Helen and Doug's Round the World Trip travel blog

The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, view from Watson's Bay

View of the city from Watson's Bay

Doug meeting an old kangaroo at the Koala Sanctuary

Helen patting a wombat!

People starting their climb of the Harbour Bridge

Aboriginal art at Red Hands Cave in the Blue Mountains

Enjoying the view in the Blue Mountains

The steps down to the Three Sisters

The Three Sisters

Coming back to the city on the Manly Ferry at dusk

Waiting for the end of 2004

Blurry NYE fireworks on the Harbour Bridge

Happy to be in a pub for the first time in 2005!

Coogee beach on New Years Day

The New Years Test at the SCG - very hot!

At the Pylon lookout - NYE disco ball in background!!

Our hotel over Christmas and New Years

The infamous Big Banana - first of Australia's 'big things'

The Big Prawn outside Ballina

Byron Bay beach

The view from our campsite

After yummy food on Chrissy (bloody Ozzies shorten everything) we had a good two weeks of touristy activities with Helen's Mum. On Boxing Day we watched the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which was very impressive, and we climbed the Centre Point tower for some amazing views over Sydney. The next day we went to the Koala Sanctuary, where we cuddled a Koala, stroked a Kangaroo and patted a wombat!

On the 28th we climbed up the Sydney Harbour Bridge - it was awesome! Probably the best thing we've done so far. It takes over 3 hours including lots of briefing beforehand and being issued with tons of equipment including a very fetching grey Star-Trek style suit! We walked along underneath the bridge to start and then up several flights of stairs between two lanes of traffic - fun! Then we walked up the arch to the centre. The weather was perfect and the views over the city and out to sea were spectacular.

The next day we chilled out at Manly Beach. The ferry ride across the harbour was as good as we had heard and we managed to catch the return ferry at sunset which was magic. Much better than Bondi which we think is probably over-rated.

On Thursday we drove into the Blue Mountains where Helen navigated us to some superb lookouts. Shame she could not control the rainfall, as the waterfalls were a bit poor. Scenery was great, and the Three Sisters were very picturesque. Unfortunately being such a short drive from Sydney the Blue Mountains get overrun by people and to be honest it wasn't the best scenery we've seen. We also went through the National Park to an Aboriginal art site called Red Hands Cave which has been there for thousands of years, it was amazing as clearly hundreds of people had been there and printed their hands on the wall. Australia doesn't have much history so it's always more impressive when you do see it!

On New Year's Eve we went down to the Harbourside at noon to stake out our space for the midnight fireworks. Organisation was generally a joke, and we were seperated from the only two bars by a check-point, which promptly closed at 9pm! Bastards left me beerless. Thankfully it opened about an hour later and I was able to stock up for the rest of the evening. The fireworks themselves were the best we've ever seen, although our patient waiting for 12 hours was rendered useless by a 5-to-midnight crush of latecomers - not happy. The fireworks were worth it though.

Spent New Year's Day on Coogee Beach where Helen and I slept off hangovers while Sue went and played in the sea. This beach gets our vote as best in Sydney, it was much more like a community beach, whereas Bondi is all travellers. It was also probably the most scenic of the three we went to.

On Sunday we did a tour of the Hunter Valley wine region. It took us ages to get there so we only made it to 2 wineries, Lindemanns and Rosemount Estate, where Helen and Sue tried all liquid on offer, and bought a couple of bottles for the driver to sample later. The scenery there was lovely too and we really felt the weather change as we went inland, it was so hot!

On Monday we went to see Australia v Pakistan at the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). The Aussies were batting which was good, and we saw Ricky Pontting make 155 n/o, but it was a shame it wasn't more of a contest. Lovely weather again, and we all got a bit burnt. The crowd were even more entertaining than the cricket itself in some ways, we saw two streakers and several people getting thrown out for such appalling offences as throwing a beach ball around or making a beer snake out of empty cups. It was great to go to such a typical Aussie event. We enjoyed it so much that we're off to the Gabba (Brisbane) for a one-dayer on 21st Jan!

On the last day in Sydney the girls went shopping and we went up the Pylon lookout for a last look at the harbour. Putting Sue on the plane made us both feel the homesickness, and we left Sydney and a life of ease in the hotel on Wednesday.

We drove north to Port Macquarie, stopping at Newcastle on the way for lunch. Both nice places, but the campsite at PM was expensive, packed with serious campers (some had the fridge-freezer and tv from home), and crap. On Thursday we moved on to Coff's Harbour which was cheaper, and chilled out for the day. We visited the Big Banana there on Friday morning, which is basically a huge concrete banana around which they have built a tourist complex - very wierd. Further north we stopped at the Big Prawn in Ballina, these places make great photo opportunities but we're not really sure what the point of them is, although they are all over Australia.

Now in Byron Bay, which is lovely and very cool and funky. The beaches are gorgeous with mountains in the background and there are loads of great bars, cafes and live music. It's a real backpacker haunt and very trendy and alternative. Unfortunately it's expensive too so we can't stay here long, although we'd like to. It's reminiscent of Asia because everything happens on the streets and the atmosphere is so relaxed.

Tomorrow we are moving on north to Brisbane via Surfer's Paradise. We'll be staying in Brisbane for four weeks to find work before moving on up the east coast.

(rest of the photos to follow)

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