Sunday 9th November 2014 Day 62.
The benefits of a leisurely start to the day outweighed the cultural attractions of Sydney so it took us until 11.00 am to leave the comforts of our accommodation. We caught the 11.14 am ferry for Circular Quay and decided to walk to the Art Gallery, allowing us to reconnoitre the location of the pick up point for tomorrow’s day trip.
This proved no problem as it was a straightforward route to the Intercontinental Hotel on Macquarie Street, which was opposite the Botanical Gardens, our next objective. A gentle stroll through the gardens led us to the Domain, open common where historically people met together and troupes set off from, and the Sydney Art Gallery. Entrance was free and we headed for the lower reaches of the gallery to find the aboriginal art only to be told that there was only one exhibit as the rest of the gallery was being redeveloped. We therefore turned our attention to the remaining floors, enjoying the display of Asian art, with the clever juxtaposition of ancient and modern pieces. We also enjoyed the range of European, including an interesting selection of pre-Raphaelite pieces, and Australian art, including some works we had seen at the Royal Academy’s Australia exhibition. As in other Australian galleries the display of paintings was enhanced by examples of other decorative arts. The viewing experience was also improved by the musical accompaniment provided by a concert in one of the galleries, and being allowed to take photos.
From the gallery we headed for St Patrick’s Cathedral, a very imposing building with a definite sense of grandeur. On exiting the main door we turned into Hyde Park and espied the spire of St James Anglican church, which had elements of non-conformist architecture. Returning to the park we lunched by the fountain, entertained by the street theatre provided by yet another happy couple and their creative photographer. We were also diverted by the antics of the pigeons that attempted to cadge food from us and an ibis that bullied the pigeons stealing the crisps that we had accidentally dropped.
Just up the road was the Australian museum and we paid our pensioner discounted entrance fee $8. The museum is hosting the Aztec exhibition that we had seen at the British Museum, so our first port of call was the aboriginal history section, a truncated gallery again due to refurbishment. The displays were again informative and continue to shock with the analysis of the misguided if not deliberately malignant treatment of the indigenous people. The museum also had a fascinating display on the potential, often overstated but no less real, dangers of from nature, crocodiles, snakes, spiders. The general wildlife and mineral collections were worth a view.
Feeling tired and realising we needed to move on if we were to reach our chosen church service in time, we headed for the Museum station but were diverted by Eric’s insistence on visiting the Anzac war memorial, an imposing yet deeply reverential monument.
The trains proved cooperative and returned us to Edgecliff station, from where it was a short walk to St Mark’s in Darling Point. Although it was a small congregation the worship was very well led and the Word was a clear message about creation and the significance of ‘each being created according to their kind’ and humanity’s God given gift of order and categorise but this needing to be applied to meet God’s plan, not our own desires. We have received a clear message over the past weeks about relationships and not rules being at the heart of Christianity and the importance of personal involvement to be part of the solution to problems. There was also an interesting definition of Shalom, as describing God’s purpose as the webbing together of God, people and all created things in justice, fulfilment and delight.
After the service we walked the relatively short, downhill and down steps, path to Primrose’s, where Joyce cooked a delicious chicken drumstick stir fry marking the passing of the milestone of one third of the trip
Monday 10th November 2014 Day 63. Blue Mountain medley
The pickup for today’s trip demanded precision timing from the ferry company and power walking from us. Having walked the route we knew it was feasible, if all went to plan, as we had to be on position at 7.10 am for a 7.15.am collection with the ferry leaving Double Bay at 6.58 am and reaching Circular Quay at 7.01 am. In the event the ferry was a few minutes late but we made it to the Intercontinental Hotel in good time.
Having been collected we were transferred to the coach station where we joined our small group in its minibus. A two hour drive brought us to the town of Leura, the antiques capital of the Blue Mountains, where we enjoyed refreshments at a local café and a quick tour of the many specialist gift, food and clothes shops on offer – too bad we can’t carry anything extra.
Driving on we reached Scenic World, which offer unparalleled views of dramatic scenery in one of the deep canyons incised into the tablelands, the Triassic sandstone plateau. We began the visit crossing the Skyway, a horizontal cable car, from which we could see the Katoomba falls, the pillars of the three sisters and the imposing column known as the orphan. Once on the other side we rode down to the canyon floor on the steepest inclined railway in the world, reaching 52o at its steepest. Initially built to transport coal from the mines below it soon became a tourist attraction in its own right and survived beyond the mine closures in the 1930s. From the bottom of the railway a boardwalk took us through sections of rain forest with evidence of the mining history of the area, to the cable car that whisked us back to the top of the canyon.
We then drove to near Wentworth Falls, where we had lunch in the café in the conservation hut, before driving to the Featherdale animal park where we were able to catch up on some of the animals we had missed. During the visit we were introduced to dingoes, revisited a tasmanian devil, and the fairy (little) penguins, fed wallabies and finally got to stroke a koala, which didn’t smell unpleasant.
Another short drive brought us to the Parmatta river at the Olympic Park where we joined a boat carried us down the river, through the western suburbs, to Circular Quay where our ferry to Double Bay awaited. Back at base sandwiches on the terrace overlooking the bay completed an excellent day which we would recommend to anyone wanting a flavour of Oz in one day.