Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
August 7-11, 2023
August 7, 2023:
One treacherous too-short sleep on the plane from Perth to Sydney later; we made the haze of a journey from the airport to our hostel.
The airports in Australia by the way, are the strangest things ever. You don’t need any ID to board your plane, instead it’s treated as a train or bus ticket. All our flights from Perth to Sydney and later from Melbourne to Tasmania and back, we simply printed our ticket and walked right in. I could’ve given my seat to anyone. Madness!
Originally Lawrence had planned for us to drop off our bags and take a train to the Blue Mountains. It’s possible I may have fallen asleep in the hostel common area and thwarted that plan.
Instead, we walked down to Darling Harbor. The area had been improved in the 7 years of Lawrence’s absence. It was still under construction in some spots to this day, continuing the improvements. They had a special FIFA Fan Exhibition in place for Sydney soccer fans to watch the Women’s World Cup. Tickets were long sold out, especially since Team Australia: The Matilda’s were doing so well.
The Sydney Opera House
We got up close and personal with the iconic Sydney Opera House as well. The emblem of Sydney, this building is a must see. It’s hard to avoid it to be honest.
Queen Victoria Market
After the Sydney Opera House, we took a light rail to the Queen Victoria Market and Town Hall area. We shopped around for a bit and explored before moving on.
Walking Tour de Lawrence
The last stop on our walking tour was to some of Lawrence’s old residences. We passed by a few hostels and bars that he frequented before going to his flat just outside the city center. He even remembered which window was his from his working holiday 7 years ago. It seemed like a nice, quiet, neighborly area. He told me stories of where he would go, what things used to look like, and how it all felt, but this time with context. It was like a historic tour, but Lawrence was the subject we were history-stalking.
We ended our day at a pub watching Australia beat Denmark and qualify for the quarterfinals in the Women’s World Cup. If it can’t be U.S.A it’s at least fun to root for the home team!
August 8, 2023:
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk
One of my favorite things done in Australia was the Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk. This walk is an incredible stretch of 6 kilometers along oceanside cliffs. We picked the perfect time to start the walk as by the time we were nearing the end the sun began to set. We saw the most beautiful sunset, with the ocean in the background, and clouds the color of pink cotton candy. Gorgeous.
But not even the sunset could top the whales we saw along the way. We could see them far in the distance blowing little puffs of water or occasionally making a small splash with a fin. The best part was seeing a giant whale jump completely out of the water in a full acrobatic breech! He was close enough that you could see in perfect detail that it was definitely a whale, not just the possibility of one way off in the distance. Lawrence and I looked at the perfect time and saw the corkscrew jump start to finish. We celebrated like our favorite team had just won the Super Bowl. On top of the world.
It’s such a scenic walk between Bondi’s killer waves and the dramatic cliffs leading up to Coogee. There were also some interesting historical sites along the way. One featured memorial along the trail was for the dozens of Australians killed in a terrible terrorist attack in Bali, Indonesia.
There’s also a peculiar shrine to the Virgin Mary overlooking the sea. Apparently, there have been sightings of a Virgin Mary apparition floating over the cliffs. At the shrine there is even a link to a YouTube video claiming to have caught the apparition on film. It’s not a government official monument, more like a local conglomeration. It’s similar to what you would see on the side of a road memorializing someone who may have passed in a car accident, only much larger. Interesting all the same.
Having fallen victim to advertising ploys, to round out our evening we went to see Oppenheimer, the second half of America’s “double feature” to be paired with The Barbie Movie. It was especially interesting since just a few weeks prior we had visited the scene of the atomic bomb dropping in Hiroshima, the topic of the movie, in person. A whole different universe of genre compared to ‘Barbie, so it’s hard to really say which was better—they were both awesome.
Oppenheimer is nearly 3 hours long though. So, by the time we made it back to our hostel it was well past our bedtime!
August 9, 2023:
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
After sleeping in and doing some laundry we got a later start to our day. We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. This free museum has tons of wacky modern and contemporary art both beautiful and bewildering. There are permanent collections by local aboriginal artists as well as temporary collections from all around the world.
One of my favorites was an interactive exhibit by a South Korean artist. Museum visitors would pick from a variety of flesh-colored clay and roll it into a small ball. While rolling you were meant to clear your mind, focusing only on the meditative action of feeling the clay in your palms. Once finished, you set your ball arm’s length away from where you sat, to join the rest in an ever-growing cluster, near the center of the large table.
Sydney Harbor Bridge
To end our day, we walked halfway across the Sydney Harbor Bridge getting a nice birds-eye view of the Opera House. We hoped to see the sunset too, but the bridge had wire netting and barbed wire strung everywhere. This was successful in preventing the worst from happening, but sadly it also prevented us from getting a great view.
After some gelato and a stroll through The Rocks shopping area we called it a night and headed back to the hostel.
August 10, 2023:
Royal National Park
Today was all about Royal National Park! To get there is a series of train and ferry rides outside downtown Sydney.
A train ride and a few coffees into our journey we first made it to the town of Cronulla. We had close to 2 hours to kill before the ferry to Royal National Park, so we spent it walking along the Cronulla beach. We stopped to have lunch before making way to the marina.
This is another student discount location! You can get them just about anywhere, and on the ferry, he didn’t even ask to see my ID (though many places will).
The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes and has return trips on the hour until around 7:00 p.m. Except for Sunday’s when it’s only until 5:00 p.m. It’s important not to miss the ferry lest you be stranded on the island until the morning! Unless you call an Uber or convince a pity-taking stranger. Lawrence has personal experience with this as he missed the ferry when first visiting Australia back in 2016!
Fortunately for us we made it back with plenty of time to spare. We walked just over a mile to the start of the hike by passing through the quiet neighborhood of Bundeena.
When we finally reached the start of the trail it was another 3.5 kilometers along the coastal track to get to our finish line. We were headed to a landmark called Wedding Cake Rock. Along the way we saw some killer rock formations in the cliffs that overhung the ocean. It was similar Bondi to Coogee, but grander and more exaggerated. We also saw, and heard, tons of new birds. One specifically sounded like an old TV remote zing-ing on and off with a strange, high-pitched, pointed, echo.
Wedding Cake Rock
Our grand finale came with our arrival at Wedding Cake Rock. Named simply because it looks like a perfect piece of square cute, white, wedding cake. The boulder is just balancing freely on the edge of the cliff. It could literally fall at any time and for any reason. Because of this there is an industrial fence, you would be stupid to try and climb, protecting its border. It’s more for people’s safety than for the rock’s safety. What is funny is all the little pebbles thrown onto the rock supposedly by onlookers hopeful to be the ones to witness the eventual collapse. Of course, we took our turn and threw a pebble each. It was not to be though; Wedding Cake Rock still stands…. for now.
We reversed our trail. Walked back to the ferry. Took the ferry back to Cronulla. Took the train back to Sydney. And finally took a metro back to our hostel for our last night in Sydney until the end of our journey. The next day we would be headed to our next stop: Canberra!