australia sydney - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 21 - April 2001

Australia - Sydney

Instantly recognisable by its harbour, Sydney's history is no less colourful than its future. The successful hosting of the Olympic games put it well and truly on the international map. The stunning Opera House and Harbour Bridge stand proudly along side soaring skyscrapers, while in the Rocks, street entertainers resourcefully compete for the tourist dollar. Sydney has undergone a spectacular transformation from its humble and squalid beginnings as a British penal colony to become a modern and youthful city that can more than hold its own among the big boys.

Sydney was our last stop in Australia and we were more than ready, after our 2-month stay, to reach the bright lights after being quite surprised at how small some of the other cities we visited had been. As we crossed the Harbour Bridge on our arrival, the towering skyline told us Sydney was capable of satisfying our appetite. Sydney was not the sun-drenched city we'd seen on the Holiday Show. Collecting our bags from the coach and running in from the rain, comparisons with London were easily made.

We just about fathomed the tube system and made our way to the Kings Cross area where the cheaper backpacker accommodation clusters. Seemingly attracting all of Australia's dodgy characters, 'the Cross' has a friendly lady on every doorway and a drug addict for each corner. It had a surprising blend of weirdo's, travellers and businessmen, mixed in with a few fancy restaurants. We can't say we particularly liked it, really only frequenting the tube station, but it was, as they say, an experience.

First stop in Sydney, where else but the harbour. Even the rain did not deter us, or the crowds, from clambering up the steps to get a closer look at those famous white tiles. Under the backdrop of the white cloud, the Opera House did not live up to expectation. It could have been a piece of bad 70's architecture. Stacks of grey concrete and puddles stood out rather than its outstanding beauty and as for the Bridge, it was barely visible through the drizzle. However, all was not lost as we embarked on a tour of the Opera House that gave us a chance to go 'behind the scenes' so to speak.

The tour explained the Opera House's complicated and controversial history and took us into some of the main auditoriums. The famous design, by architect Joern Utzon, is actually based on palm fronds and was the winner of an international design competition. The Orchestra Hall was the most spectacular; like an imposing cathedral, we were silenced by its grandeur. The entire interior was adorned in white wood that possesses special acoustic qualities rendering microphones redundant. It certainly is a very special building and we could not resist the opportunity to buy tickets for a performance.

After our tour, we wandered over from the harbour to Sydney Cove, where large patches of grass in front of the Contemporary Arts museum cater for relaxing tourists and office workers lunch breaks, all gathering to enjoy the fabulous setting and admire the collection of street entertainers. Fire jugglers, robots and human statues all line the walkway watched by swarms of enthralled children (and two big kids!). The Rocks area is next door, mainly serving as a tourist-shopping precinct, but is actually where the first settlement of convicts was based. We were drawn to the weekend market that was on, selling everything from antiques to personalised dog collars, but something told us it was not a place to pick up a bargain. We wandered around the quaint cobbled streets, passing a didgeridoo player, getting a taste for Sydney's History.

Although Sydney has great beach areas, such as Manly and Bondi, which are easily accessible, when the sun isn't shining, these places just didn't seem appealing. On our last day however, the sun decided to make an appearance and we headed back down to the harbour to take our pictures again, this time with a sunnier backdrop. It seemed like a different place - a different world even - as the blue sky and sunshine transformed the harbour. The Bridge suddenly became not just a block of metal, but an architectural wonder while the Opera House was transformed from 70's kitsch to 21st Century chic.

Jon & liz
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Sydney Harbour Bridge

Jon & Liz

Didgeridoo Player

Sydney's towering skyscrapers

The Rocks Sunday Market

Street Entertainer


The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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