Despite using up all of my Star Alliance miles on an upgrade to business class I couldn’t help thinking that a straight-through journey from London to Sydney (with just a plane change in Singapore) was a bit of a mistake, so I was looking forward to a rest and some home comforts on my arrival in Sydney and was glad that I had arranged to stay with friends in St Ives (North Sydney) before setting off on my travels. After a day relaxing and getting over the jet lag (to some extent), Roger took me into the city to collect my hire car. I had been looking forward to seeing Sydney Harbour with its iconic bridge and opera house, and was not to be disappointed. We took the train to Milson’s Point, on the north side of the bridge, and walked across. This was a delightful way to see the harbour for the first time and I would recommend it to any new visitor. It was a warm sunny day without a cloud in the sky and the harbour was buzzing with activity – water taxis, ferries and pleasure boats criss-crossing the water below us, with the magnificent Opera House shimmering in the sunlight as a backdrop. Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the hot sun was thirsty work so when we arrived at The Rocks we popped into a pub for some refreshment. We ordered some drinks and sat at the bar, and Roger remarked how British it all felt – we could have been in London, save for the weather. In fact, it had warmed up nicely, so after this Roger directed me to a hatters amongst the many quaint shops and galleries in The Rocks, where I acquired a decent Aussie hat (with a brim – but no corks, thank you). This proved a sound investment for the rest of the stroll round to Circular Quay, heaving with tourists, and on to the Opera House for a closer look at its magnificent architecture, then through the botanic gardens and on towards Kings Cross where my car was waiting to be collected. The city had exceeded my expectations and I returned to the centre several times over the next few days to take photographs. I crossed the harbour again by ferry and once more by foot to take photographs from the unique vantage point of the bridge, and spent rather too long photographing the Opera House under a beautiful blue sky with little white clouds from every imaginable angle.
As well as the centre, I took trips to the north of the city, being based in St Ives. After witnessing England beat Australia in the early hours of the morning, Roger was up early to play golf and gloat at Australians, so Jilly and I headed to Manly and had fish and chips on the beach. Jilly warned me to look after my food as the gulls were quite aggressive – and sure enough, one came and took her second piece of fish directly from her hand! I also drove up the coast to the quieter Bay View area and back through some of Ku Ring Gai National Park, where the smell of recent bush fires still hung in the air. The partly burned trunks looked incongruous alongside pretty white spring flowers. This first trip into an Australian national park whetted my appetite for the next part of my tour – the Blue Mountains.
Further geographical reminders of home occurred on the drive out to the mountains as I followed the M4 motorway west out of Sydney. Eventually this turned into a highway which climbed into the hills through numerous settlements, each with a sign advising me of its own unique aspect of the Blue Mountains. I passed through until I reached Leura and Katoomba, the main towns handy for the famous Three Sisters formation. I had been advised to stay in Leura as it is much prettier, and this proved the case with the short stretch of shops and restaurants known at Leura Mall. Sadly I couldn’t get in anywhere, so headed to Katoomba and down to Echo Point where I found a motel with very friendly and helpful staff. This location was a better bet anyway, as it was just a short walk to the lookout for the Three Sisters, so I didn’t have far to go for the sunrise and sunset shoots which proved fruitful with some decent light peeping through the clouds. At sunrise I was spared the wall-to-wall fog which can occur here, but at the expense of a nice blanket of cloud in the valley floor and had to make do with just one or two wisps of white cloud hanging over a sea of gum trees below me. I preferred the sisters at sunset – they are backlit at sunrise, so I tried sunrise from Point Sublime on my second morning, which has a pleasant view across the Jamison Valley, but the Three Sisters lacked definition against the background from here. After breakfast (the sunrise shoot was early – sunrise was at 05:25 so I was up at 04:50 and out at 05:00) I started the trip back with a visit to Wentworth Falls. By lunchtime I was heading back towards Sydney and skirting the city to the south, heading for the coast and the second leg of my journey along the South Coast of New South Wales.
For more images from Australia, visit the Australia gallery on marksunderland.com.