Today we decided to have a real “tourist” day and headed out to see the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour bridge. Back when I was doing my Australia project for school in Year 4, I remember being amazed by the shape of the building and so I hoped that 15 or so years later, it’d have the same effect when I saw it for real and not in holiday brochures.
After waking up at about 10 and not really wanting to get up, I eventually forced myself up to dig out some clothes from my bag. It’s amazing how much of an impact one disturbed night of sleep has on you as even after yesterday’s nap, I slept for hours last night and was still shattered when I woke up. It’s a bit annoying as there’s so much to see and do in the city and I didn’t want to feel rough all day but decided to just carry on as normal and not let it ruin anything (silly bus trip!). So, after making more smoked tuna sandwiches and watching the maintenance man build us a new, non rattle-y fan, we wandered on to the packed China town streets in search of the free city bus. Luckily for us, the bus stop was pretty much by the the hostel door and the bus turned up almost straight away. This meant that we didn’t have to wait in the drizzly rain for too long and I was really hoping that it would stop soon; nobody wants to walk around trying to look at things through a layer of drippy water.
Hopping on to the bus, particularly grateful that someone had rushed out to stop it as the bus driver had seemed too keen to pass the bus stop, we found some seats at the back and plopped into them. I was surprised at how packed it was in a way as in other places where they’ve run free buses, there hasn’t been as much of a rush but then again those places haven’t been Sydney. It was lovely knowing that we didn’t have to walk all the way to the harbour though as Google Maps may have said it’d take 40 mins but with all the pedestrian congestion, I’m pretty sure it would have taken a lot longer. Besides, just like in the rain, nobody wants to walk around trying to look at things whilst sweating and with aching feet unless they really have to. I’m more than happy to walk around places with incredible views and even anywhere out in the open however walking surrounded by tall buildings and rushing people was something I was more than willing to pass on!
After a little while it was time for us to get off and when we did, it was like we were in a completely different place. Gone was the hustle and bustle of the CBD and the endless restaurants and shops lining the streets and instead we were faced with little quaint streets with cafes and bars soaked in character and with an amazing view. We wandered off in the direction of the Opera House and after about 5 mins, it came into view. I have to say that it was exactly what I was expecting really and in a way that was a bit disappointing. I like being surprised at new things like that but I think that seeing the familiar sail-like roof on so many post cards and advertisements had taken the shine off a little bit. Of course that wasn’t to say that it was disappointing, it was really very pretty and it was good to see such an iconic part of Australia but I do kind of wish that I hadn’t seen it so many times before. There was also a huge Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Radiance of the Seas, docked in the harbour which, as impressive looking as it was, did spoil the view a little bit which was a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, we spent a while taking photographs of it, wondering where The Inbetweeners 2 had been filmed when they first get to the harbour. After all that and demolishing the now rather soggy tuna sandwiches with a beautiful backdrop, we continued our walk along to the Harbour Bridge.
Unwittingly, I found myself much preferring the bridge to the opera house and once we’d wandered underneath it, climbed up tons of steps and began walking across it, I discovered why. The walk itself is great as you get a whole other perspective of Sydney Harbour without paying the somewhat extortionate price for the Bridge Climb (probably only extortionate to me because of saving money!) Of course the view of the harbour wouldn’t be complete without the opera house but getting to see beyond it whilst overlooking water glittering with boats is such a good experience. What’s really good though is the Pylon Lookout which, as a concession, you can do for only $8.50 and get just a little bit higher than the normal walking height. There are 200 steps to climb up to reach 87 metres above sea level so we took our time and enjoyed reading the various facts on the way up; knowing little facts about it really enhanced the sightseeing when we made it to the top. For example, the bridge itself is very impressive looking but seeing how it came together and how the men worked without harnesses or anything made it even more so. I can’t imagine what they went through to build it, I certainly couldn’t have done it though with my lack of building skills, I can’t imagine I’d have been offered the job to be honest! I’d also read that there used to be a woman, Yvonne Rentoal, who lived in the building to run an exhibition and owned some white cats. People used to visit the cats and they became part of the attraction which is completely understandable to me; after all, who doesn’t like to see a high up cat? I definitely do and it’s a shame the owner’s lease expired in 1971! The Pylon itself has been open since 1932 when it was home to a temporary Post Offices before it was transformed into a tourist attraction in 1934. Due to WWII, it was taken over by the Australian Military from 1942 to 1948 before it was open to the public on and off until today where it provides people with excellent 360 views of the city and surrounding areas.
We spent a good half an hour or so at the top for the Pylon, soaking in the views and appreciating it all before deciding to head back down. Whilst we’d managed to get some good photographs around the walkway, it had begun to get a little bit more crowded and difficult to get to the spots with the best views. On the way back down I had to stop myself from buying a lovely koala print purse and platypus passport cover even though I really, really wanted them. Grrrrr. I suppose it’s better to spend on experiences and trips out though rather than adding extra weight to our already heavy bags. Yep, that’s what I’ll keep telling myself! When we reached the first floor we discovered a video on a huge projector and went to watch it for a sit down and to see more about the building process of the bridge. It was really interesting to see how it was all put together, almost like lego pieces slotting together but obviously a lot more time consuming and a lot more dangerous. Sixteen men died during construction, a lot less than you’d imagine on such a project and yet still so horrendous. Perhaps the danger aspect of it all is another reason why I prefer the bridge to the opera house however I love historical things and despite the opera house only being built just over 20 years later, for me it doesn’t have the same impact. I blame my GCSE history lessons; all those lessons on Brunei’s suspension bridge and the canal systems have peaked my interest in those types of things!
Wandering back out on to the bridge we decided to walk the rest of the way to see what the view was like. It was nice have a little walk across and see the harbour from a different angle and once we’d have a little look, we turned back and headed back towards the city. It’s quite a long walk across the bridge, about 20 minutes one way, though I’d definitely recommend it to those who don’t want to pay or can’t afford to do the Bridge Climb. We haven’t done it and I don’t feel like I’ve missed out at all, I’ve been able to see the sights and take my own photographs and that’s the best thing for me. Upon arriving back in The Rocks we decided it was probably best not to go to the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens today as we wouldn’t enjoy it much with our aching feet. I’m really looking forward to getting up close to Opera House in particular so I’d prefer to go on a day when I wasn’t so sleepy. Who knows, perhaps seeing it again will tip the scales in it’s favour so I need to give it the best possible chance! It wasn’t as though we’d completely ended our sightseeing at that moment though as we were in The Rocks after all, an area of Sydney which was established shortly after the formation of the penal colony in 1778. I love history and I’ve read quite a bit about the European “invasion” so I particularly enjoyed walking around there. There wasn’t much about it in the information centre which was quite disappointing but there is a museum around somewhere and so when we head back, I’m definitely going to pay it a visit. There’s also Sydney’s oldest pub which seemed quite cool and so I’m hoping to go there too. Lots of historical things around Sydney which is just how I like it!
At about 3ish, we hopped back on the very crowded free bus and headed back to the CBD, our feet aching but pleased that we’d spent some time sightseeing. The driver seemed a bit cross and kept shouting for people to stand towards the back and it made me realise how much I missed the happy bus drivers of Airlie Beach. I suppose they didn’t have to drive through a busy city centre everyday though and I can imagine that makes all the difference. We’d managed to find ourselves a seat each before it had got too busy and it was with some regret that we had to give them up to weave our way through the people and off the bus to pay another visit to Woolworths. It was a challenge in itself getting off with so many people crammed together, reluctant to move out of the way when they’d got comfortable and I breathed a sigh of relief when we made it outside. Unfortunately Woolworths was just as packed though the giant chocolate star definitely made up for that and the walk back to the hostel. Yum.
Once we’d finally made it back to our room, the bed called me for a sit down and I happily obliged. A few more people had arrived and then two more turned up whilst we were sitting there which means we’re now in a full room. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I just hope that nobody snores all night or doesn’t want to sleep too early. Having said that I’m writing this at 22:00, so nobody could count this as too early I suppose! I looked up a few things about the Pylon for a while as I was eager to learn more about where we’d spent the day and then we decided it was best that we booked another night in case it got any busier. It’s a decent enough place and we’re quite settled in now so it’d be a shame and a pain if we had to pack all our things away and find somewhere else to go. In the end we decided to book two more nights here as it means we have the chance to do some more exploring of Sydney and decide what we want to do next. We’re definitely going to be here for Australia Day as they is supposed to be a huge celebration in the harbour and I think that’d be really interesting to see. Australia Day is a celebration that doesn’t exist at home and so I think it’s important to get involved in the local culture on a day like that and really make the most of it and of course there’s nowhere better to do that than in Sydney.
I’m now sitting hunched over on the bottom bunk writing my blog and feeling a bit ill from eating too much of the chocolate star and a bowl of rice for tea. I’m really enjoying having a TV in the room as it would be just a bit too silent and eerie without it. A lot of people say that staying in hostels gives you the opportunity to meet other travellers but that definitely isn’t the case here, everyone seems to want to keep themselves to themselves and it can get a bit awkward. They’re all friendly enough though so that’s not too bad. Tomorrow I’m not sure what we’ll do as we were planning on going back to the Opera House and gardens but they’ve predicted rain again and it won’t be much fun soggy. Rain was forecast all day today though and it never properly materialised so fingers crossed it won’t tomorrow! Annoyingly I’ve just found out that to change our flights to Perth 2 weeks early it’d cost almost $1000 each to change so that’s not going to happen now. It’s really annoying as there’s so much we’re missing out on in Western Australia and will be back up in Brisbane in no time and back at the start of the trip. With our flights home going from Brisbane to Perth, Perth to London it would have been ideal to have been able to spend a bit of time there and see my family but at that price it’s just too much. I suppose now we’ll just have to hope that we find enough cheap things to do on the way back up or we’re going to struggle a little bit. As long as we find somewhere with wildlife I’ll be happy though, so fingers crossed for that too!