Tues 23 Oct – Ben's Birthday!! Weather starting to turn grey today. Went for brunch as it was Ben's birthday. Then took bus to City and got a monorail daypass and went to Darling Harbour. Ben spotted the Australian Maritime Museum from the monorail and decided he wanted to go there for his Bday. I think it was the submarine in the Harbour that swung it. We used our YHA cards for the first time and got 20% discount on the entry fee. Went on a guided tour of the HMAS Vampire – a large war ship. Very interesting and wouldn't fancy working/living on one myself. Walked through the submarine also – I was very tall at 5'6'' and had to duck nearly everywhere. Claustrophobics would not like it as you have to climb down a small ladder to get in and crouch through 3 internal circular doors to pass through the cabins/engine rooms. The museum was extremely comprehensive with everything you can think of that is linked to Maritime and the sea. They had a good exhibition on jelly fish that I liked. Could have spent all day in there as there is so much to see. Got lunch and found the outdoor exhibit "Earth From Above" in Darling Harbour next to the Urban River (fancy stream fountains). I assume this travels the world so if you get chance to see it you must. I loved it. Excellent photos. Some shots were mesmerising and we spent a while strolling up and down the two rows of large freestanding prints. We'd been to some places and are going to visit others.
Do check out online… http://www.earthfromabove.whereis.com/gallery.html
We continued to stroll through Darling Harbour and jumped on Monorail again into City Centre. Looked in some shops and then got coffee at Gloria Jeans – it's a chain to rival Starbucks in my opinion – great coffee. Met Marc & Andrea in pub and then went for Ben's Birthday dinner in Chinatown.
Wed 24 Oct – Had planned to do Manly Beach walk but it was overcast when we woke (at 8am again...we're doing well). Spent morning chilling/planning. Wanted to walk into City but was starting to rain so jumped on bus and thought we'd walk back. Got bus to The Rocks and walked up to the Observatory. Had a good look round the (free) museum/exhibits sitting down to watch a good half hour of a Captain Cook programme. Weather still dreary so went to The Rocks (free) Museum and saw how the Europeans colonised the rest of the "new" world. Looked round a few shops but still raining, and getting harder, so went back to Paddington. Bought dinner and sat in front of telly J Can't beat that.
Thurs 25 Oct – Hire car booked from today for 1 week. Plan is to drive to Melbourne via the Grand Pacific Drive down the Southeast Coast, check out Thredbo and Mount Kosciuszko (highest mountain in Oz), do the Great Ocean Road (South Coast in Victoria), Phillip Island (to see Penguin March) and then return the car to Melbourne. One day in Melbourne then we fly to Perth!
Ben collected car. We packed up our 2 large backpacks and our daypacks and hit the road around noon. We left a considerable amount of stuff at Marc & Andrea's which we intend to ship home at Xmas along with our tent. Drove to Wollongong about an hour south of Sydney, had Subway salads for lunch and went in search of the Buddhist Temple mentioned in several guidebooks as MUST SEE. Was my call to go there, bit out of the way but eventually found it and Ben was impressed (me too!). The Nan Tien Temple: Huge place. Beautiful shrine/temple room. The walls were covered in hand-sized Buddhas in each room was at least 1 very large Buddha. I understood it was to mean that every "little" person had the ability to become a bigger Buddha. (I think). Very excited about Asia now!
Back on Grand Pacific Drive: next stop Jervis Bay. We stayed in Huskisson. Found a half-decent campground after looking extensively for the hostel which must no longer exist. Went out for dinner (no kitchen at campground) at 3Gringos and had a fab meal. Very yummy prawns, steak & veg and strawberries & cream. The 3 course set menu was cheaper than a main on its own!
Back to Tent and a street light had come on DIRECTLY above our tent! Whoops! Couldn't be bothered to move it – but inside we could read without headtorch! Out came the airline eyemasks. Will remember to check for lights next time we camp.
END OF WEEK 1 AUSTRALIA!!