Destination: Uluru, Part 4

Day 9 : Wednesday 21st December : Peterborough to Louth via Darling River Road

homewardThe trip was very much one of four clear sections and now we were into the fourth and final part; our route home.

From Peterborough we headed for the New South Wales border before going on into the outback town of Broken Hill.

broken-hill-streetThe town is as far west as you can travel from Sydney before leaving the state. It is known as a mining town and was where the worlds largest mining company, BHP Billiton started; the “BH” in their name actually stands for Broken Hill. Coffee and lunch were well received before heading on. There is much to see in this small town and so it is another place on the ever increasing list of “must return to” locations.

Our destination for the night was Louth on the banks of the Darling River. The bonus of this was another section of unsealed road. At Wilcania we refueled and took a left turn out in to the wilderness again.

tracks

louthA relatively short 223km brought us into Louth. Shindys Inn offered an ideal camping spot for the night within a small grass covered field to the side of the main building. I mention this primarily as grass had not been easy to come by at many of our previous stops, but here it was plentiful and soft, perfect for camping. A couple of beers also went down well in the bar before retiring for the night.

Distance covered; 703 km.

Day 10 : Thursday 22nd December : Louth to Mudgee

From Louth we drove to Bourke and breakfast. This small outback town is known for it’s historic architecture and it was certainly a lovely place to take a walk and explore a couple of the gift shops.

Our intention was to have a slightly easier day of driving, but as we still had a considerable distance to travel it was important to press on.

Again the scenery had changed and we weimg_3016re driving through fields and lanes not dissimilar to those in the UK, but for the variety of trees which lined the road.

We past through Dubbo with a short stop so that Maria could buy herself a proper Aussie outback hat from an outfitters that Phil knew near the end of the high street, and on to our overnight stop at a campsite in Mudgee.

img_3017As this was to be our last night under canvas a couple of bottles were opened to celebrate. After so many nights away setting up had become routine and so we were soon resting with out feet up enjoying some good food and great wine.

Distance covered; 595 km.

Day 11 : Friday 23rd December : Mudgee to Sydney

img_3021More treats and traditions were to be fulfilled along the route home today.

Packed and ready to go, I just needed to sort out the driver!

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wineFirst stop was Logan Wines. A nice bottle of white, cheese and biscuits made for a wonderful breakfast. We also tried a couple of their reds with both Phil and I buying some to take with us. It was interesting to taste two wines made from the same grape but different locations, Mudgee and Orange; the taste being very different.

img_3023Not normally one for spending so much on wine, they were exceptional, even to me, so that coupled with the incredible location and the very interesting back story to the name “Ridge of Tears“, saw me part with some cash! Just need that special occasion to open them.

img_3031From Logan’s we took a short detour to Windamere Dam. A good opportunity to stretch our legs before pushing on.

It seems that when ever we head out towards Lithgow for a day on the tracks our meeting point is McDonalds. It therefore seemed appropriate that we call in on our way back to grab a coffee.

As you drive out of Lithgow up into the Blue Mountains you pass through a point which would have been the highest of our trip. While I can’t recall the exact elevation I know when I check previously it is higher than the majority of the mountains in the UK, with the exception of those in Scotland.

Our second traditional stop in this area is for apple pie and ice cream in Bilpin; it would have been awful to have missed out. This area of the Blue Mountains is known for its apple production. Not only are pies in abundance there is also a well known cider producer located here.

And so finally at about 5pm we arrived back where we started; Cafe Geo, Lane Cove North.

Distance covered; 270 km.

img_2559After over 6500km the trip was done. Our destination, Uluru, had been reach and so many amazing places visited, both on the way and way back. We had traveled sealed roads and unsealed ones. Motorways and country lanes. Seen kangaroos, camels, dingos, emus and more. Viewed salt lakes and pink lakes. Driven through mountains and deserts. We had even taken our cars below sea level while in the middle of this great continent of Australia.

img_3033It was a whistle stop tour which provided magnificent views on every stretch of road we traveled, as well as a long list of places to revisit and dwell in a little longer.

And memories – so many wonderful memories.

We started at Cafe Geo and so it seemed only appropriate to finish there, 6673 km and 11 days later.

Now to choose the next destination and plan a whole new adventure.

TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED; 6673 km / 4146 miles

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Destination: ULURU, Part 1

While dates and routes were only finalised a short time before we set off, the destination was never in any doubt. Neither Phil or I had been to Uluru and the opportunity for me to undertake a proper Outback Adventure was way too good to miss.

img_2560While we both had our cars, me a Land Rover Defender and Phil a Land Rover Discovery, there was an awful lot of other stuff to get sorted before we could set off.

The list for me seemed almost endless and without doubt the credit card took a huge hit. Tent, sleeping bag and bed, cooking equipment, table, chairs, fridge, awning and so it went on. There were also the bits for the car itself such servicing, a new tyre, two way radio, etc., etc., etc.

Once we settled on the start date for our adventure, Tuesday  13th December, everything began to come together. We even managed to set out our first three overnight locations although the return journey was to remain undecided until we got to our destination.

By Monday afternoon pretty much everything was packed, loaded and ready to go. Maria, who was joining us for our trip, arrived from Brisbane on Monday evening and so we were set for a very early start next day.

Day 1 : Tuesday 13th December : Sydney to Balranald

6am Cafe Geo, Lane Cove North, the designated start of our journey to Uluru.

But first some breakfast!

Rigged and ready to go, we set off about 7am heading west out of Sydney through Katoomba and the Blue Mountains. Our route took us through Bathurst, past the icon Mount Panorama motor racing circuit and onward.

Today was all about distance and covering the miles, but none the less we got our first feel of the amazing scenery to come. This was particularly the case along the Stuart Highway between Hay and our overnight stop of Balranald where the land became flat and increasingly baron with a huge sky that carried on forever.

img_2565Our stop for the night, after over 10 hrs driving, was the Yanga Woolsheds near Balranald, a spot Phil had visited on a previous trip. This was my first opportunity to set up all my gear and make sure that not only was it all complete, but that it all worked. Only one minor problem was a missing part on my brand new ARB awning. Of all the things which could have gone wrong this was simply an annoyance, and easily resolved as it turned out.

img_2576As always when I go travelling my faithful sidekick Safari Bear was on hand to make sure that we didn’t get into too much trouble or lost somewhere in the Outback!

Distance covered; 875 km.

Day 2 : Wednesday 14th December : Balranald to Baroota (Port Augusta)

Again we needed to cover the miles with a good 8 hours driving ahead of us, before we added a slight detour. Maria made a couple of phones calls once we were on the road and managed to locate a replacement for the missing awning part and so we headed for ARB Regency Park, Adelaide. It seemed rather strange saying we would be there in approximately six hours but this didn’t seem to phase them. Distances and journey times are very different in this country.

Having left our camp site we soon crossed our first border into Victoria, which also meant the first time zone change. Only half an hour this time but sufficient to leave us a little confused about what the time was until we got back in to New South Wales some days later.

We continued to head west crossing through into South Australia; not only did we have another time zone change, but we also had to go through a quarantine station which required us to give up all our fresh fruit and vegetables. For one of my companions the loss of oranges was almost too much to bear!

At some point along this route, but unfortunately I didn’t note exactly where, we got a sight of one of South Australia’s pink lakes. Although I had read about them before the trip I wasn’t expecting to see one. The colour, which is very pink, is caused by an algae not minerals as I had previously thought.

The detour into Adelaide was very successful with the missing part waiting for us when we arrived as well the fly screen awning room Phil wanted. This proved a huge benefit a few nights when it was almost impossible to do anything for waving mosquitoes, and other insects, away.

For reasons I can’t quite remember Port Arthur was mentioned as a possible destination for dinner. Which was an interesting choice as it soon became apparent that Phil was actually thinking of the penal colony in Tasmania. However, on checking the satnav’s we realised that there was actually a Port Arthur in South Australia and it was roughly on our route – clearly it would seem wrong not to visit.

Although Port Arthur is available to select on our various navigational devices and is shown on Google Maps – feel free to check – there isn’t actually anything there! Not a single thing! No buildings, nothing. Just a road straight through empty fields. Have a look on street view. Having checked google while writing this section I have discovered that it is listed as one of South Australia Lost Towns! This became another standing joke of the trip – who suggested going to Port Arthur.

By this time it was getting late and we wanted to be off the road before it got dark. Kangaroos start moving about at dusk and they haven’t yet been taught their Green Cross Code; hitting one could well end our trip. As it was on our way we pulled into Port Pirie and had dinner in a local pub. An interesting experience; one of many on this trip.

img_2572While eating Phil found a camp ground at Baroota (Rodeo Campground) which proved to be an excellent choice. Although wet and muddy as we pulled of the track we were met by the owner who pointed us towards his brand new barn which provided the perfect cover for our camp keeping us nice and dry as it poured with rain over night.

Distance covered; 700 km.

Day 3 : Thursday 15th December : Baroota to Coober Pedy

From Baroota we headed north on the Stuart Highway for our next overnight stop and a place I have wanted to visit for some time; Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world.

But first we had a long distance to travel.

There were three things that we experienced while driving this section of our trip which will stick with me …..

The long straight roads! Several times we stopped just to look at where we were heading and where we had come from. The roads were straight heading off in to the distance with nothing around but hot, barren earth.

At one point the main highway had been widened and signs posted at each end of the section to designate it as an emergency landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Its when you see things like this that you begin to realise just how remote the area is.

Following this link to see exactly where the RFDS planes are flying in real time.

roads

img_2599Next came our first Road House. As with any long, remote, trip you always have your eye out for the next fuel stop, in my case I generally had to refill twice a day. Spuds was one such stop on the junction between the Stuart Highway and Olympic Dam Road.

Not far on from Spuds, out of the right hand side of the car, you will see Lake Hart. A shimmering white salt lake which appears to go on for ever. My picture doesn’t do this incredible natural wonder any justice. In the heat and bright summer sun it was just truly amazing to behold.

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img_2606We pulled off the highway and stood on the railway track to take in the full wonder of the view. This proved to be our first proper “off road” driving of the trip, albeit just a few hundred yards.

coober-pedy-outback1Coober Pedy was exactly as I expected, having seen it a number of times on the the TV.

coober-pedy-outback2You know you are getting nearer as the number of man made earth piles increases almost to the point were the entire landscape is disrupted by mining. The process, as I understand it, is rather simple. You did a shaft, lower somebody in and if there is an opal you keep digging; if not you start again. And so it goes on. The evidence of this is everywhere you look as you approach the town. Clearly some people have struck lucky, or simply got better organised, as their spoil heaps are considerably bigger.

img_2614The town itself is very functional, dusty and as I would image mining towns in the Outback have looked ever since man started digging holes. It is a small town with only the necessities, grocer, bank and of course a bottle shop. There are a few concessions to visitors such as the Underground Hotel, working mines to be toured and an underground church. All except the church were shut when we arrived.

As the summer heat is extreme in this part of Australia many people choose to live underground where the earth maintains a manageable ambient temperature all year round.

The Stuart Range and Highway were named after John McDouall Stuart who was the first European explorer in the area. He was the first to complete the South to North crossing of the continent which he achieved in 1862. The plaque in the photograph below commemorates this achievement.

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Distance covered; 600 km.

 

New Home

I have written before about how different the process of choosing a new home is here in Sydney, with the agents telling you when they will be at a property and giving you just a few minutes to make up your mind before they move on. During that very limited slot you have to decide if the place you are viewing will suit you for the next 6 or 12 months of your life while also dealing with the many other people doing exactly the same thing!

After viewing many places the last one was by far the best. Although I wasn’t too keen on the shared stairways and access, the apartment (they don’t have flats!) was a good size and ideal layout – and so I made the decision after my 10 minutes of viewing!

Next comes the paperwork. Forms to complete, documents to copy and send across to the agent. Proof of identity, income, credit history, etc. Again Melissa was a huge help in this process as she knew what I needed to do and what to say to the agent to give me the best chance of securing the place. One possible issue was the need to prove details of previous rentals in Australia – not only am I new to the country but I haven’t rented anywhere in 20 years and even then I didn’t have a rent book or lease agreement.

Paperwork complete, you then wait. Wait for the owner to decide who he is willing to rent too. It seems that you will never be the only one wanting that apartment in Sydney and so the landlord gets to choose who he thinks will be the best tenant. I had some advantages; single, no pets and recent arrival. As you have to prove your employment status and income level to get a visa this helps when opening a bank account, applying for a credit card and renting property.

After a nervous wait I received the good news that the place was mine.

I arrived in Sydney with two suit cases and some hand luggage; hardly what you need to set-up a new home. With just over a week before moving day I needed to get myself at least a little organised.

Following a trip to Ikea after work, complete with notebook and camera, I had a good idea what I needed. I wasn’t going to fill the whole place, just enough to get me started.

So what do I need to do? Book a van; I will need to collect some reasonably large items from Ikea. Arrange electricity – the agent arranged for somebody to call me. Book a day off work!

Wednesday evening I picked up the van and headed off to Ikea. On arrival I hit my first problem of the moving weekend – the van was too tall for the multi-storey car park! So I spent 20 minutes trying to find somewhere to park before giving up, some what disillusioned.

There are two Ikea stores in Sydney and a quick look on Google Maps street view told me that the second one, in Tempe, should be fine. Fingers crossed.

Tempe was a little further out but had a large open air car park. Perfect. First trip round the store saw be pick up a bed, mattress, quilt and pillows. Chair and a lamp. Second trip round I picked all the other must haves; crockery, cutlery, sauce pans, ironing board …… and the list goes on. Finally loaded I was ready for moving day.

Friday morning I was up early packing everything and clearing out both what I wanted and what I needed to get rid of. Melissa sent me a text just before nine to say there was a slight delay with the keys, but by the time I arrived she was there and had opened up.

Moving day was a busy day. Carrying a van full of furniture and other belongings up three flights of stairs was tough. In between the carrying I assembled the flat pack items which was a perfect opportunity to take a break. The washing machine and fridge/freezer that I decided to rent, duly arrived. By the end of the day I was tired but in! The move had gone well.

Over the past couple of weeks, since moving into the apartment, I have added a few more items to my furniture. Purchased a heater which was a huge plus – houses here don’t have much in the way of heating or insulation, so although the days have been warm the nights can be very chilly. It has been a long time since I lived in a place with no heating!

I think it is safe to say I am settling well. It will be a while before I really call Sydney home but I am comfortable and increasingly settled. Now it is time to start enjoying this new country properly.

Lane Cove

 

A New Year, A New Life ….

I have been back in Sydney for nearly 2 weeks and only now feel able to write my first post of 2015. What made be knuckle down? Simple, a walk round Sydney was all that was needed to remind me why I had made the decisions I had …..

Earlier in the year I was approached to see if I would like to move to Australia on a permanent basis. With my marriage over and house already up for sale due to the divorce, it felt like I only had one reason to say no and that was Lauren. We had many long conversations about the the pros and cons of such a move. I had many sleepless nights as I thought about the enormity of what I was considering, but in the end it was just too good an opportunity to miss. Never before had I received such an offer, and at my age it is unlikely that I would get such an offer again. After a number of discussions with my old employer about a leaving date, in theory I needed to give three months notice, and receipt of formal jobs offers and contracts of employment from my new employer, the decision was made and the wheels of my new life started to roll.

On Friday 27th February 2015 I left Causeway with just a week and a half’s notice after being employed by them for over 16 years. On the following Monday I started in Woking for my new employer Mouchel. An agreement was put in place that I would be employed by the UK business while my visa application was processed and then switch to the Australian company as soon as I was able to move to Sydney. During that interim two months I continued to spend time in Manchester working with the team there, with whom I had a brilliant night out aft my last day working with them.

Tuesday 5th May saw my arrival in Sydney on a one way ticket.

Mouchel engage a relocation manager to help new arrivals find both temporary and permanent accommodation as well as anything else you need when setting up home in a new country. Without doubt I felt much more relaxed about the process than many would having already spent four months here last year and therefore knowing my way around; a little. Melissa collected me from the airport, which was brilliant, and made sure I was settled in my apartment in St. Leonards. After a sleep I headed to the office in North Ryde to meet the new team and then down to Lane Cove to say “hi” to everyone I had met last year – and what a seriously brilliant welcome I got at Lane Cove! It certainly felt good to be back amongst friends.

It turned out that many of the team in North Ryde, the new Mouchel Design Centre for Australia, had only been there a short time before me. In fact they had only moved into the office the Friday before I arrived and so it was decided that a night out was in order for people to get to know one another. On my first Thursday back in the county we headed to the Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks district of Sydney for a few drinks and something to eat. I had been to the Glenmore before and would highly recommend it if only for the amazing views over the harbour and Opera House from the roof terrace.

Saturday was to be spent house hunting! Well more specifically apartment hunting. Melissa picked me up at 09:30 and we were off on a whistle stop tour of Lane Cove, Chatswood and the surrounding communities. Rightly or wrongly I had decided that I didn’t want to be too far from the office or, if possible a train station. This meant that my already tight budget was going to be stretched to its limit. They have a very strange system in Australia for rental accommodation, and possibly purchases as well. You don’t make an appointment to view, the agent simply advertises when he will be at a property and all are welcome to view. The “open house” time slots are often as little as 10 or 15 minutes!! 10 minutes in which to view and make up your mind on somewhere you could be living for the next year or more. At one apartment there must have been 30 people queuing up and making their way through a two bedroom property!

Having viewed about 10 places they were beginning to merge one into another, but what was clear to me was that the majority where simply not suitable. The last however would suit me just fine. Although a little older than I perhaps would have liked, the layout was perfect, the street lovely and the whole place had been recently decorated through out.

Now for the next stage of the property searching process…

Having thought about it on Sunday, and also looked on line at a number of other properties and locations, I decided that Stokes Street would do me just fine. My application was put together on Monday, various documents copied and sent through to the letting agents on Tuesday and lots of telephone calls by Melissa to see what was going on. It seemed there were three of us interested and it was up to the landlord to decide who they liked best. Finally midday Wednesday I go the news that the property was mine! By all accounts I was incredibly lucky to get the first place I chose as most people it seems have to go through this process a number of times before they are accepted. The property market in Sydney is certainly very fast moving at the moment.

All the papers were signed last Friday and I move in next Friday! On Thursday night I went out for dinner and a few drinks with some of the guys from the Lane Cove office as a welcome back celebration. We went to the Longueville Hotel in Lane Cove which was not only where we went for lunch on the last day before I left at Christmas, but will soon be my local! Another great night; I am looking forward to many more!

Having signed all the paperwork I now need to concentrate on getting furniture and everything else that is needed to make a property a home. Friday evening I went to IKEA and made a list of those items I needed first off. Back at my apartment the list was extended to cover all those items you can’t buy at IKEA – not too many additions to be honest – and then finally a few decisions about the logistics of it all. Saturday I went into Chatswood to check out a few more bits and also picked up my first purchases; kettle, toaster and iron.

2015-05-16 17.23.20

 

After shopping I decided I needed a break and so header to Sydney proper for the first time this visit. My first couple of weeks had been busy doing many of the routine things of life with little time to relax or enjoy my new surroundings. But finally I was in the city wandering through the streets, the botanical gardens and round the Opera House and Circular Quay.

Now I remembered exactly why I had mad the crazy decision to move half way round the world and start a whole new life.

Australia, Trip 4 – 2014 Finale

Saturday 13th December

This is my final weekend in Sydney for this trip, and probably quite a while, although of course I have said that before.

I decided to spend Saturday in the city; some final shopping and a little sight seeing. The weather was wonderful so needed to be enjoyed, all too soon I will be back in the cold of home.

Extreme Sailing

As I walked around the Opera House from Circular Quay I could see there was a sailing competition taking place out in the harbour. The boats were very big and moving at quite a pace round what appeared to be a very small course. I continued to walk around the water front towards the main spectator area at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and found somewhere to watch the action. The event was part of the Extreme Sailing Series which has heats around the world, this weekend in Sydney being the last of 2014. Click here to see some of the highlights.

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Sunday 14th December

A couple of weeks back I took a drive out to Wisemans Ferry, but the weather wasn’t great so today I decided to take another look. Even on a dull wet day the scenery was stunning so I was expecting so much more today, and it didn’t disappoint.

This time I approached Wisemans Ferry from the opposite direction and on arrival took the opportunity for a coffee at the small cafe while watching the ferry move cars across the Hawkesbury River. After a short break I chose to cross the river via the Webbs Creek Ferry which is back up through the village and then turn right. Although the two ferries are reasonably close, they are out of site of each other due to the curve in the river.

Once across I was heading for St. Albans, a small village in the Macdonald River valley. The valley had been populated as a farming community due to the fertile land. Close by is the convict built Great North Road which helped the community grow. Life was extremely tough in this remote location with the population consisting of ex-convicts as well as convicts themselves.

In later years the area become known as the “Forgotten Valley” by the locals as new roads took travelers away and alternative farming communities were established on larger areas of more easily accessible land.

StAlbans

2014-12-14 16.16.21The first bridge across Macdonald River takes you into the settlement. From here the roads north are gravel and disappear off into the remote fields and valleys. Yet another journey for another day.

2014-12-14 16.50.12Having spent a little time exploring I took the road south on the opposite side of the river from the one on which I had arrived.

After only a relatively short distance I came across two sights of interest. The first was the St. Albans Old General Cemetery. There are inscriptions dating back to 1833, including that of First Fleeter William Douglas who died 27 November 1838.

2014-12-14 17.07.12A little further on is Shepherd’s Gully Road which was constructed between 1827 – 1828. Now a walking track it was built by convict labour as a spur to the Great North Road and forms part of the Convict Trail.

Each time I see parts of this road I have to wonder at the immense efforts needed to construct it and the extremely harsh nature of the environment in which the men were forced to work for so long. It is all such a contrast to the beauty of the landscape that you see from your air conditioned car as you travel through the region today.

Wiseman

2014-12-14 19.16.08On the way back to Sydney I decided to make one final detour. There are 11 Australian convict sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, one of which I hadn’t yet visited even though it was so close to were I have been staying.

Situated in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, is Old Government House and Government Domain. The building was started in 1799 by Governor Hunter and then extended in 1815 by Governor Macquarie. It is considered to be the oldest vice-regal residence in Australia.

Although too late to visit I did have a walk around the park before calling it a day.

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A final week in the office and then home in time for Christmas. It has been amazing to have had the opportunity to spend so much time in Australia this year. I have seen so many incredible sights, but what it has also shown me is just how much more there is still to see. All being well I will get the opportunity.

Happy New Year.

Australia, Trip 4 – Part 1

Saturday 29th November

Well dear reader I am sure that by now you must be truly fed up with me bleating on about my adventures down under, particularly as it is now summer here and very much winter back home. That said we have had more than our fair share of rain and some spectacular storms.

Arriving back in Sydney very late Tuesday night I was then into three straight work days before getting the opportunity to relax. It has certainly been very busy at work, with plenty to keep me amused, but so good to be back. Everyone has been so welcoming. In fact, as I walked into the office Emma greeted me with a big smile and “welcome back, here’s your phone and laptop. Your car will be here after lunch.”

2014-11-29 11.34.44On my first Saturday back I went into Sydney to do a little shopping and sight seeing. Clearly Christmas had arrived as there were trees and decorations everywhere. I have never experienced a summer Christmas before and it certainly feels strange to hear people talking about summer, 30 degree temperatures, decorations and Christmas trees!

The best tree I have seen so far has to be the one made of Lego, just outside the Westfield shopping center on George Street.

Although good to be back, the heat was a bit of a struggle so back to the hotel air conditioning for me.

Sunday 30th November

With energy in short supply, after a lazy morning, I jumped in the car. With no real idea where I was heading I decided to go to the Macquarie Shopping Centre for a few bits I needed from Woolworths and then I headed north away from the city. After about half an hour of just taking what ever road I thought looked best I saw a sign for Wisemans Ferry. Now I am still not too sure why the name rung a bell for me, but no matter, it did so I followed the sign.

What a good decision if I do say so myself. For the next couple of hours, I generally don’t take too much notice of time at the weekends, I meandered through open country, woodland and valleys. At one point I stopped to have a look at Mill Creek Bridge, apparently an historic site, as well as the views up and down the river. Generally the weather hadn’t been great all2014-11-30 13.57.43 day switching between sunshine and huge downpours, but at this point it was over cast but dry, however the storms were very nearby as you could hear the thunder rumbling around the valley and then the lightning would fork from the clouds and strike the ground way off in the distance. The storms here in New South Wales can certainly be spectacular!

Finally arriving at Wisemans Ferry I was not disappointed, there really was a ferry and better still it was free! As I waited for the boat I checked out a sign showing a map of the river. It appeared that there were a number of free ferries across the river which ran 24 hours a day as there were no bridges available as an alternative.

The ferry crosses the Hawkesbury River which I had been following for some time along the valley floor. On leaving the small town you have to take a very steep road which from the views back across the valley are truly magnificent even with the weather as it was.

On the way back towards Sydney I decided to take what I thought would be a short cut via Berowra Waters. Not only did it take some of the time off the journey it also provided some even more spectacular views and driving.

It is a steep drop down into the Berowra Creek to a small area which seemed to just about find enough space between the rocks and the water for a car park, restaurant, marina and, of course, another ferry! As you drive off the other side the road is narrow and even steeper; in consequence the views back even more spectacular.

A couple of lucky choices certainly made for a great drive. A route to be revisited should time, and perhaps better weather, allow.

2014-11-30 16.43.20

Australia, Trip 3 – Part 6

A lazy weekend was in order! That was my thought and that is exactly how it panned out.

On Saturday I needed to go into Chatswood to do a little shopping and get my hair cut; regardless of where you are and what you are up to in the world the routine chores of life continue on. That sorted back to the hotel, drop everything off and then out in the car.

So far this trip I haven’t been up the north coast and so I decided a drive, perhaps a walk and some time just relaxing on one of the beaches north of Sydney would be the way to go. From North Ryde I headed out towards Manly Beach. From there I continued heading north enjoying the amazing views out across the golden beaches which are so typical of this part of the country. Not being in any particular hurry there were various detours when something caught my eye or a sign pointed off to a beach that I hadn’t been to previously.

It was a glorious day weather wise and so generally the beaches were busy with surfers enjoying the waves and families having fun in the water or the sand.

Australians are known for enjoying the outdoor life style and clearly the weather plays a part in this, but it still surprised me how many families had taken their lunch or dinner outside and as a complete group were enjoying the day and their time together. Sadly not something you see too much at back home.

2014-10-11 16.13.42At one point, I didn’t note exactly where, I saw a number of people para-gliding off the cliffs. As I pulled up to look one guy was about to launch himself right from the edge of the road! After several false starts he was off, but I am not sure the thermals were as good as he hoped because after I got back from a short walk he was back where he started but this time packing all his gear away.

Continuing north I headed through Dee Why, North Narrabeen, Mona Vale, Newport, Avalon, Whale Beach and finally into Palm Beach the home of the television series Home and Away.

At Palm Beach I parked the car, took a stroll and then just sat and read my book as the sun slowly set over paradise.

2014-10-11 18.46.15-2Sunday was to be another easy day, but this time in Sydney. I needed to get back into the city just to remind myself how wonderful it actually is – not that I really need to be reminded!

No car today, train from North Ryde to Milsons Point.

During my last trip over I walked the bridge from Sydney to MIlsons Point and grabbed some food from a small take away under the approach ramp. Today I intended to do the reverse walk and so decided to have lunch at the same place I had been before. Definitely a good choice, The Seafood and Burger Cafe, well worth a visit!

A small market was taking place in the arches and greens surrounding the bridge and station. I had a stroll and then headed for the bridge itself.

Everybody knows Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’s famous the world over not least for the iconic pictures of the fireworks at new year and to celebrate the Olympics in 2000. It is one of those destinations in the world that is instantly recognised. Although not brave, or perhaps stupid, enough to walk over the highest parts of the bridge, simply walking across at road/rail level offers some amazing views of the harbour, the city and the structure itself. What continues to amaze me is the overall size of the bridge. Not only the height and the length, which are clear to all, but it is wide enough to carry trains in both directions as well as six lanes of vehicles and two walkways – pedestrians one side and cyclists the other.

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From the bridge I walked down through The Rocks, round Circular Quay, past the Opera House and up in to the park. More time sitting, reading and people watching was in order.

While in the park one of the cruise ships which moor up at the international terminal in Circular Quay edged out from the dock and headed through the harbour towards the open sea. These ships are huge, it is difficult to image how they float without tipping over. There seems to be so little actually in the water.

A great, lazy weekend enjoying the good weather and the amazing views.

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After such a wonderful weekend out in the glorious warm spring sunshine the beginning of the following week came as such a shock. It was just under 30 degrees C on Sunday but on Monday the temperature had dropped as a major storm approached New South Wales. In my hotel Monday evening I watched the storm roll in. The rain, thunder and lightening were so intense, it was if the gates of hell themselves had opened.

On Tuesday morning heading into the office it was noticeably colder but it still came as a shock to find that roads within the Blue Mountains had been closed due to snow! Pictures were circulating round the office of the maintenance crews making snowmen while out on the night shift.

SnowAs appears to be the way in Sydney no sooner had the storm arrived, it was gone and the last couple of days of my visit the weather was back to its glorious best.