Sydney and Canberra
The Indian Pacific Train to Sydney (Dec 25 - 27)
We left Western Australia on the Indian Pacific train. Three days from Perth to Sydney.
Our journey was very familiar, as we had earlier traveled on The Ghan, from Darwin to Adelaide when we visited Australia in 2009. The experience was similar, although much longer (2704 miles) and 65 hours.
This map shows some of the stops (although we didn't stop at Port Augusta or the Blue Mountains)
Waiting for the Indian Pacific to depart from Perth
Across the platform was an old steam engine, the Bakewell. Too good to miss !
This is the club car, where we would gather before meals or would just sit and have a drink and chat with other passengers. As all drinks were included it was a popular place.
We made four stops along the trip. Three included bus tours, the fourth (Cook) was just an opportunity to stretch our legs while the train was serviced.
The first stop was Kalgoorlie, at night, so the tour was in the dark. Hard to see much. Kalgoorlie is a mining town and all the small mines have been combined into one, huge open pit mine, which is worked around the clock.
The Kalgoorlie Super Mine. The mine produces about 850,000 ounces of gold each year.
Hard to get a sense of scale, but the tiny dots shown in the picture are actually huge earth-movers like this :
The next stop was Cook, in the middle of nowhere.
The middle of nowhere
Perth - Sydney signpost in Cook
Rush hour along Cook main street
The original double jail in Cook - one of the main attractions here
The third stop was Adelaide, but it was misty and raining and we had visited Adelaide on our previous trip, so there are no photos worth taking.
The final stop was Broken Hill, which is another mining town. It's quite a pleasant, small town, with several nicely restored buildings.
However, the highlight of our visit was a drag show in the highly decorated Palace Hotel.
Apparently, the film "Priscilla Queen of the Desert used the hotel as a base while working in the area.
The show, which lasted about 20 minutes (long enough !). The performers didn't really seem committed to their parts so sometimes it actually felt a bit awkward. Anyway, the show included a free drink, so it was OK !
The two drag performers at the Palace Hotel, Broken Hill
After we left Broken Hill, the next stop was Sydney.
Sydney (Dec 28 to 2 January 2017)
The first icons which you see as soon as you arrive in Sydney are the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
Between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge is Circular Key, which is the transportation hub in Sydney, with buses , trains and (very important) ferries going to just about everywhere in Sydney. Our hotel, the Marriott is actually in this picture (to the left of the tall blue building in the middle), so it was a great location, especially as we walked to the Opera House on New Year's Eve.
Circular Key, Sydney. Trains, buses and ferries to everywhere
We took a ferry to Manly, which is across the harbor.
The ferry docks at the wharf and the main street of Manly leads from the wharf straight to the beach. It was a VERY busy day.
Manly main street
Last time we came to Manly, a little earlier in the year, the beach was deserted. Not this time !
The next day, we took the train to Katoomba, which is the center of activity for The Blue Mountains. We never have much luck with the weather in The Blue Mountains and once again it was starting to rain when we arrived. We spent some time looking round the shops in Katoomba and stayed for lunch, but the big attraction "Scenic World" was sold out for the day and as the weather seemed to be getting worse, we headed back to Sydney.
Fortunately, the weather in Sydney was better and the Harbour Bridge was lit up at night when we went out for dinner.
Sydney Harbour Bridge at night
The next day was New Year's Eve, the highlight of our trip. In the morning, we walked through the city center and to Darling Harbour.
Only a few days after Christmas so the decorations were still up
The financial district of Sydney
Darling Harbour from one side
Darling Harbour looking the other way
A replica of "The Endeavour" - Captain Cook's ship - which he used to explore the Australian coast and discovered what is now Sydney Harbour.
The original was actually a converted coal barge.
We took the ferry back to Circular Quay and realized that we were not the only ones who had come to see the fireworks. These people must have been there since early morning and still had a long wait.
So finally the big night arrived ! New Years Eve 2016
First, we stood in line for a security check:
Then we bought a program for the Opera Gala
Then into the main concert hall, which was sold out, as you might expect
The Orchestra tuning up
The gala took an interval at about 8:45 so we could watch the 9:00 fireworks. They were "OK" but nothing special. Then back for the second half.
A drinking song, from La Traviata
Can can dancers
One final bow in a shower of confetti
And of course, "Auld Lang Syne" before the show ended at about 10:45.
Then on to the after party, waiting for the fireworks at midnight.
Dancing and drinking the night away
Outside, a fleet of ships slowly paraded around the bay, waiting for the fireworks.
And finally, at midnight - the show begins :
(And now I'm going to cheat, because we were INSIDE the Opera House, we didn't have the BEST view. This professional photo captures the effect including the Opera House)
Once the fireworks were over, we went back to the party, finally leaving when the party ended at around 1:30. We then walked back to our hotel, for a good night's sleep.
We spent New Year's Day very quietly. As it was a holiday, most shops were closed and there was a lot of cleaning up going on. We did take a walk through the Botanical Gardens, though. Very pleasant on a warm day.
The Sydney Botanical Gardens
This was the end of our stay in Sydney and the next day. we headed off for a short stay in Canberra.
Canberra (Jan 2 and 3, 2017)
We rented a car and drove to Canberra from Sydney. The main reason for our little side trip was to see John, and old friend of Kristine's who she had known in the UK before coming to the United States. John moved in Australia in the early 1970's and apart from occasional visits home to see family, has lived in Australia ever since.
The first thing we did was to have a drink, of course.
Drinks with John Forrest. His home was once used for farming tours, which may explain the sign behind us.
John's house, originally farm buildings which he has converted into living areas
He lives on what used to be a small farm (or stations as they are known in Australia). There's a small pond at the bottom of his property.
He also has a "mob" of kangaroos (that's the correct word apparently) which he keeps in an enclosure behind his house. They snack on dog biscuits. Apparently it's good for their teeth.
John's "mob" of kangaroos
These were the only kangaroos we saw during four weeks in Australia
To get us out of the house, John suggested we should visit a touring exhibition from the British Museum: "A history of the world in 100 objects".
Here are three of the objects - mostly the ones that photographed well !
Six of "The Lewis Chessmen" found on the island of Lewis in 1831, but believed to date from 1150 - 1200
A Hebrew Astrolabe, probably made in Spain during the Middle Ages. Used to tell the time of day using the sun or stars
Ships chronometer from HMS Beagle. Used on Darwin's expedition from 1831 to 1836
We enjoyed the exhibition, although these were by no means the best of the British Museum. I guess you have to go to London to see those !
After we left the exhibition, we drove to the top of Dairy Farmer's Hill, which gives sweeping views of Canberra.
The view from the top of the hill. This is also the National Arboretum (which explains all the planted trees)
The sculpture is called "Nest III" by Richard Moffatt and is made with found objects
That was the end of our stay in Canberra and next day, we said our farewells and drove back to Sydney.
St Ives, Sydney (January 4, 2017)
Before leaving Australia, we had one more thing to do - to try and find the house which Kristine and her family had lived in during their second stay in Australia. We had tried to find it on an earlier trip, with no success, but now, armed with more information, we were going to try again. We started by looking for the school, which we knew had been closed and turned into a restaurant. We found the school fairly easily.
"The Old School Trattoria" which was the administration building when Kristine was there in the 1950's
Kris pointing to her classroom in the "new" building (now a community center). The original building is behind her.
We made enquiries about the school in the restaurant and they showed us pictures of the pupils from around the time Kristine was there.
We were fascinated by the two identical girls in the second row, who aren't named, but they don't look like Kristine or Carol
So now we went looking for her old house and after an extensive search and lots of wrong turns, dead ends and frustration, we found it !
The house is located in what is obviously a very desireable neighborhood
It's on a corner lot, which is how we found it
This is the original part of the house, which is how Kristine remembers it
This is an addition to the house, added after Kristine left.
While we were poking about and taking photos, the current owners noticed us and were obviously curious, so we introduced ourselves. They were interested to learn how the house had been at the time Kristine lived there and added some more recent history. And then we left for our airport hotel.
Next morning, we flew out of Sydney on our way to Wellington, NZ. We flew right over Sydney Harbor and had a spectacular view. This isn't my photo (I didn't have my camera ready) but this is exactly what we saw.
Leaving Sydney by Air - spectacular !