Sydney Redeemed

Travel Dates: June 2018

When I turn old and very gray I want to have a story to tell. I want to tell about mistakes, redemption, and admiration. And, I want to tell about Sydney.

In elementary school, I was taught that the sum of all parts equals a whole. This is the story about wholeness. My mistakes 48 hours prior was redeemed by the beauty that Sydney offered. Sydney arrested my senses after a tiring 19 hour plane ride. It is everything I didn’t imagine it to be because my heart still beats to the tune of South Africa.

I arrived very early, a cool and foggy morning, at Circular Quay (Quay is pronounced kee not kway) and was immediately engulfed by the outstanding facade of the Sydney Harbor bridge. But let me rewind so you can experience Sydney with me.

Read on IF you want to read more about immigration, airport train, OPAL card, and a packed but not-so-intense itinerary for 2 days.

Day 1: Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge, ferry to Manly beach, The Rocks, Opera House, Vivid Sydney at Circular Quay

Day 2: Blue Mountains, Leura, Chinatown, Vivid Sydney at Darling Harbour

IF you want to read my previous post on Sydney, follow this link:

At the airport:

The immigration process is quite different at Sydney airport. It’s e-passport and self service creates shorter lines and less traffic. Use the self service kiosk to scan your passport, then have your picture taken before going to customs. If you have nothing to declare, you are done. I took the Airport Train from platform 1 to Circular Quay (CQ) after topping off $50AUD on an OPAL card. This card allows you to use it on the train, bus, ferry. The cost for a one way from the airport to CQ is $18. After 20 minutes and several stops you are in CQ.

Where I unpacked:

I unpacked my bags and tired body at the Sydney Harbor Marriott at Circular Quay- within walking distance from the train station. This is my home for the rest of my stay in Sydney.

Day 1:

After a scrumptious breakfast of coffee, fruit, eggs, hash brown and a surprisingly delicious smoked mackerel, I tackled the Sydney Harbor bridge (about a 2 mile walk to and fro) then followed Cahill walk to the Royal Botanic garden, which leads to the Sydney Opera House. If you need to use the restroom, walk in the Opera House and linger a bit. After a quick but restful break, I walked toward the Wharf area and decided to take the ferry to Manly beach with a plan of going to Bondi beach and doing the Coogee walk in a few days. In every thing, opposites attract so choose the fast ferry or slow one. I chose the slower ferry and used my OPAL card ($7AUD one way, return trip is $4AUD) and enjoyed the 25-30 minute ride.

Manly Beach was a relaxing, quiet trip. Buy a cup of coffee and walk along the beach. You will see surfers, people watchers, volleyball enthusiasts, joggers, and walkers. Before you come to the beach, you will walk alongside shops, cafes, and restaurants.

When the skies got darker, I made my way back to CQ to witness bright lights, people, and the evening atmosphere that brings Sydney to life. Vivid Sydney is a 3-week long event that begins late May. Lights and glamour decorate the skies of Sydney harbor; buildings in the CQ area adorn themselves with playful colors; and, the closest neighborhood “The Rocks” becomes an epicenter of music, food, and laughter. Firework shows begins at 8p on Fridays and Saturdays only. I didn’t go but saw it from the hotel room.

The lights that befall on Sydney is beautiful, magical, and enticing.

Day 2:

Today, I conquered parts of the Blue Mountains (BM). BM is located outside of Sydney; it can be reached in about 2 hours by train from Central (the train I took is #10 and it departed at 9a). Upon arrival to Katoomba, you have a choice of bus that would take you to BM: hop on/off for $50AUD or take bus #686 and use your OPAL card. Take either of these buses down the street from the hop on/off bus office. I chose the latter because it’s economical and I know I won’t maximize the hop on/off stops.

BM is in a higher elevation so dress for the weather; wear comfortable shoes that can tolerate some steep grades including climbing, hiking, and walking.

The bus #686 takes you to Echo Point – a stop that will showcase the beauty of the mountainous area, its vegetation, and the famous Three Sisters – a rock formation. From here, you can visit the Information Center or follow one of the trails or paths for your own self guided tour. I followed the trail to Katoomba Falls – my goal for this hike- and stopped at several lookouts along the way. I spent a few minutes when I can to admire- but never for an inordinate amount of time. Total activity time about 2 hours and well worth the agony of some not-so-easy paths. I decided to return to Echo Point to take the bus back to Katoomba station. Alternatively, you can also catch it at the stop just before you start the trail to Katoomba Falls. The falls isn’t an easy find – you’d have to really look once you arrive in the area.

The ride back took a slightly different route where it dropped off passengers at Scenic World where you can ride the skywalk across.

I wanted to go to Leura, a little quaint village one stop before Katoomba. There is no bus service so catch the train and exit Leura. My stop in Leura was quick; I didn’t plan on having a meal so I quickly but attentively walked alongside the shops while sipping long black coffee. Some shops are unique while others aren’t particularly notable.

With Leura done, I am back at the train station ready to embark on a train to Central – there is no express train from here so relax, nap, and endure all the stops in between.

The rest on the train was good but I had one more thing to see/do: eat ramen at Chinatown (street food/vendors hours 4-11p). So, I found the light rail line (Pitt St) and got off Paddy’s Market. While I didn’t go into Paddy’s Market, I got the sense that you can find just about anything: from clothes to toys to knick knacks. Walk a bit and you’ll see rows of restaurants with delicious offerings. You’ll find stalls of street food from octopus to fish balls to skewered beef or chicken. This ramen is delicious from Menya Noodle bar:

It’s a rainy night in Chinatown but everyone seems unbothered by a little rain. From here, you can walk to Darling Harbour passing the Convention Center and Chinese Garden of Friendship. Despite the rain, there were so many people walking about, dressed up for Friday night activities. You hear people laughing and enjoying their drinks or meal at restaurants; there were people waiting to catch a cruise on the Harbour, and people watching the enthralling lights of Vivid Sydney.

The night is young but my body is tired. I caught the ferry here from Wharf 1 to CQ using my OPAL card.

The next post will cover Days 3 and 4. Keep watching for more Sydney adventures.

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