Wednesday, May 27, 2009
SYDNEY BRIDGE CLIMB
AUSTRALIA JOURNAL SYDNEY July 22, 2008 (hope that you're enjoying our journey)
Woke early this morning about 5 am, by 6 am I was up and packing for my move to a different hotel today that is located within walking distance of Mary’s hotel. Arrived at Mary’s about 8 am, so nice to be familiar with the train trip before taking my luggage with me! There, I signed on to their Internet and worked on attempting to transfer my photos to my blog. After an hour and half…I still was no further along that I had been at the start! By that time Mary’s group had gathered on the patio of the hotel breakfast room for their final morning Mass. Again, all three priests celebrated the Mass together. Difficult to hear due to the roar of morning traffic on the street one floor down; but still a moving experience with sharing among the group in place of a formal sermon. Soon everyone was saying goodbye as they loaded into the bus that would take them to the airport and their flight home. I think it was a good two weeks for everyone involved. The Reno group headed north to Port Douglas where they have rented condos for a few days before they return home.
Mary and I loaded up our things and headed over to our new home for the next two nights. As we walked in we saw a sign that said: WI-FI and free…we have been paying through the nose for time on the Internet so this will be a real treat. Our new home is Eva’s Backpackers; we’re in a mixed dorm with ten people. Three of the young people are from England and the other five are from Germany. We have five boys and three girls plus Mary & me. I have a bottom bunk with a very lanky British lad above who I’m told snores a bit. Mary is in a top bunk. Tomorrow there will be only three of us in this room as the rest are leaving Sydney.
After a couple of hours on the Internet we made up our beds and took off for McDonalds and a late lunch. Mary had a coupon and we made good use of it! Her father will be proud of us! Next we walked to St. Mary’s Cathedral; it was closed temporarily during a special Mass so we headed for the “store” for WYD. They were having sales but the things still seemed expensive considering this would be their last day. I purchased a water bottle and Mary got a book published about the event. After that we returned to St. Mary’s and stood in a short line until we were allowed in. A very beautiful Cathedral very reminiscent of those in Europe; we then went downstairs and visited the Crypt before leaving the area.
From there we took the advice of the lady in charge at Eva’s and headed towards the bus stop for a trip to Bondi Beach. On the way we stopped and purchased a bathing suit for Mary…she’d left hers in New Zealand…and then to the grocery store for some breakfast items. In the grocery store we saw the lady who had helped me on the bus the first night when I didn’t have any change for the grumpy old driver! We stopped and chatted with her a bit. We picked up some food because Eva’s also has a full kitchen downstairs for guests to cook meals. The place is full of German’s and they are making good use of the kitchen!
The bus ride to the beach was slow but fun. The driver saw all the cords around my neck and Mary’s sweatshirt with the WYD emblems and “assumed” that we were both pilgrims. Today was the last day of their free travel cards and he let both of us on for free even though Mary didn’t have her badge or card; a savings of $6.00. Each pilgrim was given a one week pass that allowed them to travel free on all the buses, trains and ferries; making transportation work very smoothly throughout the city.
We arrived at Bondi Beach just after sunset; but still light enough for some great photos of the surf…really rolling in with high waves. We walked along the surf over to the salt-water pool that has ocean water constantly pouring into it with nearly every wave. There were actually four people swimming! We were bundled up and trying to stay warm. Above this pool is the Bondi Iceburgs; a private club that allows guests. We had to register when we went in. Our clerk at Eva’s had recommended it. Laura Bush entertained her guest in this club when she was here for the 2000 Olympics in the formal dining rooms upstairs; but, we went downstairs to a very reasonably priced meal; Mary’s treat. We ate out on the balcony over the pool, cool but somewhat protected from the winds that are so cold.
After dinner we walked back to the town along the beach and found the gelatos shop for some dessert before catching the bus. This time we only went to the train station in Bondi and then switched to the train that would take us very close to the hotel. While we were on the bus we discovered a girl from Orange County….everyone is always asking each other where they are from because so many pilgrims are in town. She heard Yorba Linda and said she was from Fullerton. Said she went to a small private school named Rosary. Well, all three of our daughters also graduated from there. Small world….she is traveling for a year after college.
Home and a kitchen/main room full of Germans! Cooking their dinners, the smells were wonderful, and working on the Internet at the same time! We decided to head upstairs and use our laptops there as with the WI-FI we could do that. And, all the electrical outlets downstairs are in use. Got to know our roomies before bed…even have one of their Ipod’s plugged into my computer to charge for her. We’re all getting up early tomorrow…some to leave…and Mary and I are going for our bridge climb.
By the way…thanks to some help from Mary, I’ve finally put photos into the website. Do hope you have enjoyed them. Until tomorrow….
Sydney July 23, 2008 OUR BRIDGE CLIMB DAY!
Our last day in Sydney began about 5 am…we were up and downstairs to fix our breakfast by 6 am. Five of us in our dorm were leaving about 6 am so there was a lot of quite activity in the dark as we tried not to wake our other roommates. The dorm room was fairly quiet by 10 pm last night; with the exception of one German fellow who was making his business calls home from his bed. Contrary to the USA, our evening is the middle of the day in Europe. Finally, about 11 pm I got up and asked him to be considerate of the rest of us and he took his phone call to the hallway. This afternoon I apologized to him but also asked that he do his phone calls in the hall this evening; we’ll see how it goes.
Off at dawn to the train station for a short ride to Circular Quay; we’d decided to get an early start and take the Walking Tour of “The Rocks” before our bridge climb. This is the oldest settlement in Sydney and has many historical buildings. The one in my slideshow is of the Cadman’s Cottage, the oldest building remaining in Sydney. We also enjoyed strolling through The Rocks which is the First European Settlement and has been preserved; it’s like walking down an old western movie set.
We arrived a bit early for our tour scheduled for 8:35 am, but we put the time to good use and soon we were into the preparation stage of the Bridge Climb. This is a very popular tourist attraction wherein you climb to the top of the Harbor Bridge for unbelievable views of the Sydney harbor and especially of the Opera House. The preparation was an hour by the time we had geared up and had all of our instructions. We had to take off everything that could conceivable create a problem: earrings, watches, and any loose articles. All of these were put into lockers including cell phones and cameras. We were issued a jumpsuit, nylon pants to go over the jumpsuit; a wool jacket to go over the jumpsuit and we carried a rain jacket in case of rain while we were on the climb. We were wired up with a headset that talked through our checks (not inserted into the ear but just in front of it), we were issued handkerchiefs that were attached to each wrist incase we needed to blow our noses, hats that were attached, gloves, and the most important piece was the ball and chain that kept us attached to a wire the whole time we were on the climb. Oh yes, if we wore glasses they were also attached. I’ve rarely seen such attention to minute details. Finally we were ready and then we practiced on some stairs to learn how to climb the steps.
The climb itself lasted two hours; you’ll see two of the photos taken of Mary and myself at the top of the Bridge in the Blog slideshow for today. It was a marvelous experience. The hardest part was at the very beginning when we had to climb up a series of very steep steps. From that point on it was a gradual walk to the top. They took photos of us, a group photo was included with our package, and I purchased two so that I could put them on the blog for today. Unless you have a fear of heights, I think anyone can do this climb.
Just as we were ready to leave the building, it started to rain. We stayed in the building and had our lunch at their café; wonderful hot croissant sandwiches, coffee and shared a piece of carrot cake; definitely our large meal of the day. It was about 12:30 when we left and it was still raining so we dug our plastic emergency ponchos out as we had left our umbrellas at the hostel.
We’d planned to take the ferry to Manley Beach, but instead walked to the Governor’s House for a tour. We found that the house was closed so we only did the grounds and walked through the Botanical Gardens from there. By now it had stopped raining and we went into the Parliament House where we rested a bit before touring the exhibits.
Back on the street we headed for Woolworths, a department store with groceries and just about anything you need at a reasonable price. We’ve found that the USA dollar may be equal to the Australia dollar…but the prices are much higher! I’d lost one of my gloves today so I needed to purchase gloves and we also picked up medicine for Mary…she is still getting over her cold that she caught from her roommate; and food to fix for dinner.
During our walk home a small girl, about eight years old we thought, stopped us. She was crying and said she’d lost her Nana. We spent about five minutes with her before turning her over to some local people in a store who were going to contact the police to attempt to reconnect her with the family. She wanted us to take her to her hotel and I told Mary not to even consider taking her from the corner we were on; we could possibly be in a heap of trouble if did. So, we made sure she was in the hands of someone and left on our walk back to the hostel. There we fixed our dinner and finished packing for our trip to Melbourne tomorrow. We spent some time downstairs this evening and had a good time. Mary is still down there but I came up to shower and decided to put on my pajamas and stay upstairs. The room downstairs is packed again; 90% of them are German. A French family arrived just as I was leaving and we talked for a bit.
The dorm is full again tonight. We shared our bottle of wine with the fellow who is bunking above me. He is 24 years old and from Toronto, Canada. He’s been traveling and working around the world for four years.
Well it’s time to say goodbye. So good to hear from many of you; your words of encouragement for my Blog were much needed. Take care and hopefully we’ll have good Internet access in Melbourne. Until we meet again….Martha
PS: This 2008 journal was my first venture with blogging... I only blogged the photos and continued to send my journal privately to about 175 friends and family. At the request of the Bradenton Herald to continue posting to our sites...I have decided to slowly post the photos and the journals from this trip; possibly followed by other trips that I've taken over the past years. As long as you, the readers, are interested; I'm delighted to provide you with my travel experiences. Please let the editors know if you are enjoying the journey. Martha