Sydney is the most populated city in Australia with a metro area population of over 4.2 million. It is the state capital of New South Wales and is located on the country’s southeast coast. The Sydney Harbour is the largest natural harbour in the world. This is one place were you have to get up early and watch the approach. At Port Jackson we pick up the pilot who’ll guide the ship to our docking station at Circular Quay.
At Bradley Head we change to a west course and pass the Garden Island straight towards Sydney Harbour Bridge. Just before the bridge we turn and see the world famous Sydney Opera House. Her distinctive white “sails” and commanding position on the harbour tell us we’re in Sydney. Awesome. We turn left (I’m sure there’s a proper nautical name for this) and we dock. We’re right beside the Opera House and the Bridge – it’s an awesome morning and we’re here for 2 days.
NSW first city is also Australia’s oldest, largest and most perfectly positioned community. Established in 1788 as a penal colony, the port was the end of the world for the first convicts who arrived in a few boatloads. Many of the unwilling detainees had done nothing more than steal a loaf of bread to feed their families (many of them hadn’t even done that much!) but settlers were needed to secure colonial lands and willing volunteers were in short supply. The ragged convicts whose numbers had swindled to 736 after the long ocean voyage, rolled up their sleeves and began to build. A little more than 200 years later, modern Sydney is a monument to their perseverance.
Sydney is the main port for every air cargo and shipping company servicing Australia. All national highways, railroads, and domestic networks link with the NSW capital.
We’ve decided to do our own exploring this time in Sydney (when we were here 3 years ago we went on escorted tours). We start by walking over to the Opera House and relive past memories of being here. It is very hot today with temperatures in the mid to high 30’s so we’re covered with sunblock and have hats to keep the sun off. We’ve elected to take the Darling Harbour ferry (about 20 minute ride from Sydney Harbour) to visit local markets and eat lunch at a recommended restaurant. On the ride over we relive past memories of visiting the Maritime Museum, the submarine and the Navy ship.
When we were here before there was a lot of construction going on and it was just awesome to see some of the finished results. This is definitely a place for visitors to walk and enjoy – I really wish Toronto would wake up to these concepts. There are literally hundreds of restaurants and local artisans stalls. Part of the new constructed area contains rivers of running water where wonderful designs are made by the flow of water over forms. There are fountains of water being sprayed upwards. Children and adults can cool off if they so please, and playgrounds are full of children enjoying the wonderful parks created. There’ a multitude of structural designs many of which we ponder and think about. I believe they are there to excite and intrigue the senses. The city’s architecture is outstanding. There are many tall buildings but spaced apart making it seem less crowded. And I think the way they are built has an effect on the area – the lines are clean and uncluttered.
We pass parks filled with long beaked birds called XXXXXXX.
We visit a well known market called “Paddy’s” and purchase a couple of duffle bags, we know we’re going to need them. This is just a wonderful place to buy fruit, vegetables and meat. There’s another section of the market where leather goods, souvenirs etc. can be purchased. The area is busy and there’s a life about it. It’s just amazing. We later eat at our chosen restaurant we have “flathead (fish)” and chips washed down with some local beers before making our way back to Sydney Harbour on the ferry. We had talked about going to a restaurant close to the ship for supper but as we ate a very late lunch (3pm) we elect to have stuffed mushrooms and beer instead at another local restaurant.
Day 2: February 21st 2011
Our table friend Pedgie, who is a lively 83 year old has signed up to climb the Bridge. I ask her “what do you think you’re kids and grandkids will say when they hear this” She replies “I won’t tell them unless they ask”. She’s an amazing lady and off he goes. The walk up the bridge is approximately 3 hours long. No cameras, jewellery, purses etc. everyone is dressed in a blue jump suit and is tethered to guides who will walk up with them. Now Pedgie has the photo to prove she’s done the climb. I asked Gerrit if he’d like to do the climb. I got the “LOOK” so no need to ask anything further!
The Great Harbour Bridge as it is called is one of the two landmarks that have long been the iconic images of Sydney. The bridge was the city’s tallest structure until 1967. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the widest long-span bridge in the world, the highest steel arch bridge, the top standing 134 metres or 430 feet above the harbour, and the forth longest spanning arch bridge in the world. A royal commission in 1890 determined there was a heavy level of ferry traffic in the Harbour area, however it wasn’t until 1923 that preconstruction began with the demolition of 800 homes and construction of the bridge itself began in December 1928. Once the arch halves were completed, the cables used to hold them up were slowly released to bring the two halves of the arch together. On August 1930 they were joined and have remained joined since then. The road and the two sets of tram and railway tracks were completed in 1931, along with power and telephone lines, water, gas and drainage pipes. On January 19, 1932 the first test train safely crossed the bridge. Looking at the bridge this was an incredible feat indeed.
The President and CEO of Holland America Line is onboard for 3 days in order to celebrate “Mariners”. We have an early sail away party and the first of many parties in the next 3 days.
The ship made the sail away even more special than usual. Our first hint was the fire boat performing a wonderful display of water spray. Then we saw what the real plan was. HAL had arranged to the Duyvken to sail us out of the harbour. The Duyvken is a replica of the Dutch ship that found Australia in 1606. She is 21m long, with a crew of 16. On the original voyage there were about 30 people on board. All in all a spectacular sail away.