Monday, 26 November 2012

Life in Australia: Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Yesterday I did the Sydney harbour bridge climb.

The experience was given to me as a gift from Jonathan and Shelly for shooting their wedding! They said they wished it was something they had done when they had been to Sydney and gave me a gift voucher of enough to cover the slightly more expensive twilight time option that is very worth the price difference!

I was a little nervous but had been assured it was easy. You are very well looked after and fully kitted out by the staff at Bridge Climb. And attached to a wire on the bridge the whole time.

With the twilight climb we saw the sunset just as we were getting to the top of the bridge. Then you stop for this photo:

Then you get 'free time' on the bridge, obviously you aren't going anywhere but you really get the time to enjoy the experience with a guide who is very reassuring and knowledgeable. My group was 14 people and this is a good amount I found, you stay in an order and get to know those around you.

The twilight walk is perfect for many reasons, getting to see sunset and if you're nervous like me you get to go up when it's light and you can see where you are stepping (!) but still get the night views too:

So in terms of view you get the best of both night and day. And I love the night views, I'd kill to take my camera up there and do a slow shutter of the cars with the skyline! But nothing can go up with you from cameras to watches to your own trousers!!

Apologies for the Japanese tourist photo poses, what else was I supposed to do!?

Next weekend I'm flying to the Philippines for 19 days before returning to Sydney for Christmas. It's going to be interesting, I haven't been to such a poor country since Ghana over 10 years ago. But my time on ships introduced me to so many friendly and kind Filipinos that I cannot wait to see this beautiful country (made up of 7107 islands!) and I have booked myself on some amazing tours as well as visiting friends!

I will be sharing some exciting panoramas when I get back I'm sure!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Life in Australia: The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are to the west of Sydney and you can get there in an hour or so. I chose to take a tour rather than find my own way so that I could meet other people and be shown the best spots! I went on a tour with OzTrek and a lovely man called Glen was our driver and guide. This is another tour that I can highly recommend.

Our first stop was on the outskirts of the National Park, a view point called Flat Rock and this was the view.


As always with my panoramas just click on them to go through to Flickr and see them bigger.

Flat Rock itself looked like this:


That's my bus in the distance. It's great being on a bus tour because they take you to some spots that aren't packed with other tourists.

Next stop was Katoomba Falls view point and our first glimpse of the all important Three Sisters. This rock formation of three peaks is the whole focus of the Blue Mountains tourism. You can see Yellow Crested Cockatoos flying around the waterfall, they are really beautiful and everywhere in Australia.


After some lunch in Katoomba we went on to Echo Point, the best view of the Three Sisters and the busiest tourist location!


This area all around the Three Sisters has become an attraction called Scenic World with rides that allow even those in wheelchairs to be able to explore the forest.

We had for the afternoon to do whatever exploring we wanted, there's a big walk down 1000 steps right next to the Three Sisters or the expensive option where you take all three rides or our tour guide's recommendation- walking down Furber Steps (next to Katoomba Falls) and taking the scenic railway back up. So I did that.

Having been looking down on the Blue Mountains all day it was strange to start going down into the forest. This is Witches Leap (can you see the face?).


This walk allows you to get to the waterfall that had seemed so far away earlier in the day.



As you continue down there are great views of the Three Sisters again too.


And down (my legs are hurting today)...


To the bottom of the waterfall.


And finally you rejoin civilisation and tourists who took the train down and the cable car back up so aren't sweating like me! The none walking tourists get to see the forest from this 'boardwalk'.


And then you take the steepest railway in the world back up again, unless you can climb cliffs!


Apparently it's very scary to take it down but up was nice, you're just lying down (and holding on from sliding out)!


And one last view point before the drive back, quiet because there's no view of the Three Sisters but why wouldn't you want to see this!? Called Cahills Look-out.


And that was the end of a really lovely tour and a location that I would definitely consider going back to. With my big camera next time!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Life in Australia: Canberra, Australia's Captial


Sorry I haven't blogged for a while. I've been getting on with the plan of get a job, get a place. So I'm living in a lovely suburb called North Strathfield to the west of Sydney and I'm doing a 6 week temp job placement in an office.

The job is regular hours so last weekend I decided I needed to go and see something new because staring at a computer screen for 5 days a week does not make you feel like you are having a fun travelling time!

Canberra, Australia's capital city is 4 hours by train away from Sydney. It exists between the two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne because apparently it could not be decided between the two which would be capital. So Canberra is a purpose built capital and you can see that very clearly in it's design, inspired by Washington DC.

For my one full day that I had in the city I chose to use the Explorer Bus. This is a hop on, hop off service but not like the ones you are used to! Much more personal and much more specific. The bus is run by a wonderful man called John and he talks you through the drive. The best way to use the bus is to join for the whole day, this way you see 4 places. And John will come and pick you up from your hotel! His number is on the website and he doesn't mind being called too much, because I did!

So my explorer bus tour starts with the war memorial. This is the view from the war memorial down to Parliament house. See what I mean about Washington?


And again from within the war memorial.


You are looking at the flag on top of Parliament house there in the distance. There's actually an old Parliament house which is a white building making the 'washington' look but is now a museum. The new Parliament house was built into the hill behind.

The war memorial was really interesting, after all the Australians fought for us so the history lesson was fascinating but I had to leave the tour because of moving onto my next stop. I could've spent the whole day in any one of the venues I saw.


The next stop I chose on the tour was the National Portrait Gallery because this is my area of interest. It was so interesting to see all the early pieces were "Joe Blogs moved to Australia in 1880..." All of them! Because Australians weren't Australian before. A whole lot of them were English. And that's why they fought for us.

The gallery also had an exhibition just because of the Queen's jubilee. I felt glad that I chose to stop and see that in the little time I had.

Next stop took me to the other end of Anzac Parade, now we can see the War Memorial in the distance.


This is my favourite picture of the trip. You can see everything including the importance of the Parliament house that the people can stand on top of!

My final stop of the day was the National Museum of Australia. This wonderful place shows a real, honest story about the history of Australia focused on the Aboriginals but also climate and animals and hoping for a better future.

The museum is built right next to Lake Griffin, the man-made lake all part of the city design. This picture shows the Black Mountain Tower which I would go to another time.


This picture shows the National Carillon, a bell tower on it's own private island that was a gift from the Queen for Canberra's 50th anniversary. Apparently they do concerts there using the bells with an orchestra which sounds amazing and I would love to see that. It was actually the first thing I saw lit up from my late night taxi arrival.


And then in the panorama you can see Canberra's business centre and one of the bridges over the lake to Parliament house. The huge jet of water is the Captain Cook Memorial, an intense power jet that runs a couple of hours in the morning and again in the afternoon.


That was more than enough for one day. On the Sunday morning before my train I found a lovely market in Kingston housed in the old bus depot. Finally I just want to share with you this image of the train station because I was shocked when I arrived. This is the Capital city but it is the end of the line, one platform and you are still a good 20 minutes from the centre. No more trains. Sydney on the other hand has an underground system and Central Station is as big and as busy as Clapham Junction! And for my weekend visit it was dead apart from a few tourists. I hear the roads are packed during the week becuase of all the goverment buildings but still it's an odd place!