Around Australia: Sydney to Newcastle

Our first driving day did not go exactly as planned. It was raining in Sydney when we took a cab down to the car hire office near Circular Quay to pick up the vehicle. It was ready for us and we set off over the Harbour Bridge and into North Sydney. We had not gone too far when James’s phone rang. It was the Avis office to say that he had left his driving licence there, so we had to back track and navigate our way round the one-way system and road closures to retrieve it. The only blessing was that on Sunday, the traffic was very light. The windscreen wiper on the passenger side was not working and needed replacing. Avis did not have any spare ones, so we were told to buy one and have it taken off the bill. We crossed the bridge a second time

and took the Pacific Highway through the northern suburbs past Sydney’s oldest pub which dates from 1828. The road runs in parallel with the motorway and the trainline for much of the route here. Eventually the road leaves towns behind and passes through eucalyptus forests. We stopped at the busy Pie in the Sky café for a coffee. On a Sunday this was very popular with bikers and Maxda MX5 drivers.
The road is carved out of the hillside and descends to the Hawkesbury River.

Kangaroo Point, just before the bridge over to Mooney Mooney Point is a good place for views and boat trips can be taken or boats chartered. Before the Europeans arrived, the point was inhabited by the indigenous Ku-ring-gai tribe. Its European name was first recorded in 1824. A ferry service started in the 1840s and continued until the Pacific Highway bridge opened in 1945. Now there are many boats moored on both sides of the river and a restaurant in the landscaped setting.
Yesterday was the first day of spring. These flowers were twined around some of the trees and shrubs and I have yet to identify them.

This Australian Magpie was hunting for food on the grass and keeping an eye on us in case we had any to offer.

We diverted to Avoca beach for a breezy walk before lunch and then joined the Central Coast Highway past the Teribah Reserve near Entrance where this Chestnut Teal Duck was feeding, with black swans and pelicans were further out in the lake.

Further on we re-joined the Pacific Highway and continued along the east side of Lake Macquarie before we eventually arrived in Newcastle. After checking in we had a very windy walk along the beach

passing the 1930’s Ocean Bath buildings.

One brave soul was swimming lengths in the pool. The guide book describes the walk along the breakwater between the fort and Nobby’s lighthouse as ‘exhilarating’ with the waves crashing. Today’s high winds would have meant me and my camera getting soaked so the decision was made not to attempt it.

Around Australia: getting over jet lag in Sydney

After a long but uneventful series of flights, we eventually landed in Sydney just after the 5am airport curfew. We settled into our hotel and rested before heading out to try and stay awake until the evening and beat the jet lag. The weather in Sydney was strangely not unlike that we had left at home. Our hotel was on the edge of Darling Harbour and fairly quiet as there was nothing on at the nearby conference centre. We walked across Pyrmont Bridge which crosses Cockle Bay and was the one of the first electrically operated swing bridges, opening in 1902 and replacing an earlier wooden bridge. It now carries pedestrians and cyclists and only opens occasionally on weekends and public holidays for demonstrations and occasionally to allow ships to pass.

After a coffee in a busy cafe we then walked along the edge of the bay, discovering the Chinese Garden of Remembrance which is an oasis among the skyscrapers and concrete of the freeways.

It then got windier and wetter, so giving into our fatigue it was time for an early night after a quick meal. The following morning the sun had appeared and before meeting a friend we walked into town and visited the Queen Victoria Building, an upmarket shopping arcade in a restored 19th century building.

Sitting having a drink in the upstairs tea room, we could have been in any of the arcades in a British city. Even the china was Royal Albert. I have felt that I have not quite left the northwest yet, having seen Liverpool and Everton FC shirts within a few hours of arriving, breakfast with St Helens playing Wigan Warriors at rugby on the TV and passing a group of guys in the street with Warrington Wolves jackets and backpacks. We met up with our friend and walked towards the end of the harbour where an abandoned dock has been turned into Barangaroo Reserve, a waterside park with views over to the Harbour Bridge.

Nearby a casino is being built and has to be circumnavigated to reach the waterside again. There are numerous cafes, bars and restaurants along here which made lunch easy to find. Our last evening before hitting the road was spent with friends in the city who treated us to a wonderful meal at their home. We hope to repay their hospitality in the UK next summer.