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My 10days in Sydney & the Snowy Mountain

The journey started with 7 hours delay from Doha to Sydney due to a technical problem of the plane. We got offered breakfast – please be aware that even though the company does bring you to a specific restaurant you can normally decide where to go. Do not make the same mistake as we did going with the others to find out that the breakfast was made of wedges, eggs and other sort of stuff which I personally do not like to eat in the morning. After the voucher has been issued you can’t go somewhere else, but at least we were lucky enough that they helped us out finding for us bread, butter and jam.


General info & history

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and Australia´s oldest and largest city & is home to Aussies icons such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This beautiful town is surrounded by national parks, spectacular bays & worldwide famous beaches such as Bondi Beach & Manly Beach.

Even though Sydney is said to have been first visited in 1770 by Captain James Cook & Joseph Banks it was not until 1788 that the first European settlement was established by Captain Arthur Phillip.

Originally Phillip gave Sydney the name ‘New Albion’, but it was then changed after the British Home Secretary, Thomas Townshend, Lord Sydney.

Quick immigration control via SmartGate

The customs took a lot less time in comparison to 10 years ago – you just need to fill in a form while you are on the plane. Once you land there are two options: you can either proceed through the border via a SmartGate or with an Australian Border Force Officer.

Using a SmartGate is simple and fast. You simply must place your passport into the passport reader. Once the passport reader returns the passport you answer the declarations using the touch screen (asked by the SmartGate), take your SmartGate ticket and proceed to the exit. Before arriving to the luggage pick up you will have to insert your SmartGate Ticket while looking into the Camera – if the photos match, you take the ticket and proceed to the baggage hall. The SmartGate Ticket will then have to be given to one of the employees you will find on the way out.

How to get from the airport to town

In the early 19th century, when it was still a small convict settlement and the first settlers had barely penetrated the interior, it had already established trade with the Pacific Islands, India, China, South Africa, and the Americas.

The Opal Transport Card

I do suggest you buy an opal card which you can pop it up using the machines you find at every train station or simply download the app and pop it up whenever you want. Please be aware that it takes up to 24hours for the credit to be upgraded if you do use the app. The opal benefits are that you never pay more than AUD15.80/day (AUD7.90/day for children) or AUD63.20/week (AUD31.60/week for children) and AUD2.70/Sundays. You are also entitled to AUD2 transfer discount for every transfer between modes (train, bus, ferry, light rail) as part of one journey within 60 minutes from the last tap off. After eight paid journeys with Opal you reach the Weekly Travel Reward and enjoy the half price trips.

Baggage Storage @ The Rocks

Due to the delay of the plane and that we had some stuff to sort out in town we decided to leave our luggage at a baggage storage at the rocks which is a 5minute walk from Circular Quay before heading to our accommodation in Bondi Beach. The Rocks is Sydney´s first European settlement site. This site of Sydney changed from being a commercial and maritime hub to a cultural and architectural heritage recognized in the 1970s

Bondi Beach

How to get from town to Bondi Beach

From Circular Quay which is Sydney´s public transport hub there are two options to get to Bondi Beach the first one is taking a train till Bondi Junction and get on the 333 bus till the last stop or you can just get on the number 333 bus. With all the luggage we opted for the bus and in approx. 40min we reached the flat where we were staying. We decided to finish the day taking a stroll on Bondi Beach which is one of Sydney´s most famous beaches.

Bondi is approximately 1km long and, as for other Australian beaches as well, the safe swimming area is defined by red and yellow flags.

Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal walk

On our first day in Australia we decided to do the approximately 5km Bondi To Coogee Beach Coastal walk which is one of the most famous Clifftop Trails in Australia. This easy hike is divided in two sections: Bondi to Bronte and Bronte to Coogee. In 2009 a 550m wooden boardwalk around the Waverley Cemetery was opened to the public making the Bondi – Coogee Coastal walk become a continuous path.

There are many viewing points with comfortable benches and lots of facilities such as drinking fountains, showers, toilets, public BBQ´s and café´s on this trail. The highlights of this trail are Mackenzies Bay, Tamarama Beach famous for its deep and strong rip currents, Bronte Beach which is a small beach enclosed by sandstone headlands with park and reserve behind, Waverley Cemetery Boardwalk (officially called Sesquicentenary Boardwalk) which was the last section open to public (in 2009), Clovely which is vibrant and charming and Gordons Bay which is small and secluded and popular with divers and snorkelers because of the Gordons Bay Underwater Nature Tail which is a 600m bushwalking trail but underwater. It takes around 40Minutes to complete the trail and the deepest point is 14 meters. This is the last stop before Coogee Beach with its 400m strip of sand and the Goldstein Reserve located right behind the beach.

Manly Beach & Shelly Beach

How to get from town to Manly Beach & Shelly Beach

From Circular Quay it is a scenic 30-minute ride by regular ferry and a 15minute by Fast Ferry to get to Manly which was named in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip.

Manly Beach is 3km long and one of the most renowned beaches for surfing. There is a short walk along the ocean from Manly Beach to Shelly Beach which is part of the no take Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve. The walk is famous for the water dragons which are Australia´s largest dragon lizards. Here we decided to chill before heading back to Bondi Beach.

North Head Sanctuary Manly Walk

Another famous walk we did is the North Head Sanctuary Manly walk. The North Head Sanctuary traditionally known as Car-rang-gel consists of approx. 156hectars.

This place was very significant for Aboriginal people which used it for ceremonies and medicinal practices. From 1828 most of the North Head Land was used for Quarantine while during WWI it became a major defense base.

We started the walk from Shelly Beach (via Manly Beach) following the Sanctuary Loop, passing through the Barrack Precinct (former school of Artillery established in 1946), gun emplacements and bushlands.

Once arrived at North Fort we visited the Australia´s Memorial Walk which was made in honour of those who served Australia and the Fairfax Lookouts which provide you with gorgeous views Harbour Bridge. The Harbour Lookout and Northern Lookout should not be missed as well, and this was the way we decided to walk from North Fort back to Manly Beach.

Please be aware that you can also walk down to Collins Beach but by the time we reached the start of the walk we were hungry and thirsty therefore we decided to head back.

If you do not walk all the way you can catch bus number 135 which departs from Manly Wharf. In any case please bring a big bottle of water with you (the walk is not hard at all, but it can get very hot) & some snacks.

The Spit Bridge to Manly Walk

Now I would like to give you some information on another famous walk which we unfortunately did not manage to do: the Spit Bridge to Manly Walk which is part of the 20km Manly Scenic Walkway which runs from the Spit to Manly North Head.

I was told that this moderate walk takes about 3-5 hours and starts from the Spit Bridge which was completed in 1958. Clontarf Reserve, Castle Rock Beach, Grotto Point Lighthouse, Washaway Beach, Crater Cove (fantastic panoramic views of Sydney Harbour and the ocean – please consider that this is a said to be a vantage point to experience the Sydney – Hobart race which is held every year on Boxing day and covers a distance of approx. 1170km and is considered one of the most difficult yacht races in the world), Arabanoo Lookout (named after the first Aboriginal man that lived among European settlers), Reef Beach and Baskets Beach are the sights of this hike (a part from natural bushlands and Aboriginal rock engravings). Hopefully one day I will be able to be more specific about this walk.

Sydney Hop on Hop off Bus & Cruise

No visit in Sydney is complete without a stroll around the city. The city center is not that big, and you can reach all main attractions by foot.

If you are not so keen to walk you can also choose to book a hop on hop off bus (2 different routes which allow you to discover Sydney) and/or the Hop on Hop off cruise.

Here a few information regarding some of the stops of the Hop on Hop off bus. Apart from the most famous ones such as Circular Quay, Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Botanical Gardens, Sydney Tower, the Rocks and Darling Harbour there are other very interesting stops such as Town Hall, Sydney Museum which gets you an insight of the city´s early history, Hyde Park with the Anzac War Memorial (with an interior dome studded with one star for each NSW citizens who served in the World War I ) and the St Mary´s Cathedral which is right in front of the Australian Museum where you can find Aboriginal and native-wildlife exhibition.

With the Hop on Hop off Cruise you can visit town and some island around Sydney such as Fort Denison, the historic island fort in the middle of Sydney harbor, and Shark Island from where you have a 360-degree harbor views from the Opera House to the Heads. We preferred to walk around.

Sydney Sights 1st part

Opera House

We decided to visit the Circular Quay area starting with the Opera House listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The construction of the Opera House started on March the 2nd 1959 by the Danish architect Jorn Utzon authorized by the NSW premier Joseph Cahill and was completed in October the 20st 1973. The opera House was inspired by nature such as orange segments, shells, palm trees and bird wings.

If you have time I do suggest you spend an evening watching an opera – I managed to do it in 2008. The play I manage to see was “A masked Ball” (Un ballo in maschera) which was an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi.

Harbor Bridge

Our second sight was Harbor Bridge (it can be visited by driving on it, climbing it, sailing under it or simply walking on it). The bridge was completed in 1932 at a cost of AUD 20Mio.

The Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens was our last stop of the day. It was established in 1816. The best way to visit the gardens is by yourself, taking your time walking around admiring the beautiful plants, trees and flowers. If you have enough time I do suggest you grab something to eat and enjoy a picnic there – but please take ALL YOUR RUBBISH WITH YOU!



New Year´s Eve Sydney

Low Cost New Year´s Eve

If you happen to be in Sydney on New Year’s Eve you should see the fireworks and to see them, you need to wake up early and grab your spot. When I was there 10years ago you could simply go and sit somewhere to watch the fireworks -I watched the fireworks from the Botanical Gardens. This year there were 13 vantage point locations with different gate opening times. As said before if you want to get a good spot you should wake up early – we arrived in town around 9am (too late) and most of the Vantage Points were already at full capacity and therefore closed.

We decided to stay at Circular Quay grabbing a spot there – the good thing of Circular Quay is that till a certain time there are no gates therefore you can go somewhere to grab something to eat or simply go for a walk to stretch your legs– obviously someone must stay in order not to lose the spot.

Please be aware that in most of the locations there is no alcohol for sale.

Now I would love to tell you that the fireworks where spectacular, but the truth is that around 7:30/8pm it started pouring and we got soaked. We tried to stay there but I was cold and unfortunately since the gate got closed we couldn´t get out to get changed so we decided to go back home. By the time we jumped on the bus and drove on Harbor bridge the Family fireworks started to display. Being in the middle of the fireworks was cool but I must admit that we regretted going home. So, I do suggest bringing  an umbrella and waterproof cloth to avoid missing it. The waiting hours are long therefore you should bring something to pass the time and probably you are better off bringing a charger with you to avoid not being able to take photos/videos of the fireworks.

Please be also aware that a lot of major city roads are closed until 4am, ferries stop running in or out of Circular Quay at around 5pm (at around 8pm all ferries stop running) and only limited services will operate from 12:30am, some train stations will have changed entry and exit points and bus interchanges may be relocated therefore you should check on the internet where to go & how to get back home.

New Year´s Eve on a Cruise

Another way to experience the fireworks is on a cruise. There are a lot of different cruises with different range of prices. If you are thinking of going on a cruise you should book it a long long time before otherwise the free spots will be very limited and expensive if not all sold out. The cruise lasts around 6hours and you get food, drinks before/while watching the 9pm fireworks as well as the Midnight once. I have never done the cruise, but I am pretty sure that it is awesome. My suggestion for Ny´s Eve in Sydney is to book along time before and in order to decide how to spend it. The question you need to answer is “Do I prefer to avoid waking up very early and the hassle of waiting all day long at the spot or Do I do not mind?”

The Outback Experience around Cooma

To experience the “Real” Australia or simply the countryside you´re used to see on documentaries you must go out to the bush. We decided to go to a ranch which is half an hour drive from Cooma where I had been 10years before. Cooma is in the Snowy Mountains which form part of the Great Dividing Range. Kosciuszko National Park dominates this inland area of New South Wales. The journey to Cooma takes around 6 hours (2 different trains – each passenger can take a maximum of three items of luggage, but you are better of checking on the luggage conditions when booking) with a stopover in Canberra so if there is time I do suggest you jump off to visit the Australian Capital.

Short Excursus Canberra

Some highlights of Canberra are the National Museum of Australia, the Australian Parliament House where you can view historic documentation and see the proceedings of Parliament from the public galleries in the chambers on parliamentary sitting days. Question time can be booked by contacting the office and are held both in Senate and the House of Representatives from 2pm. Before leaving the Parliament House you should go to the roof where you get the chance to have a gorgeous view of town and get close to the building´s 81m high flag mast which is said to be one of the world’s largest stainless-steel structures. Other sights which in my opinion should not be missed are the Australian War Memorial, the Captain Cook Memorial Fountain, National Library, the Carillion Bell Tower, the High Court of Australia and the Telstra Tower which rises 195m above the summit of Black Mountain allowing a 360degree view of the entire city and the Brindabella Ranges. Talking about Black Mountain it is said to house 100 species of birds, 500 species of plants and 5000 species of insects.

Helpx Experience

Let´s get back on track – it was nice to be back although a lot of things and horses had changed I really enjoyed being back in this quite place. 

In exchange of some hours of light work we received food, accommodation and horse rides in the bush. Both hosts know a lot about Australia, its history and current situation therefore having dinner altogether is interesting and very helpful for your English. Both do correct your mistakes which makes you improve the language.

Aussie Wildlife

In 4 days I have seen kangaroos, wallabies, an echidna, a wombat and a red- bellied black snake.

The venom of the red- bellied black snake can cause blood-clotting disorder, muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet. It is said not to be a lethal snake (no death has been recorded) and it is one of the few venomous snakes that can be found in the Sydney Region. They can reach 2m and can eat other snakes.

Echidna are monotremes and lay eggs. They can grow up to 40cm and can weigh between 2 to 5kg. Their snouts are rigid and strong, allowing them to break open logs and termite mounds. Echidnas then slurp up ants and other insects with their sticky, saliva-covered tongue, which can be 17cm long! Echidnas have a very keen sense of smell, useful in locating mates, detecting danger and snuffling for food. Their short limbs and shovel-like claws are perfect for digging out food and burrowing in the soil. Males also have a spur on each hind leg though, unlike the Platypus, it’s non-venomous. Instead, they use their hard, sharp spines for protection. Below these 5cm-long spines, echidnas are covered in short black hair, helping them to live in a wide variety of habitats.

Wombats are marsupials and are members of the family Vombatid. They are herbivores and are mainly nocturnal. They can reach an average length of 1m, weigh between 20-35kg and can live up to 15years in the wild.

The difference between kangaroos & wallabies

When I first got to Australia one of my first question was “What is the difference between kangaroos and wallabies?

The first difference is the size while kangaroos can reach around 2m wallabies can reach around 1m. The legs of the kangaroos are longer in relation to their body (to jump faster) while the wallaby body is more compact. The color is another difference while the kangaroo is more monochrome the wallaby’s colors are more vivid and colorful. These are the difference everyone can see – there are other 3 differences which can not been seen at first sight/can not been seen at all.
Kangaroos live longer than wallabies (around 15-25 years the first one and 10-15 years the second one. The range is due to captivity or wild) Wallabies reach their sexual maturity earlier than kangaroos. The teeth are different as well due to their feed while wallabies have more pronounced incisors, kangaroos have more pronounced molars.

The ranch

At the ranch they combine teaching horse riding and horsemanship with horse breaking, retraining and trail riding through the mountain scenery. Here we were involved in caring for the horses: cleaning yards, feeding, grooming, saddling; and other farm type jobs. We lived in a caravan nearby using a composting toilet (it uses saw-dust, not water). The water is rain water stored in water tanks and must be used with care – please do not forget!

Sydney Sights 2nd part

Milson point

The room I booked for my last night in Sydney was close to Milson Point. By the time I got back to Sydney it was almost sunset time – I decided to watch the sunset from there overlooking Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Sydney Eye Tower

I spent my last ½ day in Sydney walking around. My first stop was the Sydney Eye Tower – I decided to book the ticket the day before to avoid the queue. The best times to visit the Tower are at the opening (at 9am) or for the sunset. Since my plane was leaving at 4pm I had to go in the morning. The Sydney Tower took 6 years to build, it is 309 meters high to the top of the spire while the Observations Desk is 250m high. It is the tallest building in Sydney.

Darling Harbor

From there I walked to the pedestrian precinct of Darling Harbor home of numerous cafes, bars, restaurants and attractions and back to Circular Quay via the Sydney Observatory (from where you have a very nice view of the harbor bridge).

In Darling Harbor there are numerous attractions such as the Sydney Zoo where you get the chance to see some of the Aussies animals (such as wombats, bilby, koala, wallabies, crocs, the Tasmanian devil, kangaroos, cassowary, rock wallabies, platypus, butterflies’, birds and reptiles). You can also find the Sea Life Aquarium, the Australian National Maritime Museum, the International Convention Centre Sydney & a lot more (once it was an industrial dockland with factories, warehouses and shipyards).

1 Day Blue Mountain Tour from Sydney

There are a lot of 1day trips departing from Sydney – the most famous one is the Blue Mountains tour. There are two different types of tours: the organized one and the hop on hop off one.

From Sydney you jump on a train till Katoomba from where you catch the Explorer Bus. Altogether there are 29stops. If you have enough time you should consider staying overnight.

There are different passes/options depending on what you are interested in.

The Lyrebird Pass gives you the chance to experience the thrill of scenic world (scenic railway, skyway cableway and walkway).

With the Cockatoo Pass you can also participate at the Waradah Aboriginal show. You get to discover the quaint mountain village of Leura, enjoy breathtaking views over the Jamison Valley, ride the steepest incline railway in the world down to a valley or you can gently ascend on the cableway and ride on the Skyway which glides between cliff tops 270m above ancient ravines and the rainforest canopy. You get to walk on the valley boardwalk under a canopy of tall tree ferns.

The highlight of the tour is the Three Sisters rock formation. There are several legends surrounding the Three Sisters. I will tell you the one I was told. Three sisters named Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo lived in the Jamison Valley (with the Gundungurra people). All three where in love with three brothers of the Dharruk people (neighboring nation) but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers decided to take the sisters by force. The Kuradjuri of the Gundungurra (clever man) was forced by the tribal war to turn the sisters into stone. He was supposed to turn them back to their natural form after the war was put to an end, but he was killed in the battle and no one else was able to break the spell.

In the Blue Mountain you can also visit the Jenolan Caves which is one of the world’s finest and oldest cave system with underground rivers and spectacular limestone formations.

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