I’ve been to Sydney five times on three trips to Australia, and every time, it’s rained heavily at some point.
Articles tagged with "australia"
I spent a week in Coffs Harbour for a conference. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to see the place, as there was not a lot of free time and the venue was way out of town anyway. But we were close to the beach so I went there most days.
I had one more day in Sydney. It rained heavily for most of it so I didn’t do very much. I got the ferry to Manly, and walked on the beach for a while. On the way back, the waters of the harbour were choppy, and me and another guy who was standing on the bow got completely soaked when we hit a large wave and spray crashed down over the decks.
Back at Circular Quay, I walked along the shores of the harbour to Macquarie Point. It was getting dark, and the bridge and the opera house were looking good. It was my last night in Australia, and I wondered when I would be back. Opportunities to visit the other side of the world don’t come around too often, and after two visits in three years, I thought it would probably be a while before I could return.
I got an overnight bus from Melbourne to Sydney. It was almost entirely full but there was one single spare seat on the bus. It was the seat next to me, and I was very happy about that. We arrived in Sydney at 6.30am and I got straight on a train to Katoomba.
It was a beautiful day in the Blue Mountains. I walked from Katoomba station to Echo Point and along the edge of the Jamison Valley, to Katoomba Falls and beyond. The hazy blue valley looked vast and impenetrable. I only had a few days left in Australia before I had to head back to London, work and winter, but it was so peaceful here that such thoughts were very far from my mind.
After the bus journey I was tired. I headed back to Katoomba, and had a power nap at the hostel I was staying at. It had been a beautiful day and I woke up in time to go back down to the valley edge to see the sun set, but to my surprise it was now raining and misty. I got up early the next morning to see about seeing the sunrise, but thick fog was drifting through the streets. I headed back to Sydney.
On the final morning, we made a couple of stops, but they were nothing like as spectacular as yesterday’s, and the weather wasn’t so good either. We were all glad we’d done the trip starting in Adelaide – starting in Melbourne you’d have the best scenery on the first day and then two anticlimactic days to follow.
I felt sad the tour was over, but most of us stayed in the same hostel in Melbourne so it was not goodbye just yet. I liked Melbourne a lot more than I thought I would, even though the weather here was similar to what you’d expect in London in November. There were lots of things happening – we saw a great photography exhibition at the Arts Centre, and took shelter from the rain at a cafe where there was live music. It seemed that you didn’t have to look to hard to find interesting things to do here.
We went to the Rialto Towers one evening. In the daytime, under grey skies and in constant drizzle, Melbourne was no beauty, but at night from above, it looked pretty impressive.
The second day of the trip was quiet. We stopped at some OK places, but probably the best thing about the day was that it finished in Port Fairy, where we had a great night out in a pub in the town, and where in the morning I went for a dawn run along the beach and around the marina, where colourful boats bobbed about in the quiet morning sunshine.
The third day was epic. The scenery was amazing from the start, and it just got more and more spectacular. We made stops at the Bay of Islands, the Bay of Martyrs, London Bridge, the Grotto, Loch Ard Gorge and the Razorbacks, and visiting even one of them would have been impressive. I burned up film, and was amazed that places like this existed. The turquoise sea crashing against the wild yellow rocks looked otherworldly.
In the evening we stopped at Apollo Bay. It was our last night, and it turned into a very late night. At the start of the trip I had had major reservations about doing this tour, but by now I knew I’d have seriously missed out if I had done the trip on my own.
From Adelaide I headed towards Melbourne. I wanted to travel along the Great Ocean Road, and it seemed like this was only feasible with an organised tour. There was little public transport, and I didn’t fancy hitch-hiking, so I booked a trip with the Wayward Bus Company. I wasn’t too much looking forward to it, as I’d never really been on any kind of tour before. Three days with a bunch of people I’d never met before was an uncertain prospect.
Things started OK. The trip would last four days, and we’d only get to the Great Ocean Road proper on the third day. We drove through the suburbs of Adelaide, passing through the German town of Hahndorf, and crossing the Murray River on a pontoon that reminded me of criss-crossing the Zambezi on my journey from Mongu to Livingstone four months earlier.
Eventually we reached the Coorong, a long thin peninsula separating the Murray River from the Southern Ocean. In the imaginative style typical of the early settlers, the ocean-side beach which stretched away out of sight in both directions was called Ninety Mile Beach. We stopped here to walk along the shore, and to jump off giant sand dunes.
In the evening we reached Beachport and stopped for the night. Already between Robe and Beachport the ocean scenery was pretty impressive, with jagged cliffs rising out of the turquoise sea. If we were not even on the actual Great Ocean Road yet, then I was definitely looking forward to that.
I got to Adelaide not longer after the World Solar Challenge competitors got there. They had raced across the deserts from Darwin to here in solar-powered vehicles, and in the hostel I met a guy called Sven, who had been a competitor. He’d finished last, but didn’t seem too unhappy about it.
I went to look around Adelaide. My dad’s cousins live in Adelaide, and I got a train to Marino to visit them. Three years ago in their house I had a terrifying encounter with a huntsman spider, but this time there were none in sight. I was constantly keeping half an eye out though.
Back in the city centre I looked around. As night fell I walked along the river and watched the lights of the city come on. I walked up to Light’s Vision, a statue of the city founder overlooking his creation. I thought he must have been pretty pleased with it.
It would take 24 hours to cover the thousand-odd miles to Adelaide. As I settled into the blissfully cool air conditioned carriage, I looked at the spare seat next to me and thought it would be great if a cute girl happened to be booked onto that seat. As I thought this, a cute girl appeared at the end of the carriage, walked down and took the seat next to me.
As we rumbled out of Central station, we started talking. The train clacked along slowly, the engines struggling to haul the great body of the train up out of Sydney and into the Blue Mountains. After a few hours we’d crossed the Great Dividing Range, and we accelerated down into the endless plains of New South Wales. By nightfall me and the girl were still talking, although we were both English so we hadn’t found out each other’s names yet.
When we woke up in the morning we were in the red deserts of New South Wales, not far from Broken Hill. I looked out the window and saw two kangaroos bouncing off into the distance. Me and the girl went for breakfast in the restaurant car, and finally got around to introducing ourselves. During the morning, a conductor reported regular news from a World Cup qualifying match between Australia and Uruguay. Australia had to win to qualify, and initially the word was positive, but the conductor became increasingly forlorn as the Australians went down 3-0 to the South Americans.
I was relieved to get back to Sydney. I booked into a hostel near Hyde Park. The sun was shining, and I thought I would spend a relaxed couple of days here before moving on. I wanted to go to Adelaide next, so I went to the train station to book a ticket for the Indian Pacific. Three years ago I’d travelled from Perth to Adelaide by train, and now I wanted to do the other side. But the next Indian Pacific was sold out, and for a moment I was extremely disappointed. But don’t worry, said the ticket seller, the Ghan leaves this afternoon, you can get a ticket on that. I thought the Ghan started in Adelaide but apparently it ran from Sydney too. I bought a ticket, and went back to the hostel to pack.
I had a few hours to spare, and as I was doing a lot of training at the time, I decided to fit in a run. I’d done a couple in Canberra, and not seen anyone else out, but here I could barely move for runners. I went through Hyde Park towards the Botanical Gardens and it seemed that half of Sydney was out for a run.
My Australian friends were right. A week in Canberra was not a vast amount of fun. The day I arrived it was cold and windy, and the town was deserted. I was wandering around looking for somewhere to get a coffee, but nothing seemed to be open. Eventually I came across a lonely figure at a bus stop, and asked him if there was a cafe nearby. “You might find one in that direction”, he said, gesturing vaguely down the road. Eventually I found somewhere, open but deserted, and had a coffee.
OK, so that was a Sunday. Maybe it would liven up during the week. I spent most of the week in conference sessions at the ANU’s Science Dome, but we had Wednesday afternoon free so I set out to explore. I went for a long walk along the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, which was nice enough, but still the town felt more or less deserted.
Each night I’d been out to restaurants and bars in town, and they had always been pretty quiet. But on the last day of the conference, finally the town came alive. It was a Friday evening, and the transformation was dramatic. Restaurants and bars were busy and lively, bands were playing, and all seemed good. Canberra began to redeem itself, and I decided that my Australian friends in London were just Sydneysiders with a superiority complex.
But in the morning, Canberra was a ghost town again. I walked through the silent streets to Cafe Essen for breakfast, then decided it was time to get the hell out of this alleged capital and go back to Sydney.
Three years after my first trip to Australia, I had an opportunity to return, for a conference in Canberra. It was a few months after the September 11 attacks, and my flights were unusually quiet. I flew to Osaka with a row of seats to myself, then got an even emptier flight to Sydney.
It was good to be back in this amazing city. I’d left London on a cold November day, but here it was 30°C. In a jetlagged haze I wandered around the harbour, and ambled into the Royal Botanical Gardens. I sat down in the sunshine and before I knew what was happening I was waking up and a couple of hours had passed. I got up and blearily wandered back down Pitt Street to where I was staying.
The next day it was raining heavily. I ran through the downpour to Central Station and got a bus to Canberra. All my Australian friends in London had told me that a week in Canberra was a week in hell. Soon I would find out if they were telling the truth or not.
On our last night in Australia, it was cold and miserable, and drizzle drifted on the breeze. We walked down to the harbour for a last view of the bridge and the opera house. By the morning, a ferocious downpour was battering Sydney. Our bus to the airport almost crashed, and our take-off was delayed by a couple of hours. On the way to Australia, the journey had gone quickly. On the way home it dragged on and on. To stave off boredom, I accepted every offer of alcohol the cabin crew made, and soon discovered how much more effective drinking is at high altitude. By the time we landed in the sticky heat of Bangkok at midnight, I was already getting the hangover. It had passed by the time we got back to London the next morning.
On an overcast day, we went to the museum in the south west tower of the Harbour Bridge. The museum was quite interesting, but possibly better were the views over the city from the top of the tower.
One evening we went up the Sydney Tower. We went up late in the afternoon, and not long after we got to the top night began to fall, and the lights of the city came on.
We flew from Alice Springs to Sydney. After we’d got into the city and found a place to stay, we walked toward the harbour, through the forest of skyscrapers around the central business district. Sydney Harbour is so famous that it almost seems unbelievable that it’s real, and I’ll never forget my first sight of Circular Quay, with the Bridge to the left and the Opera House to the right.
Alice Springs is in the middle of nowhere. If you drew a circle 600 miles across centred on Alice Springs, about 10,000 people would live within it. If you did the same thing in London, you’d encompass about 60 million people. We wandered up Anzac Hill and looked over the town to the Heavitree Gap. Beyond the Gap you could travel through empty desert all the way to Ceduna on the South Australian coast. At the other end of town from Anzac Hill was Billy Goat Hill. This was off-limits to all except aborigines, being a sacred place to them. The sad state of urban aborigines was clear to see near Billy Goat Hill, as there were always a number of miserable-looking people there clutching bottles.
It rained while we were in Alice Springs. This only happens once or twice a month, and after the shower had passed, the concrete paths near our hotel became covered in cockroaches. As quickly as they appeared, they disappeared, with only a few pieces of pulpy mess left behind where a careless foot had fallen at the wrong time.
Kata Tjuta is a collection of giant red rocks about 20 miles from Uluru. The tallest rocks are taller than Uluru but I hadn’t even heard of it before we arrived in Yulara. We headed out there to have a look around, and did an excellent walk through the rocks. We passed through the Valley of the Winds, and the six of us were the only people in sight in the vastness of the landscape. I felt like we were walking on the surface of Mars.
The darkness of the skies over Uluru was incredible. Even from the cities, the Milky Way was impressively bright, but out here in the desert it looked like it was painted on the sky. I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. I walked a little way out into the desert outside Yulara to try to photograph the river of stars.
I didn’t spend too long out there in the end – it was getting very cold very quickly, and I was still traumatised by my close encounter with a huntsman spider in Adelaide. I could hear a lot of noises of things moving about in the spinifex. When I thought I heard something running across the ground near my feet, I hurriedly packed up and headed back to Yulara.
We went out to a viewing point near the rock one evening at sunset. It was extremely touristy, and there were people nearby drinking champagne, which I thought was a bit over the top. But the sunset was more impressive than I thought it would be, with the rock turning some vivid colours as the shadow of the Earth crept up on it.
We didn’t even know helicopter flights were an option here before we arrived, but when we found out we could do them, we didn’t hesitate. It was a spectacular ride – we flew high over the rock, and it was the best possible way to appreciate what an astonishing place we were in. Everything was flat, red and barren, and the only things in the whole landscape that stood out were Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
We spent a few days in Adelaide staying with relatives. I had a terrifyingly close encounter with a huntsman spider while we were there, which left me on edge for days afterwards. A day out touring South Australian vineyards helped me to relax again, as did wandering along the shores of the Southern Ocean at Hallett Cove, watching porpoises swimming just off shore.
After that, we set off on another epic journey, this time by bus to Yulara, a couple of miles from Uluru. “Don’t worry if you feel a sudden huge thump in the middle of the night”, said the driver as we pulled out of Glendambo at nightfall. “That’ll just be us hitting a kangaroo”. We passed through the Woomera Prohibited Area during the night, and at 6am we found ourselves in Yulara. It was freezing cold, and frost glittered in the morning sun.
Later that day, we walked out to a viewpoint near the town. All around was flat, the horizon never-ending, except for the solitary form of the bright red rock.
To get from Perth to Adelaide we took the train. We rumbled out of East Perth station in the early afternoon, and until nightfall we wound our way through some fairly green countryside. At 11pm we arrived in Kalgoorlie, and in the morning we were deep into the desert. The line was a single track, and so the train would occasionally stop at a passing loop in the middle of nowhere, sometimes waiting for a long time for whatever was coming in the other direction. An announcement was made that getting off the train at any point like this would be a seriously bad idea. “If you get left behind”, said the announcer, “you will die.”
On the second day we travelled along the longest straight stretch of track in the world, three hundred miles without a single bend. It was monotonous enough for me; I wondered how the drivers did it without going insane. I thought we might be able to get up some serious pace with no corners to worry about, but we continued on at the stately pace we’d been running the whole way. Over the whole trip we averaged just over 40 miles an hour; if there was a TGV line here, you could do the journey in about ten hours.
In the afternoon of the second day, we stopped in Cook, formerly a reasonably sized village but now with a population of two. A sign at the edge of town said “No food or fuel for next 862km”.
In the middle of the second night, we stopped at Port Augusta. I got off the train to stretch my legs, looked up and saw a bright meteor run right down the length of the Milky Way. Early the next morning we arrived in Adelaide.
While we were in Perth we visited the Pinnacles Desert. It doesn’t look far on the map but it takes a few hours to get there. After a long drive north, we stopped at a town called Cervantes just before we reached the Pinnacles. On a white sandy beach by the Indian Ocean, we could see a storm approaching, and soon the rain was battering down.
The rain passed but the skies were still heavy when we arrived at the Pinnacles. Some of them are small, some huge, and they all looked amazing under the dark stormy skies.
London to Singapore is a huge long flight but it went very very quickly for me. Thunderstorms lit up the skies over eastern Europe, and as we flew over central Asia we saw Tashkent glowing far below. We got to Singapore at 6am, and it was already 26°C. Soon we were off again, and into the southern hemisphere for a journey across Australia.
Our first stop was beautiful, sunny, laid back Perth. For the first day or so I had the odd sensation that I was still on a turbulent plane, a memory of the long flight here. We spent a few days looking around Perth, and I thought it was pretty awesome.