Australia

Melbourne

I have a friend in Melbourne I met when we were both living in Beijing. A few years back she visited LA with her husband while they were on an around the trip. It only made sense that I would also visit her on my world tour.

Since up to this point and what will continue to happen in the the trip none of my travel planning made any sense. It didn’t make sense for me to fly from Cairns to Melbourne to Tokyo but that’s exactly what I did.

I arrived in Melbourne exhausted. My friend forgot about her husband’s graduation when we were trying to figure out the best time for me to visit. I had originally booked an early flight so we could have as much time together as possible and also at that point I would have been in Cairns for over a week so I didn’t think I would need to stay any longer than I needed to. So as it turned out I had a couple hours to explore Melbourne on my own.

I took a bus to the city. In Sydney it’s fast and easy to get to the city by train. It’s so fast I almost missed my stop not expecting it to come up so quickly. I stored my bags at the bus station and walked towards the center of the city. The city didn’t look so big so I figured I could walk around for a couple hours.

I underestimated just how tired I was. I grabbed a couple walking tour maps and was about to embark on a three hour tour along the river when I spotted a boat that did the same thing in an hour. The price was around $20 AUD, I was sold. The minute I sat down on the boat I fell asleep. I got up and moved outside to the back. As the boat started to move one of the workers came out and instructed everyone to sit down. We quickly came up on a bridge, a really low bridge, so low it’s possible to have knocked your head or maybe even worse had you been standing. It continued that way for the rest of the hour. I never learned why the bridges were so low and there were many. They only have the information on the inside and I was on the outside.

After the boat my next brilliant plan was to find a grassy area where I could lay down and take a nap and not look homeless. I eventually found a spot that looked decent so I plopped down and closed my eyes. I wasn’t able to completely fall asleep but I rested a good hour so I decided it was time to continue my tour of Melbourne.

The next walking tour I decided upon was the ritzy shopping streets. After living a backpackers life for the past month this LA girl missed shopping and dressing up. I started the trip in Vegas and normally I’ll bring lots of options and heels but I could bring one and also be able to repurpose the outfit later. I caved and packed my ‘fancy sandals’ that I eventually had to send back to LA with my friends because I didn’t have any space.

The tour led me to Chinatown. I took a photo of the gate and then I walked down another street and saw another gate and then another. I’m used there being only one gate so I was disappointed when I saw all the others since I had spent so much time trying to get the perfect photo on the first gate.

I eventually got back to where I started and then headed back to the bus stop to wait for my friend. It was getting cold and I didn’t have anything else to wear. I was able to catch the sunset by the bus station. Something about sunsets always gets me. Sunrises are great too but I prefer sleep so sunsets are more my thing. I miss those LA sunsets.

My friend picked me up and we headed into the ‘burbs of Melbourne. It was nice to finally stay in a home and not at a hotel or hostel. My friends 2 year old was scared of me at first but she warmed up to me eventually.

I desperately needed to do laundry so I did that first thing Sunday morning. She didn’t have a dryer so I hung everything up on a drying rack. She said she’s never had a dryer! Even though I’ve worn the same clothes over and over they’re probably in better condition because I haven’t been using a dryer. After laundry we went to church. It felt just like a regular Sunday, church in the morning and then lunch in the afternoon.

After lunch we headed to the mall. The previous night I was able to confirm I was missing clothes. My friend loaned me jeans that happened to fit perfectly so I wouldn’t have to wear yoga pants to church. It was either yoga pants or shorts. When I walked out wearing my friends jeans she was impressed by the fit and confirmed it by checking how my butt looked in the jeans. At the mall I called the hotel and they said they did have my clothes and could ship it to my friends in Melbourne. I was ecstatic. I ended up not buying anything hoping to hold out until Korea.

The next day we headed to a Tulip festival. The weather was overcast but it held off. We had fun snapping photos in the tulips.

My friends insisted on feeding me a home cooked meal and I had said I wanted to try kangaroo meat so we headed to the market to buy kangaroo. They hadn’t actually tried much kangaroo. My scuba diving friends had recommended it so I wanted to give it a try. At the market I tried to find the smallest piece but they were all more or less the same. We settled on a cut and went home. Thankfully the package had instructions on how to cook it so my friend was able to follow those and it turned out well. I’m not used to the texture but the I didn’t mind the taste. My friend’s two year old gobbled it all up and asked for more! I quickly finished my plate and was satisfied. I’m not sure if I would try kangaroo again but I like that it’s lean so maybe. I need to get used to it a bit more.

My flight was set to depart around midnight so after dinner we headed to the airport.

Overall my time in Melbourne was a nice break from the usually traveling/backpacker lifestyle. I felt normal for once.

Cairns – It’s all about that Footy

When I was booking my tickets to and from Cairns I noticed the prices were high but I assumed it was because there were not many flights that went there. I didn’t check different dates since I needed to be there at a set time for my scuba diving course.

The AFL Grand Final is traditionally held the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October in Melbourne. If you’re impressed I know that don’t be because I just looked that up on Wikipedia. I was told to just substitute Super Bowl for Grand Final. That analogy immediately made sense to me but I still don’t know how the game is played or what it even looks like. I’ll have to continue my research on YouTube later.

So the game is played in Melbourne but guys like to watch the game in Cairns and then party. Or that’s what I gather. I guess to give another example an American would understand it’s like going to Vegas during March Madness or the Super Bowl.

My friends had traveled to Cairns a few weeks ahead of me and never mentioned it being party central.

The weekend following my scuba trip happened to be the time many non-professional Footy teams like to party in Cairns to end their season especially if they’re down south where it’s still cold.

Everything’s flipped in the Southern Hemisphere, the hot places are up north. There again was an influx of intoxicated males running around Cairns. It felt like I was on spring break in Miami, Cancun, Cabo, Bahamas, etc. I did witness a bikini competition but I didn’t see any wet t-shirt contests. Maybe that’s am American thing or it wasn’t hot enough yet.

I did happen to run into the occasional intoxicated male who got a little too close for comfort. I was usually able to squirm my way out of the situation. One time I could get tell the guy wasn’t going to leave me alone so before I decided to break into a run and possibly look a bit foolish I simply said, “please leave me alone,” and then he did! I was surprised he did. It took him a few more seconds to finally back off but after I turned the corner and looked back he wasn’t there. I’ve never actually said that before mostly because I think it will backfire and make the situation worse.

And to top it all off it was the end of school break so it was peak travel season all around.

Getting scuba certified on The Great Barrier Reef

When planning this trip I looked at various ways to visit The Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island. I didn’t even know the geography of Australia when I started planning. I had to google everything. I wasn’t planning on get scuba certified, I was just planning to go snorkeling for a day but I started looking at various companies that offered scuba trips and saw they also offered overnight diving trips. I figured of you’re going to see the Great Barrier Reef wouldn’t scuba diving be better. I went scuba diving about two years ago in Hawaii for the first time and had a lot of fun. I thought about trying to get the certification in LA and then just doing a diving trip in Australia but it worked out to be cheaper to just certified and do an overnight diving trip in Australia even after negotiating a couple hundred dollars off the course price in LA.

I had a friend who got certified at a diving school in Cairns and she highly recommended it so I decided to book with the same company. I was able to get open water and advanced certification back to back. I could do advanced in LA as well but it was cheaper to do it in Australia so I went for it.

So what started as a one day snorkeling trip to The Great Barrier Reef snowballed into a one week scuba diving course/trip… typical me.

I travelled back to Australia after spending two weeks in New Zealand. I went through a bit of culture shock when I arrived in Sydney. I wasn’t used to being around so many people. The first night in New Zealand we couldn’t see at night because it was pitch black. My friend had to shine a flashlight to the side of the car to park!

After spending a couple hours in Sydney I headed back to the airport and caught my flight to Cairns. I was happy to finally be leaving winter!

I looked out the window while we were making our approach in Cairns and I could see the esplanade. My first thought was that’s where I’ll go running everyday. I had packed my running sneakers but had only used them once in Sydney. I needed to train for my marathon! Now that I was planning to be traveling longer it was more important that I train while traveling.

I landed at Cairns and I could feel the warmth! By the time I arrived at my hotel I was exhausted. I just wanted to do laundry and go to bed. I had two full days ahead of me and I needed sleep.

I arrived at the school a few minutes early and waited for the instructor. I was a little worried about having to actually learn things, remember them and then take an exam. What if I didn’t pass!

The first day we stayed in the classroom and watched videos and took a few short quizzes/exams. By the end of the day I was starting to get confused between the symptoms for different sicknesses. I was glad when we finished early.

I finally had energy so after class I went downtown and explored Cairns. I didn’t really know what to expect of Cairns, when we were Rotorua my friend said it reminded her of Cairns. There were lots of people out and about. What I didn’t know at the time was it was the weekend of the AFL Championship. It felt like spring break, there were restaurants and bars everywhere. I wandered my way over to the esplanade and found the lagoon but no beach! Cairns has the feel of a beachy town but there’s no beach! The lagoon is nice and it gets cleaned. They offer free exercise classes on the esplanade. They had an early morning yoga class that I wanted to take but it was too early for me. I found a festival on the esplanade that I think was celebrating the nearby island nations in the Pacific? They had a couple food vendors so I looked for the longest line
and bought a meal from that vendor. I watched a couple performances and then headed back.

The second day we spent in the pool. There was a checklist of items we needed to get through. We ended up going over our time and stayed later to get through everything. I was exhausted by the end. The last thing we had to do for the day was the last swim test. I forget how many laps we had to do but I was so tired after. Running I can do, swimming I cannot.

The third day was boat day. They picked me up and we made a stop at the dive shop. I purchased a mask at the shop since that was the one thing my instructor suggested we buy. They dropped us off at the marina and we boarded the day boat. The class I was with on the classroom was only 6-8 people. I was surprised by how many people were on the boat. There were people who were just doing day trips for snorkeling and scuba and then others who be transferring to the overnight boat with us.

They warned us about getting seasick and I figured I would be okay… The last hour I sat outside and tried not to throw up.

We had our briefing inside the boat on the way to the dive site. Our original instructor was injured so were being passed to another instructor. While he was running down the list of things we needed to do for our certification I could feel myself getting sicker. I was remembering the last time I had to throw up on Mt. Whitney it came to a point where I couldn’t hold anything back and had to let it all out. I was worried the same might happen again.
I kept thinking if it gets really bad you need to go outside. Luckily I survived the meeting and then immediately after I went outside and continued to try and not throw up whole everyone was filling up the garbage can with used puke bags. TMI?

I was excited when it was finally time to dive. Getting into the water would be the only way to get over this sea sickness. We had back to back sessions so our borrowed instructor could return to the overnight boat. Since we finished early we had time to go snorkeling at the next dive site after lunch. We still had more certification dives coming up so I decided to take the opportunity to have a free snorkel and I was safer in the water than on the boat. I wasn’t feeling as queasy anymore but better safe than sorry.

Around mid-afternoon we transferred to the overnight boat. I was wondering how the transfer would happen. They had us pass all our bags over first so we could cross between boats without having to hold anything. There was a small gap between boats. They ushered us into the dining area for our orientation. We had a few minutes to drop our bags in the room and then it was time for another dive! The equipment got nicer and nicer as we changed boats. We finally had stations that we would continue to use for the remainder of our time on the overnight boats.

We jumped into the water and continued our course certification. I am a pro at mask removal and replacement now. We usually found a sandy area to kneel down on while everyone completed each task and there were fish and divers swimming all around us. I couldn’t believe I was actually scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!

After diving it was dinner time! My friend who had recommended the course to me joked all you do is dive and eat. I don’t know the last time I are 3 meals a day plus desert! The food was good and there’s was always more than enough to eat. Our first instructor joked diving is the laziest sport but I was always hungry at meal times!

After dinner there was a night dive. I wasn’t able to dive the first night since I didn’t have my certification yet but they lowered the back grate and baited the fish so we would have plenty to see. Two sharks also came out to join in on the fun.

And finally it was desert time! It was starting to feel like a retreat. After desert we had free time to relax. One of the people in my class thought to bring cards. We played every card game we could think of that night with the exception of poker, no chips. After a full day I was exhausted and ready to turn in. There was a morning dive scheduled before breakfast but since I wasn’t certified I wouldn’t be able to dive. I was okay with that.

The next couple days on the boat were pretty much the same: dive, eat, dive, tan, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, play cards.

On the second dive of the day I started to have problems equalizing. I later earned the nickname ‘the equalizer’ or ‘the equaliser.’ It took me almost 50 bar of air to get down! I borrowed some ‘swimmers ear’ and that helped me get through the next couple days. I was practically deaf in my right ear after 4 days of diving.

I ended up missing the first free dive with my class to give my ears a rest. When I finally jumped into the water for my first free I was ecstatic and also a little worried. I always followed the instructor and everything underwater looked the same to me. Luckily I had two diving buddies and new diving friends so I just followed them around. This time we could actually go wherever we wanted as long as it wasn’t below 18 meters. There were a couple times we got a little too excited and started to chase after a shark or a sea turtle and started to go too deep but there was always someone who thought to do a depth check before following the rest of us.

After getting my open water certification I continued on to get my advanced course certification. My friend in LA has her advanced course certification and she wanted someone to have the same so we could do deeper dives. With advanced certification we can go as deep as 30 meters. The area where we were, Norman Reef doesn’t reach to 30 meters, we got as far as 25 meters. I was worried about my ears not equalizing but I was fine. My instructor on the other hand was not fine. I wasn’t able to finish my certification dives that day so it would have to be pushed until another instructor was available. It worked out because I could then do dives with my new diving friends. They were leaving a day earlier than me.

The dives for the advanced course were actually pretty fun. I thought there might be an advanced mask removal and replacement skill we needed to be tested on.

Everyday there were people leaving the boat and arriving. In my new class there were 3 others. For one of the dives we had to swim through a hula hoop and do turns. For another one of our dives we had to navigate with a compass further than we had to for our open water course certification. The last dive we did they took us out in the raft and we did a back roll into the water.

After four days on the boat I was open water and advanced certified! It was nice to stay in one place for a couple days and also make new friends. I didn’t really know what to expect when I signed up for the course. In one of the videos we watched on the first day it ends with diving is more fun with friends, be sure to exchange information so you can go diving together in the future. I laughed then but it’s so true! My time on the boat was definitely more enjoyable because of the people.

I’m excited to go back to LA and do more diving! My friend said we can dive for lobsters! I want to dive for uni!

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Sydney

I caught an early morning flight out of Wellington back to Sydney. I was sad my time in New Zealand was up. I would definitely go back to New Zealand and revisit the same places to spend more time at each place.

I had a 6 hour layover in Sydney so I decided to head into the Sydney. The train makes is super easy and fast. It’s about a 15 minute train ride into the city.

I wanted to try for a third time to eat at Din Tai Fung since it’s become my thing to eat at as many Din Tai Fung restaurants around the world.

In the morning I ate an Anzac biscuit and and avocado, tomato on toast because I assumed I wouldn’t be eating on the plane. I flew Air New Zealand to Sydney. While on the plane they announced certain passengers would be getting a meal based on their ticket class. I assumed that wasn’t me but then they served me a meal so I ate again. I think I ate 3 meals in 6 hours! I ended up skipping dinner that night since I was still full from lunch.

Din Tai Fung (Sydney)

I waited outside around 11:20am and there were already other people waiting! The restaurant opens at 11:30 for lunch. Once I sat down and I saw the menu had items not in the US! So of course I had to try! I also tried to black truffle xiao long bao and it was truffley. I was stuffed after 6 pork xiao long bao, 2 pork truffle xiao long bao, egg fried rice with chicken cutlet, and cucumber appetizer. I shouldn’t have ordered the chicken cutlet and should have just tried 1 truffle xiao long bao. I ended up not finishing the fried rice and didn’t have room for desert. I swear the fried rice portion is larger in Sydney than in the US!

After lunch I headed straight to the airport. My flight to Cairns was on Virgin Australia. To watch the movies on the plane you need to download the app for your device. I used the airport wifi to download the iPad app. I think my constant flying is catching up to me because I’ve seen every movie I would want to see I’ve had to watch my c-list movies. I watched Planet of the Apes with James Franco and I enjoyed it.

iPhone6

I stopped by the Apple store in Sydney to check out the new iPhones. I’m guessing that’s the store where the first guy to buy it dropped it. There was a line to pick up phones but it wasn’t crazy. I checked out the two phones and the different colors. I didn’t gravitate toward either phone and immediately pulled out my iPhone5 sad we would be parting ways soon. It’s my first iPhone, I waited 5 generations to finally get an iPhone and I’m not ready to move on. I can’t believe it’s only been two years! How time flies! Maybe I’ll be one of those people who doesn’t upgrade. If I had enough memory I would probably consider it. I’m contract free! I’m a free agent!

SIM Cards for International Visitors to Australia

I’m addicted to my smartphone and I can’t cross the street without it the blue dot on Google Maps reassuring me I’m headed in the right direction.

  • Make sure your phone is unlocked for international use. Luckily all Verizon iPhone 5 and later models are already unlocked for GSM use.

I saw 2 options at the international terminal in Sydney, Optus and Vodafone.

  • Optus – For $2 AUD a day, 500MB data/daily
  • Vodafone Australia – for $20 AUD prepaid, 2 GB data, $700 credit, I was told the full price was $40, but there was a 50% off sale

The credit on Vodafone is useful if you plan to make international calls. I went with Vodafone and my friends used Optus. I probably should have gone with Optus since there’s more data. With Vodafone I wasn’t watching my data usage and went through 500mb on my first day and I planned to be in Australia for 2 weeks. In terms of service I didn’t have any issues traveling in Sydney, Katoomba, Cairns and Melbourne.

 

Sydney

We started the day off at the Sydney Fish Market. Trip Advisor says this is the third largest fish market in the world, Rough Guides says it’s the second largest. So I’ll just say it’s in the top three.

The market is fairly clean and the fish is fresh. We got tuna sashimi, salmon sashimi, uni, and oysters. I loved everything but the oysters. They didn’t have hot sauce for the oysters so I didn’t enjoy them as much.

Next stop Town Hall for the Free Sydney Tour. It’s about 2.5 – 3 hours and it’s FREE! You can choose to tip the guide at the end. The tour was really informative but a little exhausting if you’re carrying a full backpack because you walk around everywhere. It probably would have been a better idea to do the tour first because they tell you about other attractions. Some of the tips they told us were too late since we were headed out the next day. Initially we only planned about 2-3 days in Sydney because we didn’t think there was much to do, but I actually enjoyed Sydney and wished we had more time to explore the different neighborhoods. I wouldn’t mind living here and getting to know the city better.

They have tours at 10:30am and 2:30pm. They have a tour at 6pm just for the area known as The Rocks.

From there we hopped on another ferry and headed to Manly Harbour. We wanted to try to get some sunset photos again tonight and also check out a Sydney beach. I heard Manly is a big surfing spot so I hoped to catch surfers in action but there were no waves when we got there. We biked for about an hour and a half and then headed back to the ferry. Having just biked the Seawall in Vancouver I was a little under impressed but the route we took did take us to some good viewpoints but we had to climb some rough hills. I ended up walking my bike for a bit.

Back on the boat we were initially discouraged because it was cloudy again but as we got closer to Sydney we could see the light reflecting on the city and we hopped up to take photos as did everyone else on the boat.

This reminds of the riding the Staten Island Ferry. I’ve officially become that tourist who rides the ferry for a cheap way to get a good photo.

We headed to Hurricane’s Grill in Darling Harbour for dinner. We didn’t get a reservation so we planned tot just wait. We ended up waiting 2.5 hours for a table. They have a fireworks show every Saturday night in the Harbour. By the time we sat down the fireworks were over and I was exhausted.

I haven’t felt the usual jetlag but I feel utterly exhausted. I’m hoping to catch up on sleep somewhere down the line.

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Katoomba (Blue Mountains)

Day 6

We decided to stay in Katoomba and do the hikes we were not able to do yesterday. Without a car it’s limits how much you can do since the distance between towns and different points can be far. It’s still possible to do it by foot, there’s just more walking.

We started by heading down the Grand Staircase and made it down below the suggested 30 minutes. It’s about 1000 feet to the valley only it didn’t feel like we reached the valley by the time we reached the last step.

We continued along to the Furber steps just walking along the path. We again made it to the location ahead of the estimated time. Going up the Furber steps took a long time because we stopped to take pictures multiple times. The views are incredible and abundant. The Furber steps take you right next to the Katoomba Falls. For us the water was not gushing down it but the gentleness made it beautiful.

Once at the top we headed back into Katoomba to browse some shops and buy some winter gear for New Zealand. After some time we headed over to Leura to hike to the Leura Cascades. Again I was amazed by the beauty of everything.

It may not be as great as the Grand Canyon but the Blue Mountains are lovely and have a little bit of everything, rainforest, mountains, and views.

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Sydney => Katoomba (Blue Mountains)

8:00am Wakeup
8:30am 2 mile run around Hyde Park
9:00am Shower, pack, get ready
9:46am Check train schedule, set goal to leave in 4 minutes to catch 10:09am train to Katoomba.
10:11am Board train, turns out the train doesn’t depart at 10:09am but probably arrives at 10:09am.
2pm Eat lunch at the Yellow Deli in Katoomba town. The Yellow Deli has the cutest interior. My friend H said he felt like he was in Hobbiton already.

After lunch we headed towards the cliffs of the Blue Mountains. We walked about 15-20 minutes or so to get to one entrance to the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. I originally in visioned a cliff walk being literally. And I guess it was but our path was covered in trees so we couldn’t see much of anything. There were some lookout points so we stopped along the way. We were headed to Echo Point where we would be able to see the Three Sisters. According to my national geographic guidebook, there are three rock pillars that are actually three girls turned to stone by their father to protect them from their enemies. Unfortunately the father died before he could turn them back and they remained frozen in stone. We started late so we didn’t get to do the loop we originally intended. The hike takes you down to the valley floor and then back up but the sub sets at six and you want to get out the floor before then.

We had dinner in town and then went to Woolworths to pick up some stuff to take on our hike the next day. One of the things I enjoy about visiting foreign countries is browsing the aisles of the their convenience or grocery stores. I like to see if there’s something that looks interests me.

Unfortunately at that point I felt really cold. Katoomba is a bit chillier than Sydney and then after eating dinner my body felt really cold.

We made it back to the hostel, put away our groceries and our stuff down. At that point I realized we didn’t have towels, we had assumed they would be given to us. The hostel is small and family run which is why I originally liked it but the downside I realize now is there’s not someone always available at the front desk. It’s been awhile since I stayed in a hostel and I’m forgetting the basics. I ended up calling the after hours emergency phone number and got reprimanded for using it to ask for towels. And since I was already being reprimanded I was originally only given one I asked for two more for my friends.

I spent the rest of the night trying to plan later parts of my trip. I’m still shocked that jet lag never actually hit me, just normal exhaustion when it’s close to bedtime.

Mobile Tip:

Word to the wise get Opal as your mobile plan and not Vodafone if you’re looking for more data. Opal gives you 500mb of data a day for $20. Vodaphone gives 1gb for $15 or 1.5 for $20. There’s other parts to the plan but data is my biggest use. On the first day I used 500mb of data so now I’ve tried to be more conscious of my use.

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Sydney

Day 4: G’day! I am now in the land down under!

Stay to the left!

I started off the day walking on the right side and after awhile remembered where I was and switched to the left. I did this a couple times throughout the day.

(I started this last night but exhaustion finally hit me and I passed out. I was even sleeping by the time my friends K & H arrived.)

I walked along George St in Sydney and since it was Tuesday around noon everyone was dresses for work heading to or from lunch. I immediately liked Sydney. The weather was was nice, not too hot, not too cold and I saw Asian restaurants everywhere that I wanted to try. Unfortunately I had a 1:05 Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb reservation I needed to make so I didn’t have time to stop and eat. I walked by Din Tai Fung with a sad face and dreamed about what I could have eaten at Mamak. My desire to make my first meal in Sydney epic was soon crushed.

I arrived at the check-in for my climb and the first thing they asked was, “have you eaten?” My reply, “no.” “You need to eat something.” So I scared down a Chicken Avocado sandwich which was quite tasty and not bad for a first meal in the land down under.

Booking a 1:05pm climb on a Tuesday afternoon turns out to be the secret VIP express climb. There was only one other climber on my tour and she was traveling for work. We introduced ourselves, they handed us a jumpsuit and we got changed. The weather can vary widely but they have everything you need. Since it was warm out we didn’t need to bring much. Our tour guide helped set us up and ran through a short physical test. And then we were off! I didn’t find it to be scary, you’re cabled in the whole way.

The views were amazing and being so exhausted I knew what I was experiencing was amazing but it was hard to feel it. I’ve seen images of the Sydney Opera house so many times and to be walking right along aside on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was breathtaking, and literally too. I’m a bit out of shape. Post-Whitney I haven’t gone on any hikes and lost all my hiking muscles.

We stopped and chatted for a bit and I could tell it was because with only two people you climb a lot faster than the group maximum of twelve. They also stop here and there to take our photo. We ended up finishing a full hour early. Our guide said we could hang out as long as we want since we had so much time but since we didn’t have cameras and we can’t just run around everywhere we decided we had our full and were ready to head down. Since we finished early I headed over to the Pylon lookout to take photos for myself. The package for the bridge climb comes with a certificate, group photo, and free admission to the lookout. They will also record a short 10 second video which you can email to yourself later. I ended up paying $15 AUD for a single photo at the top of the bridge and $248 AUD for the climb. Initially I was planning to do the last day climb of the day to get some sunset but turns out my cousin is in town as well so we were meeting up for dinner and I didn’t think I would get there on time. My guide suggested booking the first night climb of the day since that $200 AUD and you can sunset views before it’s fully dark out. They have a twilight climb in between and that’s about $300 AUD. It is expensive but I had fun and I like I lucked out because we got the express VIP climb.

The Pylon Lookout was nice, I ran around with gopro and selfie stick attempting to capture an epic first selfie in Sydney. If I had to pay extra for it I don’t know if I would have gone. You can also just take photos from the bridge.

I had about two hours until dinner so I headed for to the visitor center to collect brochures and and then I walked around The Rocks. This place is named in every guidebook. It’s pretty touristy and it feels like one of those old places redone to look old but not falling apart anymore. It’s probably nicer on the weekends when it’s more crowded but it felt like a Faneuil Hall in Boston. I headed over to Circular Quay and saw boats coming and going and saw an artist making drawing large drawings. You can check him out on Instagram @pepegaka . He has Facebook as well. I was impressed by his wide social media presence. His sing says he lives purely by donation and does not sell his artwork but donates it. This reminded me of the stone lady I saw in Vancouver. I’ll try to post more photos later on Instagram.

From Circular Quay I continued to the Sydney Opera House. I have a confession to make. When I saw it with my own eyes I was underwhelmed. It looks not so white and a bit dated. Once I saw the stairs leading up to the Opera House and see the detailing I was blown away and attempted to catch the beauty in a selfie. It didn’t work out so well but hopefully this image I have in made head will stay for awhile.

On top of having a express VIP climb we also had gorgeous weather. Before coming to Sydney I imagined it was beautiful everyday because that’s what the photos look like. But my guide informed us it rains a lot and this is the first week with nice weather.

On the way to the Opera House there’s a nice/modern/musuemy restaurant and people were sitting outside enjoying views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House enjoying wine with friends and lovers. This is a nice spot to stop and chill after dinner and get drinks with friends. Also I was impressed that it wasn’t a cheesy restaurant you would normally find near major tourist attractions. It had class. Sydney you got class and I like it.

I needed to head over to the restaurant to meet my cousin for dinner. I had a general idea
of the direction I needed to go. I started walking and it was dark by then and the street was empty. I saw a
few people take some stairs towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge and decided to follow. It was going the direction I needed to go and there were people so I wouldn’t be alone.

At first I was happy I decided to change routes because it was scenic and then I started to panic I wouldn’t find a way down and the road led straight to the bridge. Too stubborn to turn around I continued on. I saw familiar sites and knew I was still going to right direction and then I saw a group I had see earlier in the day walking in the opposite direction so I thought there has to be another way down.

I ran into people taking photographs of the view. From that vantage point you can see both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I was also getting passed by runners left and right. Remember I’m still learning to stay the left but it feels so counterintuitive I freak out when I have to make a quick decision and end up staying to the right. My guide for the bridge climb informed lots of people enjoy running the bridge. I saw lots of people with hydration backpacks and I thought people in Sydney are fit! Later I passed an electronic signboard that said marathon in X days. I’m guessing the high number of runner wearing hydration packs were all training for the marathon.

Luckily I found a way down and continued walking into the city. Everyone was getting off work and I was long queues of people waiting for buses. I was amazed at how orderly everything was and how long the lines were! I took a photo but not the one with the crazy long lines. I stopped and stared for a few seconds. It’s not something I see in LA often and I could remember if it’s like this in NY. My last memory is from China and it was definitely not like that. I can’t imagine what kind of culture shock Australians go through when they move to China.

I arrived at dinner and found the cute restaurant bustling with people. I out my name down and waited for my cousin. I enjoyed people watching and I think people in Sydney are fairly attractive. We sat down to dinner and I was starved. I had originally planned to stop at Din Tai Fung for a pre-dinner snack but I didn’t have much time and thought it would take too long. Everything on the menu looked good and everything tasted good. We ordered a Tom Yum that was so spicy I didn’t ask for hot sauce. It is not the usual Americanized Thai food I’m accustomed to. We ordered too
much and couldn’t eat it all. My cousin insisted I take the leftovers but I stubbornly refused because we were headed out of Sydney the next day. But I’m writing this now on a two hour train to Katoomba and that leftover Thai sounds amazing but not the Tom Yum.

So we did out usual catch up and gab. Before I delve deeper I will give a backstory. I met up with my cousin in NY for dinner. We barely caught each other since she was out of town for the majority of my time in NY and were finally found one night of overlap. We both mentioned we were taking for doing and Austrlalia/New Zealand around the same time but neither of us had plane tickets. Fast forward to days before I’m planning to leave and I frantically start planning and wonder where is my cousin. I shoot her an email and find out we will be in Sydney at the same time. Our communication is choppy and we in the end only have one night of overlap in Sydney, typical us. I pepper her with questions about her trip and ask her for tips in advice. I learn she’s more into learning about the indigenous people and I’m much more into hiking and activities. We finish dinner and head out in search of a coffee shop. We head over to a food court she had been to earlier and find Ippudo and Lauderee! I am floored but sad because both are closed. We give up and head back toward her hotel to drop off the leftovers. We attempt to go to a bar across the street but it’s closing so we just in the hotel lobby. (Bars are sometimes called hotels because an archaic law didn’t allow alcohol to be sold in places that didn’t have accommodations. I learned that tidbit from my cousin the bookworm.)

We continue our gabfest in the lobby but exhaustion finally catches up to me and I am yawning non stop. At this point I haven’t had a proper nights sleep in three nights and I was battling jetlag. She hands me $20 AUD and tells to take a taxi home. This is also after she paid for my dinner. I was initially planning to walk since it’s not far but it’s late and the streets are empty so I accept and we head over to the taxi stand. We say our goodbyes and ponder when we will see other next. She will spend a day in LA but I’ll still be only my world tour. Another useful tidbit my cousin gave, restaurants charge less for cash so she takes out cash to pay for things.

Back to the hotel I see my friends have arrived but are out at the moment. I get ready for bed and start writing and within about two minutes the exhaustion is too strong and I fall asleep. My friends come back, wake me up and we talk while Iay in bed sleeping, too exhausted to get out. And by some magic, maybe being so exhausted I sleep through the night!