|Mon., Oct. 21st
We noticed the smell right as soon as we stepped on the elevator, and it was more noticeable when we stepped off: SMOKE! Evidently, yesterday the wind was blowing it away from Sydney, but today, it caught up to us. The government has declared a state of emergency for all of New South Wales. It was hazy and smoky all over the city, but that didn’t keep us from our appointed rounds!
First to the Sydney Opera House, which has been celebrating its 40th birthday, actually yesterday. Construction began in 1959, but wasn’t finished until 1973, at a cost of $102 million AU. The original estimate was $7 million - a bit over-budget! It was not paid for by taxes, but entirely by donations and the lottery! We took a walking tour, went inside the Opera Stage (where “South Pacific” is being performed) and the Concert Hall with its 10,000 pipe organ I’m sure Kelly would love to play. The Concert Hall seats 2,500, the Opera Stage seats 1,500. I found it peculiar the guide was calling the musical, “South Pacific”, an opera. Well, in a sense, it is! The Opera House also has three smaller drama settings, one for 200 seats, another for 400 and a third seating 550.
After our tour and a brief visit to the Gift Shop, we walked to Circular Quay (say, “key”). From there, everyone was on their own and went their own way. It was too hazy for us to walk the Sydney Bridge, so D&I stayed around the Circular Quay window shopping, having a bite to eat and then, really shopping. There were three or four aboriginal men in the park, playing a didgeridoo and sticks. At first it was interesting, but the constant thrumming soon grew tiresome. They stayed there all day, trying to sell their $10 CDs.
At 2:30, we joined the group at Pier 6C and boarded the Captain Cook cruise lines for a Coffee Cruise around Sydney Harbor. Sydney Harbor is gigantic! The largest natural harbor in the world, it has over 560 km (336 miles) of shoreline and over 66 little bays or coves. I think we saw them all: Wooloomooloo Bay, Elizabeth Bay, Rush Cutters Bay, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Parsley Bay, Watson’s Bay….shall I continue??
About half-way through the cruise, the crew served tea (or coffee or juice, etc.). We were given a little box filled with lamingtons (cakes), a chocolate or lemon/poppy-seed muffin, ANZAC biscuits (cookies), Tim-Tams (a chocolate wafer candy like Kit-kat, maybe) and gum-nut cookies. Darrel had two boxes!
Then we passed the mouth of Sydney Harbor and saw the Tasman Sea. Just one nautical mile between “The Heads” (headlands), and you could feel the current changing our gentle cruise. Then, turning back, our ship passed by Middle Harbor, Manley, Obelisk Bay, Chowder Bay, Taylor’s Bay and St. George’s Head where three Japanese subs tried to enter Sydney Harbor to destroy the fleet during WWII. One got caught in the submarine netting and self-destructed. Another was shot down. The third managed to get off a torpedo aimed at the USS Chicago. However, it went astray and hit a ferry instead, killing several soldiers on board. Most notable today, “Mission Impossible” with Tom Cruise was filmed here.
Finally approaching the Sydney Bridge, we were told over six million rivets were used in the construction of the bridge, but there are over 10 million rivets on the harbor floor! You see, the riveters had to catch the red-hot rivets that were thrown to them in a bucket. If their aim was off, down into the harbor the rivets went!
Passing the Bridge, there was Little Sirius Cove, Mossman Bay, Little Cleaning Cove, and Neutral Bay. Under the Sydney Bridge we sailed, past Lavender Bay, White Bay, and into Darling Harbor. Did I get all 66? No? Well, that’s okay. It was a beautiful cruise, and when we exited the boat, we noticed the smoke and haze had lifted, so there is hope tomorrow will be a nice day.
We took a public bus back to the hotel, not the free bus, as it had stopped running already. We rested a little before catching a light dinner next to the hotel.
TOMORROW: a free day on our own. I know what I want to do: sleep in! These 6:00 a.m. alarms, all day tours, and late night blogging are catching up with me… Then, we MUST do a load of laundry, and who knows where we will explore after that? Read all about it --- tomorrow.