Monday, 9 April 2007

The holiday - I

This is one that has to come with a warning, it's going to be really long :D. There's so much I'd want to put into this, so much that managed to pack itself into four days that it left me quite dizzy in the end! So much, that I'm sure to miss out on a whole lot of things :P. But I suppose I should start at the beginning.
So we were crew-changing out of Melbourne for a change, and somehow, I found myself part of a plan to visit Sydney for 3 days before heading back to Perth! The crew-x plan was to helo out to West Sale, and from there fly out to Melbourne. The craft we saw awaiting us was by far the smallest I've ever been on!! A tiny 7-seater that kept bouncing up and down rather alarmingly every now and then. And which, after barely 10 minutes into the three-quarters of an hour long flight showed the fuel level to be zero on both tanks. Yes, not low, zero. The driver pilot tapped the dials a few times, flicked a few switches off and on at random, then pounded one of the dials lightly, and the needles obediently rose back to the half full mark :|.
Clouds and smoke imitating clouds, the tiny shadow of the plane disappearing as it went higher and higher, the weird track literally sheared through the landscape by the high tension electric lines. And the ninety mile beach that ran absolutely arrow straight for as far as you could see, even from the sky. The trip to Melbourne was quite nice actually. Saw the Melbourne skyline from the flight, and at that point I was wondering if that was as close as I would get.
Fortunately, it wasn't. Given a few hours till the flight to Sydney we chose to go into town. The first thing that struck me about Melbourne was how old it looks! (I hadn't been to Sydney yet at that point :|.) Compared to Perth that is. Some very weird and very large 'decorative' architecture notwithstanding. And of course the whole city, i.e. with lots of people milling around thing as against deserted streets on a Sunday mid afternoon was quite refreshing! Thankfully there was someone we knew in Melbourne, and eventually found our way to the Yarra River banks between the old and reverend looking Princess Bridge and the new and very contemporary Southgate Bridge. And soon we were off again.
By the time we arrived at Sydney I was very beat, not surprisingly, having been up for a good 22 hours that included a complete shift. The start wasn't so much fun actually, the lodge we'd booked into advertised free airport pickup, but at the airport we were informed that that facility had been discontinued :(. So we cabbed, and the Original Backpacker's Lodge turned out to be somewhat less than what we'd expected :|. However, that turned out to be a good thing, not once did we have the slightest inclination of spending any more time in it than absolutely necessary :D.
So next morning we set out. First principles: a satisfied stomach is the best way to start a good day. Thankfully, the restaurant pictured above proved to be the perfect answer. We ended up having breakfast there all the three days! It was great, watching the quiet Victoria Street liven up at the opening time of the school down the road, other backpackers, some living there for months, going about what had become their regular lives. Phone calls, long and short, on the phone booths that lined the sidewalk. And of course the gorgeous sunshine filtering through the thick spray of leaves overhead.
So on that first day we went ambling down the street, not knowing that soon, unexpectedly, we would be treated to the first look at the Sydney Harbour Bridge! We could actually also see the tips of the Opera House 'sails'!! Not like we weren't behaving completely like tourists at that point, me poring over a map as usual, leaving it to the others to make sure I didn't go banging into trees n stuff, and all of us happily toting cameras. But from then on that behaviour was just reinforced :D.
From there we made our meandering way through side streets and alleys, past wrong turns and dead ends, to the St Mary's Cathedral and Hyde Park. It's really awesome, the way they have this massive chunk of green, smack bang in the middle of the city! And at one end of the park lies the Archibald fountain. For some reason I found the water in the sunlight mesmerizing, little sparks slipping off the stone, a million tiny shards of light scattered by the million drops.
All the while, however, we were actually gravitating towards one of the most noticeable features of the cityscape, the Centre Point Tower. For a city with so many tall buildings, they really had to make something extraordinary to draw attention (which is exactly why it was built by the way, to attract shoppers back into the city from the growing suburbs :O). And with a height of over 300m, I'd say they were on the right track.
The Sydney Tower, as it is also called, houses restaurants on three out of the four levels at the top, and the topmost is an observation deck. We made our way there, and the views were quite stunning! The thick glass did mar some of the effect, as did the rather noisy presence of a large number of very excited school kids on a field trip :). The elevator on the way up, however, wasn't a scrap on any of that express stuff we'd seen on the KL Tower, or the Petronas Towers. And, scarily enough, you can actually see sunlight filtering through the edge of the elevator doors!!! We were told later that this was because of the wind slats built into the long 'neck' of the building to stabilize it in high wind conditions.
Besides fantastic views out to the harbour's opening to the sea in the East, of Hyde Park, and of Darling Harbour, we could also see the Garden Island Naval base and the Harbour Bridge, but the view of the Opera House was sadly blocked by a couple of nasty huge high rises :(. What especially caught my attention was the National Maritime Museum, with these two fine vessels parked outside!
While the 3.8x zoom is good, I was looking for even more. So I decided to get my cam some additional help. Looking through one of the many eyeglasses scattered around the deck provided an even closer look at the Courage class destroyer, HMAS Vampire and the Oberon class sub, HMAS Onslow!
Higher above was the Skywalk. A guided and heavily guarded tour around the open scaffolding above the observation deck, at a rather impressive height of 260m! But we had a little time to kill in between, and we wandered into the old and very distinguished looking sandstone and marble Queen Victoria Building (or QVB) hemmed in by the tall glass and steel skyscrapers.
The interiors were quite strikingly different. Huge arches, massive stained glass windows, quaint shop signs hanging over posh modern stores. All in all a rather nice interlude before we headed back for the sky :D. When I'd said heavily guarded earlier, that wasn't exactly supposed to mean any kind of weapons or anything, merely the strict precautions taken in order to save the visitors from flying off the scaffolding in case of heavy wind conditions. Which unfortunately meant no cameras :(. But they took pictures.
As we walked around, with our harnesses hooked onto the guardrails and all, the spectacle of the world's most beautiful harbour unfolded before us. And it was definitely worth the trouble! I'm not unusually scared of heights, but when at one point, the platform started moving outwards without warning, that had to be one of the bigger scares I've received in a while :P. But it was all good fun.
Afterwards, we went over to the Anzac Memorial at the other end of Hyde Park. With it's calm Pool of Reflections. And it's sculpture of the Soul of the ANZAC. And it's thousands of stars. It stands, a quiet memorial to more lives lost during WW I, amidst the busy city bustling by barely a few metres away. The subway line actually running close to it's foundations.With sunset finally approaching, we headed towards Mrs. Macquaries Point. Funny name, I know, but fantastic views! We watched the Sun set over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. You would have thought the sky was at it's especial best, or maybe it was just the setting :). The bats of course added to the ambiance :D. My camera decided to run out of battery right then. In fact all three of our cameras decided to run out of battery :((. And my hope of capturing a true phantom of the Opera remained a dream :-<.I did manage a few parting shots in the dark, this one with a tripod borrowed from a Swiss couple, before heading for Darling Harbour, and dinner, and a long chat sitting by the quays, watching the moonlight play over the water. Then the long and interesting walk back. During which we spotted the Ferrari showroom!! But that's a tale for tomorrow. There's really no way I can finish this today :).

Feeling: sleepy :P
Listening to: Norah Jones - Tennessee Waltz

More Melbourne pics.
More Sydney pics.

7 comments:

Hemamalini said...

Chuckle. Grin. All over again:D

Anu said...

Multiple :Ds!
The last pic is just... just... damn you!! :D
And can't believe you put our cheesy tower pic :P

histrionix said...

My comment did not show up:( Anyway, nice detailed post:)

I remember saying in my previous comment (which has not showed up) that I am jealous. But I did get to cyce around Central Park:P

histrionix said...

*cycle...

kray said...

@ histrionix: your previous comment didn't show up 'cos u'd left it 2 posts down :P (the one called Feelings)

histrionix said...

What to do, this post was so long, I guess I kept reading...and you know I'm computer challenged to begin with anyway:D

BTW the word verification for this one is 'dompy'. I think I could make me a whole new vocabulary with word verification 'words' :)

kray said...

:)) it's ok, I replied neway :P

arrey at least now they've smartened up a bit, I don't have to put verification to comment on my own blogs :)