Spiderman, Scribbles and Stars: Visiting Sydney Observatory and the Museum of Contemporary Art

Spiderman staring at a worm-like face, geometric patterns in red felt tip on a wall and cardboard boxes displaying various yellow papermache household objects. Nope we hadn’t overdosed on weird chemicals from all the instant rice and pasta we’ve been indulging in lately, we were visiting the Australian Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney Harbour. It was quite a strange visit, somethings I couldn’t quite grasp actually counted as art at all but it was still really interesting to see and we had a really good day out.

Waking up to the sun shining through the window, the sound of the fan and enjoying a nice waking up stretch, I rolled over and decided to have a few more minutes sleep. Due to the other people in the room only going out at midnight last night, I was woken up a few times with them coming back and so I’d only managed about 4 hours sleep. Ah well, we still had plenty of time to wander around Sydney Harbour; a little while longer wasn’t going to make too much difference. I snuggled back under the sheet and closed my eyes. BANG BANG BANG! Someone suddenly slammed their fists on the door and shouted for one of the girls inside our room. She didn’t reply straight away which lead to the door being attacked a few more times signalling the end of my sleep and waking everybody else up as well. Hmm, no more naps for me! In a way though I was quite glad that one guy had been woken up as well though. He doesn’t seem to have any sense of self awareness and will happily walk awkwardly close to your bed whilst talking loudly or will sit on somebody else’s bed with black feet on the white sheets. It’s really quite grim and quite annoying when we’re always making sure that we cause as little disturbance as possible when other people are around. Still, I suppose that’s part of staying in hostels! After having a quick read of messages from home and a little look at the news, at about 11:00 we realised that we needed to get going if we were to make the most of the day (and the free bus!). Quickly jumping up, still fairly quiet, and getting dressed, we grabbed the camera bag and the dishes from last night’s yummy tea and headed out of the door. In a way, I wish we’d been a lot louder and not as careful whilst sorting things out as nobody else would have been but I would have felt too guilty otherwise! We wandered down to the now very familiar bus stop and hopped onboard for the short ride.

IMG_4984When we arrived at Circular Quay we decided that we’d head up to Observatory Hill to have a little look around there. We’ve been wanting to pay a visit to Sydney Observatory for a while now but have always been just a bit too late or a bit too hot and sunburnt so we made sure we stopped there first. The walk there was lovely and took us through little stone alleyways, under part of the Harbour Bridge and up the hill with the most amazing views of the area. I have to say my favourite bit was walking through the site of an old hospital in Sydney Cove as it was quite weird to imagine how different it used to be and how it is now. The hospital had been built shortly after the creation of the New South Wales colony in 1788 and was built by convicts sent to Australia from Europe. The site was used to accommodate up to 488 people after the second fleet arrived in 1790 and remained there until 1816 when the patients were moved to the new Sydney Hospital. After that, the area was then used for various shops and hotels which were built by 1848 and still remain there to this day. I love that we’d gone a different route to reach the observatory and had found this little area soaked in history. It just makes me think, how many other little parts of the city like that are we missing? Once we’d had a little look around the area, known as “Nurses Walk” in memory of the hospital staff who all lived around there, we continued our walk on the the observatory. On the way up the hill we passed dozens of people working out and training with their personal trainers, each one looking as though they just wanted to sit down and have a biscuit. I did and I hadn’t been jogging on the spot for the last ten minutes in the heat and humidity! I had been walking though so maybe I deserved a biscuit…. 

IMG_4982Upon reaching the top of the rather small hill, we walked through the gates and into the observatory garden area before finding a bench and spending some time sitting in the shade. It was nice to just sit and take in the views of the various coves whilst listening to the sound of a kookaburra in a tree and enjoying a cool drink of water. I say “enjoy” and “cool”, what I actually mean is forced down some very warm water so I didn’t have to carry 1.5 litres of it back down the hill. Hehehe. We spent quite a while there just watching planes take off from the airport and the surrounding clouds creeping in closer and closer before deciding to have a look inside the actual building which was really, really cool. Built on the site of an old windmill, the observatory has been operating since 1858 as a scientific research centre for the colony of New South Wales and so contains a lot of equipment dating back to that time. Just like historical things, I also love astronomy and so to be able to look at a combination of the two was great. There was lots of things inside the little free museum; various telescopes brought over from London with the early colonists, models to show the rotation of various planets around the Sun, meteorological measurers and even 18th century maps plotting the constellations. I particularly enjoyed seeing the maps as they were “real” pieces of work done by these historical figures as well as discovering more about how different the skies are here compared to Europe (we don’t see the Southern Cross constellation at home!) One thing I didn’t enjoy, however, was looking through a telescope like piece of equipment to see a lit up diagram of the Southern Cross as I managed to misjudge the distance completely and whack my eye. Ouch. That really was the only thing though, all the rest was amazing to see. At one point we were so distracted by the huge 1874 refracting telescope in the dome and the other exhibits, I lost track of time and we missed the time ball dropping at 1pm.  As cool as everything was this was pretty disappointing as that in itself is an important part of the area’s history as it was used in the past to show ships and the Post Office the time so everybody was correct. I’d love to come back here at some point though so perhaps I’ll get the chance to see it then, it seems a shame not too. 

2.1421967221.ari-with-the-clockAfter leaving the observatory now starving and in search of food,  I remembered that the Museum of Contemporary Art was just down the road and decided that we should go there first. I’d read about it in my Lonely Planet guide book and, with it being free, thought it’d be another interesting place to visit. Of course we had to double check that it really was free; quite a few times now the book has been completely wrong about prices and we didn’t want to end up having to pay a fortune. After dithering around in the shop looking at fish shaped yolk separators and a happy looking small white dog, I discovered it was and so off we went. The first piece of art we came to was a huge clock entitled “Untitled” by Stuart Ringholt and I think it was possibly one of my favourite pieces as it made me think about the effects. Instead of having 60 minutes an hour, this clock had only 45 which meant that a day lasted only 18 hours. I’d love to see what would happen if that was suddenly declared but I’m not sure it’d make too much difference. People are so determined to do what they want or need that they’ll do it regardless of what time or when. If anything I think people would choose to sacrifice a few hours of sleep! According to the sign next to the clock, the idea was to create more yesterdays but surely you’d want more tomorrows instead. Yesterdays are full of mistakes and lessons learnt whereas tomorrows can be full of new things and results. Or cakes. Or biscuits. Or kittens with woolly mittens.  I don’t know, I just think that if you were having a bad day, at least it wouldn’t be long until it was over. It would be terrible for deadlines though, it’d be an absolute nightmare!

IMG_4997Moving on from the clock and looking at some drawings that weren’t too great or distinctive at all, we moved on to another floor and came across a Spiderman model facing what looked like a worm with a human face. It was really creepy and I’m pretty sure it’ll give me nightmares later. I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to take from that but that’s why I like contemporary art; it’s different and makes you think about it long after you’ve seen it. I’m sure I’ll work it out eventually! I’m not sure Codie was of the same opinion as me though as he kept wandering off and described one piece of art as “shiny s**t”. To be fair, some of it was a bit too strange like some random bits of wood in a room or the open packet of red sticky dots and I don’t have a clue what their meanings were at all and I’m not sure I ever will. After wandering about a little bit more and watching a time-lapse 3 times just so we could have a sit down, we ventured up to the fourth floor to have a look at the sculpture balcony…with only one sculpture. A helicopter hovered over head, not really very unusual with all the tourist trips taking place, so we didn’t think much of it and went to inspect the cafe menu. It would have been lovely to have sat on the balcony, soaking in all the views and beautiful buildings but not for those prices! In the end we decided that rather than bankrupt ourselves in the bid to find food, we’d pay a visit to the fish and chip shop in Circular Quay and set off, leaving the sculptures behind.

IMG_5016Finally on our way to find some food, we chose to have a quick look at the giant cruise ship in the harbour and get a bit closer. The helicopter was still hovering overhead and now, on the water’s edge, we could see police cordons and a police boat a lot more clearly. At that stage it wasn’t that interesting though as Codie had spotted some clusters of small white jellyfish in the water and I was enjoying watching them bob about. They’re weird little things, almost hypnotic and I found it hard to tear myself away from watching them pulsating and floating around. I can really see why some people watch jellyfish to de-stress, they really do calm you somehow though I’m not sure why! In the end I had to leave as Codie had started to wander off and I didn’t want to end up trapped behind people and miles away from him…again. Once I’d caught up I noticed that there was nobody walking around the dock and that we were all being herded away from the area. Strange. We hadn’t heard any sirens or anything and yet when we walked around the corner, sadly realising that we’d no longer be able to reach the desired fish and chip shop, the place was full of fire engines and police cars. After the Sydney siege a month ago, I was a mixture of curious and concern that something similar might be happening and we’d be caught up in it. However, nobody really seemed to be too bothered or panicky at all, they simply directed people away and seemed to be waiting further instructions. Later the news would report that it was chaotic and people were terrified but that really wasn’t the case at all; we even made it to McDonalds for some food whilst people were queuing behind the barrier to have a look what was happening. It does make you think how much the media can over exaggerate when things like this happen and I wonder how many times I’ve believed it all.

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Due to the quay being closed, the buses were no longer allowed to stop in their usual spots and so we were a bit confused about where to catch our free 555 bus back. We’d overhead a man shouting that all the buses were resuming their services on George Street and so we stood about there for a while before realising that we weren’t entirely sure whereabouts on the street. Wandering back to find him, Codie refusing to walk back instead, we eventually discovered that it was further up the road than where we’d been standing. Good job we checked really or we’d have been watching it drive past without us! By the time we reached the correct bus stop it was full of people clogging up the street and the piercing sounds of fire engines speeding past deafened me. Now the sirens had arrived. It was quite an uncomfortable wait with people pushing and shoving, sighing when somebody else turned up and generally looking as though they hated everyone and so when a bus turned up and said we could get on it for free, I was more than a little bit relieved. What a treat getting to travel on the 426 instead of the 555! Of course that’s sarcasm, all the buses are the same really but it was nice to sit down and leave the crowded quay behind. It turns out that the police presence was caused by a suspicious package made up of a bottle with wires sticking out of it being left on a ferry, the ‘Friendship’. In the end it was deemed to be non threatening to the public though it sounds pretty dodgy to me and I’m glad we got away from it all just in case.

IMG_5021By the time we got back to the hostel, I was quite tired and just wanted to sit down for a but when we opened the door to the room we were met with a horrifying smell. A combination of bins, toilets and sweat, all mashed together and lingering in the heat. It was grim. Not just a little bit. Really grim.  The smell drove us back out of the room and into the kitchen area where we sat down and tried to sort a few things out. I fully intended to spend my time looking at hostels and trips to the Blue Mountains but ended up watching the minibus crash on Coronation Street on Youtube instead. Probably a lot less productive but without a doubt far more interesting! Finding and booking hostels is such a pain now we’re not in Cairns; they’re all so much more expensive and you get so much less. We were definitely spoilt in the Northern Greenhouse back in Cairns with the wifi, films, free food and trips for $20 as it was at least $23 for a small, smelly room here. Hmmm. Not wanting to stay at this hostel any longer, we finally settled on The Maze Backpackers as we were able to book a twin room for almost the same price as a dorm so that was a bonus. After the last few nights of barely any sleep here, I’m more than happy to pay a little bit more to be able to relax properly. It looks like a nice place on their website though they have got mixed reviews. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see but I think it’ll be a hell of an improvement on this place! We also booked one night in the YHA Sydney Harbour for Australia Day as it overlooks the harbour and will be a great place to watch the celebrations. At $48 each for a dorm room, it’s a bit expensive but I’m more than sure it’ll be worth it. I hope so anyway!

IMG_5024After making sure everything was sorted and we had somewhere to stay for the next few nights, it was time for a tasty tea. Tasty unfortunately not being the operative word. It was that strange rice that comes in packets and a plate of beans on toast each. Yum. To be fair, it wasn’t the worst tea in the world but it would have been nice to have had something nutritious for a change. I’m surprised at myself for saying this, I really am, but I think I even miss carrots! What on earth is happening to me?! What made tea particularly tasteless tonight was having to eat it almost completely cold following an incident where I thought I’d lost my phone and became convinced someone had taken it. After a good 20 minutes or so of searching and having to watch the the steam from the beans slowly fading away, I eventually found it under the fridge (I have no idea how it got there so don’t ask!). Codie returned from watching the CCTV footage of the hostel with the security guy just in case it had been taken and we ate our food and watched TV in the peace and quiet. I have enjoyed having a TV in the room if only for some background noise when other people are shuffling about or having their own conversations. It’s definitely not worth staying here for that though as we were just trying to sleep when the French guy came back and started slamming doors and talking loudly. Grrrrr. This was at 1am as well! Fingers crossed we’ll have a better night tomorrow as I don’t want anymore of our Sydney trip being dwarfed by sleepy eyelids and yawns.

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