We are in Sydney, as you can tell from the picture. The famous opera house is an
international icon for this city. Although it dates from only the 1960’s it has dominated
the pictures taken by tourists. Like the Eiffel Tower it is instantly recognized
by people who haven’t even been within thousands of miles of it.
We have found a very nice campground in Lane Cove River National Park that is surrounded
by suburbs of Sydney. It is 10 k (6.5 mi) from downtown and near a commuter train
The other great icon is the Harbor Bridge. It opened in 1932 but most people see
it annually on TV on New Years Eve when it is the first big fireworks display for
the midnight changeover to the next year. As Sydney is 15 hours ahead of back home
(west coast USA) it has its display in time for the evening news there. We are able
to see it before heading out our own celebrations.
We are using our first full day to explore the older part of the city, The Rocks.
This part is under one end of the bridge and dates back to the first landing of a
fleet in 1788. Like the US, Australia has a short history compared to Europe. And
much of that history has been razed in the intervening years in the name of improvement.
A hundred years ago The Rocks was a den of thieves, prostitutes, drugs and liquor.
Crime and shanghaiing were common. Today it is full of pubs, restaurants and tourists.
Above is the original harbor master’s house built in 1816. Right is the steeply sloping
path known as “The Suez Canal”. It is one of the few surviving walking lanes. It
runs between buildings and, when it rained, ran heavily with water and “sewage”.
The name was cleaned up for tourists to Suez.
Our lunch was in Munich. No, not the city, the restaurant. The beer list was a welcome
change from the ones we had seen for the last two months. We looked hungrily at the
schnitzel and pork knuckle on the menu but decided they were too heavy for a mid-day
meal and opted for a couple very good salads.
As we left Munich (the restaurant, not the city) we saw another group of school children
in their uniforms and acting well behaved. We saw kindergartners, in uniform, walking
two by two and holding hands. We saw high school age, in uniform, behaving too. I
wonder if a little more use of similar rules at US schools would cut down on problems.
Uniforms prevent the jealousy of clothing labels and the wearing of gang symbols.
Christmas is everywhere. Australia does not have Thanksgiving as the US does. So
there is no semi-official starting date for the Christmas holidays buildup as at
home. This Santa is made from plastic milk cartons and says, across the bottom, “Very
Merry Crate-mas”. The stores have had Christmas displays for a couple weeks. In two
days, on Saturday, Sydney is having concerts in several city parks and pavilions.
Many businesses are having their company parties on Friday. Some of these parties
must be costume parties because Friday evening we see what we would call Halloween
costumes on many people.
We stop in at the library to look at the architecture and stained glass windows.
While there we had a very nice talk with a security guard named Johnny Wayne who
was from Houston, Texas and is married to a South African gal. He has been here long
enough that he is getting an Aussie accent. After the library we took a stroll through
part of the huge park alongside the downtown area. Just back from The Rocks and the
waterfront is the modern city with all its glass and steel buildings.
Lastly this day we stumbled onto the Paddy’s Market. A warren of booths with mostly
Chinese imported junk interspersed with a few Aussie souvenir shops.
After a long train ride back (we took the wrong train and had to change twice to
get back to camp) we rest our weary feet. We have 10-11 kilometers today on hard
On Friday, Kathy’s birthday, we head in to the Friday Foodie Market. It is a little
disappointing in size and none of the booths tweak our taste buds. We wandered the
two blocks of booths, of which less than half were food, and decided on a regular
restaurant called Ribs & Burgers. As it is nearly noon (we got a late start) and
we opt for the namesake food and a couple of beers. The food was as good as it smelled
walking by, great! When it was mentioned about the birthday, Kathy got a second beer
Afterwards we walked the food off by walking around the Opera House point and into
a different part of the same park. The botanical garden is having its 200th birthday
Around another bay and onto the point of land still in the park, is a carved bench
known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It seems the governor's wife liked to sit on this
point and watch the bay and its boat traffic. So the governor had this chair carved
into the rock in 1816 for her to use. Today a tree blocks the view but gives shade.
We wandered through the botanical garden and found a shady tree to sit under. We
have a couple hours to kill before returning to The Rocks. We read our books and
rested. We already walked 5-6 kilometers and have several more to go.
At 6 PM we are meeting at the Mercantile Hotel for a Sydney Pub Tour. We are touring
the oldest pubs in Sydney. This is the oldest Irish pub. We are having a local craft
beer at each one.
Next is the oldest pub, The Australian, but it has been in three different locations.
It started several blocks away in 1825, then was down the street on the left a block
and now is here on the corner.
We get pizza here as well as beer. We had two which we split, one half kangaroo/half
emu, the other prawn. The third member of our tour is Steve from Alberta.
Next is the Fortune of War pub from 1928, but it burned down once and was rebuilt
in the same spot. Next, The Hero of Waterloo, from 1843, was built with convict labor
and still stands in the same place and same building.
Lastly, the Lord Nelson is the oldest “hotel”, 1841. Here the word “hotel” does not
necessarily mean rooms to rent. It means beer and food. Many, many hotels are nothing
more than a bar that may, or may not, have a room or two to rent. At one time it
was much easier to get a “hotel” license than a “pub” license.
As to which is the “oldest pub”, you decide! We just had fun listening to Gaz, our
tour guide, tell us the tales of the pubs and show the sites. As in the basement
of the Hero of Waterloo where there was a lockup cell and tunnel to the harbor for
rum running and shanghaied sailors.
Now back to the train station and to camp. Today only about 9-10 kilometers.
Saturday was market day, first The Rocks then Manly Beach. In between we saw this
ambulance. Look close, it says so on the front fender. How many times do they have
to fold the patient to fit it inside.
Manly Beach is a 30 minute ferry ride away. And it is decked out for Christmas too.
We were disappointed in both the markets’ sizes for the big deal made about them.
The Rocks was the better one.
Coming back the bay was crazy with boats, mostly sailboats, of all different sizes.
The ferry plowed on ahead and the traffic parted. After all the ferry was the biggest
boat out there. We have had a short walk today, only 7-8 kilometers. Our “nearby”
train station is one kilometer away, so that is two just getting onto and off the
train, plus what we do in town.
We took Sunday off to recover and will hit the road again Monday towards Canberra,
by the scenic route.