely Oceanfront - no beach, but pool
Hervey Bay: Fraser Lodge Caravan Park - excellent, pool
Photographs - Sydney &
Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, from the ferry to Manly.
Threatening skies over downtown Sydney.
Sydney Opera House.
Sydney Opera House.
Traffic on Sydney's Harbour Bridge.
Traffic on Sydney's Harbour Bridge.
Downtown Sydney by night (from Harbour Bridge).
Sydney Opera House by night.
Kangaroo with joey (Featherdale park).
Three sisters (Blue Mountains).
Wiseman's Ferry lookout point.
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