In May 2008, I went travelling on my own for the first time and was out of England for a month. Along the way I took in Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand before coming home. I kept a journal of my time on the road, so here’s a day by day account of my trials and tribulations that has the undeserved title of Dave’s Odyssey.
Day 27 – Sydney
After two nights in Sydney it was finally time to get a tour of the city. We began at 9.00 and were whisked through the streets taking in numerous buildings of interest along the way, far too many to list here.
Our first stop was at Mrs Macquaries’ point, which offered an excellent but distant view of both Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Alex explained that the Opera House project could have been destined for another city but in the end Sydney was chosen and the legend was born of this world famous sight. Seeing the Opera House from a distance just didn’t seem real. Everyone has seen an image of it, of course, but to have my own photos is something else.
We wandered nearby to Mrs Macquaries’ Chair, which is actually a series of stone steps. The story goes that Mrs Macquarie had the chair specially built so she could watch the harbour and sea in peace. Alex had all the women in the group seat themselves on the steps while their husbands took pictures. By the time we’d all moved on the Japanese tourists had gathered and were patiently waiting for their turn so I couldn’t get a picture of the steps on their own. Instead, I snapped a submarine pulling into the harbour close to four giant ships, the pride of the Aussie Navy.
Amongst the sights of Sydney we drove past were Russel Crowe’s apartment and also a residence of Nicole Kidman that was just up for sale at a very modest $20 million. We also saw the church where Elton John and Michael Jackson both had their highly publicised weddings, but obviously not to each other! It wasn’t a big church but the view of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour did add to the appeal.
Our last stop was at the world famous Bondi Beach with white beaches and surfers galore. It wasn’t a long stop so I got a couple of shots before savouring an ice cream and taking in the view. After that we began the drive back to the hotel where the afternoon was free until 4.30.
I headed for the city for an hour or so and made the mistake of wandering into a bookshop. I’d read my allocation of five books and did need some more but prices in Australia are ridiculous. A typical paperback costs £7-£8. In Australia it’s $25 which translates to roughly £12 in the UK. Lucky for me, I found a special offer of 3 for 2 so bought a trio of books at a more reasonable price.
Alex met us at 4.30 to begin our harbour cruise past the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. We enjoyed an excellent meal while we passed the city lit up gloriously against the night sky. Our waiter was named Tony and insisted we didn’t forget the title. It was an easy one for me to remember as he shares the same name with my father.
During our meal some members of the group got very drunk on the free wine and champagne Tony kept fetching in droves. All you could drink basically. I stuck to water as I prefer spirits to wine. The merrier members of my group began praising me for travelling alone and coping with an older group of people. Some even wanted invitations to my wedding when I finally tie the knot. I always know when people are drunk because they take me to one side and tell me how wonderful I am, never when they’re sober.
Alison, who’d been in a bad mood at the start of the evening, perked up after a few wines. Indeed, as we headed back to shore our group burst into song and did some drunken dances as well. At one point myself and the other members of the sobriety club were obligated to stand, hold hands with the drunks, and sing “Auld Lang Syne.” The Japanese tourists found the whole spectacle very funny but other tables merely frowned on the celebrations. It’s nice to see people of all ages enjoying themselves. The power of booze, there’s nothing like it!
Alex arranged an extended outing for the drunks on our way back into the city. They headed for one of Alex’s favoured pubs, The Lord Nelson, which was packed with locals watching an important rugby game between Christchurch Crusaders and another team I can’t recall. Despite some members of the group – in this case Sandra and Jackie – begging me to go, I resisted. I didn’t fancy a packed pub and I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol on my travels because I simply didn’t desire any.
This was the last night in Sydney and it had been the best of all the cities I’d seen on the tour. Tomorrow we had a bit of time in the morning to look around some more but then it was time to say farewell to Australia. I couldn’t believe how quickly it had gone. The flight to Bangkok was around 5.00 and we landed there just after 11.00 at night. I wasn’t keen on going to Thailand. I felt a foreboding about the country so was glad it was only a brief stop. I’d hopefully be doing a day trip to the River Kwai to satisfy my love of history, so there was still something to look forward to. The best of the tour, however, was over. It had been a great privilege to see New Zealand and Australia. Back on New Zealand’s south island our then tour guide – Dave – told us not to compare New Zealand’s two islands or Australia with one another because they are all completely different. He was right.
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