Sydney, New South Wales | Melbourne, Victoria
3rd August 2014, Sunday
Our dear friends, Debbie and Edward, picked us up from Sydney International at around 11am. They gracefully accommodated us in their beautiful apartment in Birmingham Street, Alexandria. We first settled down in their guest bedroom and freshened up from the overnight flight.
The first stop of the day was at Bondi Beach. The area was bustling with locals and tourists alike. I was truly amazed by the surf culture in Australia – winter hadn’t managed to fend off the surfers. Here I was covered in layers while a considerable number of people were down to their wetsuits, without even flinching.
We grabbed lunch after our stroll along the beach. I can’t seem to recall the name of the joint, where we had lunch, but the food wasn’t good. In fact, that was the benchmark for all other meals I had in Australia.
The Gap, Watsons Bay
We drove down to The Gap, an ocean cliff that overlooks the Watsons Bay and the Tasman Sea. It was just about evening time, and the sky decided to be spectacular. The Gap was similarly spectacular. There was a trail that led right up to the top of the cliff.
From the top we were offered this view:
The entire concept was beautiful. Apparently, it is so beautiful that many down and depressed individuals have chosen to take in this view for one last time. Debbie provided this explanation behind the following signage conspicuously scattered along the trail:
4th August 2014, Monday
Debbie brought us on a road trip along the ‘Grand Pacific Drive’.
Bald Hill Lookout
The first stop was at the Bald Hill Lookout. We bought hot chocolates from a food truck and sat on one of the benches, where we enjoyed the tranquil view of the coastal cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. The higher altitude and strong icy winds made the hot chocolate a godsend.
We carried on driving south to Wollongong, a seaside city. By the time we reached the harbour, it was already lunch time.
We bought takeaway meals from Levendi, a bistro you can’t miss in the harbour. The food was delicious and relatively cheap! The lunch pack came in a considerable serving and was only under $15. We found a spot on the lush green grass to have lunch and bask in the sun (mainly to keep ourselves warm). We were even joined by a bunch of beautiful seagulls. Always be sure to keep your food secure and close to you, lest the following happens to you:
After lunch, we took a stroll along the perimeter of the harbour. We discovered this beautiful spit-like landform, entirely made out of large rocks, that extended into the bay. We clambered up the rocks for a photo-op with the Wollongong Lighthouse.
Kiama Blow Hole
The final destination on our road trip was at Kiama. It took us a while to find the famous Blow Hole. Along the way, we spotted this amazing seaside pool (something I was witnessing for the first time in my life).
And oh, another lighthouse!
We were disappointed when we found the blowhole, though. The wind strength was too weak to create a beautiful effect as shown in this picture I stole from google:
Instead, we were offered only a pathetic spurt of water that rose to about a metre high. Nonetheless, we followed a short trail further down the blowhole. We were treated to a mass of beautiful rock formations that overlooked the sea (or ocean)!
5th August 2014, Tuesday
Both Debbie and Edward had to work on this day. Moreover, we had a domestic flight to catch in the evening to Melbourne. So, we left the apartment with Debbie and rode the bus down to the CBD for some independent exploration in the day.
Having bought takeaway breakfast from a quaint cafe in the J.P. Morgan building (where Debbie works), we walked towards Hyde Park with a cup of hot chocolate in one hand and freshly toasted sandwich in the other.
We made ourselves comfortable in one of the benches and ate away. The huge building distracted us throughout the meal. So we walked towards it once we were done. Turns out, the awe-inspiring architecture is a Cathedral. The ‘St Mary’s Cathedral’ that was built in the 1800s.
Mrs Macquarie’s Point
Mrs Macquarie’s Point is a must-go tourist destination to nicely frame the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in a single photo. It is situated in the far corner within the Royal Botanical Gardens. I can’t remember the distance, but it was a good 20-minute walk through the gardens.
We enjoyed the flora as we followed the trail, taking a slightly longer time than the one stipulated.
This is the view of the Sydney monuments from the spot. You will also instantly recognise the spot from a distance away thanks to the swamp of tourists snapping their cameras away.
We joined them, of course.
Once we were satisfied with our mandatory tourist photo-op with the Sydney monuments, we made our way to Circular Quay on foot. It would’ve been faster if we had taken a bus, but we had time to spare anyways. Took us slightly less than an hour to reach Circular Quay, house of the Sydney Opera House and many other attractions.
We also managed to visit The Rocks that leads up to the Harbour Bridge. The area was littered with quaint cafes and shops. Amongst them was the hidden gem, The Rocks Discovery Museum. This small museum (that has a free entry) tells the tales of the now-urban area pre-dating British settlement.
At about 2.30pm we took the Sydney Railway from Circular Quay station to the airport. I was surprised by the trains for they came in 2 decks! Albeit the great look and design of the train, the pace was terribly slow. Buses were definitely much much faster!
8th August 2014, Friday
We arrived back in Sydney at about 6.30am in the morning. It was a long ride, but we had managed to catch some sleep. We then caught a train down to Katoomba Station. It was an agonisingly slow journey that came to about 2 hours from Central Station. The Katoomba Town has several cafes, restaurants and shops for you to explore. We even found a bookstore that was clearing their first-hand books at $5. I bought Tony Parson’s Man and Wife that would keep me company for my plane ride back home.
We then found our way to explore the Blue Mountains. We walked about 3km to Katoomba Falls Reserves. In retrospect, we should have taken the bus instead. From the Katoomba Falls, we took the stairs down and followed the Prince Henry Walk trail. The trail was a cliff walk that wasn’t intended for those afraid of heights. You could very well end up at the bottom of the cliff if you took a wrong step in the narrow path.
The long trail eventually led us to Echo Point, where we found The Three Sisters. The Sisters are in fact 3 rock formations abreast one another (the main attraction of the Blue Mountains). Personally, I wasn’t as impressed by the Sisters – I was more stunned by the view of the cliffs.
After another 2 hour return journey from the Blue Mountains, we met up with Debbie and Edward in the CBD. From there we made our way to Darling Harbour which is located near Market Street. The vibrant harbour reminded me of the Clarke Quay area (back at home) with strings of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
As it was our last night in Australia, we had dinner in a fancy Asian restaurant. After which, we had gelato for dessert and took a leisurely walk along the harbour.
9th August 2014, Saturday
In the morning of our departure, Edward brought us to Paddy’s Markets located in Haymarket (Chinatown). Essentially, it is a great tourist destination to specifically purchase souvenirs. We spent about an hour shopping before heading off to the airport.
One week had passed, and frankly I was beginning to be home-sick. Don’t get me wrong. Australia was amazing, but I still loved my home. Coincidentally, 9th August was Singapore’s National Day. I was returning home on our National Day and was patriotically wearing red (although that was coincidental as well).