Our trip to Sydney was easy and uneventful. Our flights had been booked separately – one leg was Huntsville to Los Angeles, the other from LA to Sydney. Luckily, the desk agent at Huntsville was very nice and linked the flights together making it easy for us since our luggage was checked all the way through to Sydney instead of having to pick it up in LA and then check in again the rest of the way.
When we arrived in Los Angeles we met up with some friends we met last summer on our trip to Austria and Switzerland and enjoyed a nice lunch with them. After waiting 7 more hours, we were finally on our way! The flight wasn’t as miserable as we had anticipated and went by fairly quickly and we arrived on time in Sydney at 6 am.
From the Sydney airport we took a train to the downtown/harbor area to find our hotel and could see it from the train station. A quick five minute walk got us to the hotel by 7:30. More good fortune shined on us as the desk clerk said that they had a room available and checked us in – that was a wonderful surprise! We took showers and were ready to explore Sydney. The first thing we did was a three hour walking tour covering the highlights of the city, we went from downtown to the harbor and around The Rocks, the historic area of town.
The high point of this long day was later when we did the Harbour Bridge Climb – what an adventure! A our assigned time our group of fourteen stepped into a small room to begin getting ready. First, we signed all the requisite liability forms then took a breathalyzer – all passed, but I did see two people from another group leaving their room so I’m not sure if they might have been asked not to participate. Next we were suited up with overalls and had to remove all loose items such as watches, bracelets, etc. all items they provided were clipped onto the jumpsuits such as earphones, lights (picture what miners wear on their helmets) and even a handkerchief. Once everyone was properly dressed we practiced in a simulator – here we were tethered to a cable and climbed up and down ladders similar to those on the bridge. Finally we were on our way and began walking across the first portion of the bridge where we had to climb through some narrow steel sections of the bridge. There were four ladders to climb to go above the traffic lanes of the bridge up to the main arch. The higher part of the climb was actually the easiest since it was wider and had steps to follow. Our guide stopped us at several points and explained the history of the bridge and took pictures. By the time we reached the top night had fallen and we could see the harbor, the Opera House, and all around lit up and gorgeous before returning down the other side. This was a wonderful experience that we will never forget!
Saturday morning we woke early for a tour to the Blue Mountains located about an hour and a half from Sydney. This was another spectacular day as we took a cable car ride across the mountains as well as a steep incline train down into the valley. One stop included a short history of Aborigines and their culture then we stopped for lunch at a local sports club. One of our favorite parts of the day was a stop at the Featherdale Wildlife Preserve where we saw many koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and other indigenous animals. It is illegal to hold a koala in Sydney as they are endangered; however we were able to stand next to one for a picture and touch him. Everyone wanted to take one home, they are as cuddly as they look in pictures!
After another long day we were beat and ready for a good night’s rest. Next will be boarding the ship after taking some time in the morning to visit the Opera House and Botanical Gardens.