Australia Blog 6
Gungarai to Sydney – Bus
About 30 minutes late the bus swung into view and collected me off the deserted streets. The fare was $75 and I was instructed to give the driver another $30 cash for the extra luggage of the bike. He did pose the rhetorical question, as he pocketed the notes, “you don’t want a receipt for that, do you?” No I didn’t.
So this big swish bus returned to the Hume Freeway and ate up the miles to Sydney. The weather was so rainy that the bus had proceeded with prior caution and got to it’s final destination 30 minutes late. I tried to sleep but if I did I dozed an hour at best.
There were a couple of stops beforehand. At the stops the driver had called up the bus exhorting those who’d booked for these stops to wake up (it was early) and go. Not all got the message.
The driver, buried in rush hour traffic a few miles from the centre, received a request from a blurry eyed passenger for “Liverpool”. This stop had been an earlier stop 20 minutes ago. The driver looked straight ahead at the road and just said “Liverpool’s done mate!” The passenger stayed on his haunches next to the driver as if by his presence attempting to appeal to the driver’s better nature to turn round the large bus in this near traffic jam and head back. Obviously he didn’t.
It was 7am. I thought I’d take the bike to the hotel and try and leave it there until my return at the official check in time of 2pm. Before I got through my request the Receptionist said I could check in early ie. now. I was delighted not least because I could extract my wet tent from their bin liners and hang the tent and fly sheet up in the shower cubicle.
Next was breakfast. A quick Google found an establishment. I was famished.
Fortified (and feeling righteous for following the Master’s instruction to eat plenty and to consume all things fatally calorific or unhealthy) I marched down to the harbour where iconic sights were beholden.
The building is magnificent. Designed by a Danish architect it was a decade late in completion and 14 times over budget. In fact the NSW government stopped paying him 7 years after the start forcing Jøhn Utzon to stop work on the interior layout and leave the country. Another architect was appointed to complete the interior. Utzon never returned to Sydney and obviously saw the completed structure.
The bridge is towering and you can walk over it for $300. I expect there were no parties traversing the structure in this beating rain and wind. This was opened in 1932 and whilst iconic it cost 16 construction workers their lives.
Ambling back to the centre the city was teaming with heavy rain and lunchtime office workers out in pairs buying sandwiches, salad boxes, lattes, dim sum, noodles etc etc. Actually it wasn’t all millennials a few old timers were hanging in there.
I returned to sort out my panniers, carry out more laundry and err, well have a little sleep. Coming too I later ventured out for some pizza and pasta. I got into a conversation with Judy and Colin from St Albans. They’re back in Oz on holiday and doing a fly drive. Apparently Tasmania was splendid but the west coast is their favourite so far.
My next day was my birthday. 65 and I don’t look a day over 66, yes, the old ones are the best! My favourite eldest wished me happy birthday with an audio clip and Anna joined in the greetings. To be exact despite it being March 6th in Sydney it wasn’t in Yorkshire where I was born yet.
One greeting came from an old school friend, Roger, currently holed up in ‘self isolation’ in Hong Kong. He’s a pilot with Cathay Pacific and had sat next to a carrier of the coronavirus on a flight. Needless to say he’s bored and imprisoned. We bantered on Messenger about his new neighbours, where he lives, on Vancouver Island!
I was planning to take a Walking Tour and Jake was our leader. He led us through the streets of the centre coming to rest at the harbour again. Jake was a thespian and various historic figures were played out with a hint of camp. Sydney was founded by the British when a number of ships of the fleet arrived in January 1788. It’d taken 7 months from the Isle of Wight to get here. I imagine a lot of the original crew didn’t make it.
We learned about the 150,000 convicts shipped between 1792 and the 1840s. Such transportation might be for the smallest of thefts in Britain. The First Nation people bore with fortitude the influx of these immigrants but eventually a bloody conflict ensued. The history of how the aborigine has been treated in their homeland up until the late 20th Century has been terrible. Various Australian governments have sought to revisit and address these abuses. It’s not an easy past. Today they constitute only 3% of all Australians as an ethnic group.
Jake explained the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. It wasn’t until the separate colonies of Victoria and New South Wales were merged with other colonies into a federal ‘Australia’ in 1901 that the country we know today was formalised. It took a decade of planning for this federation to come together. So should the capital be Sydney or Melbourne, the two most populous towns? A compromise was agreed that a new State housing the capital, at least 100 miles from Sydney would be established. This was Australian Capital Territory and Canberra.
We finished back at the harbour and so a couple of further snaps including a large visitor.
After this we thanked and gave Jake his tip ($20) and made our separate ways back to the centre. I saw some of the party slip away without giving him a tip. What is it with these people?
The rest of the day was relaxing and included talking to a bloke from Mansfield, in a bike shop, about the route north of Sydney. I had many birthday wishes on social media; that kept me busy responding to the kindness.
Sydney is a grand town, from the little I saw. Attractive architecture, a certain bustle, grand vistas and lots to see and do. I was sorry Anna wasn’t here to see the city with me. It’s a long way to pop across and see!
On the night the town was lit up with revellers and I slipped amongst them thinking about dinner. I partook some Chinese dishes and then returned for an early night. The road beckoned tomorrow.