From the Land Down Under

Itinerary: 

  • Days 1-4: Sydney
  • Days 5-9: Tasmania (Strahan, Launceston, Bicheno)
  • Days 10-15: Sydney to Noosa Road Trip (Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, Port Macquarie)
  • Days 16-18: K’gari Island
  • Days 19-25: Noosa to Ciarns Road Trip (Byron Bay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Airlie Beach, Townsville)
  • Days 26-29: Cairns and Great Barrier Reef
  • Days 30-33: Melbourne
  • Days 34-41: Alice Springs & Uluru
  • Days 42-43: Back to Sydney then flying home

RTW Trip 2014: Peru→ Chile → Argentina → Antarctica → Argentina → Uruguay → Argentina→  Chile→ England → Morocco → Spain → France → Belgium → Netherlands → Germany → Czech Republic → Austria → Hungary → Croatia → Italy → Thailand → United States → Thailand → Laos → Vietnam → Cambodia → Australia → Taiwan

Dates: October 23-December 3, 2014

Our Odyssey: 

G’day from Australia! About a week ago now Tim and I landed in Sydney, and we have officially set foot on all seven continents! Australia has been phenomenal thus far- we spent a few days in Sydney and now are on a road trip in Tasmania. Admittedly, Tasmania is one of the most amazing places we’ve been to on this trip, but I’d be getting ahead of myself if I dove into writing about it while still there and without first doing justice to the great little city that is Sydney!

Coming to an English speaking country and to a city that is calm and orderly straight after being in southeast Asia was like going from night to day- I can hardly think of how the two could be more different (aside from the Asian noodle festival that was going on in Sydney that weekend…).

We landed from a red-eye flight and after checking into our hostel, we rested a bit in our basic private room. It was our first time staying in a true hostel since South America, and it was fun to be in that environment again, if only for the people-watching (but we were also pretty excited about free breakfast and cookouts). After a not-long-enough nap we headed out with our map to the meeting point for a free walking tour, about a 25 minute walk away from our neighborhood, Kings Cross.

When we got to the meeting point, we heard someone tell to us, “I figured you guys could use some cold waters before the tour!” We were confused initially- was this our tour guide? Was free water included on the free tour? We quickly realized, though, that it was our friend Pete, whom we met in Split, Croatia at the meeting point for a free walking tour that actually never happened. I had told Pete we would be doing a tour in Sydney that day, and apparently he works right by the meeting point and decided to surprise us!

On the tour we learned about Australia’s convict history. The city was settled by convicts from Britain who were sent over in the early 1800s for a variety of crimes- stealing bread, being accused of infidelity, or counterfeiting money, for example. These “criminals” were sent to this far off island to, firstly, be reformed into contributing citizens, and, secondly (but maybe more importantly), to secure Great Britain’s stake in the region against other colonizing powers, like the French.

The tour started at the town hall and took us around many of the old historical buildings of Sydney. The most interesting fact about these buildings to me, though, was that Sydney’s best and most famous architect from the early days of the settlement, was a man who was sent there because he made counterfeit money. Ironically, he was the face of Australia’s $10 bill up until they began issuing plastic bills.

We also visited the Sydney Hospital, which, when it was founded, was called the Rum Hospital, because rum was the currency that funded it. In fact, rum was the currency for everything in the beginning before formal money was introduced.

We also walked through The Rocks, the first neighborhood in Sydney, which had basically been housing for the convicts and was therefore an area with a lot of crime and prostitution. The tour ended at Circular Quay (basically Sydney Harbour), where we saw the Sydney bridge and the famous Opera House.

Afterwards, the walk back to our hostel conveniently took us through the Royal Botanical Gardens- a wonderful free green space in the city.

That night our hostel had a free cookout for guests- all you care to eat brats with ketchup and mustard. It was more than good enough for us!

The next day, Pete picked us up from our hostel to take us around to Sydney’s beaches, starting with Bondi Beach, perhaps the most famous. Every year starting at this beach, there’s an event called Sculptures by the Sea, featuring sculptures from artists both local and global. We spent about two hours walking along the path lined with art before heading to Pete’s favorite beach, Coogee. We also paused to watch some cricket, Australia’s favorite sport, kind of resembling baseball. As if Pete hadn’t been nice enough to us already, he also packed a picnic and beers for us to enjoy in a park by the beach! We were only there a half hour when we saw Sara, a girl we had just spent several weeks traveling with in southeast Asia, walking by! It was a crazy coincidence to just happen to see her walking by in this big city.

That evening Tim and I did a second free walking tour, this one focusing entirely on The Rocks neighborhood. Apparently today all of these quaint old homes are public housing for those who can’t afford homes, and because of their location by the Harbour and because they are heritage-listed, they’re both worth millions and cost a ton to maintain. As a result, the government is selling them and making them no longer public housing. This has caused a lot of controversy, as the current residents feel very attached to their homes and neighborhood. While I think that’s understandable, I also think these residents in public housing have been a bit spoiled up until now and that it makes perfect since to instead offer public housing in a more affordable area. This is just one example of a few we’ve seen since being here of the relatively very generous social programs in Australia. It’s a bit too forgiving, even in my generally liberal opinion…

After the tour, Tim and I went to an old fashioned pub and restaurant in that neighborhood called The Australian, where we ordered a “coat of arms” pizza- called such because it is half covered in kangaroo meat, and half emu. These are the animals on the Australian coat of arms. By the way, Australia is the only country that is OK with eating the animals on their coat of arms.

After dinner we walked over to the Opera House bar, and took some great photos along the way. This was when it finally sunk in that we were in Australia. At the bar we met up with Pete and some of his friends for some overpriced drinks- but the atmosphere was worth it.

Our walk home was interesting. We initially planned to stop by this rotating rooftop bar called OBar to check out the view of Sydney from above. It started to rain, however, so we ditched that plan and made for our hostel. The atmosphere outside was very creepy, with sharp bolts of lightening in the distance. At one point, there was a flash right above of us immediately followed by its immense crack of thunder, startling us so much we both actually jumped and ducked a bit. Neither of us have ever experienced lightening that close before.

The walk continued to be creepy as we accidentally went through a seedier street with homeless people all along the sidewalks sleeping and derelicts walking around. We were happy when we finally got home.

The next day we slept in and then went out for ice cream for lunch. Since we had skipped OBar the night before, we decided we’d try to check out the sunset from the rooftop. So about an hour before sunset we walked there only to learn it was closed for a wedding party. As a plan b, we headed to the Sydney Tower Eye, where there’s another, but more expensive, rotating rooftop bar. By the time we got there, sunset was near and the line up was long. So, once again we failed at seeing a panoramic view of Sydney. Instead, we walked home through the noodle festival, where we bought nothing as we are still sick of Asian food. Instead, we went out for $5 pizza night with some people from the hostel. Perfect.

The next morning, we were up early to fly to Hobart in Tasmania, a state of Australia that is a relatively small island south of the mainland, and one of my favorite places ever. But more on that in my next post…

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